Last week’s Islamist terror attack on a hotel in Mali counted three Chinese railway executives among its 19 dead. On Thursday, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, promised increased security cooperation with African nations in the wake of the attack.
“As China continues to promote pragmatic cooperation between China and Africa, we will strengthen bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and the fight against extremism,” said Wang, as quoted by Reuters. He said no political conditions would be attached to this assistance.
Wang also responded to Western criticism that China is funneling money to some African governments with poor human-rights records, using its money to buy influence in the continent from some very rough customers. “Anyone wearing colored glasses or making remarks on China-Africa cooperation with ulterior motives in the face of the overwhelming facts will be powerless. They will be boycotted by the Chinese and African people,” the Foreign Minister declared.
Other Chinese officials said President Xi Jinping would announce more aid for Africa during a summit in Johannesburg next month.
China is sending more than money to Africa. The Hill reported on Tuesday that China is moving ahead with its plans to establish a military base in Djibouti, where it has signed a 10-year lease for the property. U.S. military experts described this base as a “logistics hub” from which the Chinese can “extend their reach” across the continent, and protect the sizable investments Chinese businessmen have made in the region. China will also gain an airbase that could be used for surveillance operations across the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and eastern Libya, as well as central Africa.
These logistical advantages would mirror the functions of the base American already maintains in Djibouti, at Camp Lemonnier. This would make China a serious rival for U.S. influence in the region, with its initially modest military presence and political influence growing quickly, in concert with economic initiatives designed to take advantage of Africa’s growing middle class.
There is even some speculation that China will try to displace the U.S. as the senior partner for a nascent “United States of Africa,” an idea that has become increasingly appealing to African nations as they grow more prosperous, and face down Islamist threats such as Boko Haram.