The US needs more than 'morals' to tame the Chinese dragonBy TREVOR ANALO | Monday, August 6 2012 at 12:15
On Tuesday, July 31, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her 11-day tour of Africa with a veiled attack on China’s influence on the continent.
In an address to Senegalese university students, Secretary Clinton said the US is committed to “…a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it" in an apparent reference to China, "America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources flowing."
China swiftly responded in a hard hitting statement, saying Secretary Clinton is either clueless of the facts of China-Africa relations or just ignoring them.
It said China-Africa relations are friendly and mutually beneficial, adding that Clinton’s “cheap shots” seek to mess up the co-operation for the benefit of the US.
Secretary Clinton appears to be criticising China’s imperialism in favour of US imperialism.
Resource-hungry China is often criticised for its no-strings attached aid policy that is seen to be supportive of dictatorial regimes in Africa thus undermining international efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the continent.
Washington’s influence on the continent has been waning since the Bush administration; just three years ago China eclipsed the US as the Africa’s biggest trading partner. We are talking about $166 billion worth of trade.
Last month, China announced a $20 billion loan to African countries. African leaders look to China because its model of co-operation is palpable – unconditional aid and infrastructure development – while African diplomats find the Western model lethargic – endless human rights and democracy capacity building seminars.
Responsible foreign powers
Secretary Clinton’s major objective is to check China’s influence on continent.
She has appealed to African leaders to embrace democracy and partner with “responsible foreign powers”. She needs to do more than just make appeals to African leaders to be cautious of China’s agenda in the continent.
The Secretary will also seek to sell President Obama’s new U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. This strategy is too broad and does not really propose far reaching policy initiatives to strengthen US-Africa cooperation.
It’s the same old same old democracy, human rights and transparency capacity building agenda. Not really innovative. It’s not a coherent strategy, just morals – certainly not what you need to counter China’s rising power in Africa.
Obama’s new strategy is one of the many not well thought-out desperate attempts to counter China’s influence in Africa. The other component of this concerted effort is to create instruments and institutions to limit China’s rising influence in Africa.
The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) attempts to displace China from oil rich countries such as Libya, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria through diplomacy while a new lobby group – the Institute of African Consensus – will be created to directly lobby African leaders and promote Western interests.
African leaders have pointed out another component of US strategies to counter China’s influence on the continent: financially supporting youths to challenge, and even topple their governments as seen in the Middle East and North Africa in order to cripple Beijing’s support networks in African governments.
The US is also actively supporting the development of democratic political institutions in the continent which can allow it to directly influence the leaders that get elected to run governments in Africa.
It is clear that the US lacks an effective strategy to counter China’s growing commercial and political power in Africa.
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