The Newest Imperialist Power


During the 1800s, the world’s powers fought for control of Africa’s resources. Today the trend continues, only this time an Eastern power is quickly becoming a major African player.

Last year, trade between China and Africa jumped 36 percent to almost $40 billion, according to official Chinese figures (Financial Times, February 23). And if the flurry of high-level Chinese visits to Africa is any indication, China’s trade with the continent is set to take another huge jump this year.

So far this year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has undertaken three African trade tours. Chinese President Hu Jintao also visited several African countries in April, while in January Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing completed an African trade trip. This November, Beijing will host a major China-Africa summit to promote trade.

This slew of activity represents China’s robust efforts to secure the raw commodities it needs for its booming manufacturing sectors. African oil and minerals have become increasingly important to China, which is in the midst of its fourth year of 10 percent economic growth.

However, China’s move into Africa has caused problems for America.

First, Chinese involvement is inhibiting U.S.-supported African regime change by supplying the continent’s dictators with financial, political and technological support. China has been more than willing to overlook human rights atrocities committed by the African governments that trade with it. “On the political front, China will not interfere in internal affairs of African countries. We believe that African countries have the right and capability to solve their own problems,” explained Wen (Xinhua, June 18).

Second, and perhaps more important, China’s thirst for raw commodities, especially oil, has put it in direct competition with the United States. Although 15 percent of America’s oil comes from Africa, a full quarter of China’s oil imports now come from that continent (, August 2).

As China’s demand for oil has grown, so have its efforts to gain political influence in Africa—and its willingness to exploit the West’s queasiness over doing business with Africa’s more unsavory and unstable regimes.

China willingly supplies military equipment to Sudan in exchange for access to its vast oil fields. China commonly uses its veto power on the UN Security Council to block U.S.-led efforts to impose sanctions, which could lead to regime change and thus open Sudanese oil to the international community. A similar situation exists in Zimbabwe, where Chinese investment aimed at obtaining coal and precious metals and selling military equipment provides a lifeline to a corrupt government that has all but destroyed one of the formerly richest countries in Africa.

Consequently, China makes allies and gains a competitive advantage in parts of Africa that America will not enter.

A recent political incident highlights how China’s influence in Africa has grown. In August, the central African country of Chad announced it was switching diplomatic ties from Taiwan, a democratic U.S. ally, to China. “It’s because China’s power and influence is rising on the world stage,” said He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Agence France Presse, August 7). Today, all but five of Africa’s 53 nations recognize China as opposed to Taiwan, a situation in stark contrast to that in the 1990s. Some analysts worry that Chad’s switching back could cause a “domino effect” with the few remaining countries (ibid.).

Stephen Friedman, a senior research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, summarized the situation this way: “The West is very worried about China’s involvement in Africa. … Seeing a new superpower emerging is making it very uncomfortable” (Associated Press, August 8).

Yet, contrary to what many analysts believe, it is not America, but Europe that ultimately needs to fear China. To see what the Bible predicts concerning Europe and China, request our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.