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China's engagement in Africa: scope, significance and consequences

  • Denis M. Tull (a1)

China's vastly increased involvement in Africa over the past decade is one of the most significant recent developments in the region. It appears to contradict the idea of international marginalisation of Africa and brings significant economic and political consequences. China's Africa interest is part of a recently more active international strategy based on multipolarity 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. However, a generally asymmetrical relationship differing little from previous African–Western patterns, alongside support of authoritarian governments at the expense of human rights, make the economic consequences of increased Chinese involvement in Africa mixed at best, while the political consequences are bound to prove deleterious.

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The author would like to thank Stefan Mair, Kay Möller, Andrea Sperk, Daniel Sullivan, Gudrun Wacker and Gerhard Weiher for their kind help in the preparation of this paper. The constructive comments by the anonymous referees are also gratefully acknowledged.
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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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