In early March, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited five
countries in Africa, during which he repeatedly cast aspersions on
China, claiming that the “predatory loans” it provided to African
countries “encourage dependency” and will “undercut their sovereignty.”
On March 25, the Chairman of the House Representatives’ Intelligence
Committee Devin Nunes seized on the issue, claiming that investing in
infrastructure in Africa also allows Beijing to pressure those nations
on United Nations votes: “The Chinese loan you billions of dollars to
build a railway or port. What countries in Africa have found out is that
comes with a price.” He also threatened that his committee would
investigate China’s investments in Africa.
It is often said that facts speak louder than words. Let us look,
then, at the real China-Africa relationship using statistics. China
assisted Africa in four main areas based on the actual requirements of
the continent: infrastructure construction, agriculture, health care,
and human resources development.
In terms of infrastructure, China has completed the construction of
5,000 km of railways and a similar length of roads, 14 airports, 10
ports, 34 power plants, and stadiums with a total capacity of 800,000
In agriculture, China has established 22 agricultural demonstration
centers, sent more than 10,000 specialists to Africa to share their
knowledge, organized dozens of training courses on various branches of
agriculture and invited African agricultural technicians to study in
In the field of medical and health, China has set up 68 malaria
treatment centers and 200 medical aid posts. Since 1963, China has
dispatched 42 medical teams to Africa that have treated 18,000 people in
40 countries, with dozens of Chinese doctors sacrificing their lives in
the process. It is worth pointing out that when the Ebola virus swept
through West Africa in 2014, China was the first to respond to the WHO’s
call for assistance and made a significant contribution to fighting the
virus by sending over a thousand personnel and more than ¥750 million
in humanitarian aid.
In developing human resources, China has provided over 7,300
government scholarships to students and trained more than 10,000 people
at various levels in African countries. China also organizes over 100
training courses every year for people in Africa and other developing
nations based on its development principle of “teaching people to fish.”
China provides financial assistance to Africa in two forms:
interest-free loans and low-interest loans with an annual interest rate
of 2%. China has on more than one occasion waived the debt of some
African countries that were in particular difficulty, and it announced
in March of this year that it is waiving the repayment of interest-free
loans of more than 20 African nations. China cannot countenance acting
as a creditor to distressed debtor countries.
China’s trade with Africa reached $220 billion in 2014, and
inexpensive Chinese goods have played a significant role in improving
living standards on the continent.
It has been claimed that China’s investment loans to African
countries are bribes to obtain access to oil and minerals. This is a
serious misunderstanding. In reality, oil and minerals in Africa have
long been under the control of Western companies. China’s oil imports
from Africa (mainly from Angola) make up only 20% of its total oil
imports. China has adopted an approach of exchanging “resources for
development”, whereby it helps countries it imports oil from to build
China has always insisted upon the following in its cooperation with
Africa: it must never be at the expense of long-term interests or the
environment of the partner country, and it will never adopt the colonial
methods of predatory development and obtaining by force. What China
wants is to help African countries achieve sustainable development and
Many foreign political leaders and Western journalists have given
positive and objective assessments of China’s policies and the
effectiveness of its aid toward Africa.
Die Zeit, a German weekly newspaper, for example, stated that China
is estimated to have tens of thousands of companies in Africa creating
local jobs, providing new products and revitalizing economies. It also
stated that it is certain that Chinese people’s involvement in Africa’s
development will provide opportunities to both parties.
Le Monde, a French daily newspaper, noted that China is willing to
cooperate with all African countries, and that this diplomatic approach
has made the country popular in Africa.
The Financial Times in Britain wrote that, of the permanent members
of the UN Security Council, China has the largest peacekeeping force in
Africa and is Africa’s biggest trading partner. It also commented that
by the end of 2016, China’s investment in Africa had exceeded US$ 100
billion, and from roads, railways and telecommunications to
infrastructure, China is everywhere in Africa.
Le Journal de Quebec, a French-language daily newspaper in Canada,
stated that as Western investors shy away from Africa, only China is
willing to take a risk and is working on a lot of projects on the
continent, and it is thanks to its cooperation with China that Africa
has new railways, new cities and new ports.
The former President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda stated that the Chinese
are sincere about helping Africa and it is an all-weather friend to the
And the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni affirmed that China is
doing more to support Africa and Uganda, and that China and Africa are
currently achieving common prosperity.
The US government has, for a long time, ignored Africa, but Trump has
elevated the US position to one of contempt and disgust, as illustrated
by his reference to Africa and Haiti as “shitholes.” Despite taking
office more than a year ago, Trump has yet to appoint an Assistant
Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, and many ambassadorial
roles in Africa are vacant. He has not fulfilled his commitments to the
African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and announced
programs including the Africa Power Plan, Pan-Africa Youth Leadership
Program and the African Growth and Opportunity Act have all been put on
the back burner. This has caused some commentators to point out that
disparaging China’s work in Africa is a way for US politicians to make
themselves feel better about their own failings.
For Africa to develop it needs diverse international aid. China hopes
that the US will contribute to Africa’s development. Furthermore, China
is willing to cooperate with the US to help achieve sustainable
economic development and long-term social stability in Africa.