GIS Dossier: China’s Africa strategy

A picture showing top-level Nigerian and Chinese delegations during a bilateral economic meeting in Johannesburg in South Africa
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (3L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (4R) meet during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa (source: dpa)
  • Africa is one of the main arenas for global competition over energy resources, market opportunities and security interests
  • The era of ever-expanding Chinese loans to Africa is almost certainly over
  • China remains Africa’s main individual trading partner and a major foreign investor

China’s economic approach to Africa dates back to 1996 when Beijing, seeing the need to diversify the supply of energy resources and primary commodities to its fast-growing economy, drafted its Going Out strategy.

In the global south, this strategy was based on three main principles. The first was nationalism: all economic activities were under Beijing’s political control, and the emphasis was on state-to-state relations. The second was the principle of noninterference, translated into a near absolute respect for state sovereignty – the only exception being that partners must adopt Beijing’s One-China policy (essentially requiring countries to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan). The third principle was China’s willingness to invest in high-risk environments.

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