Earlier this month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the Annual World Economic Forum on Africa; on the same trip, he visited Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and Ethiopia. Kegiang’s trip was yet another illustration of China’s deepening economic integration and development throughout Africa.
In recent years, Chinese investment in Africa has increased dramatically. China has invested large amounts of credit and aid to Africa out of economic interest in the nation, primarily exploitation of the continent’s many natural resources as well as energy development, among others.
In 2012, China donated $200 million to construct the sleek new African Union headquarters building in Ethiopia, creating a very literal illustration of favorable Chinese-African relations. As of this month, the Chinese investment in Africa has reached $30 billion in the continent in credit, as well as $5 billion in development funding assistance. Additionally, trade between the two entities has reached a whopping $150 billion.
This intimate economic integration and political entwinement alarms many across the globe, as China’s development in Africa has been (and will likely continue to be be) accompanied by concerns regarding labor ethics and environmental consequences. Others have expressed worries about terrorism and its potential spread as African leaders turn away from American diplomacy and instead focus on Chinese economic integration. Three primary consequences of this relationship are of concern:
1. Environmental Concerns
China has a notoriously unfavorable reputation when it comes to unethical labor standards and a disregard for environmental pollution and emissions. With exponential growth and thousands of laborers in newly developed African factories, how will the latter concerns be addressed, if at all? Will they pay closer attention to human rights concerns in foreign turf?
2. Potential spread of terrorist growth
U.S. diplomacy with Africa has included much counter-terrorism rhetoric and initiative. Secretary of State John Kerry has performed multinational tours of the continent on several occasions, explicitly asserting a counter-terrorist agenda. If African leaders embrace Chinese diplomacy and turn a blind eye toward U.S. efforts, experts predict that such efforts will result in more leniency in counter-terrorism efforts.
3. Human rights regression
In an Al-Jazeera article, some consider U.S.-Africa relations to be quite critical. Writer Abdullahi Halakhe states “African leaders’ uncritical embrace of China to spite unequal relations with the West could roll back the modest progress toward democracy, good governance and improvement in human rights.” In other words, some believe that China’s policies of “noninterference” in foreign nations’ domestic affairs is more appealing to African leaders and might result in backwards progress in the human rights arena, against the efforts the U.S. has concerted in conditional policies with leaders.
— Arielle Swett