China’s interest and influence continue to grow in countries across Africa. Beijing buys political support and access to raw materials with major infrastructure investments.
For 34 years, the first foreign trip of the year has always taken the Chinese foreign minister to Africa. This week, Wang Yi visited Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Ivory Coast before traveling on to South America. In addition to the crisis in the Middle East, his agenda included economic cooperation and civil society exchange.
Africa is playing an increasingly important role for China, which is hungry for energy and raw materials. After World War II, communist China cultivated intensive cooperation with African countries. Beijing fraternized and positioned itself as a spokesperson for these underdeveloped countries, which later would become part of what is now called the “Global South.”
Since reform and opening up began in China 45 years ago, Africa has always been a reliable supplier of natural resources. In return, China invests in infrastructure and social services such as education and healthcare.
In the 1970s, for example, China financed the 1,860-kilometre (1,100-mile) railroad line between the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. The Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA), also called the Uhuru Railway, runs through the most important copper mining region in Africa.
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