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Why China Doesn't Need to Worry about Washington's New Africa Policy

When U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced Washington’s new strategy for Africa last December, he mentioned China 14 times in his speech. So often, in fact, that a lot of observers commented that the new policy seemed to be more focused on containing China’s rising influence on the continent than on Africa itself.

Now, two months later, there’s been no follow-up from the White House, leaving a lot of people to wonder what’s going on and if the policy, known as “Prosper Africa,” has somehow gotten lost amid the chaos that has subsumed the Trump administration.

The silence since the Bolton speech no doubt provides some reassurance to officials in Beijing even if the U.S. wanted to really challenge the Chinese presence in Africa, they just don’t seem to be up to the task. “So how concerned should China be about this new US policy towards Africa? Not very,” professors Joshua Eisenman and David Shinn in a column published in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper. “Bolton’s statement is heavy on rhetoric, but the strategy is stillborn because the administration is not allocating the resources or manpower required for it to succeed,” they added.

Meanwhile, other experts contend that resources have nothing to do with it, and instead, it’s more about the fact that the Chinese are not central America’s long-term strategic interests in Africa.

“China may get all the ink following Ambassador Bolton’s announcement of a new Africa Strategy, but the things that ought to interest Africans have far less to do with “great power” competition and more to do with bilateral U.S. individual African state relationships,” said Colonel Chris Wyatt, Director of African Studies at the U.S. Army War College.

Professor Eisenman, a China-Africa scholar at the University of Texas in Austin, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his SCMP recent column and the current state of U.S.-China-Africa geopolitics

Show Notes:

About Josh Eisenman:

Joshua Eisenman’s (马佳士) research focuses on Chinese politics and foreign relations with the United States and the developing world—Africa in particular.

Dr. Eisenman’s forthcoming book, “Red China’s Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune” (Columbia University Press, 2018), applies economic and political theories to explain the political economy of rural China during the Mao era. Working with Eric Heginbotham, has he also co-edited “China Steps Out: Beijing’s Major Power Engagement with the Developing World” (Routledge, 2018), which analyses China’s strategies in various regions of the developing world and evaluates their effectiveness. Dr. Eisenman’s second book, “China and Africa: A Century of Engagement” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), co-authored with David H. Shinn, was named one of the top three books about Africa by Foreign Affairs. He is also co-editor of “China and the Developing World: Beijing’s Strategy for the 21st Century” (M.E. Sharpe, 2007).

Dr. Eisenman work has appeared in numerous publications including Foreign Affairs, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Current History, and Journal of Contemporary China. He has been a visiting faculty member at Fudan University (2017), Peking University (2016), and NYU-Shanghai (2011-12), and served as a policy analyst on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and as a fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and at the New America Foundation.

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