Foreign Policy reports on potential tensions between China and the U.S. over both countries’ interests in Africa:
For years, China has been offering loans, building critical infrastructure, and providing engineering and military advice and hardware to African regimes without extracting any promises that the regimes clean up their human rights records”something Western countries insist upon before aid is shipped. This uncritical support of its African partners has allowed China to make diplomatic inroads on the continent, since it provides aid without strings attached, as opposed to the Western approach of basing aid on human rights and good governance benchmarks that many African regimes are unwilling, or slow, to make. Put simply, an African farmer would rather have a Chinese road built from his village to the market today, rather than wait for an American or World Bank road to be built only after the government makes the required reforms. Thus, it’s on human rights and governance, not oil or strict security matters, that the interests of the United States and China will likely collide.
In such a fight, China’s unfettered aid would seem to have the upper hand. But that may not necessarily be so. “In places like South Africa and Nigeria, the flood of textiles has displaced a lot of people in the textile industry,” says Jennifer Cooke, co-director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Africa Program. “And as they get more engaged, they’re going to be pushed to take up issues like worker conditions and employment quotas and corporate social responsibility issues that U.S. companies were pushed to do over the 1970s and 1980s.” [Full text]