The Roles of Aid in Politics Putting China in Perspective

Taylor, Ian (1998), “China’s Foreign Policy Towards Africa in the 1990s,” in Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 443–60

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Taylor, Ian (1998), “China’s Foreign Policy Towards Africa in the 1990s,” in Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 443–60.

Whilst Beijing has recognised that Western investment and technology is vital for China to maintain and develop its modernization programme, the PRC has been determined to strengthen its position vis-à-vis the West. With the Soviet Union now no longer extant, China has felt vulnerable to the perceived threat of the one remaining superpower, the USA, and so has assiduously courted linkages with Africa to counter-balance the discerned menace from a dominating West. Though China's primary focus is naturally on the East Asia region, by vigorously supporting the theme of non-interference in domestic affairs and promoting a cultural relativist notion of human rights, China has been able to secure its own position and, at the same time, appeal to African leaders mindful of the West's pressure on their own governments. This helps explain the fourteen African votes (out of twenty-six) against the proposed condemnation of China's human rights record in Geneva in April 1996. Such motions by the United Nations are seen by many African leaders as unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of developing countries. Naturally, China puts a lot of effort into encouraging this attitude.

In addition, China's emphasis on economic linkages with Africa is appealing and has enabled Beijing to further project itself on the continent. As a result, China maintains its commercial and political links with Africa as a tool by which Beijing hopes to foster economic interaction and by which China may maintain a reserve pool of friends and sympathisers from which it can draw moral and political support from within the international system in times of conflict with the West. A Chinese magazine article made this theory quite explicit when it revealingly stated: ‘[The] vast number of Third World countries [will] surely unite with and stand behind China like numerous “ants” keeping the “elephant” from harm’s way.’68 In this conceptualisation, the ‘elephant’ of China – a dominant and central figure – is protected by the little countries against outside threat and coercion. As a nation attempting to regain its ‘rightful place’ in the international system, Beijing has been acutely aware of the perceived dangers of only one superpower and the threat that this presents to China. Viewing the global situation as increasingly complex, and with fierce economic competition and growing nationalisms dominating state-to-state interaction, China has asserted a doggedly realist posture that `a hierarchy of power¼exists within which the more powerful nations dominate the weak’.69 Thus, in an attempt to offset the West's position vis-à-vis China in the international system, Beijing has and will continue to seek improved relations with non-Western powers. Africa has been no exception to this policy and this is likely to continue.

Determined to be free of the overt influence of any one power, mindful of past domination by outsiders, and aiming to ‘regain’ its position of eminence in the international system, Beijing since the end of the Cold War has continuously courted Africa and the developing world as a means by which China may project its prestige and influence outside the narrow confines of East Asia and thus further its claims to the status of a ‘great power’. As a result, China’s post-Tiananmen foreign policy has further established the developing world’s importance in the overall framework of the PRC's foreign policy and Africa has played an important role in this construction. The competition with Taiwan for recognition has also been a feature of this policy, though with South Africa now recognising Beijing, Taipei is left with a rump of small and impoverished African nations in its camp. For reasons discussed above, it is unlikely that the ROC will improve greatly on this situation. Yet, the visit by Prime Minister Li Peng to seven African nations in September 1997,70 once again illustrated and underscored the point that China remains committed to Africa and is likely to retain a political and economic presence on the continent for the foreseeable future.

Tjønneland, Elling. N., Brandtzæg, Bjørn, Kolås, Åschild & le Pere, Garth (2006), China in Africa Implications for Norwegian Foreign and Development Policies, Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute.


The new Chinese Africa policy has major implications for development on the continent. The purpose of this report commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NORAD is to present and review the new Chinese engagement in Africa and to identify and discuss implications for Norwegian foreign and development policies.

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to Chinese foreign policy, the motives and interests behind the policy goals, and how Chinese foreign policy is manifesting itself in relation to the developing world and in the multilateral arena. Chapter 2 offers an overview of Chinese engagement in Africa while Chapter 3 gives an assessment of the implications for Africa, the dynamics of China-Africa interaction and the challenges ahead. Chapter 4 offers a more detailed presentation and analysis of the Chinese engagement in the petroleum sector in Africa and its implications. The concluding Chapter 5 outlines Norwegian objectives and provides a number of suggestions for Norwegian Africa policy, bilateral co-operation with China, and multilateral engagement.

Annex 1 and 2 provides additional data and background information on Chinese foreign policy and the dynamics of China-Africa relations.

Chinese Foreign Policy

China’s advance from economic periphery into the core group of the world’s leading industrial powers has already begun to leave its traces on the geopolitical map. In view of its economic dynamism, China’s foreign policy has no choice but to assume a greater role in shaping the course of current world events. We are witnessing a shift to a much more flexible, differentiated and proactive foreign policy. It is evident in China’s more diverse spectrum of interests and in China’s more marked engagement in regional and global arrangements as well as in its generally broader geographic focus. China is increasingly being forced to assert its interest in regions in which it has traditionally had little strategic interest. This applies above all to Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

One crucial foreign policy goal is to service the needs of China’s economic modernisation and the economy’s growing hunger for natural resources and access to export markets. Energy security, in particular, has emerged as a basic parameter of Chinese foreign policy. China has launched an active diplomatic programme on oil. It is increasingly sceptical about the prospects of satisfying its soaring energy demands in the international energy market. Instead, it has set its sights on establishing stable bilateral relations with the world’s most important oil-producing countries. Based on “strategic oil partnerships”, China seeks to secure long-term supply agreements with the world’s leading oil producers, and acquisitions of concessions and capital stakes in relevant energy corporations.

US hegemony and how to manage it has remained an over-riding concern for the Chinese. China is resigned to the fact that US domination is a cold reality that it has to live and contend with. China has come to see globalisation as a way of transforming great power politics and to establish more co-operative forms of interstate competition that can increase the prospects for China’s peaceful rise. This has led to a situation where China, while recognising the dominance of the US, seeks to limit US dominance through the UN and other international organisations, and by using its resources to forge stable relations with other countries and regions.

China seeks to portray itself as an attractive partner for the developing countries and emphasizes strongly the need for South-South co-operation. China builds on its traditional third world ideology and long-standing political relationships but now seeks to become attractive as a trade partner, an investor, a technology supplier, a provider of credit and development assistance, and as a political friend based on the Chinese principle of “non-interference” in internal affairs.

In financial terms, by far the most significant dimension of Chinese engagement in developing countries is the multi-billion dollar agreements it has concluded in the energy sector, especially in Africa. Other economic activities and assistance pale in comparison.

The new Chinese engagement with developing countries is also and increasingly very visible in the multilateral arena. Its leadership is reflected in the “Group of 77 plus China” (which brings together more than 130 developing countries) where it has sought to focus on addressing the adverse effects of economic globalisation, improving South-South partnerships and bridging the North-South divide. Since joining the WTO in 2001, China has become active in confronting the trade asymmetries that exist between developing and developed countries.

At the UN and at other multilateral institutions, China has increasingly become a vocal spokesperson for the South and it has become a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals.

At the multilateral level, Chinese engagement on development issues has been most intense in the field of trade. China has so far been a more marginal player in relation to global efforts to increase development assistance and provide debt relief. China has its own development assistance programme, but it has several distinctive features. Most Chinese aid is bilateral, it is in most cases delivered as project assistance, and it is strongly tied to Chinese trade and investment interests. Most aid is also provided as commodity and technical assistance. Chinese aid is also often used in conjunction with various export credit schemes linked to the purchase of Chinese goods and services. Significantly, Chinese aid is also distinguished by a strong emphasis on providing assistance with no political conditionalities or strings attached.

China in Africa

Africa occupies an increasingly dominant space in China’s foreign policy. In January 2006, China released its first major policy document on its relations with the continent. It lists 30 initiatives in the political field; in the economic field; in education, science, culture, health and social aspects; and in peace and security. The document reaffirms overriding Chinese priorities and the need for accessing African raw materials and commodities, but is also strong in emphasising political cooperation and in responding to African concerns. There is also a much stronger emphasis in this document on Chinese support for peace and security on the continent. The document also emphasises co-operation in the multilateral system, calls for a strengthening of the UN and appeals to the international community to give more attention to Africa and to peace and development on the continent. Chinese support to African regional organisations is also highlighted.

China initiated a permanent Forum on China – Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) in the year 2000. It has emerged as the chief instrument and mechanism for dialogue and co-operation between Africa and China.

Oil, Trade and Investment

In financial terms, Chinese “oil diplomacy” has been most visible. China and the Chinese state-owned oil companies have struck a number of multi-billion dollar deals in African oil exporting countries. In the first half of 2006, 32% of Chinese oil imports came from Africa, with Angola emerging as China’s biggest oil supplier (ahead of Saudi Arabia and Iran). This major trade expansion between China and Africa is largely accounted for by the African export of oil and other raw materials (mining products and timber in particular). Chinese exports to Africa are also growing rapidly, mainly linked to the export of cheaper manufactured products and consumer goods.

Chinese investments outside the oil sector and other extractive industries are limited, but growing. There are, however, a much larger number of Chinese companies present, many linked to the delivery of Chinese goods and services facilitated by Chinese export credits. This is most visible in the construction industry.

The Chinese state has been very active in promoting trade and investment and has also used the FOCAC mechanism very actively for this purpose. This has included the use of export credits and tied aid. It has trade agreements and export credit arrangements with most African countries. China has also taken on board a number of African concerns. This has included zero-rating tariffs on a number of products from African countries as well as voluntary export restraints.

Development Assistance

China is also emerging as a significant donor to Africa. The aid programme is closely linked with Chinese trade and investment policies. There also appears to be a considerable element of tied aid through the provision of Chinese commodity and technical assistance, with the focus firmly on project assistance.

The Chinese development assistance has evolved relatively independent of the traditional donor community. Evolving and changing Chinese aid policies have reflected changing domestic needs in China, but they are also reflecting changes in African recipient countries.

Chinese assistance is often used in conjunction with various investment promotion projects and the provision of export credits. It can also be closely linked to securing access to major resources (linked to Chinese oil interests, for example). Chinese aid is also distinguished by its near complete absence of political conditionalities; China’s aid policy is firmly anchored in the principle of “noninterference” in internal affairs.

Chinese assistance is channelled to a variety of sectors and areas. There is an emphasis on various projects to promote trade and investment with a strong focus on the provision of physical infrastructure, but also on agriculture. A second significant area is capacity building and the social sector, especially as related to science, health and education. This is mainly focused on training of individuals but there is growing focus also on providing assistance to strengthen management and institutional capacities.

The section covering social issues in the Chinese Africa policy paper also lists co-operation related to the environment (climate changes, water, biodiversity, and so on), disaster and humanitarian assistance (emphasising the role of NGOs), and media co-cooperation. Activities and projects funded in this area appear, so far, to be limited.

A third and very visible feature is Chinese funding for the construction of high profile buildings – stadiums, state houses and buildings housing parliaments, Foreign Affairs ministries, and so on. Such projects have a long tradition in Chinese support to Africa, but have expanded significantly in recent years.

China has cancelled a significant portion of African debt to China. In 2003, it announced that it would cancel nearly USD 1.3 billion owed by 31 African countries.


Migration has become a very visible manifestation of Chinese engagement. The number of Chinese migrants has expanded significantly in the past decade. The determinants of emigration from China and the move to Africa appear to be largely independent from the Chinese state, but there are many linkages between the migrants and Chinese companies in Africa and their Chinese workers. The Chinese migration is also highly entrepreneurial. Retail trade has been a dominant sector for most of these migrants. In many towns and cities throughout the continent they have quickly become the dominant traders, based on their supply of cheaper Chinese products. There is also a growing number of Chinese active in restaurants and in certain professional occupations.

The number of Chinese migrants is not known. The majority are located in South Africa (an estimated 100 000) and in Indian Ocean Islands (Mauritius and Madagascar), but they are visible in virtually every African country - from the 5000 in Lesotho and the 4000 in Zambia to the small community of 400 in Cape Verde. Notably, there is also a strong presence of Chinese migrants in countries emerging from violence and civil war – from Sudan to DR Congo and Angola.

Peace and Security

Peace and security has emerged as an increasingly important dimension of Sino-African relations. Under the FOCAC initiative the Chinese have made a number of commitments to support African efforts to promote peace and development and to assist the UN in its peacekeeping operations. The strongest manifestation of this has been Chinese participation in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. Currently, they provide 1310 peacekeepers to six UN operations in Africa.

China’s direct financial contribution to the AU in this area remains limited. Through its Africa policy paper, China has, however, made strong commitments to engage more with Africa and the AU on these issues. This also includes a range of areas beyond peacekeeping – from small arms to drug trafficking and organised crime.

China is a small, but significant arms exporter to Africa. It is estimated to amount to about 6-7% of total arms deliveries to the continent. Many of these deliveries, however, are going to conflict zones. It is reported that several of these supplies have been in exchange for lucrative contracts (such as mining concessions in DR Congo and timber in Liberia).

China has been passive in multilateral institutions discussing disarmament issues affecting Africa. Nor has it signed the Ottawa declaration on landmines.

Implications for Africa

The implications for Africa of this new Chinese Africa policy are expected to be significant, but we do not yet know how and in what way. There is no conclusive evidence, many challenges and opportunities – and many imponderables. Trade statistics tell us that the traditional trade pattern between Africa and the world will be reinforced by the Chinese. Africa’s role as an exporter of raw materials will be reinforced and it will be more challenging to diversify away from traditional exports. There is also decreasing scope for Africa to compete with China in labour-intensive manufacturing – in Africa and in third markets.

All of this reinforces familiar challenges: the need to ensure a sustainable exploitation of natural resources and to have a strong regulatory framework and management mechanisms in place. How do we ensure that billions poured into the continent for the exploration and production of petroleum and other resources are benefiting also Africa and its peoples?

Economic Development

The impact of the Chinese companies is also mixed. In some cases they have definitely contributed to a lowering of costs (particularly in construction), although there are also examples where Africa has been forced to pay more for Chinese goods and services. Critical questions are also being raised at the procurement policies of Chinese companies. There is limited local outsourcing with most goods being imported from China. Employment of local labour is also limited and efforts to provide a transfer of skills and human resource development through their business operations are limited. Likewise, Chinese companies have paid limited attention to “corporate social responsibility” or environmental implications. There are also disturbing examples of the illegal exploitation of natural resources. There are examples from, for example, the fishing industry, but the strongest evidence appears to relate to the Chinese importing of African timber.

There are, however, wide variations between countries and between sectors in relation to the use of both local inputs and local labour. It appears as if Chinese companies adapt to local conditions and regulatory frameworks. Chinese companies have major investments and a strong presence in a country such as South Africa, which has strong regulatory frameworks related to, for example, labour conditions (although the type of business they engage in there may be different from, say, DR Congo or Zambia).

Aid and Governance

China is emerging as a significant aid donor to Africa. We know very little about the quality and impact of Chinese projects and assistance activities in Africa. Nor do we know how Chinese authorities themselves assess such issues. The Chinese debt cancellations and zero-rating of tariffs on products from least developed African countries are significant initiatives. Beyond this, a number of observations can be made. The strong Chinese focus on physical infrastructure has been welcomed by many, but the heavy use of tied aid, procurement prescriptions and a lack of coordination with other actors has been criticised for reducing the effectiveness of the assistance.

Strong criticism and questions have been levelled at the Chinese policy of “non-interference” and its implications for governance issues and democratisation. Many fear that the Chinese will be the “spoiler” in emerging efforts to increase aid effectiveness and improve good governance. The Chinese explore business opportunities and provide aid irrespective of political conditions and the repressive nature of the regime in power. This contrasts sharply with the role of some of the traditional donor countries.

The Chinese non-interference policy is under pressure and may be increasingly difficult to uphold. Four pointers may be of some help in understanding the dynamics at play here. One is that China also strongly emphasises the need for political stability. It wants to protect its investments and commercial interests. This will be difficult to reconcile with non-interference.

Secondly, China often emphasises human resource development and capacity building in its aid programmes. This may lead to a situation where it ends up targeting capacity building in state institutions in an effort to improve management.

Thirdly, and significantly, China is also committed to work with AU/NEPAD and African regional organisations. We may see a further alignment and development of modalities for co-operation and dialogue between African regional organisations and FOCAC. Chinese priorities have been strongly focused on NEPAD’s economic development programme (especially infrastructure) and to some extent some of NEPAD’s social programmes (training in particular). However, NEPAD also has a strong focus on governance issues through the African Peer Review Mechanism as well as through its evolving approach to post-conflict reconstruction. This will increasingly require a Chinese response and provide entry points for possible future Chinese activities in this area.

Finally, China is also a signatory to the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness and seeks to portray itself as an international development partner. This will create additional and growing pressure on the Chinese to engage with other donor countries in discussing the delivery of aid.


Africa’s political response to the new Chinese offensive has generally been positive. African leaders have emphasised the importance of China for growth in their economies, as a supplier of development finance and technical assistance, and as a political ally and friend. China’s emphasis on “non-interference” is also welcomed.

There are, however, tensions and frictions below the surface. This has mainly been over trade (complaints about cheap imports and dumping), limited local outsourcing by Chinese companies and poor employment conditions and low wages.

Does the arrival of the Chinese imply that Africa’s position will be strengthened? Are they provided with different alternatives? Does this create opportunities for increasing African ownership of their own development?

In reflecting upon new opportunities, challenges and imponderables, two critical issues are highlighted.

One is that China may not yet have succeeded in presenting Africa with a new alternative. The Chinese have in their actions so far primarily focused on trade and investment opportunities for Chinese companies. This remains the Achilles heal [sic] in China’s relations with Africa. China needs to be more active - in Africa, in dialogue with Africa, and in the multilateral system - in presenting how it wants to contribute to Africa’s development and in the reduction of poverty on the continent. China may have to focus more on how its vision for increased South-South co-operation will translate into better opportunities for Africa and a reduction in poverty.

The second critical issue is Africa’s response. Can Africa take advantage of new opportunities and respond to new challenges? The FOCAC initiative – the main mechanism for joint African engagement with the Chinese – has so far largely been driven by the Chinese. Within Africa, it has mainly been left to South Africa to push for changes in China’s Africa policy and for China to broaden its engagement. Will there be an alignment between FOCAC and the African Union/NEPAD priorities?


The rapidly expanding Chinese engagement in Africa will have strong implications for the development of the continent. The report argues that it therefore also should have implications for Norwegian foreign and development policy. Norway is in a position to make a small difference through its development policy in Africa and through its engagement in the energy sector. Norway possesses skills, resources and influences to potentially make a small, but important contribution.

The team recommends that, in selected areas in its foreign and development policy, Norway formulates strategies with the following objectives in mind:

  • Strengthen the capacity of partner countries and African regional organisations to negotiate and co-operate effectively with China;

  • Support initiatives that stimulate China’s participation in multilateral institutions and donor fora;

  • Develop bilateral co-operation with China in areas of mutual benefit

In devising strategies and outlining alternatives for Norwegian responses it is helpful to distinguish between three areas: Norwegian Africa policy, Norwegian bilateral relations with China, and engagement in the multilateral arena.

Africa Policy

Norwegian Africa policy will be the most important area for addressing the challenges posed by China’s engagement.

A first recommendation is that Norway should support efforts to strengthen regulatory frameworks and the management of natural resources. Country programmes in selected countries should be revisited with a view to offering support for strengthening local management capacity. The areas selected will depend on the country concerned and the focus of the Norwegian country programme. Important sectors include fisheries and forestry, but especially the management and governance of the energy sector. This includes hydro energy, but also, importantly, petroleum. The Norwegian “oil for development” initiative will assume an added importance and relevance.

Secondly, it is important to monitor what the Chinese are doing in individual African countries, to build local competence for doing so and to stimulate public debate. Norway should support such efforts through assistance to, for example, local research communities, NGOs and media groups.

Thirdly, relations with African regional organisations assume a particular importance. These organisations are important vehicles for advancing African positions and for engaging with the Chinese on critical issues. Norway should support such efforts through its regional support activities.

Fourthly, and at the country level, it will be important to help facilitate dialogue and where possible co-operation between traditional donor countries and the Chinese.

Fifthly, China should be invited to meetings and institutions established to facilitate communication between donors and African regional organisations. This includes meetings related to AU/NEPAD initiatives. At the sub-regional level, current efforts in Southern Africa to establish a theme-group in energy, bringing together donors and SADC, may offer a potentially very important arena for engaging with the Chinese (the planned theme group is expected to be co-ordinated by Norway).

The possibility of establishing relations between China and the Africa Partnership Forum (in which Norway is currently one of the co-chairs) should also be explored.


This arena is crucial in providing external influences on evolving Chinese development and Africa policies. Norway should stimulate and support efforts to strengthen Chinese participation and commitment to international co-operation.

First, Norway should actively seek to engage with the Chinese at the UN and in the international finance institutions. Critical issues central to the African agenda should be emphasised here. Several issues may be available for joint consultation and possible co-operation.

Secondly, Norway should support efforts ensure that the African Development Bank can become effective an effective mechanism for facilitation of co-operation between donor countries and China in support to African infrastructure development.

Thirdly, Norway should help encourage Chinese participation in multilateral institutions where the Chinese are currently passive or are not members. This includes supporting efforts to invite China to join the International Energy Agency. Norway should also support efforts to facilitate Chinese participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Finally, Norway should support efforts to ensure that the OECD-DAC structures engage with China by inviting the Chinese to share their experiences in various working groups, by inviting the Chinese to observe DAC review missions, and so on.

Bilateral Co-Operation

Norway should also engage bilaterally with China. This will be demanding, it will be challenging, and any successes will belong to a distant future. In particular, it will be difficult to establish a meaningful political dialogue with Beijing on African development issues. However, building upon the experiences and direct interaction in African countries a number of steps can be taken which may evolve into a bilateral dialogue even at the political level.

Firstly, Norway should monitor China’s Africa policy, what it is doing in Africa and its relations with Africa.

Secondly, Norway needs to learn more about Chinese experience and thinking in providing development assistance and assisting poverty reduction outside their own borders. What are they doing? How do they do it? How efficient and effective do they consider this to be?

Thirdly, Norway should explore the possibility of engaging directly with the Chinese on experience from the petroleum sector. The focus for such a dialogue could be joint lessons in African countries where Chinese oil companies are active, and where Norway has an “oil for development” programme.

A final area to be mentioned is Chinese companies. Corporate social responsibility and compliance with international environmental and social rules and regulations are emerging as important issues.

Wissenbach, U. (2009), “The EU’s Response to China’s Africa Safari: Can Triangulation Match Needs?” draft to be published in European Journal of Development Research Special Issue, Vol. 24, No. 1. 86.

Conclusion: The EU’s and China’s Dilemmas and Africa’s Choice

The complex picture of the EU's and China's relations with Africa reveals dilemmas on all sides and weaknesses in their respective policies. The EU carries substantial baggage from colonial and Cold War history and still needs adjustments to the realities of globalisation and in Africa itself. The EU has struggled more to adapt its policy in the context of its normative and ethical concepts. It has found it difficult to re-define its interests in a credible way and to move away from a charity approach to Africa, long a key feature of public pressurexiii. This is also because its economic interest in Africa is quite limited. Chinese “competition” provides Europe’s policy makers with an opportunity also to address interests which were more difficult to articulate as long as poverty was the sole reference in the discourse about Africa.

With the renewed interest for African oil and minerals, some African countries tend to play off external competitors against each other and often load this game with political overtones (Wade, 2008). Simultaneously, the debate about the resource curse has been fuelled by China’s African safari (Yates, 2006).

Chinese Africa policy has taken an almost exclusively economic twist, despite its political rhetoric, and with unexpected negative impacts on some social groups in Africa. This raises questions about the benefits for Africa’s industrialisation and the durability of China’s engagement beyond the commodity boom. The current economic crisis and cooperation in the G-20 will be a litmus test and the Chinese leadership has realised this: during his 2009 visit to Africa President Hu has sought to re-assure African hosts about China’s resolve to fulfil its commitments while Prime Minister Wen has sought to fend off expectations of new pledgesxiv.

In order to overcome these dilemmas the EU has concluded that effective cooperation between the EU and China in taking up common responsibilities is central to the shaping of international affairs and global governance in the future. Hence, the proposed trilateral dialogue and cooperation (European Commission, 2007) can be regarded as a test-case for the Africa-EU Partnership, the EU-China strategic partnership and more generally for the EU’s strategy to promote global security and governance through effective multilateralism instead of prescriptive moral crusades, for China’s ambition to be a responsible (great) power, and for Africa’s development and position in the world.

In such a dynamic constellation Africans are working on a strategic consensus in the AU framework and of course nationally in order to be in the driving seat of the debate. The African Union Commission (AUC) has laid the groundwork by creating a task force on this topic (AUC, 2006)xv.

The challenge ahead is to build on the positive effects of the EU’s and China’s engagement and use their willingness to cooperate on the basis of similar objectives for growth and development in Africa in order to ultimately construct a common set of “rules of engagement” in Africa. These rules would promote sustainable peace based on an emerging African security community and the African Union / the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) principles for governance and development in Africa. These African rules for engagement applied to all external partners would gradually supersede both the Washington Consensus/DAC rules and China's rigid templates. However, changes in attitudes, path-dependent policies or conditionality will not happen overnight. They may be facilitated by the currently envisaged overhaul of the international financial institutions or a possible regionalisation of these.

This is an opportunity for Africa to collectively assume responsibility internationally for its development. This is what Africans have long claimed, but such an approach is also associated with risk for Africa's leaders: they have to find consensus on how to engage with external partners despite internal divisions and diverse impacts (economic gains and losses are unevenly distributed); they have to exercise these responsibilities and obtain the outcomes, in terms of development, which the people of Africa and the international community support. Otherwise African responsibility may just become a convenient excuse for disengagement and further marginalisation of Africa (Wissenbach, 2007b). Africa needs to decide whether it wants its partners to cooperate on this agenda or to have them compete for influence, thus perpetuating the post-colonial pattern of African policy-making being driven by outside actors and resulting divisions among and within African countries and races to the bottomxvi. Ultimately, Africa may succeed to ensure a real convergence of values and priorities of the Western donors and China around those of the AU Constitutional Act.

Wu, Friedrich W. Y. (1981), “From Self-Reliance to Interdependence?: Development Strategy and Foreign Economic Policy in Post-Mao China,” in Modern China, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 445-482.

On the basis of the preceding analysis, this essay advances the argument that the new Chinese leadership in the post-Mao era has made a decisive break, in both rhetoric and practice, with the Maoist strategy of self-reliant development. Due mainly to the economic imperatives generated by the Four Modernizations program, China is now opting for a development strategy that resembles closely what is being described in Western literature as interdependence. By noting this shift, we by no means suggest that the post-Mao Chinese leadership has relinquished the long-standing national goal of making China a self-reliant and totally independent country. Quite the contrary. What this shift does imply is that to attain this goal, the new leadership is willing to make some radical modifications – modifications that the late Mao most probably would not have endorsed – in its internal developmental policy and its external relations with the world economy. Thus, while it may be argued that self-reliance as a national goal has remained essentially intact in post-Mao China, self-reliance as an operational strategy of development in the Maoist sense has been pushed to the background in China’s latest modernization drive. It is still far too early to draw any conclusions from this shift in developmental strategy in China, considering the short span of time during which this change has been evolving. Domestically, however, the logical corollary of an interdependent developmental strategy is bound to be an increasingly complex economy augmented by an expanding division of labor and a growing structural-functional differentiation in management and production. Although it could be presumed that an economy based on internal-external interdependence is in a better position to accrue the benefits stemming from regional comparative advantage and division of labor, such an economy could also create a pattern of uneven development that would exacerbate the urban-rural gap, income inequality, social stratification, and elitism – in short, the host of problems that socialism professes to combat and eliminate. It remains to be seen whether the post-Mao leadership can, in the future, devise measures to keep these undesirable repercussions within tolerable limits, while at the same time retaining the benefits of the interdependence strategy.

Externally, the ramifications of pursuing a strategy of interdependent development could mean a certain reduction in autonomy to China’s national economy. An unpleasant dilemma inherent in interdependence strategy that policymakers must confront is “how much global involvement should a state foster and how much vulnerability and loss of autonomy is a state willing to suffer?” (Caporaso, 1978: 17). In the immediate future, China’s increasing demand for advanced technology from developed countries and its dependence on foreign markets for its exports will undoubtedly exacerbate the sensitivity and vulnerability of China’s economy vis-à-vis the world economy. So far, officials of the PRC have said very little about China’s response to this problem other than to make such typically vague statements as that China pursues its global economic involvements “on the basis of persevering in maintaining independence and keeping the initiative in our own hands” (Peking Review, July 8, 1977). Sooner or later, however, China’s leaders will have to move beyond rhetoric and come to terms with this issue squarely by defining the critical areas where China must maintain its initiative and those others where China may accept less control. China’s expanding interdependent relationships with capitalist countries also raise the question of the country’s commitment to the realization of a socialist world system. “Socialism,” as Wallerstein has pointed out, “involves the creation of a new kind of world-system” (Wallerstein, 1974b: 415), since,

the nationalization or socialization of all productive enterprises within the bounds of a nation-state is not and theoretically cannot be a sufficient defining condition of a socialist system, even if the whole nation thinks of socialism as its objective. As long as these nations remain part of a capitalist world economy, they continue to produce for this world market on the basis of the same principles as any other producer [Wallerstein, 1974a: 7].

This is a position that assuredly would be endorsed by Mao, who during his lifetime had insisted that the capitalist world economy would be replaced by a socialist one through “not only competition but also fierce, broad-ranging struggle” (Mao, 1977: 105). But the irony is that, since the decade of the 1960s, socialist countries have, one after another, chosen to drop out from this struggle and to become “an increasingly integral part of the capitalist world-economy” (Frank, 1977: 94). As sociologist Christopher Chase-Dunn has argued, these socialist countries “have reentered the capitalist world-economy as producers of commodities which they sell for profit on the world market and as importers of world market commodities” (Chase-Dunn, 1980: 516). With its current emphasis on interdependence and tilt toward the capitalist world market, China, too, seems to be following a path similar to that of other socialist countries. Whether her present posture represents a permanent withdrawal or a temporary retreat from that struggle is a question that will only be answered with the passage of time.

Zafar, Ali (2007), “The Growing Relationship Between China Sub-Saharan Africa: Macroeconomic, Trade, Investment, and Aid Links,” in The World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 103-130.

China’s economic ascendance represents a shift in the international economy and a change in some of the parameters that have been guiding the world trading system. The implications of China’s rise will be felt increasingly over the next decades, and the Sino-African relationship will only intensify in coming decades in line with China’s resource requirements. Chinese aid and investment in Africa will grow exponentially in parallel with the trade surge and will remain unaffected by any slowdown in economic growth in China.

For Sub-Saharan Africa, China’s economic boom has been a mixed blessing. On the positive side, China has helped accelerate economic growth in Africa by contributing to a strong commodity boom due to the upward swing in the prices of oil and metals exported by many African economies. Second, it has deepened trade and investment on a continent that has been marginalized from flows of international trade and global capital, and China is investing significantly in Africa’s transport and education infrastructure. Third, it has given many Africans access to low-cost consumer goods. Fourth, China’s low-transactions–cost way of doing business and its noninterference in countries’ internal affairs—eschewing political conditionalities on loans provided that countries adhere to its one-China policy—has won it some support in the developing world. Fifth, China’s ascent has created more competition in the aid market and increased countries’ bargaining power with donors. China may contribute to the continent’s economic development and act as a force for change in Africa.

On the minus side are several important challenges and risks. First, there is some concern that Chinese investment in Africa will be based on capital-intensive natural resource extraction and will not contribute to local employment generation and the continent’s long-term economic development. Second, China’s influence on global energy demand and on oil markets will lead to increased energy prices for net oil importers in Africa and a worsening of their terms of trade. Third, the supply shock to world manufacturing, particularly in textiles, and the growing imports of cheap Chinese goods in Africa, coupled with increasing competition between Chinese and African textiles in third-country markets, threaten to hinder economic diversification in Africa and contribute to deindustrialization. In this context, a growing backlash against Chinese investment in the continent, amid allegations of improper labor and human rights standards, may gather momentum. Fourth, important issues like corruption and governance, which had moved to the forefront of the development agenda, may slide back down again. There may be some slippage in the progress that has been made in the development agenda with regard to transparency and civil society participation.

The ascent of China will influence the dynamics of Western aid to the continent and alter the landscape of development assistance. New working mechanisms between the lenders will have to be crafted. Moreover, the traditional donors and international financial institutions will have to work creatively to bring the Chinese into the broader development platform. Overall, China represents a great opportunity and challenge for Africa, and only history will give its verdict a half-century from now.

Table 2.

Realist Internationalism

Humane Internationalism

Reform Internationalism

Liberal Internationalism

Radical Internationalism

Third World


Recognizes obligation of rich countries to alleviate global poverty and to promote social and economic development in the Third World.

Acknowledges obligation of rich countries to alleviate global poverty and to promote social and economic development in the Third World.

Recognizes responsibility for the development of the South.

An acceptance of the obligation to show solidarity with the poor and oppressed in other countries, even at the sacrifice of narrower interests in one’s own country.




Similar to humane internationalism, though the international ethic goes further, stating that the existing global distribution of resources and incomes is considered indefensible and the international economic system is considered unfair to the poor.

Combines main concept of humane internationalism with a strong commitment to an open, multilateral trading system. It is motivated by humanitarian tradition and adds to it an enlightened self-interest coming out of the increased interdependence between North and South, and the new opportunities that have come about as a result of the integration of the Third World into the Western Market economy.

Based in ideologies which advocate the equity of man and solidarity across national borders. Confronts the exploitive and oppressive economic and political structures current within and among states.



Promote economic, social and political rights in the Third World, alleviate human suffering, and promote social and economic development.

Similar to humane internationalism. Promotion of human rights, improved equity and social and economic justice within and between nations.

Economic growth in South through the pursuit of genuine common interests between rich and poor countries.

Full economic, political and social equity. Ecological concerns are also becoming increasingly important.

Other Beliefs

Maintains an anarchic view of international relations.

A more equitable world is in the long-term best interests of developed nations.

Supports transfers of resources to promote development in the Third World, like humane internationalism, but goes further by asking for reforms both in Third World countries for the benefit of poor social groups, and reform of the international, political and economic system for the benefit of the South.

However, it does not believe that the market is the most efficient mechanism to settle income distribution and determine production priorities.

Favors use of private sector in development efforts, including industrial and business enterprises in the North, and believes that Overseas Development Assistance funds should be used for its mobilization.

Sceptical of both civilian and military bourgeois elites in control of most Third World countries, and reluctant, if not against the provision of state-to-state aid to countries ruled by these groups.


Only own national interests are and should be pursued.

Includes the concept of mutual benefit across borders, and, among other things, interests of increasing employment and expansion of trade and investment opportunities.

Like humane internationalism believes that a more equitable and just world is in the best interest of rich countries.

States should pursue short-term and long-term economic and political self-interest, similar concept to realist internationalism.

The dire needs of the Third World should be given predominance over narrower self-interests at home in light of the differences in terms of economic and social economic levels, as long as aid is directed towards the creation of and support for structures of self-reliant, sustainable social and economic growth. This pursuit is also a vital consideration in the selection of recipients of aid (both governments and NGO), which must also hold similar beliefs in order to be eligible.

Aid Channels



Works through existing multilateral and bilateral aid agencies considered to be useful instruments for the correction of global inequalities, however, it believes these agencies need to be improved to achieve these objectives. Also favors NGOs.

Attitudes towards aid agencies vary depending on the degrees of interference and discrimination of these agencies. Suspicious of extensive procurement tying. Preferring international development finance agencies and UN agencies which practice open bidding. Also skeptical of agencies which give priority to welfare strategies at the cost of economic growth strategies.

Prefers to channel aid through non-governmental solidarity groups. Skeptical about bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, however, differentiates them according to their performance in relation to the objectives mentioned above and the policy of the chosen recipient. Against providing aid to international development finance institutions, especially the Bretton Woods institutions, as these are considered instruments of the donor interests rather than instruments used to secure genuine advantages for the Third World. Favors UN aid agencies as there are thought to ensure a greater influence for Third World governments.

State/inter-state intervention



Favors use of state and inter-state intervention to the objectives mentioned above. Gradualist approach.

Although it is against state and inter-state intervention, it supports the institutionalization of rules which create equal opportunities, and reduce discriminatory practices and protectionism.

Strongly favors use of state and inter-state intervention if these are directed towards the objectives mentioned above. Strongly against interventions by exploiting or repressive structures, be they Third World governments or international institutions (including IFIs).

Table 2. Forms of internationalism as described by Stokke (1989). Note: Descriptions are based on those given by Stokke (1989), where information in the matrix is lacking this is because it was not provided by Stokke. (Click here to return to introduction)

1 Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

2 See Table 2 for further descriptions of the different forms of internationalism as defined by Stokke (1989).

3 Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

4 The Netherlands has direct ties to a number of developing nations due to its colonial heritage.

5 This includes, for example, donor self-interest with regard to political, economic or national security considerations.

6 See also USAID (2002), Foreign Aid in the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security and Opportunity, Washington, DC: USAID.

7 For further discussion concerning terrorism and failed states see for example: Newman, Edward (2007), “Weak States, State Failure, and Terrorism,” in Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 463-488; Patrick, Stewart (2006), “Weak States and Global Threat: Fact or Fiction,” in The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 27-53; Rice, Susan E. (2003), “The New National Security Strategy: Focus on Failed States,” The Brookings Institution Policy Brief No. 116, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.

8 See, for example, this article on the BBC News website:

9 See article on website:

10 See article on This article states that China’s contributions to the IMF are said to exceed that of Japan and become second only to the US.

11 See also Neumayer 2002.

12 See Breuning (1995) for analysis of the correlation between foreign assistance rhetoric and actual policy behavior.

13 Note, for example, China’s activities within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

14 See note 4 above, as well as Chinese participation in the Global War on Terror.

15 For further details see: Yu, O. (2008), “Corruption in China’s Economic Reform: A Review of Recent Observations and Explanations,” in Crime, Law and Social Change, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 161-176, Springer Netherlands.

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