In an interview with the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations website, Mehdi Khorsand discussed the third five-day China-Africa peace and security meeting held in Beijing. The meeting was attended by defense representatives from over 50 African countries, African Union representatives, and military attachés from African embassies. The theme of the meeting was “Implementing the Global Security Initiative and Strengthening China-Africa Solidarity and Cooperation.” Khorsand noted that East Asia is the world’s origin for development, and according to development and political economy experts, after East Asia, we in the West and South West Asia will witness development. But after West Asia, Africa will be the next playground or place of competition for big powers in the international system.
Saying that Africa will become a field of competition and the game of great international powers, he noted: The latest data from the General Administration of Customs of China shows that the bilateral trade between China and Africa has grown by 7.4 percent in the first seven months of the current year compared to last year, reaching to 1.14 trillion yuan, equivalent to 156.4 billion dollars.
The expert on East Asia affairs emphasized that the Chinese are seeking to implement their development model in the South, or advance the South-South strategy in the world, and intend to penetrate Africa, and continued: China will provide all the costs for relief and basic health needs within the framework of the Red Cross and send them manpower. There are reports of the Chinese teaching the Chinese language to Africans in exchange for two hot meals daily.
Recalling that China has a particular plan for Africa, Khorsand added: in the past few months, China has respited or forgiven some of the loans it had given to African countries to create a basis for developing more cooperation with Africa. In fact, China seeks to promote an open global economic model in such a way that, based on it, it can provide the possibility of more cooperation for countries around the world, including the countries of the African continent. It should not be forgotten that China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for the 14th consecutive year. The total value of that country’s imports from Africa in the past 23 years has reached 1.42 trillion dollars, and exports to Africa have reached 1.58 trillion dollars.
He stated that the cooperation between China and Africa in areas such as financial services, digital economy, aerospace, and new energy is expanding. He noted that the Chinese had not entered Africa from a military point of view and did not even try to establish a military base in Africa openly. Still, the recent military cooperation between China and Africa and the holding of the peace and security defense meeting show that the Chinese are not reluctant to enter the military cooperation space with Africa and form comprehensive cooperation, even in security dimensions.
Saying that construction of new bases in distant areas in the Pacific Ocean or on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Africa will significantly increase China’s operational capability, and in 2017, it also built a base in Djibouti, Khorsand added: Holding such meetings shows that China seeks military influence in Africa. Currently, more than 80 percent of China’s peacekeeping forces are still stationed in that continent and have had numerous peacekeeping missions.
The expert on East Asia affairs stated that selling arms to countries that extract their mineral and natural resources is considered a double win for the Chinese, adding: According to reports, China, the largest arms producer and the seventh most significant supplier of military equipment in the world, has opened a new sales office in Senegal. The company now has offices in Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa. In addition, Beijing is trying to establish offices in Mali and Ivory Coast to sell and repair weapons, vehicles, and military equipment.
Emphasizing that the arrival of China’s largest arms manufacturer in Senegal will increase China’s influence in West Africa, he recalled: Due to the decrease of France’s influence in Africa and the increase of sanctions caused by the war in Ukraine, China is rapidly expanding its influence in West Africa, to such an extent that this country has become the main supplier of weapons to African countries in the past ten years. China is now Africa’s third largest arms exporter after Russia and the United States.
Khorsand stated that China does not inject ideology into Africa and does not pressure them to carry out internal reforms, and said Beijing wants them as they are and is ready to cooperate with them regardless of their conditions. Therefore, Africa is a unique market for China, and the type of Chinese cooperation is also attractive to developing countries. After the Chinese entered the field of humanitarian aid and public diplomacy, they won the positive opinion and confidence of the Africans to the extent that the Africans entered into purchasing military weapons.
According to the expert on East Asia affairs, Today, it is attractive for the countries of the world to become a party to the deal with China’s various models for military cooperation. China’s increasing influence in Africa has challenged the traditional influence of France, Britain, Portugal, and even the US.
Khorsand added: At the beginning of the current year, the Democratic Republic of Congo signed an agreement to purchase drones from China, and according to the report, the purchase of Chinese fighter planes by Africa is also increasing. Therefore, China has started to develop arms industry markets from Africa and even takes concessions to develop its influence in exchange for providing free weapons.