From Africa, Clinton Takes Covert Shots at China

Hillary Clinton touched down in Dakar, Senegal late last night, the first stop on an 11-day tour of Africa that will end in Ghana on August 10, where the US Secretary of State will pay her regards to the country’s recently deceased president. An AP report from yesterday outlined Clinton’s trip, and provided a preview of the tour’s opening speech, which was delivered this morning:

She will start the tour in Senegal, where U.S. officials say she will give a speech warning African states about the potential perils of Chinese investment, which many development experts claim enriches China at Africa’s expense. She will say that proper development will blunt the appeal of extremist groups that are gaining power in Nigeria and Mali and still threaten Somalia.

Without mentioning China by name, Clinton will urge African leaders to carefully consider projects proposed by foreign countries that do not demand complete accountability and may encourage corruption to the detriment of the people of some of the world’s most impoverished nations, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to preview the speech.

The United States is increasingly concerned about China’s growing interest in Africa, the result of its massive demand for energy and natural resources to fuel its exploding economy. U.S. officials, including Clinton, have in the past expressed deep reservations about China’s practice of setting up huge infrastructure or other building projects, employing only Chinese workers and ignoring human rights and democratic principles.

In line with AP’s forecast, remarks in Clinton’s speech did indeed seem to address China without mentioning the country by name. The Guardian reports:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has launched an 11-day tour of Africa by contrasting America’s commitment to democracy and human rights with rival powers’ focus on exploiting resources.

During her first stop on Wednesday in Senegal, Clinton told a university audience that the US was committed to “a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it” from Africa.

Unlike other countries, she continued, “America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources flowing.”

As secretary of state, Clinton has consistently criticized China on a number of issues: its role in the South China Sea, the need for China to take more international responsibility, the country’s human rights record, and more recently China’s veto of a UN resolution on Syria. China has also annually been on Clinton’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern“, a designation of countries that “face challenges in protecting religious freedom” (though this is not unique to Clinton’s career as secretary of state, China has been on the list since its beginnings in 1999). Earlier this week, Clinton gave her report on this year’s list, prompting China’s state media to attack the very existence of the annual report. From China Daily:

A Xinhua News Agency commentary published on Tuesday accused the report of being “nothing but a political tool used by the US government to exert pressure on other countries, mostly deemed as its rivals”.

The report is largely based on unconfirmed media reports and groundless allegations fromoutlawed groups and organizations with an ulterior motive, the Xinhua commentary said.

By blaming China for “marked deterioration” in religious freedom, the report apparently ignoredthe basic facts and realities in China, which has made utmost efforts to defend religious freedom and the right to express religious belief on condition that laws are respected, it said.

Also see prior CDT coverage of Hillary Clinton and Chinese investment in Africa.