By: Josephus Moses Gray |
In international relations power is clearly important in the relations between states but power can come in two forms, hard and soft, and what matters greatly is how it is exercised and the messages it sends. African is no exception, sometimes, hard power will be necessary, but its application must be wise. While soft power on be other hand can be more effective and provide better long-term returns to the greater user. The world two rival powers-United States and China exercised hard and soft powers wisely; African leaders and governments should pay keen attention.
The phenomenon of China in the global arena is quite significant and it presents opportunities and challenges. But what is China so much in love with the continent and what is the most ultimate push behind Beijing’s new ties with Africa? Beijing rising adore for Africa comes in several ways, first, there are trade opportunities as Chinese growth requires products that Africa can provide, provoking an intense, competitive contest between Beijing and Washington.
The United States, the long-standing dominance of its diplomatic ties with several African countries and its influence is nowadays being challenged by the rising global south. Africa is expected to be one of the fastest growing sources of oil supplies, but new oil discoveries and production on the continent, especially the Gulf of Guinea, made the continent more attractive in the eyes of global competing power.
This detailed analysis the advantage and disadvantage of China and USA rising interest in Africa and further discusses strategic importance China and U.S. attached to their relations with Liberia on one hand and African states and governments on the other hand; it also gives other details of the numerous supports the two countries have rendered Liberia. This article similarly examines the positives and shortfalls of Washington and Beijing new diplomatic approaches towards Africa. Considering my background, I will try to restrict myself from reaching fixed conclusion about which one of the two countries is most appreciated by Liberians; let the Liberian public make the judgment.
As a reflection, one might ask: What diplomatic methodologies can President George Weah’s administration put into place to balance Liberian foreign policy and international relations with the two opposing world blocs- China and America? While at the same time to keep Weah’s regime on a positive standing with both countries without being consider as darling child of the other or play second fiddle to one of the rival blocs.
This is a crucial question, since strategy depends on an accurate assessment of the capabilities and intentions of the two potential rivals. Significantly the Weah’s government should play its cards very well, critically evaluate statements or speeches as relates Washington and Beijing to avoid diplomatic any potential further problem that might serve as an obstacle. The Sino-Liberia and U.S. Liberia ties rapprochement will definite helped to create the unique conditions that led to the limited apprehensions but contributed and move the exiting relations to another levels of exceptionality for the government pro poor agenda; President Weah’s diplomatic displayed at the just ended FOCAC Meeting desired commendation.
The United States is Liberia traditional partner while China is Liberia’s strategic partner, both maintained active diplomatic missions in Liberia, yet the perception and misperception of Liberians, foreign capitalists and political bureaucrats towards China and USA present a hysterical and erroneous contradictory interpretation; diplomatically, China and the United States use tools of soft and hard powers in different ways to their benefits.
Many experts argue that China‘s :soft power policies of non-interference, one-China policy and no political attached strings‘ have resonated so strongly among African countries including Liberia which have become so wearied of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by America.
Fir others political pundits the competition between China and the United States for influence on the continent will go a long way. China views development and foreign aid as practical policy instruments to promote political friendship and economic cooperation, while the U.S. attaches clearly stated goals, stringent conditions, and strict criteria to its development programs.
China and Africa have since then become all-weather friends that understand, support and help each other. China has a major diplomatic presence in Africa. Even though it’s still arguable, In fact, according to research, Beijing is more widely represented in Africa with missions on the ground than is the United States. Beijing, which has diplomatic relations with Fifty-four of the continent’s fifty-five countries, maintains embassies and diplomatic missions in 48 of African states.
While the United States operates over forty diplomatic missions across Africa, below the embassy and diplomatic missions China operates around Africa. China maintains offices of a commercial counselor in 40 of those countries and seven consulates general in five of them. But Chinese investment in Africa overtaking Britain‘s and France‘s, and stood only behind that of the United States of America.
The African continent has now become a vital arena of strategic and geopolitical competition for not only the United States and China, but also the global south and east including India, Russia, Great Britain, France and Japan as well as other new emerging powers. The main reason for this level of new partnership with Africa states is that the continent is the final frontier as far as the world’s supplies of oil and energy are concerned with global competition for both oil and natural gas becoming just as intense.
The increasing presence of China in Africa has drawn a lot of controversy and strong criticism among some Western countries, which perceive Chinese foreign policy for Africa as a growing threat to their own interests. It is increasingly evident that Chinese economic involvement in several African countries has forced the traditional African partners, particularly Europe and the U.S., to reassess its strategic political cooperation with the continent.
The Chinese government’s “soft power” global influence attained through diplomatic, economic, cultural, and other non-coercive means has grown along with its international standing. While in other parts of Africa, Chinese companies are muscling their way into countries by “under-cutting” western competition including the USA through its attractive “gifts” of development aid and “non-interference”.
On a general level, the growing profile of China in Africa reached a significant milestone in this year when 40 African Presidents and Heads of Governments were being hosted by the Chinese Presidrnt Zi Jimping to FOCAC Meetting in Beijing during which the Chinese President earmarked 60 billion for Africa with bulk of the amount towards loan and development programs and China investment on the continent.
However, taking into account of China’s growing influence on the continent, in recent years the U.S. has also intersified its interest in Africa in order to ensure access to under-cutting Beijing gain on the continent.
The Chinese government has captured the attention of many African countries including Liberia due primarily to Beijing’s approaches towards socio-economic and structure development, and the ways in which the Chinese government practices win-win cooperation and is foreign aid’s policy. Beijing’s “win-win” diplomatic style has featured greater accommodations with several African countries including Liberia. Chinese government growing popularity on Liberia is due to the soft power approach in the region and the speed of which it response to developmental requests by impoverished countries on the continent.
However, there are mixed perceptions among state actors, political pundits, bureaucrats and western capitalists and journalists over the Beijing and the USA rising interests and foreign aid assistance toward African’s governments and sovereign states on the continent. Both Beijing and Washington’s aid assistances on the African continent have been growing rapidly, but one might ask: Which of the two, China and U.S. that outdoes the other vis-à-vis foreign aid assistance and investment in Africa especially the Republic of Liberia?
In order to address the answer, an extensive assessment was put into place to obtain the logical details consistent with logical reasoning and analysis in order to establish the major basis for any conclusion.
Corruption was the reason for Nowadays, China remains a shining and deeply admired posture in the realm of mutual respect for others to be master of their own destiny and captain of their own future. For instance, during the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, China was the first to response with medical aid and cash while the United States followed with the presence of its military support and Nine billion Dollars to combat the Ebola virus. During the heat of the dark days of the Liberian civil war in 2002, the White House dispatched a military force in the country and annually contributed about 400 million dollars towards to support UIL presence in the country including other support rendered in the areas of democratic institutions, education and health, energy, restructuring of the army and infrastructure development.
As the United States continues to debate the merits of aid to Liberia on the basis of good governance, China continue to fill a major gap in several areas of interventions without much condition beside the one China policy. While it is too early to predict precisely whether Chinese long-term rendezvous in Liberia will produce a positive influence, the impact of China in the country is highly visible in several developmental areas including roads rehabilitations, constructions of bridges, hospitals, schools, sports stadium, agriculture facilities, and investments projects. All of these projects create opportunities for the current administration to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people although minty percent were the making of the former regime.
The friendly relations and cooperation between China and Liberia enjoyed sound and all-round growth in 2013. The two countries had frequent political exchanges. In March, 2012, ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sent a congratulatory letter to Xi Jinping on his election as Chinese President. Notable progress was made in business ties as well as people-to people, cultural and military exchanges between the two countries.
In July 2011, the project of Bang Iron Mines in Liberia undertaken by Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation was put into operation. In September 2011 China, for the first time, sent a 140-strong riot squad to Liberia for the UN peacekeeping operation. China’s relationship with Liberia is a strong example of how China is using soft power to successfully and deftly broaden its influence in Africa. China gains at least short-term popularity by answering the request of the Liberian government especially in time of urgent need and long term solution the country’s numerous infrastructural needs.
But let not forget that the United States of America has played and continues a pivotal role in Liberia’s body politics and leadership. Besides, the U.S. has been very supportive of Liberia both at the UN level and others international system as well as the physical intervention of former U.S. President George W. Bush to demand the departure of ex-Liberian president, Charles Taylor.
Although the U.S. might not gained such anticipated favoritism among Liberian poverty-stricken population due squarely to it “hard policy” for respect for constitutionalism and good governance as a blur-print for foreign aid assistance, the U.S. has a long diplomatic ties with Liberia and second, after Great Britain, to recognize Liberia independence in 1847. The U.S. has also supported lots of visible projects across Liberia including reform security sector, education and health system, academic institutions rehabilitation, and support for the construction of bridges and rehabilitation of roads, rule of law, governances programs and human development.
But nowadays in Liberia, public perceptions and attitudes toward China are generally favorable compared to the U.S; this depends to whom you speak with. In the views of Liberians, China is not only a credible and willing international partner but also a strategic option for the country’s development. On the other hand, the Liberian market is relatively small in comparison to many African markets. Ordinary Liberians feel that Chinese-made commodities are not durable. There have been enthusiasms Liberians for goods made in the United States compared to that made in China. Liberian consumers, workers and small businesses are worried about the economy. The perceptions of Liberians toward Chinese made products are fewer enthusiasms.
China is happy to remain in Liberia as long as Taiwan is out, the former Chinese Ambassador to Liberia has said during my interaction with him in my previous capacity as Assistant Foreign Minister for Public Affairs. China sees a small window of opportunity to consolidate its influence and project its power. For example, Chinese companies have been working in the Liberia thus engaged into visible bilateral project including infrastructural construction of public buildings, health delivery and educational facilities across the country, telecommunications sector and is now about to complete the construction of Sixty Million United States Dollars Ministerial Complex and the New Terminal at RIA.
Besides, China is also undertaking several other millions dollars’ worth of projects in Liberia including the “Chinese Building” University of Liberia Fendall Campuses, the Jackson Doe’s Medical Hospital in Tapita in Nimba County, the installation of Traffic lights in Monrovia and its environs of Sinkor and Paynesville, the rehabilitations of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, the Extension of MVTC, rehabilitations and refurbishing of roads and bridges, peacekeeping mission, warding fellowships to public and private sectors, and support to the national army and security apparatus.
Besides, the China win-win diplomacy and soft power in Liberia has given the Chinese leverage in the country. Today, some Liberian political and economic elites even believe that China is not only a credible and willing international partner but also a strategic option for growth in Liberia. America too is clearly concerned. Liberians must heed the lessons learned.
History has shown that whenever a rising power, like China, creates fear among its neighbors and other great powers, such as America, that can be a cause of conflict in direct reference to Newton’s third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.
In the words of He Jun, a Beijing-based energy consultant: China does not have a competitive edge over its Western counterparts in an open market. But in a closed market like Africa’s, Chinese companies are able to gain from government influence.”‘ Western oil companies, not to mention industry based in other sectors, have been able to build upon generations of engagement dating back to the colonial period to secure their investments in Africa.
The Chinese economic interests goes beyond Liberia, Angola, and Sudan to Africa’s major rich richer states such as Nigeria and Angola, thereby focusing on establishing stronger trading and economic ties with petroleum producing states by following a policy of mercantilism, while oil companies, which are under strict government control, seek to sign equity deals with oil companies and obtain a stake in the local oil industry.
In Nigeria, Sao Tome, South Sudan, Liberia, Principe, Angola and several African states along the west coast of Africa are the main hotspots for Chinese oil interest. Nigeria is second the biggest exporter of oil in the region, while Angola first after taking over Nigeria. For Angola, the state’s rejection of Western aid conditionality, paved the way for the acceptance of Chinese aid, and the takeover of an oil block hither-to allocated owned Total (upon its expiration) to a Chinese oil company. China’s top five African trading partners (Capital Week) are Angola, South Africa, Sudan, Nigeria, and Egypt. China has also pursued exploration and production deals in smaller, lower-visibility countries, like Gabon.
In 1949, the birth of new China opened up a new chapter in Sino-African relations. Since 1950s and 1960s, as more and more African countries won independence and established diplomatic relations with China, the Sino-African relationship was ushered into a new era of all-round development that is having great impacts on the lives of millions on both fronts; the presence of China in Africa’s development cannot be questioned.
China is visible on the continued march as evident by the hundreds of projects undertaking or completed, while new agreements have been consolidated for an effective implementation. China’s robust economic growth in the past 30 years, which has lifted 600 million people out of extreme poverty, offers lessons for other regions, especially Africa. China has been consistently supporting African regional and sub-regional organizations like OAU, AU, SADC and ECOWAS, in efforts to safeguard regional peace and security.
Sino-African trade and economic cooperation has been advancing smoothly. For long, China has provided within its capacity sincere assistance to the economic development of African countries, Liberia is a case study where China’s infrastructures are visible. China has provided aid to hundreds of projects in Africa which involved agriculture, road, infrastructure, health, education, animal husbandry, fishery, textile, energy, water conservancy, power generation and other sectors. China’s vastly increased involvement in Africa over the past decade is one of the most significant recent developments in the region.
China’s Africa interest is part of a recently more active international strategy based on multi-polarity and non-intervention. Increased aid, debt cancellation, and a boom in Chinese-African trade, with a strategic Chinese focus on oil, have proven mutually advantageous for China and African state elites.
By offering aid without preconditions, China has presented an attractive alternative to conditional Western aid, and gained valuable diplomatic support to defend its international interests. China has educational relationships with 50 African countries and keeps increasing her assistance on training and education to African countries. In 2005, China also hosted the Sino-African Education Minister Forum. In 2007, there are around 5,900 students from Africa studying in China, with most of them receiving scholarships provided by the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, both U.S. and China’s relations with Africa should adhere to the principles of good governance which include sincerity, inclusiveness, respect for the rule of law, practical results, affinity and good faith and uphold the values of friendship, justice and shared interests.
Let us not forget that China and U.S. on one hand and Africa “have always belonged to a community of shared values and fruitful future” and “have always been good friends who stand together through thick and thin, good partners who share weal and woe, and good brothers who fully trust each other despite changes in the international landscape. This article is authored by By: Josephus Moses Gray who can be reached at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ Mobile: (+231)-880330299