China in Africa : friend or foe? : China’s contemporary political and economic relations with Africa

Botha, Ilana (2006-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Since the end of the Cold War, China has displayed a reinvigorated interest in the African continent. There are differing viewpoints as to whether China’s increasing involvement in Africa is beneficial to the African continent, or whether there are negative consequences. This assignment attempts to answer this question by exploring the nature of China’s political, economic, and aid relationships with the African continent, by highlighting examples from four countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Sudan. China’s interests in Africa are motivated primarily by economics and diplomacy. In other words, Africa is important to China as a vast source of resources to feed its growing manufacturing base, as well as a source of energy security. In addition, China sees Africa as an important destination for its affordable manufactured goods. China’s interests in Africa, however, are not only confined to economics, but extend to diplomacy as well. China is attempting to position itself as an important power in the international system and, in so doing, promote its own views and policies within international multilateral organisations. Africa plays an important role in this regard, particularly in institutions with ‘one-country, one vote’ arrangements. Thus, China attempts to court African governments in order to secure access to Africa’s vast resources, as well as to garner support for its policies in the international arena. After an in-depth examination of the evidence, it is concluded that China’s engagement with Africa is based on strategic political and economic considerations and fits within a Realist explanatory framework. It is therefore contended that China’s presence on the African continent presents both opportunities as well as threats, although African governments need to be pro-active in order to exploit the potential opportunities. Furthermore, it is concluded that the negative consequences of China’s involvement in Africa are not only attributable to China’s behaviour in Africa, but some of the blame should also be shifted to corrupt African governments and elites who operate within a framework of neo-patrimonial politics which exacerbates corruption and mal-governance on the continent. Such behaviour stalls efforts emanating from ‘responsible’ African leaders to promote good governance and democracy on the continent, for example through institutions such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Union (AU).

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