How the West Distorts the China-Africa Relationship
China-Africa relations have been characterized as nefarious, with China being labeled a "New Colonizer." But is it true?
The China-Africa relationship is one of historic importance. The relationship has been slandered repeatedly by the Western media. China is always at the center of the slander, with partner nations in Africa treated worse than an afterthought. A colonial attitude on the part of the West and its ringleader, the United States, remains a dominant trend in geopolitics. Still, history marches forward. The growing partnership between China and African nations is a clear sign of an emerging multipolar world.
It is for this reason that the West is so concerned about China’s relationship with Africa. The Western world is in economic and political turmoil. COVID-19, climate change, political instability, and economic crisis has placed a spotlight on imperialist-driven global inequality. A crisis of legitimacy has emerged which is most acute in the United States. The U.S. capitalist economy has gradually shrunk as a proportion of total world GDP and its political system is wracked with incompetence. Military force has become the U.S.’s primary means of relating to the world, and this is especially true in Africa where the U.S. possesses military partnerships with all but one African country via AFRICOM.
The U.S. reliance on military force in Africa comes in response to China’s growing role on the continent. Military force is always be packaged with propaganda. The denigration of China’s cooperation with African countries helps mask an important reality. U.S. and European corporations and financial lenders have lost the capacity to compete with China in Africa and the rest of the Global South for that matter. China’s overall trade volume with African countries amounts to roughly $200 billion per year, a number five times larger than the value of U.S. trade with Africa. China’s partnership with Africa is a daily reminder that the centuries-old colonial order is in a state of decay.
To conceal this trend, Western propagandists have spread rumors and falsehoods about the character of China’s partnership with Africa. The term “debt-trap diplomacy” has circulated hundreds of times in the Western media to describe China’s supposedly nefarious use of debt as a means of political coercion. No evidence of the so-called “debt-trap” is ever presented and Western analysts have been caught making up examples out of whole cloth. The most recent lie spread by the West was that China had seized a Ugandan airport due to non-payment of the loans required to develop the ongoing project. Before this, Western media claimed that China was threatening to seize a port in Djibouti for the same reason.
The reality of the China-Africa relationship is much different than the steady dose of fear that we are fed by Western imperial powers. Flexibility and solidarity are hallmarks of China’s bilateral ties with African countries. In 2018, China allowed Ethiopia to defer interest payments on the construction of a railway connecting the country to Djibouti. The term of the loan was extended by fifteen years. China possesses similar debt relief agreements with nineteen African countries.
It would be mistaken, however, to view China’s cooperation with Africa as simply a matter of dollars and cents. Infrastructure development and solidarity against COVID-19 form the foundation of China-Africa cooperation. China’s Huawei provides seventy percent of Africa’s 4G technology and the first to offer 5G to African countries. China has built more than 13,000km of roads and rail as well as more than 80 large-scale power facilities, with dozens of projects already underway to assist Africa’s transition to renewable energy known as the continent’s Great Green Wall. China has provided close to 200 million COVID-19 vaccines to African nations to date and has pledged another 1 billion at the Forum on China-Africa cooperation held late last month.
The West, led by the United States, has dismissed these accomplishments by defaming China as the equivalent of Western colonial powers of yore and Africa as having no destiny or agency to speak of. White supremacy continues to dominate the geopolitics of the American empire and its Western allies. Dehumanization and slander are all that the world’s imperial hegemons have left at their disposal to conceal the benefits of a multipolar world order. Multipolarity is a cornerstone of China-Africa cooperation and the broader Belt and Road Initiative. Global trade networks that treat nations with common histories of colonial subjugation as equals are a direct threat to modern-day Western imperialism. Western imperialism cannot compete with China without completely undermining the exploitation and oppression at the heart of the system.
That’s because when it comes to Western imperialism in Africa, the past is the present. Western countries carved up Africa in the late 19th century only to punish the continent’s just struggle for independence with coups, military interventions, and neocolonial economic arrangements. France continues to control the monetary systems of more than a dozen of its former colonies. Belgium punished Congo’s independence movement led by the assassinated Patrice Lumumba through the imposition of an enormous debt to be repaid to the former colonizer. Multinational corporations residing in the West have played a leading role in ensuring that more than $40 billion annually is extracted from the continent each year.
China’s model of development stands in stark contrast to the West’s neocolonial arrangements. Instead of extraction, China offers infrastructure to Africa and the rest of the Global South. Instead of exploitation, China offers cooperation. Instead of military expansionism, China offers solidarity in the fight against poverty and climate change. The West distorts the China-Africa relationship because its model of imperialist domination has become a ball and chain on human progress and development itself.
There is a saying in the West that “talk is cheap.” The West’s distortion of the China-Africa relationship is indeed a cheap attempt to justify its ongoing imperialist hegemony that comes at an enormous cost to humanity. The longer that the West is able to slander the China-Africa relationship without a significant domestic challenge, the more difficult the achievement of the urgent tasks confronting humanity becomes. These tasks are clear: to defend self-determination and the sovereign right of development, to continue the long march toward peace, and to develop bonds of solidarity capable of liberating humanity from all vestiges of colonialism. It is therefore in the interests of peace-loving people and nations everywhere to oppose the West’s distortions of the China-Africa relationship, and to do so without hesitation.
This article was amended from a speech given by the author at the event Africa/China Relations: Challenges of Cooperation and Development, which can be viewed here: