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Africa and China’s strategic partnership

African Security Review 13(1)

Domingos Jardo Muekalia1


SARPN acknowledges the African Security Review as a source of this document.
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China’s phenomenal economic growth rate has seen the country rise to world leadership status, causing many analysts to ponder its regional and international intentions and goals. China’s unique position in the community of nations means that it is able to straddle both the developed (as a member of the UN Security Council) and the developing worlds. Its linkage with the developing world dates back to the Bandung Conference of 1955, with China sharing developing nations’ sense of humiliation, the urge to restore dignity and a determination to take control of its own destiny. Over the years China has changed its foreign policy from confrontation to co-operation, from revolution to economic development, and from isolation to international engagement. It has recently begun capitalising on its linkage with the developing world, witnessed in increased, though little noticed, Sino-Africa relations in the form of high-level official exchanges, trade and co-operation with African countries. It is argued that China sees Africa as a partner in the fulfillment of its strategic goals, namely: energy, trade and geopolitical interests.

China’s remarkable economic recovery in the past three decades has gained considerable world attention, stunning critics and friends alike. With record economic growth rates, China has become the second largest recipient of the world’s investment capital. This newly acquired wealth, including unprecedented foreign reserves, provided Beijing the opportunity to embark on a military modernisation and build-up programme, to inject new life into its space programme and to slowly rise to world leadership status. Many analysts have come to question China’s intentions in the region and its overall long-term strategic goals. If history is any guide, precise answers to these questions will remain illusive.

China’s position is unique. It has one foot in the developing world and another in the developed one with a seat on the UN Security Council. This dual status gives it a considerable political and diplomatic advantage in the pursuit of its interests. China’s overall political, economic and foreign policies leave no doubt that the country is on a mission to restore its dignity and to conquer what it understands to be its place in the community of nations.

This paper will focus on a little noticed trend in China’s foreign policy; namely, Sino-Africa relations. American media and Sinologists have paid little, if any, attention to the growing trend of high-level official exchanges, trade and cooperation, which may well prove to be an important aspect of Beijing’s long-term strategy. After a review of the historical background, the paper will focus in some detail on the latest developments and will demonstrate that China sees Africa as a partner in the fulfillment of its strategic goals.

  1. Domingos Jardo Muekalia is the deputy secretary for External Relations at the University of the Transkei (UNITA)

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