In an interview with Asia Times reporter Doug Tsuruoka, Brookings Fellow and former US Treasury emissary to China David Dollar assesses the scale and impact of Chinese investment in Africa.
Overall, Dollar’s assessment is bullish: China stabilizes Africa. “China is basically a stabilizing and positive force in Africa. There are a lot of different aspects to Chinese investment there. One important part is Chinese loans for infrastructure. Quite a few African countries are making good use of these. China has been providing an average of a little more than US$5 billion in loans over the last few years. That’s very supportive.”
Dollar thinks China’s aims are mainly economic, not political or imperial: “China has had diplomatic relations with African countries for a long time. Beijing also has political objectives. But this big surge in investment is fairly recent, so something has changed. . . . Chinese economy is slowing down. It has excess capacity. . . . So it’s natural at this stage for some of their capital to be looking around the world for new opportunities.”
But empire has often followed foreign investment and trade; once you put money into a place, and start building stuff, you have an interest in protecting the investment. China is “developing a blue water navy. They are going to need more military bases around the world. So Chinese involvement in Africa also has political and strategic ramifications.”
Here’s a future to contemplate: African natural resources + Chinese investment, ingenuity and business savvy + African religious fervor + China’s growing Christian population. The mind boggles.