Zambia: China’s African Headache

Violent incidents involving Chinese in Africa highlight the risks of China’s expansion on the continent. A week ago, a Chinese manager was killed at Zambia’s Collum copper mine, which has seen other conflicts in the past. As Simon Allison writes at Daily Maverick, these and other incidents are challenging the basis of China’s approach to Africa:

[… M]ost disturbing for China, given its economic implications, has been the ongoing stalemate over oil production in South Sudan. After a dispute over transit fees with Khartoum, South Sudan’s government in Juba summarily suspended oil production in January and has not turned on the taps since. There are three countries suffering as a result of this boycott: South Sudan, which relied on oil for 90% of government revenue; Sudan proper, which needed the transit fees to make up some of the losses it suffered from losing so much of its oil in the split; and China, whose companies are the largest presence in South Sudan’s oil fields, and for which much of the oil in question was destined.

Troublingly, China has not been able to use its much-vaunted influence over African countries to solve this diplomatic dispute. Pressure on Khartoum yielded no concessions, despite China’s long-standing friendship with the regime of President Omar al-Bashir. And attempts to woo Juba have been similarly fruitless, despite China offering South Sudan’s government a big carrot in the form of an $8-billion loan (secured, of course, against future oil production).

[…] Taken separately, each of these setbacks-the fatal mine riots, the kidnappings, the inability to protect their economic interests-is relatively insignificant on a continental level. Taken together, however, they assume a rather more dangerous profile as far as China is concerned. Things are getting messy for China in Africa, and as they expand even further they’re only going to get messier.

For more on Sino-African relations, see What Is China Doing in Africa?, via CDT.