It didn’t surprise me today to read that China was irked by Clinton’s recent comments that African nations should be wary of China, as their relationships were based on a need for natural resources bountiful in numerous countries:
“I will be talking about what that means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it,” Clinton told a university audience in this West African capital. “That’s America’s commitment to Africa.”
This need for resources, particularly minerals and oil, could lead to extractive partnerships in which the African nations don’t benefit as much as they potentially could. Additionally, China has not shied away from doing business with nations that the US considers unsavory, the obvious example being Sudan throughout the Darfur crisis:
China’s thirst for oil is causing bloodshed. So says New York-based nongovernmental organisation Human Rights First, which on Mar. 13 released a report linking China’s rising imports of Sudanese oil with sales of Chinese small weapons to Khartoum, used to further the deadly conflict in the western region of Darfur.
China’s engagement with Africa supports a broader strategy for China in two main ways:
1. China often presents itself as the champion of developing countries. They grew quickly economically and have become a major player. Often, they present themselves as the juxtaposition to the developed, Western nations, an outsider who has power inside and is always looking out for other developing states. This is very good PR for the country, giving it strength and leadership in international organisations. It can also makes the US look as though they have no interest in the agendas of developing states, an advantage that China manipulates very effectively.
2. Expansion. China is looking to establish and economic, and in some cases, military, presence wherever they can. The String of Pearls refers to China’s extensive lines of communications between mainland China and South Sudan. China has increased economic ties to Venezuela recently. Africa is a place where the US is hogtied by ideals – the government doesn’t want to be seen doing business with dirty players, but it is at the expense of natural resources that are being snapped up by China. China already controls the majority of the world’s cobalt supply, an essential mineral for electronics found in Madagascar and the Congo. The more control they have over the resources available, the more leverage they have over the countries that need them – especially if they have near-monopoly over them.
So, while I am 100% sure that Clinton is very much invested in the human rights aspects of African nations dealing with China, her comments encouraging countries away from the monolithic country are very much about preserving US power. It’s all part of the game.
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