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Stimson Center Scholar Discusses Rising Sino-Japanese Competition in Africa

In the article, “Rising Sino-Japanese Competition in Africa,” Yun Sun, a nonresident fellow at the Global Economy and Development Africa Growth Initiative, identifies the similarities and differences between Chinese and Japanese investment in Africa. August 27th and 28th marked the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced $30 billion in public and private support. This is half the amount Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) December last year, but despite the difference in the amount each leader pledged, there is also a difference in how each country chooses to spend its investment money.

Both China and Japan’s financial pledges include infrastructure projects and loans, but some of the main differences come in project implementation. China prefers to use Chinese talent, imported from China, often resulting in ill feelings towards the Chinese. Japan, however, chooses to utilize local labor for projects, resulting not only in more money into the local economy, but also allows locals to develop skills and to receive training. Both countries clearly have economic interests in Africa as Japan and China need resources from African countries.

But besides these economic interests, Africa is also an area for both countries to expand political influence. In 2011, Japan opened a military base in Djibouti to address security threats off the Horn of Africa. China believed this was only an excuse for Japanese military expansion as Japan tries to alter the international system established after World War II. China states that it’s reason for building a naval base, also in Djibouti, is to combat terrorism in the region. Is that any different than Japan’s reason?

China accuses Japan of trying to “drive a wedge between China and African countries,” when in reality Japan simply chooses a different way to implement projects on the continent, and according to the article, locals believe the Japanese provide better quality. China also accuses Japanese investments to be politically motivated, although China used its influence over African countries to secure enough votes to be readmitted to the UN. Both countries, including the United States, use investment for political and economic reasons, but it seems that Chinese and Japanese competition in Africa is intensifying as Japan increases its international efforts

Both countries use investment in Africa for political and economic gain, but the important thing to remember is that responsible contributions from both China and Japan, or any country for that matter, will do more to benefit the continent than pointing fingers at one another.

By Ian Pilcher


For the full articles please click on the links below:

Rising Sino Japanese Competition in Africa

Xi and the 6th FOCAC, Major Commitments, but with Questions