In DepthThe QuestionIs China's leadership transition more important to Africa than the US election?


Posted on Friday, 28 September 2012 09:31

Is China's leadership transition more important to Africa than the US election?

As the Communist Party of China prepares to unveil its new leader at the 18th Party Conference, Americans vote for who will win the next four-year term as president. Which will impact relations with Africa the most?


BARRY SAUTMAN Associate professor of political science, Hong Kong UniversityYes African diplomats should focus more of their resources on the Chinese. American political elites are agreed on what to do with, and in, Africa. For the US, there are two major concerns: terrorism and the strategic rivalry with China in Africa, whether it exists or not. When US secretary of state Hillary Clinton goes to Africa, she always highlights the Chinese presence and how to counteract that. Of course [the US has] other concerns about access to resources and migration too. But when China talks about Africa, it's a whole other ball game. They are by no means limited to security and the Western presence. That is hardly even on the radar. By and large the Chinese government wants close political ties, a system of mutual support in international organisations and to be able to increase the Chinese economic presence, still small but growing fast. The Chinese rate of extraction of resources is actually much smaller than that of the major Western countries. They are principally concerned with growing markets rather than controlling resources, which they can buy on the international markets. The question for Africans is, if you look at these categories of concerns, which are more relevant? Are you more concerned about Al Qaeda? Or are you more concerned with
economic development?●

STEPHEN CHAN Professor of international relations, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of LondonNo I think the American election is more important. There is a real prospect that American foreign policy could change or at least be nuanced in some unfortunate ways. Whereas whatever the change in China, policy towards Africa at least is not likely to be changed. There are many different approaches to Africa in China, and there is definitely the sense amongst some conservative people that perhaps China might have tried to do too much too quickly. However, there is no objection in terms of the long-standing broad principle of the African engagement. But if there is a President Mitt Romney, he is likely to have a very greenhorn foreign affairs team. I have met some of that team, and they know nothing about Africa. I don't think the Romney administration has a clue on earth how to handle Egypt, how to handle an Islamic party, how to handle the configuration of forces in Egypt, which involve not just a volatile and modernising Muslim Brotherhood but also new generations of military leadership. I don't think a Romney administration would have a clue about the deep and changing layers in the Egyptian situation●

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