Competing World-Visions? China’s and the EU’s Africa-Policies


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As European politicians realized that China’s successful Africa-strategy potentially undermines their traditional influence in Africa, they started to question their normative policy-approach. While Europe conducts a policy that is based on ethical and normative considerations, such as good governance, democracy, human rights and the promotion of sustainable economic development, China promotes a no-strings-attached, business-like approach. In contrast to the EU, China presents itself rather as an investor who wants to do business rather than donor who wants to provide aid.

This paper will shed light on the differences between China’s and the EU’s Africa policies. It argues that China’s engagement has contributed to the fact that Africa has again become a priority of the European political agenda.

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Competing World-Visions? China’s and the EU’s Africa-Policies

  1. 1. Europe in a Non-European World: - The External Relations of the EU in a Changing World OrderCompeting World-Visions? China’s and the EU’s Africa-Policies
  2. 2. Table of ContentIntroduction ....................................................................................................................... 32. Normative power: The EU’s Africa-Policy ........................................................................ 43. Business instead of aid: China’s Africa-policy’ ................................................................. 64. Case Study: Angola ........................................................................................................ 85. The ‘China effect’: Cooperation instead of conditionality ............................................. 116. Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 13References ....................................................................................................................... 15 2
  3. 3. Introduction “The battle for influence in the world between the West and China is not Africa’s problem. Our continent is in a hurry to build infrastructure, ensure affordable energy and educate our people…China’s approach to our needs is simply better adapted than the slow and sometimes patronizing post-colonial approach of European investors, donor organizations and non-governmental organizations.” (Abdoulaye Wade (President of Senegal) in Carbone, 2011, p. 203)While African countries have been widely neglected by western states after the end of theCold War, they have become a new priority for Western actors, as well as for emergingpowers. Most importantly, China established itself as an important political and economicplayer on the African continent. The flow of goods between China and Africa has quintupledsince 2000 and China is becoming Africa’s most important trading-partner. During the lasttwo decades more than 800 Chinese companies have invested a total of US$ 1.2 billion onthe continent1 and Chinese companies have managed to secure orders for Africaninfrastructure projects worth more than US$ 30 billion. In 2006, China imported 30% of its oilfrom Africa, most of it from Angola, Sudan, and Nigeria. Moreover, it is estimated that notonly China benefits from this dynamic cooperation but also Africa: According to the GermanDevelopment Institute, economic growth in Africa has risen by one to two percentage points“thanks to support from China” (DIE, 2006, p. 1). Chinas motivation for increased activity on the African continent is clear: China aimsat securing natural resources, especially oil, and gaining access to Africa’s markets.Furthermore, China tries to establish itself as a global political power. At the same time, theChinese model of “authoritarian capitalism” provides African leaders with an alternativepolicy to the traditional Western aid and development cooperation. As a result, the successof China’s approach is more and more seen as a challenge to the influence of Western statesand their foreign policies towards Africa. As European politicians realized that China’s successful strategy potentiallyundermines their traditional influence in Africa, they started to question their normativepolicy-approach towards Africa. While Europe conducts a policy that is based on ethical and1 c.f. DIE Breifing Paper, 2006 3
  4. 4. normative considerations, such as good governance, democracy, human rights and thepromotion of sustainable economic development, China promotes a no-strings-attached,business-like approach. In contrast to the EU, China presents itself rather as an investor whowants to do business rather than donor who wants to provide aid. This paper will shed light on the differences between China’s and the EU’s Africapolicies. It argues that China’s engagement has contributed to the fact that Africa has againbecome a priority of the European political agenda. The following two parts of this paper will provide an overview over the divergingpolicies of China and the EU towards Africa. In order to better illustrate the differentapproaches, the fourth chapter will provide a case study on Chinese and European projectsin Angola. The fifth section will analyze in how far Chinas influence has an effect on thepolicies of the EU and whether China challenges the Europes normative power. 2. Normative power: The EU’s Africa Policy Europe’s attainment is normative rather than empirical…It is perhaps a paradox to note that the continent which once ruled the world through the physical impositions of imperialism is now coming to set world standards in normative terms. (Rosecrance, in Manners, 2002, p. 238)Generally, the European policy approach is based on core norms, such as peace, liberty,democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, as well as ‘minor’ norms, which aresocial solidarity, anti-discrimination, sustainable development and good governance (Storey,2007¸ Manners, 2002, p. 243). These norms and values form the foundations of Europeanpolitics both on community level and on international level when it comes to cooperationwith third states. As a consequence, adherence to these norms is a condition for aid andcooperation between the EU and African states. According to Manners (2002), the EU is anormative power as it places the above-mentioned universal norms and principles at thecenter of its relations with Member States and non-members. Manners conception stresses that Europe has the ability to influence and to setglobal opinions and norms through interaction with other governments (Storey, 2007). InManner’s words, the EU acts “to change norms in the international system and is also 4
  5. 5. committed to do so, in order to extend its norms into the international system” (Manners,2002, p. 252). The latter motivation is described by the concept of transference. Discussingthe relationship between the EU and Africa, this normative idea plays a central role, as itdefines the terms by which Europe and Africa cooperate.When the EU exchanges goods and trades with African countries or when it provides aid ortechnical assistance, community norms and standards are basic conditions for cooperation.As provided by the Cotonou Agreement2, the ACP3 countries are asked to promote humanrights, processes of democratization, consolidation of the rule of law, and good governancein exchange for aid and cooperation with the EU. As Lirong (2011) argues, this agreement“can be understood as a 20-year socialization program” (p. 9) because it uses aid as an2 The group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states 5
  6. 6. economic incentive to uphold common norms and values, which corresponds with Mannersconception of normative power. Based on Manners concept of normative power it can be argued that the relationshipbetween the EU and African states can be described as asymmetric or even paternalistic:One the one side, there is the powerful EU which consists of highly developed andindustrialized states. On the other side there are the weaker African partners who have toaccept the rules set by the EU, if they want to benefit from aid and cooperation. TheEconomic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and the ACP countries, forinstance, have been criticized for being impressed upon African regions (Langan, 2011). Withthe rise of China, however, African states have the chance to opt for an alternative partnerwho offers cooperation, which comes almost without any conditions. The characteristics ofthe Chinese model will be described in the following chapter. 3. Business instead of aid: China’s Africa-policy’ Africa, along with other ex-European colonies, has maintained close economic ties with Europe. This relationship has been guided by two main assumptions. One is that the arrangement would help to bring about development in the continent and the other is that Africa has limited to no options in its choice of economic strategy. Experience has shown, however, that the relationship has failed to bring about development and current developments are opening up options for Africa to forge new relationships. (Baregu, 2008, p. 99)As a result of the Tiananmen incident in 1989 and the following crisis of China’s relationswith the West, African states became a high status on China’s foreign policy agenda. In thesubsequent years, the Chinese government rewarded those African countries that supportedChina during this period with attractive development projects. In contrast to the asymmetricWestern approach towards Africa, China uses the rhetoric of ‘South-South’-cooperation. AsKopiński et al. (2011) argue, “China’s leaders have avoided the calls for democracy and goodgovernance that the West ostensibly demands” (p. 129). Thus, China presents itself as anequal partner, who wants to cooperate on eye-level for mutual advantage. By presentingitself as the largest developing country in the world, it has been able to project an “identityof being a post-colonial actor, closer to the needs of developing countries” (Carbone, 2011, 6
  7. 7. p. 207). According to Alden (2007), many African leaders view China, its system of‘authoritarian capitalism’ and the fact that it successfully fought poverty at home withoutfollowing the prescriptions of the West as a success story and a role model. Indeed, Chinahas pursued a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of it partners and follows ano-strings-attached approach of cooperation. This means a rejection of any type ofconditionality4 (ibid.). Consequently, China maintains good relations with all kinds ofgovernments regardless of their domestic or international standing (e.g. Angola, Zimbabweand Sudan). According to Asche & Schüller (2008), China’s current global strategy can be summarizedas follows: First, China wants to promote its own (economic) development and its internalstability. Second, China aims at improving its access to the international stage and tointernational markets through a complex diplomatic strategy, which uses both foreign-policyand development-policy strategies. With regard to Africa, the Chinese approach comprises apublic diplomacy strategy that focuses on the construction of public facilities (hospitals orsports stadiums) and the fight against diseases such as malaria and HIV. The aim of thisstrategy is to improve the public perception of China in Africa. Furthermore, China creates economic incentives for African countries to exportcommodities to China and heavily invests in transport infrastructure in order to facilitateaccess to raw materials. In order to achieve cooperation China grants very low or interest-free loans, or provides other development assistance inputs to African governments withoutpolitical conditions (Asche & Schüller, 2008, p. 16). An important feature of the Chinesepolicy is the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which provides an institutionalframework for relations with African countries. Since 2000, there have been three meetingsin which China succeeded in bringing all African states around one table. While thegovernment functions as a door-opener to the African continent, it is important to considerthat China’s engagement in Africa is more and more based on private businesses (Asche &Schüller, 2008, p. 11). These companies operate on a profit-oriented basis withoutdevelopment-policy concerns. This underlines the business-approach of the Chinese Policy.4 except the ‘One China’ policy 7
  8. 8. Beside its economic and commercial objectives, China’s engagement in Africa aims atsubstantiating its one-China policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, which has been very successful in therecent years5. Furthermore, China has intensified its efforts to recruit South-South partnersin Africa for a community of interests in global issues, for instance the UN reform, WorldTrade Organization (WTO) negotiations and reform and global governance processes (Asche& Schüller, 2008, p. 14; Carbone, 2011, p.207) 4. Case Study: AngolaHaving outlined the general differences between China’s and the EU’s policy-approaches,this chapter will focus on the situation in Angola as a concrete example. Angola is one of thelargest African oil-producers in Africa and has significant unexploited oil-reserves. Being aformer Portuguese colony, the country traditionally has close contacts to Portugal, but alsoto France and the United States, which have been Angola’s largest oil importers. In addition to the economic relations with some Member States, the EuropeanCommission (EC) uses development assistance, provided for within the framework of theCotonou Partnership Agreement and the Joint EU-Africa Strategic Partnership, as a majortool for bilateral relations. According to Hackenesch (2011), the EC is among the largesttraditional donors, providing € 214 million aid to Angola in the 10th European DevelopmentFund (EDF) for the period from 2008 to 2013. According to the EU-Angola Country StrategyPaper (CSP), the key-areas of cooperation are governance, democracy, human rights andsupport to economic and institutional reforms6. As Hackenesch (2011) points out, the ECseeks to support good governance mainly through assistance and political dialogue and usespositive conditionality by providing financial incentives. Additionally, in 2008 the EU sent anelection observer mission for the parliamentary elections. Taking into account previous cooperation programs between Angola and the EU, theresults are rather mixed: projected launched within the 2002-2007 National IndicativeProgram (NIP), have been heavily delayed or were not fully implemented or were even5 Only four African countries now recognize Taiwan (Burkina Faso, Gambia, São Tomé, Príncipe)6 8
  9. 9. completely canceled. Thus, Hackenesch (2011) argues that cooperation between Angola andthe EU was characterized by substantial difficulties and did not reach several of its coreobjectives because “the Angolan government was not willing to engage in dialogue ongovernance issues” (p. 18). Generally, it can be said that the EC has “considerable difficultiesin establishing itself as a partner with the Angolan leadership” and entering an effectivedialogue on governance reforms (ibid., p. 22). Regarding the relations between China and Angola, the picture looks quite different.At the end of the civil war in Angola in 2002, the ruling elite in the country sought todiversify its economic relations, which opened the door for the expansion of Chinese–Angolan cooperation. According to Alves (2010), „relations have been marked by anastoundingly rapid intensification of political and economic exchanges“ (p. 5), which is alsounderlined by frequent state visits and continuously expanding trade flows between the twocountries. In 2006, Angola became China’s major trading partner, which is mainly due to thelarge amount of oil imported by China. Indeed, Chinas thirst for oil can be considered as thedriving force of the relationship between the two countries. Since 2004, the Chinese state-owned oil-company Sinopec has invested at least $3.6 billion in Angola (ibid., p. 9). China’s co-operation with Angola is based on so-called concessional- or soft-loans,that are granted by its major state-owned Chinese banks (Exim Bank7; CDB8) and othersources, for instance the China International Fund (CIF). These loans are usually moregenerous than standard commercial loans because financial risks are backed-up with oil-exports. Furthermore, they are tied to the participation of contractors from China, who arepreferred over the local competition, when it comes to the realization of hugeinfrastructure-projects, for instance the construction of oil-pipelines. However, cooperationgoes beyond oil: Since 2005 the government-run Exim bank provided $4.5 billion out ofwhich $2 billion were invested in projects aiming at improving energy and water supply,education and health. Especially these investments have „certainly enhanced China’spolitical capital, maximizing goodwill among the Angolan government and the general7 Export-Import-Bank of China8 China Development Bank 9
  10. 10. population vis-à-vis China“ (ibid, p. 15). Moreover, China pursues prestigious infrastructureprojects, such as the rehabilitation of three railway lines. Yet, there are several problems with regards to the Chinese policy: The terms ofagreements with the Angolan government are in many cases extremely advantageous forChina9, while local companies struggle with the cheap competition from China. Moreover,analysts reported that the “Chinese way of doing business” led to increased corruption andundermined local efforts to increase transparency and good governance. According to van deLooy (2006), Chinese money has also been used for government propaganda in the 2006elections (p. 19). Generally, China’s financial assistance is criticized by the West for beingnontransparent and lacking a consistent framework because the ‘business instead of aid’-approach falls into a blurred area between official development assistance (ODA) andcommercial loans. Further, Wissenbach (2007) argues that China “has not yet defined acomprehensive development policy” (p. 13). As a result, its policy is sometimes veryinefficient. Finally, Chinese companies tend to bring their own laborers to work in Africainstead of hiring local workers, which has increasingly negative effects on the local economy(van de Looy, 2006, p. 26; (Alves, 2010, p. 24)). The ‘Angola model’ is a typical example of the pragmatic nature of China’s assistanceand is designed to benefit both parties involved, fitting well into the ‘win-win co-operation’and ‘mutual benefit’ rhetoric. Indeed, analysts come to the conclusion that China’sengagement “is presumably positive for Africa”, (Asche & Schüller, p. 11) and has enhancedAfrica’s international bargaining position vis-à-vis the West. At the same time it has certainlyreduced the leverage of the Commission to engage with the Angolan leadership. Moreover,it has to be taken into account that Angola was rewarded with a considerable secondcooperation program, although conditions were not met by the Angolan side. As Hackenesch(2011) argues, this might be a direct result of increased completion by China, as the EC tries“to „buy‟ itself into a dialogue with the government in light of China’s strong presence in thecountry” (ibid., p. 23).9 70% of the construction projects are to be assigned to Chinese companies. Domestic contractors can beawarded only 30% of the projects covered by the loan (van de Looy, 2006, p. 19) 10
  11. 11. 5. The ‘China effect’: Cooperation instead of conditionality The China factor is altering the basic parameters on which the West’s relations with Africa are based. In the context of the ongoing discussion on a strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China, the European Union (EU) is actively seeking a constructive-critical dialogue with the country. (DIE, 2006, p.1)The previously outlined characteristics of Chinese and European policy-approaches towardsAfrica show that European policy-makers emphasized normative political aspects, mostimportantly human rights and democracy. The Chinese policy, however, strongly focuses onunconditional economic cooperation. As the example of Angola indicates, the latterapproach can be considered as increasingly successful because it meets the demand ofAfrican politicians. As President Mogae of Botswana pointed out, he prefers “the attitude ofthe Chinese to that of the West” (Carbone, 2011, p. 207). Likewise, Ugandan PresidentMuseveni, stated: “The Western ruling groups are conceited, full of themselves, ignorant of our conditions, and they make other people’s business their business. Whereas the Chinese just deal with you, you represent your country, they represent their own interests, and you do business”(Carbone, 2011, p. 207).The emergence of China as a ‘non-traditional’ donor in Africa has had impacts on the EU’sAfrica-policy. According to Carbone (2011), Europe felt it’s pre-eminence on the Africancontinent challenged by China. Even if the level of foreign trade between China and Africa isstill relatively low, if compared to Western industrialized countries, foreign trade betweenChina and Africa has been developing rapidly since the end of the 1990s. Growth-rates ofrecent years are unprecedented and the value of foreign trade had grown tenfold by 2006,which is much faster than trade with Western countries (Asche & Schüller, 2008, p. 18f.).This exponential development is likely to continue. 11
  12. 12. Africa’s trade-partners Trade between China and Africa Source: Asche & Schüller, 2008, p. 19According to Wissenbach (2007), the Europeans recognized that China’s increasing influencestrategically and effectively undermines their regional and local policies. In the light ofChina’s effective and unconditional aid programs, the EU’s conditional approach appearedunattractive to many African states. Consequently, Ling (2010) argues that the ‘BeijingModel’ in Africa undermines Europe’s ”virtual monopoly of economic relations with Africa”(Ling, 2010, p. 5). Finally, it was the China-Africa Summit held in 2006 that rang an “alarmbell for several European leaders” (Carbone, 2011, p. 209) and led the EU to reconsider itsAfrica-policy. During the last years the EU has reacted to the increased political and economiccompetition. Only a few weeks after the Chinese-African Summit in 2006, the EU concludedthat Africa is “an area of Key strategic interest to both the EU and China” and that Africashould become a prominent issue on the EU’s political agenda (Carbone, 2011, p. 209). In2007, the EU started a new initiative by adopting a “Joint Africa-EU Strategy” (JAES) and held 12
  13. 13. an EU-Africa Summit. Moreover, the launch of the “EU-Africa Infrastructure Partnership” andthe “Governance Initiative” are seen as closely connected to China’s rise in Africa (Carbone,2011, p. 210). The underlying theme of these reforms is a transformation of the relationshipbetween the EU and African states, which moved from the donor-recipient relationship to adonor-partner countries relationship. This also meant that cooperation instead ofconditionality became more important (Lirong, 2011, p. 11). While norms and values, such ashuman rights, democracy and rule of law are still central and guiding criteria of developmentcooperation, the EU pointed out, that these points ‘should not be interpreted as conditions’(ibid. p. 12). As Berger and Wissenbach (2007) argue, the “EU has conceptually shifted away fromconditional aid towards the provision of political and financial incentives” (p. 10). Throughthis new approach, the EU tries to find a way between unconditional support, as provided byChina and the patronizing approach model of Western development cooperation. Moreover,Africa has effectively become an issue matter of relations between China and the EU. The EUhas sought to establish a trilateral dialogue and cooperation mechanism between the EU,China and Africa. According to Lirong (2011) the motivation behind this plan was theexpectation that China would “gradually adapt its behavior and embrace European norms”(p. 30). However, China and also African countries have reacted very reluctantly to thisproposal because such an initiative would lead to restriction rather than cooperation. Thus,China continues to pursue a no-strings-attached policy and refuses to use foreign aid as ameans to interfere in recipient countries’ internal affairs (Carbone, 2011, p. 216). 6. ConclusionAs this paper has shown, the EU and China have their own policy-approaches towards Africabased on an individual set of policy objectives: China tries to promote its own developmentby gaining access to natural resources (e.g. oil) and new markets. It presents itself as anequal business-partner, who wants to cooperate on eye-level and stresses mutualadvantages of cooperation with African countries. Thus, it pursues a no-strings-attachedmodel of cooperation, which includes the principle of non-interference in the internal affairsof it partners. The only condition China sets is support for the so-called One-China-policy. 13
  14. 14. In contrast, the EU’s policy towards Africa is based on the community’s normativeconception. As a normative power, the EU sets conditions for cooperation with Africancountries, for example such as human rights, rule of law and good governance. As the casestudy of the EU’s and China’s relations with Angola has shown, China has substantiallyincreased its economic and political activities in African countries. Only within a few yearsAngola has become one of China’s major trading partners. This example indicates that Chinahas successfully established itself as alternative player on the continent. While Africanleaders have criticized Europe for its patronizing policy, they have embraced cooperationwith China. And indeed, there is evidence that this win-win cooperation actually has positiveeffects for Africa. At the same time, the EU realized the negative aspects of thisdevelopment, as the ‘Beijing Model’ in Africa undermines Europe’s traditionally importantrole on the African continent. In fact, the example of Angola indicates that the availability ofan alternative economic and political partner challenges Europe’s normative power andreduces the influence of the EU to engage with the Angolan leadership. Furthermore, this paper has shown that China’s engagement in African countries hashad two side-effects: First, it contributed to the fact that Africa has again become a priorityof the European political agenda as the EU has reacted to the increased political andeconomic competition. Secondly, Africa has also become an issue for EU-China relations.However, the chances for a meaningful trilateral dialogue between China, the EU and Africa,are rather low as China and also African states fear that such a mechanism would rather limittheir leverage. Finally, it remains to be seen how China’s engagement affects thedevelopment of African states in the long run: In fact, the current African-Chinesecooperation might involve negative externalities, such as corruption, environmentalpollution and unsustainable growth. If the awareness of these negative effects is becomingmore prominent, African leaders might reconsider relations with China and the EU. 14
  15. 15. ReferencesAlden, C. (2007). China in Africa. Zed Books Ltd.; LondonAlves, A. C. (2010). The Oil Factor in Sino–Angolan Relations at the Start of the 21st Century,SAIIA China in Africa Project Occasional Paper 55, South African Institute of InternationalAffairsAsche, H. & Schüller, M. (2007). China als neue Kolonialmacht in Afrika? UmstrittendeStrategien der Ressourcensicherung, GIGA FocusAsche, H. & Schüller, M. (2008). China‘s Engagement in Africa – Opportunities and Risks forDevelopment, gtzBaregu, M. (2008). Africa-China-EU Relations: A View from Africa, International Review,Shanghai Institutes for International StudiesBerger, B. & Wissenbach, U. (2007). EU-China Trilateral Development Cooperation –Common Challenges and New Directions, Discussion Paper German Development InstituteCarbone, M. (2011). The European Union and China‘s rise in Africa: Competing visions,external coherence and trilateral Cooperation, Journal of Contemporary African Studies,29:2, 203-221DIE (2006). China’s Africa Policy: Opportunity and Challenge for European DevelopmentCooperation, Briefing Paper 4/2006, Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungshilfe/ GermanDevelopment InstituteHackenesch, C. (2011). European Good Governance Policies Meet China in Africa: Insightsfrom Angola and Ethiopia, European Development Co-operation to 2020, Working Paper No.10Kappel, R. & Schneidenbach, T. (2006). China in Afrika: Herausforderungen für den Westen,GIGA FocusKopiński D., Polus, A. & Taylor, I. (2011). Contextualising Chinese engagement in Africa,Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 29:2, 129-136Langan, M. (2011): Normative Power Europe and the Moral Economyof Africa–EU Ties: A Conceptual Reorientation of ‘Normative Power’, New Political EconomyLee, M. C. (2006). The 21st Century Scramble for Africa, Journal of Contemporary AfricanStudies, 24:3, 303-330 15
  16. 16. Ling, J. (2010). Aid to Africa: What can the EU and China Learn from Each Other? SAIIA Chinain Africa Project Occasional Paper 56, South African Institute of International AffairsLirong, L. (2011). The EU and China‘s engagement in Africa: The Dilemma of Socialization,Occasional Paper ISSManners, I. (2002). Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms? Journal of CommonMarket Studies, 40 (2), pp. 235–58.Storey, A. (2006): Normative Power Europe? Economic Partnership Agreements and Africa,Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24:3, 331-346van de Looy, J, (2006), ‘Africa and China: A Strategic Partnership? ASC Working Paper67/2006, African Studies Centre Leiden, The Netherlands 16