Cold War movie

African ties 'threaten influence of the west'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am

Report says oil deals with continent could sour Sino-western relations

China's growing investment in Africa's oil and gas resources could eclipse the political influence of the west in the energy-rich continent and sour Sino-western relations, according to an international security journal.

Western powers like the US, Britain and France played significant roles in African politics - a legacy of colonial rule and cold war alignment on the continent - but China's 'no strings' financial and technical assistance was allowing it to exert wider influence, according to a report by Jane's Intelligence Review coming out next month.

Coincidentally, South African President Thabo Mbeki was quoted by the Sapa news agency as saying on Wednesday that Africa must guard against lapsing into a 'colonial relationship' with China in which Africa remained a mere supplier of raw materials.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday: 'China's co-operation with Africa, including that with South Africa, aims at being mutually beneficial and realising a win-win situation.'

Human rights groups have also claimed that China's close ties with countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, both ruled by what the west considers to be unsavoury regimes, undermined efforts to improve human rights and promote democracy in Africa.

The report in the Review highlights last month's Sino-African summit in Beijing, attended by leaders from 48 African nations, as evidence of China's growing influence on the continent.

Sino-African trade rose 34.9 per cent last year to US$39.8 billion according to the central government. And Chinese investment in Africa totalled nearly US$1.6 billion at the end of last year.

Although sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for only 7 per cent of global oil production, it is one of the fastest-growing oil and gas suppliers, according to the report. China imports a third of its oil from Africa.

Development in most African countries has been hindered by poor infrastructure, and the report sees China's willingness to invest in rail, telecommunications and a range of construction projects across the continent as helping to secure further energy deals.

However, He Wenping , director of the African studies section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of West Asian and African Studies, played down the concerns expressed in the report.

'There is always a possibility of competition in commercial activities,' she said. 'However, countries these days can carry out joint exploitation of oil resources and they can also co-operate in other areas to help Africa grow or promote peace.'

Ms He said China's energy demand might not grow as rapidly as African production because China was trying to curb its energy consumption and lower its dependency on oil imports.