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China Africa
China could soon expand its involvement in peace and
security issues in Africa, according to government officials, researchers and
academics from both the Asian giant and resource-rich continent who met at the
second China-Africa Think Tanks Forum in Ethiopia.
Mulugeta Gebrehiwot, the director of the Institute of Peace
and Security Studies in Ethiopia that organised the forum, told IPS that it
should not come as a surprise that China is interested in peace and security on
the African continent.
“There is nothing that is not touched by peace and security.
Whether you’re (looking) for investment collaboration, economic operation or
anything else. Peace and security has to be in place. Because that’s the
central instrument that keeps the environment for any other interaction and
collaboration together,” Gebrehiwot said.

Senior officials and prominent scholars including Ethiopia’s
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen and vice-president of the China Foreign
Affairs University Professor Zhu Liqun attended the forum in Bishoftu, some 45
kilometres from the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Chinese officials pointed out that the Asian giant’s
non-interference policy should not be interpreted as indifference to the
continent’s peace and security.
“Our non-interference policy in Africa does not mean we have
an indifferent attitude towards African issues. We oppose some countries that
in the excuse of care for another, interfere with African internal affairs,”
Director-General Lu Shaye from the Department of African Affairs at the Chinese
Foreign Ministry told IPS.
He said that China would not intervene readily in the
affairs of another country and their involvement would be to merely support
regional organisations and institutions on the continent.
“In the past we provided funds to support the African Union
(AU), in the future we will strengthen this support. We’ll have cooperation
with the AU and other regional organisations to have a better understanding on
this issue. And we will accelerate our support to the AU and other regional
organisations,” Lu Shaye said.
Until now, China’s role in Africa has mostly focused on
economic development. Last year, China-Africa trade amounted to 166 billion
dollars, according to statistics from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
China’s approach of non-interference has provided Africa
with much needed funding without the strings that some western powers attach to
loans for Africa, and has resulted in the fast construction of large
infrastructure projects, according to experts.
A research article in
Standard Bank’s Guide to Transactional Banking in Africa 2012 by Bridgette Liu
and Richard Stocken titled “The role of China’s construction industry in
Africa’s infrastructure development”, stated that Chinese companies now
dominate the African construction sector, with a market share larger than those
of France, Italy and the United States combined.
“Revenues of construction companies in central and southern
Africa grew by 31.7 percent to 27.52 billion dollars in 2009. North Africa grew
30.8 percent to 29.29 billion dollars. At the same time, the share of Chinese
enterprises in the African market rose significantly from 26.9 percent in 2007
to 42.4 percent in 2008 and back to 36.6 percent in 2009,” the article stated.
The article also noted “Chinese state-owned financial
institutions such as China Exim Bank and China Development Bank have become
large-scale lenders in Africa, rivalling the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of development finance outreach.”
Much has been written about the World Bank and IMF loans to
Africa. A 2006 briefing paper by
Oxfam International titled “Kicking the Habit” stated that because the two
organisations use their aid to push economic policy reforms such as
privatisation and liberalisation on poor countries, in Mali, “where far from
leading to economic growth and poverty reduction, conditions have hiked
electricity prices and are likely to hurt cotton farmers as well as delaying
aid flows and undermining country ownership of policies.”
China’s President Hu Jintao announced two months ago that
his country would invest 20 billion dollars more in Africa. But he also stated
that China would take new measures to support the cause for peace and
development in Africa. 
Policies are already being drafted to indicate how China
will improve is participation.
While China is Africa’s biggest trade partner, it already is
the largest contributor of peacekeepers to Africa among permanent members of
the United Nations Security Council.
But the role of China in Africa is often seen as a
controversial one. China’s funding of the new AU building headquarters in Addis
Ababa has sparked debate among non-African critics about whether the new
economic world power was buying its way into the continent.
Western countries have warned on frequent occasions that
China’s participation in Africa has colonial tendencies. Or that the Asian
country supports oppressive regimes and is trying to take advantage of Africa’s
natural recourses.
United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said during
her latest Africa trip in August, that the U.S. stands up for human rights and
democracy “even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other
way, to keep the resources flowing.”
However, Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent peace and
security expert in his conference paper titled “China-Africa Relations: Areas
of Reform for a Sustainable Partnership”, disagreed and stated that China’s
reputation in Africa is positive as African countries feel that their Asian
partners respect other people, cultures and states.
While China’s improved role in peace and security in Africa
could be beneficial for the continent, it could also be rewarding for China.
“China’s cooperation with Africa will become a problem in
the future if civil wars continue to exist,” Professor Liu Hongwu, the director
of the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, told IPS.
Experts at the forum pointed out that peace and security was
broader than security focused around violent clashes. It also focuses on food
security and fighting the epidemic HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Hongwu added that the Chinese are not only focused on
maintaining peace by training soldiers: “We can also improve the ability to
keep security by training countries in sectors such as finance, education and
technology.”
China currently trains more than 6,000 African personnel in
various sectors and provides over 5,500 government scholarships to African
countries.
Source: IPS

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