University of Pretoria
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Analysis of China-Africa strategic parnership literature, the economic and security relations between China and African countries

posted on 2023-07-14, 10:42 authored by Edwin HlaseEdwin Hlase

Figure 3 depicts China-Africa trade from 2000 to 2013. It shows that China-Africa trade consistently grew since the formation of the FOCAC in 2000. As can be seen in the figure, the US trade with Africa declined after the 2008 global financial crisis, allowing China to take the lead as Africa's largest trading partner. Figure 7 shows trade between China and Africa from 2003 to 2021. Although with fluctuations, trade between the two sides has been increasing since the establishment of the FOCAC mechanism. It reached a first high of US$203 billion in 2015 and then declined significantly the following year. However, the trade increased again from 2017 and surged to US$254 billion in 2021, up by 35% from the previous year. The high trade volume in 2021 has been attributed to the additional Chinese exports of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), such as masks and hazmat suits, as well as pharmaceutical products and testing equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic to Africa. However, Gu et al (2022: 11) indicated that the strong increase in China-Africa trade volume in 2021 is remarkable as data from China's customs agency shows that it is "made up of an increase in both Chinese exports to Africa (29.9% year-on-year) and African exports to China (43.7% year-on-year)".

Figure 4 shows the number of countries around the world that have joined China's Belt and Road Initiatiative (BRI). As can be seen in the figure, China's BRI has attracted more than 140 countries. In Africa, the first countries that signed up for the BRI project were East and North African countries such as Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania and Egypt. In Figure 5, the map shows the number of African countries that have signed up for the BRI since 2015. As can be seen in the figure, 52 countries in Africa had signed some BRI-related Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China by 2022.

Table 1 shows that studies that analysed the China-Africa relationship focusing on their 'strategic partnership' are very few, given the voluminous literature on China and Africa. A search of Sino-Africa studies conducted in English with the term 'strategic partnership' in their titles produced only ten papers (see table). Furthermore, as the table shows, studies investigating the increased security cooperation in China-Africa relations conducted in English are rare, although this part of the debate has also produced numerous research publications. The column titled 'Focus of study' in Table 1 above shows that majority of these studies concentrated on analysing economic cooperation, while a few also included political relations between China and Africa. Also, the column titled 'Definition of strategic partnership' shows that, all these studies, except Akpan and Onya (2018), made no attempts to define the concept of strategic partnership.

Figure 8 shows the countries around the world in which the United Nations (UN) has deployed its peacekeepers. As shown in the figure, the UN has deployed several peacekeeping missions around the world since the late 1940s, with most of these operations taking place in the African continent. Figure 9 focuses on the UN’s peacekeeping operations in Africa. As can be seen in the figure, Chinese peacekeeping troops were deployed in five out of the seven UN-led missions on the African continent as of 2019. 

Figure 12 shows the foreign military bases that currently exist in African countries. As the figure shows, the African Continent is a host to 47 known foreign military bases, of which 34 are United States (US) bases. Figure 13 shows the foreign military bases in Djibouti. As seen in the figure, Djibouti hosts the US' Camp Lemonnier military base, just 13.4 kilometres away from the Chinese PLA's new navy facility, along with military bases of other major powers such as France, Germany and Japan in close proximity. Djibouti thus found itself in the middle of diplomatic tensions between China and the US over fears of a Chinese takeover of the Doraleh Container Terminal, Djibouti's main container port, in 2018, as China financed the development of the port. 

Figure 6 shows China's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) commitments from 2006 to 2021. As can be seen in the figure, China's financial pledges to assist Africa increased from US$5 billion to US$60 in 2015. However, they dropped to US$40 billion in 2021. Further, drops in the number of activities, such as official development assistance (ODAs) and capacity building, including reductions in security collaborations, were also noted. However, a new development was China's reallocation of US$10 billion of its Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) towards Africa from the US$40 billion that it received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).      



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Political Sciences

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