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Chinese and US Engagement with Developing Countries News Roundup: Feb. 25 – Mar. 8, 2019

Every two weeks, The Carter Center’s China Program releases an overview of major events involving Chinese and US global engagement, with a particular focus on emerging issues in Africa and Latin America. In addition to using news sources, the news roundup will analyze papers and reports from academic journals, governmental bodies, and NGOs, and will also summarize debates and other events organized by think tanks on select issues. The news roundup is intended to be a platform and resource for both China watchers and for readers interested in political and economic development in developing countries. It aims to deepen the understanding of China’s foreign policy, and emerging issues and trends in developing countries, as well as to enhance the prospect of multinational cooperation among China, the U.S., Africa and Latin America.

China in the Middle East 

Middle Eastern States Have Lessons to Learn from Asean in Building Friendship with China, Say Experts at Singapore Conference 

(South China Morning Post, Jing Yng Ng) 2019-02-12

(ASEAN logo. Credit: US Mission to ASEAN)
(ASEAN logo. Credit: US Mission to ASEAN)

Middle Eastern rivalries are creating a difficult path for China in building relationships, an experience they have not had with ASEAN partners. Interactions with the United States in the Middle East appear to be on the downswing as the United States aims to pull troops from Syria and reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The reliance various nations have had on global superpowers, particularly Russia and the United States, has made a regional identity a difficult vision to develop. The US’s downswing certainly provides room for China to fill the void in the Middle East, however, the Chinese Government finds the task at hand in the Middle East far more difficult as it tends to avoid taking sides in conflicts. The current design of country relations within the Middle East makes a regional identity even more difficult for a China as it seeks partnerships over sides.

China in Africa 

“Sudan to Cooperate with China in Uranium Projects” 

(Anadolu Agency, Omer Erdem and Firdevs Yuksel) 2019-02-14

Mohammed Abdullah, director of the Geological Research Organization announced that the Sudanese Oil, Gas and Mines Ministry and Water Resources and Electricity Ministry will partner with the state-owned Chinese National Nuclear Cooperation for uranium enrichment to develop nuclear power. Sudan reportedly has 1.5 million tons of uranium reserves, which will be used for the development of peaceful atomic energy in Sudan. Sudan has also previously signed an agreement with Russia for construction on a nuclear power plant in Sudan.


“Africa Has Opportunity to Supply More Gas to China” 

(Creamer Media, Marleny Arnoldi) 2019-02-18

(Africa Gas Forum flyer. Credit: Africa Energy Indaba)
(Africa Gas Forum flyer. Credit: Africa Energy Indaba)

Paul Eardley-Taylor, head of Standard Bank Southern Africa oil and gas, said at the Africa Gas Forum on Monday that as the demand for energy has been increasing globally, China specifically is heading the demand for liquid natural gas (LNG). China’s LNG demand has increased by 40% in the past few years, making it a huge potential market for gas-producing African nations, said Eardley-Taylor. He specifically pointed to Mozambique as a large future provider of LNG to China, as its LNG production is set to increase significantly in the coming years with the addition of more operational onshore LNG trains. A panel of experts then discussed the need for greater policy frameworks to promote this growing production, distribution, and transmission.


“China Pitches Peace and Security Cooperation Framework to Africa” 

(The New Times, Julius Bizijmungu) 2019-02-13

While meeting with Foreign Affairs Ministers from Africa and representatives of security organs, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, and Chair of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation, Chen Xiaodong, spoke about China’s desire for more China-Africa dialogue to promote peace and security. He discussed China’s method of involvement, saying it was based on sincerity and results and highlighting China’s commitment to non-bias. He said that China wanted to establish a China-Africa peace and security forum, in addition to utilizing the funds of the China-Africa Peace and Security Fund to promote pogress and combat threats to peace and security in the region.


“China Hands Over Magnificent Presidential Palace Gift to Burundi” 

(Face 2 Face Africa, Ismail Akwei) 2019-02-18

The Ambassador of China to Burundi, Li Changli, presented Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ezechial Nibigira, with the US$22million presidential palace it built for Burundi on February 14. China donated this gift to Burundi as a method of strengthening relations with the African country. This is one of many similar gifts China has given to African nations, such as the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia in 2012. Additionally, China has committed to building the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) headquarters and parliament houses for Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, and Gabon, and funding Ethiopia’s first satellite launch and Senegal’s long-awaited museum of black civilization.

“How a Pay TV Company Is Serving Up a Soft Power Win for China in Africa” 

(The Diplomat, Angela Lewis) 2019-02-14

Angela Lewis says that China’s efforts to gain soft power through “culture” and “media” since the turn of the century have been mostly unsuccessful. However, she says, China’s state affiliated but privately-held pay television company, StarTimes, has been making huge progress in Africa, where it is partnering with African broadcasters and other organizations to provide new access for African television consumers to news channels and digital satellite infrastructure. StarTimes subscribers, which are already just under 8million, are expected to nearly double in the next 5 years. StarTimes has been hugely successful in untapped subscriber markets through an initiative called the 10,000 Villages Project, which appeals to rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. China’s ability to appeal to areas that are viewed as “left behind” by the United States and other Western powers greatly increases its image and soft power in those regions relative to the United States.


“Beijing Backs Jail Term for Chinese Ivory Queen Yang Fenglan in Tanzania” 

(South China Morning Post, Laurie Chen) 2019-02-20

(Chinese businesswoman Yang Fenglan, 69, was jailed for 15 years on Tuesday by a Tanzanian court. Photo: Reuters)
(Chinese businesswoman Yang Fenglan, 69, was jailed for 15 years on Tuesday by a Tanzanian court. Photo: Reuters)

Beijing has endorsed the 15-year jail-term placed on one of its nationals over her actions in the export of Ivory from Africa. Yang Fenglan, also known as the “Ivory Queen” she was convicted in smuggling 2 tons of tusks from 350 elephants, leading one of Africa’s largest underground Ivory Trafficking Rings after she arrived in Tanzania in 1975. Beijing’s condemnation of Yang’s actions suggests that it plans to make good on its 2018 promise to clamp down on the lucrative Ivory trade. Conservation groups hope that the jailing of Yang is the beginning of more convictions for individuals engaged in poaching and the trade of Ivory.


China in Latin America 

“Chinese Electric Buses Make Headway in Latin America” 

(China Dialogue, Angres Bermudez Lievano) 2019-02-18

Four large Latin American cities will debut fleets of Chinese electric buses in the first half of 2019, according to a report by Diálogo Chino. Santiago, Chile has the largest fleet by far, with 100 Chinese buses already deployed and another 100 being deployed soon. Colombia and Ecuador also have plans for Chinese electric buses in their large cities. In addition to these cities, Sao Pualo, Buenos Aires, San José, and Montevido have also announced pilot projects with Chinese electric buses that will occur in 2019. Chinese electric buses have faced many barriers trying to enter Latin America in the past, but the technology will be beneficial to the region, which is facing extremely high greenhouse gas emissions.


“Exclusive: China to Combine Africa, Latin America Investment Funds” 

(Caixing Global, Peng Qinqin, Fran Wang, and Wu Gang) 2019-02-19

(The State Administration of Foreign Exchange in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2018. Photo: VCG)
(The State Administration of Foreign Exchange in Beijing on Sept. 3, 2018. Photo: VCG)

The China-Africa Fund for Industrial Cooperation (CAFIC) and the China-LAC Industrial Cooperation Investment Fund, which are the two funds specializing in investment in Chinese investment in Africa and Latin America, respectively, will reportedly be unified under one new management company set up by the Investment Center of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The Chinese government decided to combine the management of the two organizations in order to better serve the interests of Chinese companies that are working in both Africa and Latin America, which most of them do. The new management will mainly oversee the organizations’ project appraisal and investment decisions.


“The Latest: China Rebukes Foreign Opponents of Maduro” 

(WTOP, The Associated Press) 2019-02-25

China’s foreign ministry issued a statement rebuking foreign opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposing external intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Currently, there are violent protests breaking out in Venezuela due to President Nicolas Maduro’s blocking of aid shipments organized by his opposition, Juan Guaido. The borders have been closed for four days now, and there have been hundreds of injuries and at least four deaths, as President Maduro’s troops are using excessive force. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that China urges Venezuela’s political parties to resolve the current conflict through laws and dialogue while disapproving of the use of humanitarian aid as a means of influencing politics.