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May 20, 2017

Every year malaria kills 400,000 Africans, mostly toddlers under 5 years old, and costs the continent an estimated 12 billion dollars annually in lost productivity. Unlike HIV, malaria does not require sophisticated drugs or other costly treatments. In fact, the cost of treating the disease is relatively inexpensive, according to data from the WHO, and preventing through the use of medicated bed nets is even more affordable.

Both the United States and China are each spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the disease in Africa. A pair of experts at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia contend that if the US and PRC stopped working in parallel with one another and actually collaborated together they would be much more effective to combat the spread of the deadly disease.  

"Despite the challenges associated with collaboration, many on all sides are beginning to see the benefits of working in greater coordination," contend Dr. Liu Yawei, Director of the China program at the Carter Center, and graduate assistant William Pierce, in an upcoming academic paper that will be published in South Africa. "While working independently may allow entities to move quicker, working together will allow them to go farther," they add.

While on paper it may make a lot of sense for the U.S. and China to work together in Africa, particularly on humanitarian issues like fighting communicable diseases. The reality, though, is a lot more complicated as officials on both sides really just don't seem to trust each other very much. Moreover, African governments have also expressed reluctance about U.S. and China collaboration out of concern that a combined foreign presence could potentially become quite powerful and force local governments to make unwanted compromises.

For now, African leaders do not have much to worry about as neither Chinese nor U.S. leaders seem all that inclined to cooperate with one another on health, diplomacy, or well, pretty much any issue on the continent. Nonetheless, both Dr. Liu and Pierce remain optimistic that the fight against the spread of malaria is different. The two scholars join Eric & Cobus to explain why Africa offers a unique opportunity for the U.S. and China to work constructively with one another.

Join the discussion? Given the tensions that current roil Sino-U.S. relations, do you think it's possible for these two countries to put their suspicions aside? We want to hear from you.

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