How Chinese Influence in Africa Affects Agriculture

Since the end of the Cold War, China has started to gain influence in African politics. China’s increase in influence stems from China’s support of African governments through financial aid and other forms of support. The aid that China supplies towards Africa has dramatically changed the landscape of the continent.

To have a good understanding of China’s effect on African politics, one must look at the history between China and Africa. When China was ruled by Mao Zedong, he had a strong interest in using Africa to help support China.[1] Mao supported Africa with funding and building the TanZam railroad, which ran between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and central Zambia. This railroad became an integral part of Zambia’s growth because it helped the landlocked country break away from the white-rule states of Rhodesia and South Africa.[2]

After Mao died, however, the Chinese government ceased investment in Africa. China’s interest in Africa did not re-emerge until after the Tiananmen Square crisis. The aftermath of this crisis resulted in China’s reassessed of its global engagement.[3] This led to China’s commitment to the idea that African states were better partners for China because African states rely more on and are less critical towards China than that of the West.[4]

China’s resurgent relationship with Africa has contributed to the growth of the continent. China’s interests are related to oil and other mineral-based resources there, which are needed to help supply the factories in China and further support China’s development. The Chinese government provides many African states with development assistance, particularly for infrastructure projects.

Both Chinese and African governments find that working together is mutually beneficial because it helps both gain better state sovereignty because there is no conflict between them over issues such as democratic reform, good governance, or human rights.[6] This allows the interests of both African states and the Chinese government to both prosper together without having to have political issues like when dealing with North American or European states or with Western-dominated international organizations.

The ease of ruling a state and not having to give up state sovereignty can be very appealing for African leaders, which can be seen in the trade data between Africa and China. Sino-African trade grew by 431% between the years of 1989 and 1997.[7] This type of growth helped both African states as well as China to develop at an accelerated rate.

What does Sino-African trade have to do with food security in Africa? Well, other than the trade of natural resources for production, China uses its aid to African states to help with China’s agriculture. Out of the 900 Chinese “turn-key” projects, about a fifth of them relate to agriculture. China built 90 farms in Africa between 1960 and 2006.[8] China’s involvement in the development of aid has contributed to the growth of the agriculture of Africa because many of the large farms within Africa were in part funded by the Chinese government.

The Chinese government was essential in the building of the Koba state farm in Guinea and the Chinese-state-owned sugar and tea plantations in Mali, Benin, Togo, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Sierra Leone.[9] The amount of support that China has provided to Africa can be seen through how many farms that have been set up. Having farms across the continent helps the Chinese government create for support for itself through the well-funded farms, which in return helps benefit the people that live near the farm.

For example, in Sierra Leone in the 1970s, the Chinese government sent experts from Wuhan Municipal Foreign Co-operation Corporation in Hubei Province to help rebuild and assist some Sierra Leonean irrigated rice stations. When the civil war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991, however, the experts left.[10] Following the end of the war, the same experts returned to Sierra Leone to once again work at irrigated rice stations, but this time, the Chinese experts assisted the rice stations that were in politically contentious areas where the fighting had been the worst.[11] This shows how China sees political value in the areas that were most affected by the civil war in order to build up its political might in Sierra Leone

China’s support of the development of African states has helped the progression of many different states. China gives aid through many different financial programs, which a state can use to fund whatever it wants, or China directly funds what China needs in these states. One of the forms of aid that China distributes is agricultural. China uses Africa’s agricultural development as its own personal gain by creating the supplies for what an African state needs to grow.

[1] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[2] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[3] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[4] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[5] Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[6]Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[7]  Englebert, Pierre, and Kevin C. Dunn. Inside African Politics. Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2013.

[8] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756497.

[9] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756497.

[10] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756497.

[11] Bräutigam, Deborah A., and Tang Xiaoyang. “China’s Engagement in African Agriculture: “Down to the Countryside”.” The China Quarterly, no. 199 (2009): 686-706. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756497.

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