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Apr 7, 2018

For much of the past twenty years, China's strategy in Africa could easily be summarized in two words: invest and extract. Today, that is no longer the case as China's agenda in Africa, and throughout much of the global south, has broadened significantly in pursuit of Beijing's military, humanitarian and geopolitical interests.

While investment and resource extraction still play an important role in China's African policy, these economic motivators are definitely not as important as they were even just a few years ago. Evidence of this can be found in the Sino-African trade and FDI data that reveal steady declines over the past several years. Whereas five to ten years ago, Chinese companies didn't have as many options on where they could invest, so Africa's relatively open markets were rather appealing. Now, with the development of Beijing's hugely ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) global trade initiative, the government is "encouraging" (read: pressuring) Chinese companies to diversify their investments to support OBOR in other parts of the world including Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe among other regions.

Although China may be losing some interest in Africa in terms of trade and economics, that does not necessarily mean that the continent's overall importance to Chinese foreign policy is diminishing. The recent state visits in Beijing of leaders from Cameroon, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, all in just the past month, suggests that Chinese president Xi Jinping places a high degree of importance on his government's relations with Africa, both at the national and regional levels.

"I would say the political-military relationship is the emerging area of interest that I think we are going to see more in the future," said Joshua Eisenman, a China-Africa scholar at the University of Texas in Austin and a senior fellow for China studies at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. Professor Eisenman is among a growing number of scholars who are carefully watching the evolution of China-Africa relations in the new Xi Jinping era. He joins Eric & Cobus to talk about what to expect in the coming months as both Africans and Chinese officials prepare for the upcoming Sino-Africa mega-summit, the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, that will take place in Beijing in September.

Join the discussion. Are you encouraged or more concerned about the evolving Chinese strategy in Africa that is shifting away from economics to focus more on political/military issues? Let us know what you think.

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Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @joshua_eisenman

Email: eric@chinaafricaproject.com

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