China’s African policy has spanned three periods, meeting as many strategic objectives for Beijing. First of all, since the 1950s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been activating development aid in Africa as a soft power lever in its competition with Taiwan in order to obtain the diplomatic support necessary to guarantee its representativeness in the UN Security Council. Then, with the opening up of the economy in the 1990s, the CCP encouraged Chinese companies to establish themselves on the African continent in their search for new markets. Since the 2000s, Beijing’s presence in Africa has responded to China’s growing demand for raw materials, such as bauxite (a mineral essential to aluminium production), with Africa accounting for 90% of Chinese supplies in 2010.

The geography of China’s economic footprint in Africa since the early 2000s has been shaping a sphere of influence primarily located in Central Africa (not Central Africa), where the People’s Republic counts in 2014, 21% of regional GDP, compared to 13% in Eastern and Southern Africa (). On the other hand, West and North Africa is still marginal with a presence of the red media and Confucius institutes. Beijing aims in particular at states rich in natural resources, the majority of those exported by Africa going to China: 54% of timber, 21% of oil, 42% of minerals and metals.

However, the great success of the Chinese establishment in Africa lies in its conquest of infrastructure projects, especially rail and road projects. Since the 1980s, international donors have disengaged from financing these sectors, often regarded as « white elephants » with no real economic or social benefits for African countries. A breach in which China has gone into by proposing its own model, based on a credit financing system, the realization of projects by its companies and a repayment of credit in exchange for the exploitation of the country’s raw materials. A « package » that has enabled China to become Africa’s leading banker. This success is made all the easier by the fact that Beijing does not condition its contracts on compliance with democratic or environmental standards, unlike Western states and organizations. In 2016, China invested more than $37 billion in the continent’s most populous future, compared to 3.5 billion for the USA and 2.1 billion for France.

china affrique du sud
More than 400,000 Chinese live in South Africa, the largest Chinese community in Africa.


The increase in the presence of the People’s Republic of Africa is leading to an increase in hostile reactions towards it and its nationals. In 2013, several thousand Chinese gold miners were expelled in Ghana, accused of exploiting gold mines and competing with Ghanaians for their industrial practices.

China is also facing increasing crises. It is obliged to protect its nationals, while at the same time showing that its presence is no longer merely economic. His army is now deployed in several international forces on the continent, as well as in the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali. The first military base abroad was established in 2017 in Djibouti, while in southern Sudan, Beijing offered to mediate for the establishment of a peace process between rival camps, followed by distance from Khartoum. These Chinese military provisions also have a cultural and humanitarian counterpart, with the construction of schools, hospitals and Confucius institutes. This strategy aims to establish a long-term presence in the face of increased competition to conquer African markets, as new players invest the land.

At its own summit, the Tokyo International Conference for Africa’s Development, held in Nairobi in August 2016, Japan pledged $10 billion in aid to Africa by 2018. More specifically, the Japanese government has proposed the enlargement of the UN Security Council to include an African state. An institution in which Japan hopes to one day sit, relying on the support of its African economic partners to put pressure on international bodies. A position to which China is absolutely opposed.


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