China hit by Western military moves in Africa, says Academy of Social Sciences report

Chinese think tank says European nations and US raising military presence in continent and could use it to thwart Beijing if ties sour

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 4:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 11:47am

China's involvement in Africa will face complications despite pouring in billions in investment and aid because Western nations are stepping up their military presence on the continent, a major Chinese think tank says.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences also warned in its annual report on development in Africa that the continent might be used by the United States to expand its containment of China should the Sino-US relationship continue to worsen, but Beijing was not well equipped to handle such a move.

It said China had become more proactive in establishing its presence in Africa over the past decade, but would face more resistance from Western nations which had been keeping a "close watch" on China's activities on the continent.

"Nations such as the US have been strengthening military ties with Africa in recent years under the pretext of security and anti-terrorism," said one of the report's authors, Zhang Hongming , a senior research fellow at the academy's Institute of West Asian and African Studies. "The military presence of the US can be used to deter China if the two nations mistrust each other and see themselves as strategic rivals."

US President Barack Obama will host an African summit in Washington next month. The US also announced the establishment of a drone base in Niger last January, which will provide assistance to French forces in Mali and gather intelligence about terrorist activities in North and West Africa.

Such military moves ... can be transformed into an effective tool against China
Academy report on Africa

French President Francois Hollande hosted a security summit with representatives from 53 African states in Paris last December, signalling France's ambitions in the area of African security, the report said. Britain hosted a similar summit last year.

The report said such moves had helped tackle local security concerns but also raised questions over whether the stepped-up military roles had a "hidden agenda" of containing China.

"Such military moves and security arrangements can be transformed into an effective tool against China in Africa," the report said. "This has already suppressed China's strategic manoeuvrability in Africa to a certain extent."

But Zhang said China did not have an effective strategy to handle the challenge because "sending troops there will trigger controversy".

China has been boosting its influence in Africa for the past decade. In his trip to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya in May, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to double bilateral trade to US$400 billion by 2020 and quadruple Chinese direct investment to US$100 billion.

But China's increasing involvement in Africa has triggered claims it is acting like a neocolonial power, exploiting the continent for its resources while adding little to local livelihoods.

Li admitted there were still "growing pains" in Sino-African ties and that China would focus more on aid projects for Africa.