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Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Europe and China in Africa

There are three serious flaws in the EU’s response to China’s increasing influence. First, the triangular thinking is not adequate. It is naive to assume that Beijing will adapt its policy to the demands of the European Union, simply because the EU is not China’s main challenger on the African continent. The apparent compliance might allow the People’s Republic to deflect criticism in the short term, but for the future it is likely to adjust its policy in the first place to those of peers such as Brazil, India, Russia and to some extent South Africa. Even the United States and several EU member states are not very keen to follow Brussels’s benign line. Second, it is not serious to consider the African countries as one solid pillar in the triangle. It is correct that several states in the region have been critical of China’s expanding footprint. The African Union even appointed a panel to investigate how the region should deal with emerging powers. Yet, these African states are just as sceptical about the European policy. Oil-producing countries such as Sudan, Equatorial Guinea and Angola ostentatiously turn a deaf ear to Brussels’s demands. The EU should also be aware that its fixation with dialogues and joint projects with a high visibility does not alter the requirement that any policy should thrive on influence. While talking, the EU forgets that its proper position in Africa weakens fast, mainly because it fails to translate its huge potential weight into real diplomatic clout. Europe is still Africa’s main trade partner and donor, but its impact is diminished in the absence of a political consensus on how to use these levers.
Source: European voice