Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi kicked off a four-day trip to East Africa on Tuesday (January 4), and his three destinations were Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros. Some analysts believe that Wang Yi’s trip to Africa reflects the strategic importance of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to China, as well as Beijing’s emphasis on maritime diplomacy. However, some experts believe that behind the trip to Africa are climate issues, Ethiopia and regional security factors. and other considerations. Other experts believe that with Africa’s international importance and China’s growing influence in the region, the United States should re-examine its relationship with Africa and propose a long-term strategy for Africa.
32 Years of “Rain or Rain” Wang Yi Visits Three East African Countries
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Wang Yi’s visit to Africa is the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister to Africa for the 32nd consecutive year since 1991. He also said that this “fine tradition” fully reflects China’s great importance to “developing China-Africa relations, the deep friendship between China and Africa, and China’s determination to strengthen Africa through unity, development and revitalization.” support, and the international community, including African friends, speaks highly of this.”
This is also Wang Yi’s second visit to Africa in the past two months. At the end of November, he went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, a West African country, to attend the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
Yan Zhensheng, a researcher at the Center for International Relations Studies at National Chengchi University, told VOA that the Chinese foreign minister’s 2022 trip to Africa showed a comprehensiveness, saying that mainland China “does not distinguish between large and small countries, every country will go, and mainland China It doesn’t care about the internal affairs of a certain country, and it also means that it will never interfere in its internal affairs.”
David Hamilton Shinn, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said in an email to VOA that since 1991, Chinese foreign ministers have chosen African countries for their first trips, “African leaders appreciate this. a fact”. “The (Chinese) foreign ministry will carefully rotate its schedule so that all countries that recognize Beijing can receive visits from the Chinese foreign minister or other senior officials,” he added.
Vaccines, oceans, or something else. What is the trip to Africa?
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in November last year that in order to achieve the goal set by the African Union to vaccinate 60% of the African population against the new crown by 2022, China will provide Africa with another 1 billion doses of vaccine, of which 600 million will be free aid and 400 million. Provided in the form of joint production between Chinese enterprises and relevant African countries.
When announcing the itinerary of Wang Yi’s visit to Africa, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that it is to “support African countries to overcome the epidemic at an early date and achieve economic recovery, and to demonstrate China’s consistent style of being efficient, pragmatic, and keeping its promises.”
Just on Thursday, when jointly meeting the press with Kenyan Foreign Minister Omamo, Wang Yi said that in addition to accelerating the implementation of the outcomes of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and firmly safeguarding the common interests of China and Africa, another goal of Wang Yi’s visit to Africa is to join hands with Africa. To completely defeat the epidemic, he also said that China will provide Kenya with another 10 million doses of vaccines.
Vaccines will be part of diplomacy, Alex Vines, director of the Africa program at Chatham House, told VOA. He also said China was keen to fight back against the origins of the coronavirus and questions about Beijing’s shutdown, which it says has been more generous and efficient than the West in dealing with the virus.
In addition to the vaccine factor, Wang Yi’s trip seems to have marine strategic considerations. Radio France Internationale said in a report that some comments believed that Wang Yi’s trip to Africa showed Beijing’s emphasis on maritime diplomacy, especially the Indian Ocean. Among them, in the case of Eritrea, it is to ensure the safety of access to the Red Sea. Beijing already showed this consideration when it built its first military base in Djibouti in 2017.
On the issue of maritime strategy, Yan Zhensheng said that after Wang Yi’s trip to the three East African countries, he will also go to Maldives and Sri Lanka. “Such trips together may show the importance of maritime diplomacy.” , operations in Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and now, together with the Maldives all the way to East Africa, will indeed play a very important role in the northern Indian Ocean.”
Sheehan said: “This visit feels more like a routine to me. China has been interested in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean for many years, and there is no new urgency to this issue.”
The three destinations that Wang Yi chose for this trip have different agendas, which seem to reflect China’s different considerations. Eritrea is the first stop of Wang Yi’s trip. The two countries exchanged views on bilateral, international and regional issues of mutual interest, according to a joint statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. “The two sides agreed to actively carry out practical cooperation within the framework of the strategic partnership and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation,” the statement added.
Alex Vines told VOA that Eritrea’s location on the shores of the Red Sea is important. But Eritrea’s close relationship with the government of Abiy Ahmed Ali in Ethiopia is even more important.
“This is also a key reason given Ethiopia’s strategic importance to China,” he said, also citing China’s renewed interest in the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia transport corridor (Lapsset) due to the Ethiopian civil war. interest.
Comoros is another stop of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s African tour. According to a Friday press release from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when the Comorian president met with Wang Yi, Wang Yi said China was willing to help Comoros achieve “complete elimination of malaria by 2025”, “achieve universal immunization within this year” and support Comoros “2030” Emerging countries” development strategy these three goals.
Vines also said in the email that Comoros, an island country in Africa in the Indian Ocean, has become an important trading partner of China. In addition, Comoros was one of 53 countries that supported the Hong Kong national security law at the United Nations in June 2020. The Comoros has also been vocal on climate change and represents small island nations. Beijing will also seek support for the 27th UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt.
Wang Yi also went to Kenya during his trip. The Kenyan foreign ministry called Wang Yi’s visit “historic”. China has also signed cooperation documents with Kenya on digital economy, investment and agriculture.
Fergus Kell, a researcher at the Royal Institute of International Affairs’ Africa program, told VOA that 2022 is an election year in Kenya, and President Kenyatta’s second and final term will be in partnership with China. Relations have experienced more turbulence, largely related to its status as Kenya’s largest bilateral creditor, as the public is very concerned about its foreign debt burden.
He also said: “Part of the motivation for the visit may be that repayments to China on major infrastructure loans are expected to surge further in 2022, following a partial delay in the Debt Suspension Initiative (DSSI) in the first half of 2021, ahead of the presidential handover. Yes, to lay a stable foundation for the political relationship between the two countries during this critical period in the short to medium term.”
A new battlefield for influence? U.S. should re-examine relations with Africa
Before Wang Yi’s visit to Africa, US Secretary of State Blinken also went to Africa two months ago. “The United States firmly believes that it is time to stop treating Africa as a geopolitical subject and start seeing it as a major geopolitical player now,” Blinken said during his visit to Africa.