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China Poised to Benefit From Trump's Africa Policy (Or Lack Thereof)

Although leaders in Asia, Europe and the Americas are struggling to figure out what are the implications of Donald J. Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency. At least in those regions, the president-elect made passing references during the campaign to Japan’s future security status, or whether Washington should continue to support NATO and, of course, his desire to build that great wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Africa, by contrast, was barely discussed, if at all, during the seemingly never-ending 18-month duel between Trump and his former rival Hillary Clinton. Now, with the election settled, African policy makers are struggling to figure out what it will mean for their countries when a potentially-isolationist U.S. president assumes power next January.

There are early indications that some African countries may lean further in to China’s embrace to compensate for what they expect could be a retrenchment in U.S. trade, investment and overall engagement on the continent. For Beijing, this could be a huge opportunity to strengthen its diplomatic positioning in Africa as the Chinese continue their massive aid, infrastructure and investment drive across the continent. All that Chinese money is also now paying dividends in the form of improved public opinion towards the Chinese in Africa which, according to a 2016 Afrobarometer survey, has been steadily rising. So if Washington either falters or retreats from constructive engagement in Africa, China may in fact be a major beneficiary.

South Africa, in particular, has been steadily shifting its foreign policy away from the West towards China for the past five years. Now, with the election of Donald Trump, Pretoria “should no longer count on Washington in the international community as its done in the past” warns University of the Witswatersrand international relations professor John Stremlau. Dr. Stremlau joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why he thinks president-elect Trump is such a threat to African stability and how this new direction in U.S. foreign policy could re-shape Africa’s international relations.

Show Notes:

About Professor John Stremlau:

image-20151021-15440-zu9ohrProfessor John Stremlau is a visiting professor in the department of international relations at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Previously, Dr. Stremlau was the Associate Executive Director for Peace Programs at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Stremlau has been an accomplished foreign affairs expert in conflict resolution and international relations with such organizations as The Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.

Most recently, he was head of the Department of International Relations and founding director of the Centre for Africa’s International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand. Previously, he served as senior advisor to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict in Washington, D.C. (1994-1998), deputy-director for policy planning in the office of the U.S. Secretary of State (1989-1994), strategic planning officer for the World Bank (1988-1989), and an officer of the Rockefeller Foundation (1974-1987), directing its international relations division from 1984-1987. At the Rockefeller Foundation, his responsibilities included supporting research and training in the fields of international security, arms control, and international economic cooperation.

He also administered a special trustee-supported program to fund black leadership development in South Africa. Dr. Stremlau publishes extensively on foreign affairs and is a frequent media commentator on international network news programs. Since 1998, he has written more than 200 opinion pieces for South African media outlets including Business Day, Star, Sunday Times, and Mail & Guardian. Dr. Stremlau earned his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and both his master’s and doctoral degrees from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

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