M.A. first-year Diplomacy student Erick Agbleke originally published an op-ed piece on “China’s Neocolonialism in Africa” in the Journal of Diplomacy. The piece was then chosen for publication in the International Policy Digest.
Below is a re-print of the article, also located at the link above.
Behind the Goodwill Aid: China’s Neo-Colonialism in Africa
December 2018 will mark the 3rd anniversary of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), where China’s Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen an already steady relationship with the African continent. With a promising speech to the African Union leadership and Heads of State, Xi promised to deliver a $60 billion package over the next 3 years that will include aid, interest-free loans, and capital.
To the 53 African countries that were in attendance, this was a welcome gift as Africa was just coming out of the ebola outbreak which left devastating effects in its path. It seems that China has found a way to expand its sphere of influence in the globalization race of the 21st century. Moreover, it is on the way to surpass the United States in terms of relevance and impact within the area. So, how and why does this matter, given the United States’ interest in the African region?
It is no secret that foreign aid can be used as a bargaining chip, where it goes a long way in facilitating international relations. For instance, the Marshall Plan of post-World War II was not initiated just out of the good heart of the US government. It was rather erected as a roadblock to the spread of communism in Western Europe. In the same way, China’s willingness to pour money and resources into the continent of Africa is not motivated by some form of sincerity towards the people, but rather to further its own agenda.
This financial sponsorship has ironically gained popularity with African leaders who welcome with open arms the gifts that Zhongnanhai come bearing to them. This allows China to bring businesses to the continent and build much-needed infrastructure, such as railroad tracks for transportation and commerce while instituting their ‘one belt one road’ initiative. However, this form of investment turns out not to be mutually beneficial to the African people. It buries the continent in insurmountable debt that the Chinese government maintains as leverage, a boon for them in terms of strategy. Case in point, the establishment of the first Chinese Naval base in Djibouti, which enables them to gain quick access into the Indian and Atlantic Ocean.
The West has a history of turning a blind eye towards Africa and its citizens, and Africans have come to accept such western indifference. Despite many clearly botched and stolen elections, including evidence of human right violations and overt dismissal of the rule of law, western powers have refused to hold many leaders accountable for their actions, no matter how vile they may be.
The silence from these countries who are typically quick to speak up and take actions when their interests are being threatened has emboldened some of these African leaders and empowered them to continue governing as they see fit. In the end, the collateral damage becomes the people they have sworn to lead and protect. China striving to be the biggest supporter and financier on the continent should be something that we should be concerned about; given the fact that they themselves are a substantial perpetrator of human rights violation and governmental intimidation. China’s waxing power on the continent may lead to an even greater disregard of human rights violations.
For the United States to regain a strong foothold within Africa and further advance its agenda of peace, power, prosperity, and principle, it must be willing to be the biggest stakeholder in terms of aid and financial support of the continent by investing in its growth and development. However, monetary support is not the only path to winning hearts and minds. Up until the Trump administration was handed control of the government, the U.S. was the best destination for education and business ventures. To some, the American Dream was still alive and attainable if they worked hard and played by the rules. This is no longer the case as the current administration sees fit to walk a hard line against immigration.
Programs such as the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which gave a way for multitudes of individuals that fled the atrocities in their civil war-torn countries to find refuge in America are being terminated. Families that have spent most of the past two or three decades building a new life here are being urged by a deadline to return to a country that is no longer theirs.
These more dismissive and closed policies can lead to a drop in foreign influence for a country such as the U.S., whose popularity has been on the decline over the last ten years due to the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. The policies being pushed by the Trump administration could, in turn, make it hard for the U.S. to gain support on the African continent while trying to curb the rise and effectiveness of terrorist groups that are operating in the area and threatening its interests.
The U.S. which has always championed itself as the vanguard for human rights around the world owes it to itself and for the success of its foreign policy to stand up to China’s expansion strategy. It will help tremendously in deterring terrorism and radicalization in Africa. However, the work should not solely rest on the Americans’ shoulders. The leadership in African countries must first recognize the neo-colonial practices that China is indirectly imposing on them and then stand against such unfair practice. To break free from dependency on outside actors and grow, there must be a willingness among the consortium to take responsibility for the development of the African continent which should be done in-house.
Graduate students in Dr. Chris Young’s International Political Economy course were asked to write opinion pieces on hot topics in political economy. Here is a piece about Syria, and why it “(still) matters,” written by first year student Kate Campbell.
Why Syria (still) Matters
As the conflict in Syria wages on, many people have lost interest. Although they feel bad about the human rights violations and the loss of lives, Syria doesn’t matter much to the average American who views this as just another road block to peace in the Middle East; but it should matter. Not only is Syria important for the regional dynamics of the ever so fragile Middle East, it also has larger global implications for the economy, foreign policy, our troops, and, to quote Bush II, “the war on terror.”
What many Americans don’t realize is the strategic location of Syria. A quick glance at the map will show us that Syria is surrounded by Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. The spillover effect of the conflict has very real implications for the stability of these countries. According to UN estimates, the refugee count has just hit the 1,000,000 mark, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. In Turkey, the PKK (a Kurdish terror organization) is using the refugee population to infiltrate and execute terror attacks within the country. The refugee population also has the potential to incite radical behavior in relatively stable countries, like Jordan. To help combat these unwanted side-effects, the US has increased their foreign aid to many of these countries, spending more money that we cannot afford.
In addition to the terror acts in Turkey, Syria has become a safe haven for al Qaeda and other terror organizations. The shared border with Iraq has allowed al Qaeda to float between the two countries, causing more sectarian violence in Iraq. Of greater concern are the chemical weapons that reside in Syria. Not only are these weapons dangerous if Assad decides to use them against his own people, but also if they fall into the wrong hands. The US is working with Jordan to help secure these weapons, but who knows how long they will remain unused.
Another adverse effect of the Syrian Spill Over is the sectarian violence occurring in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia is funneling weapons to Syrian rebels in Lebanon, and Iran is funneling weapons to Hezbollah and the Assad regime. This has caused armed conflict between the Sunnis and the Shi’as once again in Lebanon, and has the potential to become a proxy war of sorts between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A larger effect of the Syrian conflict is the growing influence of Iran in the region. As the Arab states become weaker, Iran becomes stronger. Failing Syria provides them the opportunity to flow weapons to not only Assad, but also Hezbollah, and Hamas. This means trouble for Israel, who views Iran as an existential threat and is often attacked by both Hezbollah and Hamas.
We should not only focus on the negative effects of the conflict though. It’s also important to think about the potential good that could come from a resolution of the conflict, assuming the fall of Assad. The US and Europe has implemented sanctions against Syria for years. However, with a new regime, these sanctions could possibly be lifted, opening up more opportunities for international trade. Syria has oil, but most countries have sanctions against their oil production. Providing a new source for oil would lower the global strain on resources, even just a bit. Eventually Syria could engage in trade relations with Israel. The Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) that have been implemented in Jordan and Israel have served as a great boost to the Jordanian economy, allowing for companies like Victoria Secret, Calvin Klein, and Champion to build factories in these zones. Syria could open up these QIZs and allow for more companies popular in America to engage in production in Syria, potentially lowering their overall costs in the US. With a new regime in Syria, US entrepreneurs could look for new business ventures in the country. Although foreign investment would be high risk at the beginning, it could potentially have high returns for the investors. If successful this would stimulate the Syrian economy, by pouring more money into the country, and the US economy by providing US investors with more money to spend domestically.
Trade with Syria would not only be beneficial in terms of the economy, but also politically. Opening trade with Syria would cause them to be less reliant on Iran, again, weakening Iran’s power in the region. An open Syrian economy would likely promote more democratic and capitalist ideals in the country.
The US should be interested in Syria for another reason: the cost of war. The US does not want, and cannot afford, to get involved in a long protracted war again in the Middle East. The removal of Assad is not as simple as the removal of Khaddafi in Libya. Assad is sitting on a chemical weapons arsenal that can be used against the citizens, or fall into the wrong hands. Because of this and the major possibility for destabilization in the region, given the strategic location of Syria, the US will ultimately find itself involved. To avoid this, the US must engage in diplomacy with the rebels and try to unify the group and work to strengthen the opposition. Too much US involvement in regime transition will not be welcomed, thus they must put pressure on the neighboring Arab states to step up and help bring stability to the region. If war continues to wage, and chemical weapons are used, the US will feel pressure from the international community to take military action. Given the budgetary cuts to defense and the debt crisis, in addition to the potential of military action against North Korea, another war is the last thing on American’s agenda.
The world cannot stand to see another quagmire; another failed state. Diplomacy and open communication will go a lot further than unsuccessful sanctions and total inaction in the region. It will also prove more successful than eventual military intervention once the conflict is too far gone. We must urge our leaders to do the right thing. Syria matters.
Two Diplomacy students, Laurel Stone and James Welsh were recently featured in The Interdependent. The Interdependent is an online news magazine, produced by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) that keeps UNA-USA members and the public at-large in touch with the inner-workings of the United Nations.
Both articles were published as part of UNA-USA’s International Women’s Day coverage, and can be found here:
(Author: James Welsh)
(Author: Laurel Stone)
We’re delighted to see a Diplomacy student intern contribute to the World Policy blog. Congratulations Laurel Stone! Read Laurel’s post on Afghanistan beyond 2014 here: http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2013/02/22/afghanistan-beyond-2014.
Julie Cook becomes the latest Diplomacy student to be published. Congratulations, Julie!
Read Julie’s article on reviving the cap-and-trade system as a potential means to reduce corporate garbage production here: http://www.earthtimes.org/green-blogs/green-opinions/reviving-cap-trade-reduce-corporate-garbage-production-08-Apr-13/.