Since the beginning of the new century, China has taken many steps to enhance its cooperative relations with African countries, which has made some western media feel anxious and uneasy. They strongly hyped the African version of the "China threat theory" and even said that China was practicing "neo-colonialism" in Africa, seeking to alienate African countries from China. Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out with the force of justice: "No one can slander China for practicing neo-colonialism in Africa."
In summary, the African version of the "China threat theory" includes the following points: first, preying on energy and resources in Africa; second, capturing African markets with cheap commodities; third, developing China's economic model and challenging the concepts of the so-called democracy and human rights that are adopted by the United States and other Western countries. Once people examine these arguments closely, they will easily find out that all these accusations are untenable.
We first take the energy issue as an example. So far, 16% of the imported oil of the United States is from Africa. The proportion is expected to rise to 25% in 2015. But the volume of oil imported from Africa by China accounts for less than 1/3 of that of the United States. According to the US research institutions, China has invested billions of dollars in constructing the infrastructure for oil and natural gas exploiting. This is the so-called basis for believing that China is preying on African energy. But corresponding to this is the fact that the United States has increased its annual investment in the African oil industry from an average of US$ 2.4 billion to US$ 10 billion; France Total Fina Elf Group has planed to invest US$ 10 billion in Nigeria and US$ 5 billion in Angola for oil and gas exploitation in the next five years; Shell UK recently published a report saying that in 2002 the company held around 55% of the 30 billion barrels of oil reserves in Nigeria and owned 40% of the 2.2 million barrels daily average output in Nigeria. The oil trade between China and African countries is open, transparent, and mutually beneficial. Even the British media had to acknowledge that trading with China provides the African people with affordable commodities. The theory of China promoting its own economic model is also untenable. It is China's non-interference policy in the internal affairs of African countries and its respect for African countries to choose their own path of development that has won the trust of the African countries.
In the final analysis, the fundamental reasons for western countries deliberately playing up the "China threat theory" is because they are afraid that the enhancement of China-Africa relations will challenge western countries' interests in Africa. They are even more worried that the consensus of China and African countries on value concepts may challenge the existing international political and economic order. China comprehensively strengthening China-Africa strategic relations inevitably will touch the nerves of some people. As a result, there is nothing surprising about them strongly playing up the African version of the "China threat theory." In fact, China developing its friendly and cooperative relations with Africa is not directed against any third country. There is nothing for other countries to fuss about.
However, we must also realize that the African version of the "China threat theory" does have a certain negative impact in some African countries. To destroy the "theory", in addition to continuing to maintain the political and economic interests of the African countries in the international arena and bilateral field, efforts should be made to actively to promote multilateral dialogue mechanisms, eliminate mistrust through active dialogue, as well as strengthen the friendship and cooperative fruits as a result of the efforts of decades. China-Africa Cooperation Forum, established in late 20th century, has become an effective mechanism to strengthen collective dialogue and pragmatic cooperation between China and African countries. It plays an increasingly prominent role in promoting the process of multilateral cooperation between the two sides. State visits between the heads of the countries are the highest form of bilateral dialogue. Ever since the year 2004, a total of 20 heads of African state or governmental officials have visited China. Among China's new generation of leadership, the majority of the members have been to Africa. High-level visits have injected new vitality into Sino-African relations. In addition, the Communist Party of China has developed various forms of relationships with more than 60 political parties in over 40 African countries. Inter-party exchanges have also played an important role in promoting the development of Sino-African relations.
The author is Zhou Xiaojing, vice-director of the Institute of Asian and African Development Studies, State Council Development Research Center