China-Africa Summit In The Midst of Increasing USA-China Rivalry

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The China-Africa Summit was held in Senegal on 29-30 November 2021. The leaders of African states and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended this summit. The summit in question was held after the visits of USA Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Kenya, Senegal, and Nigeria in November. It can be stated that the summit is of great importance since it coincides with such a date, because the tension between the sides has been escalating in recent years that the USA-China rivalry has increased. Although a virtual summit was held by the leaders of the two countries on 16 November 2021, concrete results could not be reached at the summit. However, if another summit or meeting will be arranged in the coming weeks or months, and if an improvement in bilateral relations will be in question, perhaps there may be a decrease in tension. In its current state, the problems in relations continue in the same way.

About a week after the meeting held on November 16, 2021, USA President Joe Biden stated that he would organize a virtual Democracy Summit and that he would also include Taiwan in this meeting. For this reason, it has been subjected to harsh criticisms from Beijing.[1] Because, at the meeting on November 16, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that Taiwan is the red line, and if it is crossed, good things will not happen.[2] Despite this, the USA President’s invitation to Taiwan, which is not recognized by many countries in the world, to the Democracy Summit drew the reaction of Beijing. Moreover, countries such as Russia and China were not invited to the summit. In such an environment, the invitation of Taiwan to the summit, despite the fact that it is not recognized, can be interpreted as a provocative move.

Blinken, who started his African tour the day after the USA-China meeting on November 16, 2021, first went to Kenya and then visited Senegal and Nigeria. The topics of the visit are generally global warming, the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, and security; meetings were held with non-governmental organizations as well as with country leaders. Blinken, who signed 2.1 billion dollars aid agreements with Nigeria, expressed that they want to strengthen the partnership with African countries.[3]

Although the USA made a “minister” level visit to Africa, it did not hold a “president” level summit or a visit. In addition, the Washington administration has not put forward any African strategy/policy. This situation facilitates the shift of African countries to China. Because, apart from small-scale agreements or aids, the commercial relations of the USA with African countries are generally of a military dimension. The USA, which generally exports food products to poor countries, sells cars to richer African countries. However, military ammunition and weapons are at the top of the list of export products. In addition, the USA has a total of 5-6 thousand military personnel in 50 of 54 African countries. These were united into the United States Command for Africa (AFRICOM).[4] While the military presence of the USA in countries such as Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya and Libya, as well as in Sahel countries such as the Central African Republic, and Niger draws attention, USA’s policies towards Africa are mostly in the military sense.

The China-Africa Summit, organized under the name of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), is held in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, which is one of the countries Blinken visited in his African visits. The eighth summit is being held in Senegal, which has a more democratic system compared to other countries in the region; the theme of the summit in question is described as “promoting sustainable development to deepen the China-Africa partnership and create a Sino-African community based on a common future in the new era”.[5] The summit focused on whether a Sino-African community could be created by promoting sustainable development and the future of the asymmetrical relationship between Africa and China.

Unlike Washington’s presence on the continent for military reasons and the exploitation of minerals such as petrol; Beijing also has many economic and geopolitical goals for the African continent. China has a military base in Djibouti and it is known that it uses this base especially for logistics and for the prevention of pirate activities in the Horn of Africa. Apart from this, China maintains its military presence in some countries to protect its projects within the context of the Belt-Road Project and independently of it within the scope of Africa policy. However, its only official military base is in Djibouti.

The economic presence of China in the continent has also affected almost every country. Therefore, considering its economic interests in the continent, Beijing’s active interest in dealing with the continent’s political situations is inevitable. An important purpose of the military presence is to protect Chinese factories, transport routes, and personnel in Africa. Another goal is to use military equipment as a means of reflecting China’s soft power.

With its large-scale participation in the UN’s military operations, China hopes to be seen as an actor responsible for maintaining order in the region. Thus, in the eyes of African peoples, China wants to be a troubleshooter and savior, and it tries to do this by participating in the operations in question.

China’s increased involvement is mainly welcomed in Africa, as other countries reduce that support. Of course, the continent also provides an arena where China is allowed to test its weapons systems and other military capabilities.

Beijing has long been an important political and economic actor in Africa; in recent years, it has started to become an important military actor. This brings China to a very important place in Africa. In short, China’s position in Africa is almost ubiquitous, both militarily, politically, and economically, and its influence is growing.

At the summit, where the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic was also discussed, economic issues were at the top of the agenda. On the other hand, the worsening of the security situation in Ethiopia and the sanctions imposed by the USA on Eritrea, among the countries participating in the summit, accelerated the participation of the mentioned states in the Belt-Road Project. In particular, Eritrea’s exposure to sanctions from the USA and security problems on its border necessitated its rapprochement with China. China, on the other hand, welcomed Eritrea’s signing of the project due to both its geostrategic location and the increase in support and participation in the Belt-Road Project. A memorandum of understanding was signed with both countries at the summit.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the states in question can be interpreted as an important development for China to strengthen its presence in the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic coasts. At the same time, Senegal’s invitation to China to participate in security efforts to ensure security in the Sahel, at the summit, showed that Beijing is now a global power and will increase its military influence in Africa. In this context, the Africa-China Summit will have important economic consequences for the continent. It is obvious that there will be geopolitical gains for the Beijing administration.

As a result, economic, political, and military relations between China and Africa are developing. In this environment, it is inevitable for the USA to lose power in Africa, as it does in other regions, over time. In short, holding such a summit in the midst of increasing USA-Chiana rivalry and obtaining positive and important results in favor of China indicates that Beijing’s influence in the continent will increase.

[1] Humeyra Pamuk, “U.S. Invites Taiwan to Its Democracy Summit; China Angered”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[2] “Taïwan: le président chinois Xi Jinping prévient les Etats-Unis de ne pas jouer avec le feu”, France Info,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[3] Abhishek Mishra, “A New US Policy on Africa: Genuine Reset or Same Old Rhetoric?”, ORF Online,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[4] Konu hakkında detaylı bilgi için bkz. “About the Command”, AFRİCOM,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[5] Stephane Lagarde, “Le huitième Forum sur la coopération sino-africaine s’est ouvert à Dakar”, RFI,ème-forum-sur-la-coopération-sino-africaine-s-ouvre-à-dakar, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünde lisans eğitimi alan Göktuğ ÇALIŞKAN, aynı süreçte çift ana dal programı kapsamında üniversitenin Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi’nde yer alan Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde de eğitim görmüştür. 2017 yılında lisans mezuniyetini tamamladıktan sonra Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde yüksek lisans programına başlayan Çalışkan, bu programı 2020 yılında başarı ile tamamlamıştır. 2018 yılında ise çift ana dal programı kapsamında eğitim gördüğü Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Millî Eğitim Bakanlığı (MEB) bursu kapsamında 2017 yılı YLSY programını kazanarak halen Fransa’da dil eğitimi alan Göktuğ Çalışkan aynı zamanda Erciyes Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi son sınıf öğrencisidir. YLSY programı kapsamında Fas'ta Uluslararası Rabat Üniversitesinde Yönetişim ve Uluslararası İstihbarat alanında 2. yüksek lisansını yapmakta olan Çalışkan, Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası Ilişkiler bölümünde doktorasına başlamıştır. Iyi derecede İngilizce ve Fransızca bilmektedir.