"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

China's Africa Strategy

While we are waging war against terrorism and clearing out Fallujah in preparation for upcoming January elections, China has been quietly moving on Africa, in the Sudan that has been set afire by the jihadists that are waging a racial and religious war against Sudan's black African inhabitants. The United States has received more criticism than it deserves and Beijing has received less.

China is on the move in Africa, using the chaos caused by Jihad as an opportunity, knowing that the United States, preoccupied with Afghanistan and Iraq, won't be able to adequately respond. Why is China so interested in this and other parts of Africa? The simple answer is: oil.

West Africa produces premium oil -- light, waxy, and low in sulfur -- especially appealing to Chinese companies wich use refineries that are designed to handle domestic oil of a similar grade. China already buys twenty-five percent of its foreign oil from Africa, and a recent report urges China to continue importing, and by 2020, estimates put the the total oil imports to be about sixty percent.

China should be able to buy oil on the market like everyone else, but like big consumers everywhere, including the United States, they don't trust the system. Instead they are opting to producing directly by sending Chinese state-controlled companies "to prospect throughout the world." They have not been successful in Asia or in areas that are already controlled by Europe or the United States. Little wonder, then, that they see Africa as the golden prize, and West Africa in the past decade has produced over 60 billion barrels. This area is ready to take off.

Understanding what is at stake, China and has increased its ground forces and navy, and is giving the United States a run for its money by generating goodwill throughout Africa. In the past, they supported revolutionary governments in their drive to resist the U.S. or the Soviet Union. Bejing also does business WITHOUT setting conditions on human rights, transparency, or good governance. Their only requirement is that the trading partner NOT recognize Taiwan, and all but a handful od African states have obliged.

Because of this lack of conditions, China has been successful, whereas other Western countries have not. Doing business with the West is now characterized as "complicated." China is also very generous. Bankrolling authoritarian governments is a small price to pay for beating out the Western competition. China has become a big player in other aspects of African life: commerce, infrastructure, airports, nuclear reactors, tourism, and trade.

The United States has been making efforts to court African governments, to get concessions, and cooperation in the War on Terror, but little headway has been made considering that Africans see China as easier to get along with. The United States has much to lose in this competition. We need the oil and President Bush has made a point of spending more time looking at Africa. Will Bush's attention make a difference at this point?

Who knows how China's African adventure has supported the Jihad all over Africa. There is some evidence that China has provided arms and African instability is more to China's interest at this point.


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