Chinese diplomat turns to Africa in response to Western lure

BEIJING: The past month has been busy for Chinese diplomacy in Africa, with senior officials visiting the continent on dozens of occasions to resolve differences, strengthen ties and, most recently, respond to an onslaught of western attractions. The Chinese government’s special representative for African affairs, Xu Jinggu, promised Burundian President Evariste Nadishimi on Wednesday that China would continue to strengthen bilateral relations with the East African country in priority areas such as agriculture. , health and infrastructure.

Ndayishimiye said China “has stood by us for years, especially during difficult times”, and Xu said Beijing will always support Burundi’s economic and social development. China has sent agronomists to Burundi to improve food production and provided scholarships to Burundian students. Xu will also visit Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Namibia, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles during his eight-country tour.
She is visiting Africa just days after senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi’s visits to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Wu Peng, director general of the African Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry, visited South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo last month.

Xu Bing, China’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, was also in Addis Ababa in June for the first China-sponsored Horn of Africa peace conference.
According to observers, the high-level visits are aimed at addressing issues of hotspots, particularly ongoing conflicts in the Great Lakes, Horn of Africa and Sahel regions, as well as responding to the challenge of the West to the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. give.

According to Zhou Yuyuan, a senior fellow at the Center for West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, the specific role of a special representative for African affairs is political mediation. “I think one of its important tasks is to look at China’s contribution to addressing Africa’s hotspot issues,” he said. “Ties between the Great Lakes countries are strained, with relations between the DRC and Rwanda being particularly strained.”

Rwanda and Congo have accused each other of launching rockets across their common border. Congolese officials also claimed that Rwanda had deployed disguised troops on its territory.

Accordingly, it makes sense to choose the Great Lakes region,” Zhou explained. “Perhaps the most important reason is that Xu speaks French, which means that official visits to French-speaking countries will largely depend on it.
According to Tim Zajontz, a researcher at the Center for International and Comparative Politics at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, Xu’s stay in Kinshasa was interpreted as a sign of goodwill to resolve long-standing disputes between Chinese mining companies. and the Congolese government. as we can do.

He believes that the frequency with which high-level Chinese officials have visited African Indian Ocean island nations in recent years is the highest.
“Mauritius, Seychelles and even Madagascar play a minor economic role for China,” Zontz explained. “However, they are important geostrategic assets for China’s efforts to strengthen its presence in the Indian Ocean as part of the Maritime Silk Road.”

While senior Chinese officials visit some African countries more often than others, “China is working to ensure that all countries except those riders who recognize Taipei are included in the program,” he said. declared George Washington. said university professor David Shin. Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington.
As a result, countries with strong ties to China, such as South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Senegal, Congo and Namibia, receive high numbers of high profile visitors. These include mineral-rich countries like Congo and Zambia. Congo sells most of its copper and cobalt to China, and copper-rich Zambia has attracted Chinese investment in mining and infrastructure.

During Wu’s recent visit to Zambia, the debt crisis was high on the agenda. He told a news conference in Lusaka that he was in Zambia to help coordinate China’s response to the country’s debt crisis, which has seen it default on some euro-denominated Eurobonds. dollars.

However, countries of lesser importance to China, such as Malawi, Burkina Faso, Togo and Burundi, are sometimes included according to the Shin.
“Occasionally, senior officials visit due to a special event such as an independence festival or a serious issue requiring high-level attention,” he explained.
According to Yang, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Freiburg in Germany, China’s second most powerful foreign policymaker after President Xi Jinping, his visits are therefore of “particular diplomatic importance”.

He said Chinese investment flourished in Zimbabwe under Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was educated in China during the liberation struggle.
Chinese companies have recently purchased additional lithium mines in Zimbabwe and now operate Africa’s largest steel mill south of the capital, Harare.
“You could say that Zimbabwe is becoming the new Zambia for Beijing,” Zajontz said, referring to Harare’s decision to open the country’s doors to Chinese investors.

He explained that the fact that Mozambique will take up a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in January influenced Yang’s decision to travel to Maputo. He said China has a wide range of economic interests in Mozambique, including energy, mining and agriculture, and the Mozambican government used the visit to ask Yang for help. to rehabilitate the country’s 2,000 km (1,200 miles) north-south EN1 Highway.
Yang’s trips to Africa, according to Zhou, were more political in nature, and he went there on behalf of key Chinese leaders.
As a senior diplomatic official, Yang makes almost annual visits to African countries,” he said. This demonstrates China’s respect for Africa and developing countries.

For example, the European Union-African Union summit in February showed that the EU is increasing its engagement and investments in Africa. Senior officials from the US State and Commerce Departments recently visited Africa, and the second US-Africa Leaders Summit will take place later this year. Next month, Japan will host the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Tunisia. This means that major countries attach more importance to Africa, which will lead to closer interactions,” Zhou explained. “I think if new commitments, investments and financing increase, it could benefit African countries.

The increasing frequency of visits by senior Chinese officials across the continent, according to Zajontz, must be seen in the context of a recent Western charm offensive in Africa, which included promises to provide alternative infrastructure and development projects to those offered as part of the Chinese belt. and Road Initiative. It is clear that Chinese and Western leaders are engaged in an increasingly competitive struggle for political influence in African capitals, as there is a rush for minerals and strategic markets in Africa.

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