Although Bush cannot fairly be said to have only now “discovered” Africa, this trip – from its itinerary to its rhetoric – shows that America is serious about reasserting its interest in the continent. In this regard, the international context could not be more important.
Over the past five years China’s top leaders have visited the continent five times, and the world’s emerging superpower has pretty much been the sole player in Africa. During that time, Beijing has been racking up gains on a continent neglected at an accelerating pace.
…As things stand, the United States, with its emphasis on good government, democracy and rights has positioned itself to be the friend of African peoples, while China positions itself as a friend of African governments. Where the Clinton administration often favored African strongmen, Bush’s visit tilts policy in favor of cleanliness and democracy. Because of its diplomatic competition with Taiwan, and its thirst for resources, China’s African embrace, meanwhile, is indiscriminate.