China’s top diplomat hits out at critics for ‘defaming and attacking’ its role in Africa

Keegan Elmer

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has lashed out against unnamed parties who “defame and attack” his country’s role in Africa following a visit to the continent.

Yang said “some people who are unhappy about growing China-Africa relations have made groundless accusations”, telling state news agency Xinhua: “Those who attempt to sow discord between China and Africa will find no audience in Africa; and those who try to undermine China-Africa friendship are doomed to fail.”

As China grows its trade ties with Africa countries and increases its investments there, it has faced accusations of embracing “neocolonialism” and setting up “debt traps” for African countries, which run up debts they struggle to repay.

Beijing has consistently denied these accusations.

Yang, the director of the Communist Party’s Office of Foreign Affairs, was speaking in Senegal at the end of five-day visit last week that also included stops in Uganda and the Republic of Congo.

He met the presidents of the three countries and said they had all “expressed firm support for China’s domestic and foreign policy” and promised to deepen cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Xinhua.

In Senegal, which is currently co-chairing the forum on China-Africa cooperation, Yang met President Macky Sall, who thanked Yang for China helping develop its economy, Xinhua reported.

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The Chinese official in turn highlighted the Thies-Touba highway as an example of “pragmatic and efficient cooperation”.

During the visit to Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said industrialisation and modernisation could not be done without the support of China and its markets, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

In Congo, Yang and President Denis Sassou Nguesso agreed to continue work on development projects, including a special economic zone at Pointe-Noire on the country’s south coast.

Some US politicians have been vocal critics of China’s growing involvement in Africa.

In March of this year, then deputy director of state John Sullivan said Chinese investments imposed “undue costs” on African countries.

Sullivan encouraged African nations to work instead with the US, rather than rely on China’s “predatory investment” and loans that could “jeopardise their sovereignty.”

But in July, Tibor Nagy, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said the US policy in Africa was not an “anti-China policy,” and instead aimed to offer development choices for Africa. “I absolutely do not blame Africa for doing all the deals with China,” he said.

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The United States remains the world’s biggest provider of development aid to Africa, providing just under US$9.9 billion in 2016, around a fifth of the total given to the continent, according to data from the OECD.

Meanwhile the Chinese government and companies lent US$143 billion to African governments and state-owned enterprises between 2000 and 2017, according to data compiled by the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Its data shows that during that period, US$1.6 billion went to Senegal, US$3 billion to Uganda and US$7.4 billion to the Republic of Congo.

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