China Policies, Strategies, and Targets in Africa: A Survey

Document Type : Original Article


- Assistant Professor of Political Sciences, University of Birjand, Birjand, Iran


The history of ties between China and Africa goes back to over three millennia years ago. Navigation between China's coasts and east of Africa located in the Indian Ocean has been among the most important reasons for connection between these two territories. Although these ties has seen variation and fluctuation during the course of history, but after the authority of the new system in China and the independence of African countries, the ties between these two regions has mutually developed due to bilateral demands in addition to common ideological features with some other countries. China considered the African countries a significant power in the scene of international policies from the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, and in this line, it sought to improve its union and cooperation with the African countries in varying dimensions, including the economical, political and cultural ones. Therefore China tried to make these countries independent from western industrial countries as much as possible. During the 1960s, the ties of the People's Republic of China with the African countries was defined in this framework; the establishment of ideological solidarity for the enforcement of Chinese Communism, in addition to confrontation against the western colonialism. In this period, and within the atmosphere of cold war, China helped several political movements with a leftist tendency. China decided on this policy with the purpose of spreading "Maoism". As the discords between China and Russia came to light during this period, China intended to play its own role as the world's third ruler, supporting the revolutionary regimes and anti-colonialism campaigns. China followed the détente policy with the U.S.A for its own security targets during the 1970s. After China earned a stronger international prestige and status by acquiring a representative chair in the United Nations and the Security Council in 1971, it positioned Africa at the centre of its world strategy against the Soviet Union in a number of fronts. Change of doctrine by China resulted in having a shared stance against Soviet Union and its related satellite countries. Yet Cultural Revolution was a serious diplomatic obstacle for the realization of this target, making China face challenge in its external policies. But in late 1970s, China gradually replaced ideology with pragmatism as the motive of its external diplomacy. This issue changed the nature of China's relations with Africa. Still China sought of reconstructing its internal diplomacy and its relations with the west during the 1980s. This decade is known as the lost decade regarding China's African policies.
This article tries to have a historical survey of the relationships, and then through the content analysis method and library study, survey the policies and targets of the People's Republic of China in Africa. It also intends to show how the strategies are formulated and also how a country's policies are executed regarding the external relations towards Africa.
The incident which occurred The Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the political seclusion of China by the western countries, made Africa much more significant. And it was in this situation that China realized that it can rely on the support of African countries in critical circumstances. This juncture can be recalled as the turning point in the relations of China and Africa. Its synchronism with economical solution policies, moderation of ideological policies and the end of the cold war, made China utilize the new atmosphere through formulation of policies and strategies and therefore implement its own economical, political and cultural targets in Africa, using the votes of African countries and other southern countries for strengthening its position in the international reign. After this time, there was almost no trace of ideological rivalry and economical orientation formed China's diplomatic priority in Africa. In this relation the new policy became known under names such as flexible, distinct and active policy and prudency, trade, investment and energy turned into the task programs.  For the enforcement and development of relations, FOCAC was founded in 2000 and a practically good mechanism was generated for dialogue among China and African countries. Among the achievements in the trade section alone, increase of transaction from 10 billion in 2000 up to 200 billion in 2013 can be mentioned. 
Result and Conclusion
A survey of the relation of China with the countries of the African continent shows some points; the African countries understood that China prevents colonialism in its external acts and behaviors, while they had also closely observed the outcomes of ingenious integration of socialism and Chinese capitalism, as a result they developed trust in China's external policies, particularly within the international political economy which is indeed amazing. From the African perspective, relations with China are multi-dimensional. The African governments have favored and welcomed China's participation and partnership because of growth in trade, investment and financial support, in addition to helping them pay for their debts which have paved the way for the African elites to earn opportunities and economical benefits. China has placed Africa at the heart of attention in the world which is respectively useful for the development of Africa. Also, China's financial support is a suitable unconditional alternative for the financial support of the western countries and the international organizations. Africa is significant and important for China for the following reasons; political utilization from Africa in these aspects; international recognition and membership in the United Nations, rise of international prestige and validity, reduction of pressures on China about human rights, energy protection and cheap access to oil and mineral resources, finding an appropriate position in the world economy, geostrategic competition with the west, a developing and cheap market for Chinese products, sending work labor  to the African continent, guarantee of constant economical growth, restraining the U.S.A from limiting China to mention some of the points.


Volume 10, Issue 34
July 2015
Pages 99-136
  • Receive Date: 21 August 2011
  • Revise Date: 20 January 2013
  • Accept Date: 29 May 2013
  • First Publish Date: 21 April 2014