US vs China in Africa has become a thorny issue between Washington and Beijing. The US national security advisor John Bolton has clearly defined that the greatest threat to the US in Africa comes from China and not from extremism or migration.
Bolton said China is ‘deliberately and aggressively’ targeting its investments to gain a competitive advantage over the US. “This saddles African governments with debt, harming their long-term development prospects and undercutting their sovereignty.” Washington encourages African leaders to chose sustainable foreign investments that help states become self-reliant.
India vs China in Africa
India and China are aggressively competing for influence in the African Countries. But India simply does not have the deep pockets like China for a massive economic and military engagement with Africa. Backed by its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which even has the US and Europe worried, China has fast expanded its footprint in Africa as the “New Great Game” plays out in the continent known for its minerals and other raw commodities.
China in July, incidentally, had dismissed any new Sino-Indian rivalry in Africa, stressing the two Asian giants were on the same page in their efforts to assist the countries there. This had come soon after both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Rwanda, one after the other while heading for the BRICS summit in South Africa.
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Chinese Influence in Africa
Experts say Bolton’s statements suggest that China hardliners have won the Washington policy debate over how to respond to China’s growing influence in Africa. The US government has been framing the differences between US and Chinese models for development assistance as ‘offering a clear choice for nations around the world’, according to some various experts.
“In its most extreme form, such a policy would require developing countries to choose between receiving the US or Chinese development assistance, harkening back to the Cold War days when Africa’s leaders had to strategically align themselves with the US or communist countries.”
Experts have highlighted the US and China’s MoU on Development Cooperation signed in 2015, that identified sectors for greater collaboration on development issues. “Both countries worked together on disaster response and preparedness and the establishment of a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention at the African Union.
Crucially, the development MoU enlarged the space for dialogue and provided political cover for the US and Chinese working-level officials to communicate more openly with each other.”
Experts state that isolating China will only encourage it to forge its own path outside of Western norms and institutions that seek to promote high standards of transparency, accountability and respect for human rights.
“China’s foreign policy has become more aggressive and its foreign aid policy in Africa more strategic.” However, some experts are of the opinion that it’s too early to judge China’s motives in Africa. Africa’s broader role in China’s international agenda is yet to be thoroughly explored.