12.12.2015 Author: Vladimir Terehov

The Leading Asian States Strengthens Positions in Africa

xi_jinping_africaThe African continent once again (as it was in the second half of the 19th century) becomes the object of attention of the world’s leading States.

However, the fundamental difference between the present stage of their activity in Africa from colonial “classics” a hundred and fifty years ago is the presence of the new global players, namely, China, India and Japan, among “neocolonists”.

The irony of historical process in this case is in the fact that sometime ago the first two themselves were objects of severely ferocious colonial policy. Today, all three of them are quite successfully conquering hearts and souls of Africans with economic tools. However, we can not exclude the possibility that after a while they will be supplemented by the military tools as well. Especially if in the course of the next “African campaign” the new global players face the same problem of the division of the spheres of influence. As it was in the late 19th century.

African tour of Xi Jinping, President of the PRC, which he made immediately after finishing of the global climate change conference, held in Paris at the end of November, 2015, is an appropriate occasion to discuss the said issue.

The main purpose of this trip was attending by the Chinese leader of  Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC.  The Forum is held since Year 2000, and this one took place in Johannesburg on December 4-5, 2015.
On the way to Republic of South Africa, Xi Jinping stopped in Harare, where he had negotiations with the irreplaceable President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. Beijing keeps good relations with the leadership of this country and that is in a sharp contrast to the total obstruction from the side of those who nowadays do not hesitate to speak on behalf of the so-to-say “international community.”

China has become the biggest competitor to the leading Western States in the sphere of economic relations with African countries. The total volume of Sino-African trade in Year 2014 amounted to 222 billion US Dollars. Republic of South Africa and Nigeria are the main trade partners of China at the continent. The turnover with each of them is close to 30 billion US Dollars.

China imports mainly precious metals from Republic of South Africa, and oil from Nigeria. The main component of the Chinese counter-services is participation of the latter in the development of mineral deposits, development of transport infrastructure, construction of power generating facilities.

More than half of Chinese subsidies allocated annually to provide various kinds of overseas projects goes to Africa. Currently, Beijing implements more than 2,600 projects worth about 94 billion US Dollars on the continent.

While speaking at the FOCAC Xi Jinping announced that within the next three years China is ready to allocate $ 60 billion in order to support the implementation of ten programs aimed for solution of a wide range of problems, preventing full development of African countries.

In addition, Beijing will provide financial assistance to the African Union to increase its capacity in the sphere of peace-keeping operations ($ 60 million), and of combating the consequences of anomalous natural phenomenon El Niño, triggered drought and famine in the north-east African countries ($ 156 million).

Among other bilateral meetings of the President of China at the FOCAC, the most notable were negotiations with the leaders of Republic of South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, that is, with three of the leading African countries.

In particular, there were several agreements signed with Republic of South Africa for the amount of $ 6.5 billion, of which $ 2.5 billion will be allocated for development of railway infrastructure.

As for the negotiations with the President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, then along with the same sphere of the economy, referencing security issues has attracted attention. The both parties may have the particular common interests due to the activation of separatist and terrorist movements (“Boko Haram” in Nigeria and Uyghur in the north-west China).

Both major Asian competitors of China, i.e., India and Japan, are also stepping up their presence in Africa. The main platform of development of relations with African leaders for the first of them is the India-Africa Forum Summit, IAFS. The outcome of its third meeting, held in New Delhi October 26-29, 2015, has become an extensive joint declaration “Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda”. This document, being rather a memorandum of understanding, affects virtually all aspects of bilateral inter-State relations.

For India, its main practical importance is, probably, connected to the fact of the indirect support of 54 African countries to the long-term Delhi desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. China keeps restrained reaction to this.

Japan has got significantly greater resources in the global competition with China. The same strategy of “close personal custody” as it is used in relation to each other by the both major Asian powers in all regions of the world, is observed in Africa.

Thus, the current African tour of  Xi Jinping may be considered as a response to the meeting of prime minister Shinzō Abe with a number of African leaders, held on 26 September in New York on the sidelines of the session of UN General Assembly.
This meeting was held within the framework of the next (third in a row) session of the Forum Japan-African Regional Economic Communities, JAREC. It was held in order to review the progress of preparation of the Sixth Meeting of the main Japan-African Forum, which is called the Tokyo International Conference of African Development, TICAD. Penultimate conference (TICAD-V) with the leaders of almost all African countries took place in June 2013 in Yokohama; and as an outcome the two documents were adopted: “Yokohama Declaration 2013″ and “Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017″.

If to judge by the words of Shinzō Abe, said on September 26 in New York, the next TICAD conference will took place in 2016.  This would be the first time when it is to be held in Africa, namely in Kenya. Apparently at TICAD-VI  the interim results of implementation of the above-mentioned “Action Plan” will be announced, and the list of events will be scheduled for the next three years.

The top Asian players operate in Africa in the context of the marked presence on the continent of the former European metropolises, as well as of their main ally, namely, the United States. Nevertheless, the repeated use of military force in the former colonies may be noticed mainly from the part of France and (occasionally) of the United Kingdom. The US support for such actions is mainly motivated by considerations of a necessity to perform the ally debt to the major European NATO members.

It is still unclear, whether these grounds remain relevant for Washington in the near future, as there are new trends outlining in the global game, involving the United States and the leading countries of Asia and Europe.

Washington, apparently, faces the necessity of a radical change of foreign policy, with which their own interests (including those in Africa) will prevail over the grounds to maintain ally relations with the leading European countries. In this regard, much may be clarified in the course and by the results of the upcoming presidential race in the United States.

Finally, it should be noted that there is a relative invisibility of the political processes flow around the African continent with the traditional and understandable grounds for behaviour of the participants. As it is for the “leading”, so for the “led”. This is particularly striking on the background noise in media in connection with the fake-phenomena of a series of “non-conventional threats to the world community.”

However, this could be the case, in the era of domination of simulacra and prevailing significance of TV-images over the real life.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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