The American strategy towards Africa – announced by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during his recent visit to South Africa is nothing new, and the US’s paternalistic approach to Africa goes back to the past. It is basically using Africa as a pawn in the competition between the United States and China, Russia and other major powers, rather than genuinely promoting the interests of the African people.
However, it is clear that the United States is not succeeding in trying to strengthen its relations with Africa by stoking anti-Chinese sentiments, as is the case within the amorphous European ruling classes and in tow from the White House. The People’s Republic of China and Africa have long established a solid partnership, which brings tangible benefits to the African continent, which cannot be erased by any hackneyed Yellow Peril rhetoric.
During his visit, Foreign Minister Blinken announced the White House’s vision for Africa south of the Sahara when he delivered his speech in Pretoria. He said the strategy aims to strengthen the relationship between the US and Africa by building an open society, promoting democracy, promoting economic cooperation and addressing climate change.
Blinken emphasized the importance of Africa in terms of its young population, critical minerals (to be mined), and strategic maritime areas (where to deploy US fleets), as well as the voices of the fifty-four African countries (the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic). Republic is not in the UN) in international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
He said that these characteristics will make Africa a priority of US foreign policy. Disappointingly, however, the vague strategy avoided specific obligations and responsibilities. This traditional but soft strategy is the latest in a paternalistic wave of good preaching from the West, and especially the United States, about how African countries should manage their own affairs according to the aforementioned diplomacy, like puppets in a European marionette theater.
Blinken did not seem to have a good understanding of the situation on African soil. African leaders – no doubt fearful of the ways in which Western countries are imposing “democracy” in Near and Middle East Libya and elsewhere, with military alliances and “humanitarian” bombs – are no longer interested in listening to deadly chatter about idealized forms of “democracy” and “human rights” that even the United States itself could not achieve in its own country. Just see the ways in which black people are treated; the para-bantustans for indigenous Amerindians; the pockets of poverty in which you can even find white American citizens; the health services you absolutely must pay for, without caring about those who cannot; corruption in politics, voting considered a mere formality, etc. – all issues we have already discussed.
Blinken’s conclusions about the deficit of African democracy are based on dubious indicators proposed by Western non-governmental organizations such as Freedom House. Relying on Western cognitive networks to understand Africa and draw conclusions is somewhere between contempt for African governments and ridicule for African and other political observers. We can see that the United States still views its own system of government as the gold standard to which all countries of the world must aspire: the known manifest destiny to impose itself upon the Earth.
It should be added that one of the most disappointing, but also unexpected aspects of the US strategy for Africa is the one that sees this continent as the chessboard on which the pieces are placed for endless triangular games in the competition with great powers such as the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. We get the distinct impression that Africa’s value to the United States is largely derivative rather than intrinsic. Blinken mentioned China’s relationship with Africa in three different cases – and all of them negative. He stated that “the People’s Republic of China views the African region as a challenge to the rules-based international order, advancing its narrow commercial and geopolitical interests, undermining transparency and openness, and sabotaging US relations with African peoples and governments “. That is why the White House is engaged in what it calls “combating the harmful activities of the People’s Republic of China, Russia and other foreign players”.
He further said that the US Department of Defense will work with African partners to explain to them the risks of adverse activities by the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation in Africa. Blinken also announced the Global Partnership for Infrastructure Investment, a global initiative supported by the Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States) that is widely seen as a attempt to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road). The United States has been one of the most vocal critics of the Belt and Road Initiative, arguing that the People’s Republic of China uses it to undermine the sovereignty of developing countries while advancing China’s national interests. After all, we have already pointed out in previous articles that the war in Syria since 2011 was an attempt to undermine the Silk Road.
The US claims are not substantiated and do not stand up to simple fact-checking. They are just a political smear campaign against the People’s Republic of China. China and Africa have established a solid partnership rooted in traditional friendship and equal treatment between the two sides, dating back to the Bandung Conference (1955), to the period of Egypt’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China (1956), and the construction of impressive railway facilities in Africa, built by China since the time of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution without asking for anything in return.
The People’s Republic of China is an important part of Africa’s economic recovery in the 21st century, including trade, investment, finance and social development. On thorny issues such as peace and security in Africa and the fight against the new COVID epidemic, the People’s Republic of China has always done what it promised in its cooperation efforts.
The People’s Republic of China is one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping missions in Africa, with more than 1,800 soldiers. A contingent larger than that of the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council combined. Despite Blinken’s stated commitment to peace and security in Africa, the United States sent only 29 personnel units to UN peacekeeping missions.
As the new COVID epidemic hit the world, the People’s Republic of China was at the forefront of helping Africa fight it through supplies and donations. Unlike US vaccine nationalism, Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good and has ensured access to it in Africa and other developing countries.
China’s proposals such as the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative – China’s recent proposals for world peace and global security – are especially in line with Africa’s interests also in sustainable development, rather than imposing a strange way of thinking on other countries force.
In its cooperation with Africa, the People’s Republic of China has consistently adhered to the principles of respect for the sovereignty of African countries and non-interference in internal affairs. These principles demonstrate China’s trust in the African countries to choose the path of development themselves. The reason African leaders are leaning towards the Middle Kingdom today is because China-Africa relations have brought tangible benefits to the African continent, which cannot be erased by the neo-McCarthyist rhetoric of Cold War anti-communism.
Anti-China rhetoric has long consumed US foreign policy, culminating in the passage of the China Competition Act by the US Congress, which is essentially an attempt to counter China’s growing importance in global affairs, including in Africa to work. The moves make us think the US is more interested in undermining China’s growing influence in Africa than promoting African interests. In the eyes of the American establishment, Africa is nothing more than a geopolitical arena.
By making Africa choose between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, Blinken has clearly learned nothing from the past, nor from Kissinger’s lessons.
African leaders are no longer interested in the sphere of influence politics of the 1960s-1990s, when the relationship between these powers forced them to choose a scenario and then be sidelined. Africa has learned to manage various partnerships based on its own merits and the interests of the continent, even with the help of external powers. The United States cannot build strong partnerships with Africa by stoking anti-Chinese sentiments. It would be better for everyone if the United States could complement what China has been doing in Africa for some time.