Friday, January 23, 2015

Africa - Made in China

Chinese intervention in Africa is nowhere near the scale practiced by the United States or France. But when civil war broke out in Libya four years ago, Beijing had to evacuate 36,000 Chinese nationals living in the country. China certainly didn’t want to ask Western powers to help rescue its citizens.

“China had to do the entire evacuation on its own without any assistance whatsoever,” recalls David Shinn, a former American ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso “That was a wake-up call for the Chinese.”

Since China’s initial contribution to anti-piracy activities, the country greatly increased maritime cooperation in with Africa, holding exercises with Tanzania and providing warships to the Nigerian navy. In 2013, South Sudan collapsed into civil war. China soon embarked on its first major military intervention in Africa—deploying 700 soldiers as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. While China had far more peacekeepers deployed to Africa than any other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the South Sudan mission is the first that explicitly includes Chinese combat troops.

The main thing is that China wants to be an economic and diplomatic superpower in Africa. Beijing’s most important businesses with African countries is the arms trade. China has exported massive amounts of heavy and light weapons to the continent in recent years. The Chinese government is signing security-related partnerships with Egypt

“If you go back to the ’60s and ’70s, Chinese weapons were somewhere about three percent of all arms going into Africa,” Shinn recalls. “If you look at it up until 2010 or ’11, around 25 percent of all arms going Africa, by dollar value are Chinese.”

Chinese companies don’t really care who they sell their merchandise to. “A lot of those arms go to effectively pariah countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan,” Shinn says. Both countries are under European Union and U.S. arms embargoes, and look to China as a no-questions-asked weapons supplier. In early 2014 media outlets began to report on a massive delivery of small arms and ammunition to South Sudan government troops from Chinese state-owned arms manufacturer Norinco. China is also arming South Sudanese troops with anti-aircraft missiles. China heavily invests in South Sudan’s oil infrastructure, and wants to protect it.

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