April 05, 2021

Grooming Autocrats

By David Shullman and Patrick Quirk

U.S.-China great-power competition in Africa is well under way. In recent years, China has significantly advanced its strategic economic, political, and military interests across the continent. Beijing has used its wide-ranging Belt and Road Initiative and other means of economic engagement to expand influence and market access globally, including in sub-Saharan Africa. This is not news. Less reported is that China is increasing its influence over governments and elites across Africa, impairing budding democratic practices along the way.

America’s increasing focus on rivalry with China ensures that U.S. Africa policy will continue to be viewed, at least in part, through a China lens.

Chinese government-linked entities are exploiting and exacerbating “governance gaps” in vulnerable countries, using corruption and a lack of transparency to conclude deals that undermine political accountability and ensure China’s long-term influence. Beijing is also coopting journalists and using targeted propaganda and investments in the media sector to shape the information environment to its advantage in places across Africa.

America’s increasing focus on rivalry with China ensures that U.S. Africa policy will continue to be viewed, at least in part, through a China lens. It is critical, however, that the new Biden Administration avoid approaches that have led to failures in the past, including adopting an overly “securitized” approach to the continent and making generalizations about “debt-trap diplomacy” while overlooking Beijing’s efforts to undermine governance and coopt African elites.

Read the full article from American Purpose.

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