Chinese and US Engagement with Developing Countries News Roundup
July 29 – August 2

How is China addressing concerns about its lending practices? What do world leaders think of the US-China trade conflict? How is Hong Kong’s government responding to pressure from protesters? Are Western fears of Huawei spying justified? Learn about key developments in U.S.-China and U.S.-China-Africa relations through the Carter Center China Program News Roundup.

China Unveils BRI Debt Sustainability Framework

(China Africa Research Initiative, 27 Aug. 2019)
In response to growing criticism of Chinese lending practices, China emphasized debt sustainability at the second Belt and Road Forum in April. China’s Ministry of Finance also recently unveiled a new document, Debt Sustainability Framework for Participating Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative. Published in Chinese and English, the document highlights that China does not perceive a high risk of debt distress as unsustainable, and that China considers short-run debt a tool to increase the rate of economic growth in the long-term. Dr. Joanna Malm, a Ph.D. Fellow at Roskilde University’s Department of Society and Business, notes that China’s articulated perspective on economic growth differs from that of IMF.

South African Finance Minister Criticizes Trade War

(Forbes, 3 Sept. 2019)
At a press conference ahead of the World Economic Forum, South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni stated that the U.S.-China trade war is the most significant threat to emerging markets. Mboweni stated, “The biggest issue is the global trade tensions which are consuming the world. The trade war between the US and China is not helpful and is affecting the markets generally whether it’s the commodity markets or the currency markets.” Mboweni lauded the benefits of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), stating that African economic organization represents a key bulwark of free trade against a “background of the trade wars.”

Xi Jinping Invokes Mao in Face of ‘Concentrated Risks’

(Reuters, 3 Sept. 2019, Photo by Global Times, Dec 13. 2015)
In his most recent speech to Chinese Communist Party officials, General Secretary Xi Jinping warned that China faces a period of economic, political, and diplomatic “concentrated risks.” Invoking Mao’s popular notion of douzheng, or struggle, XinhuaNet writes that Xi called on officials to “strengthen their ability to struggle” and strive to achieve “the two centenary goals and the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.” With the burgeoning impact of Trump’s trade war, slowing Chinese economic growth, and political instability in Hong Kong, commentators have noted Xi Jinping’s call for Party unity may be well-warranted.

Japan Plans Africa Investment

(CNN, 30 Aug. 2019)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan’s private sector will invest $20 billion in Africa over the next three years and intends to train 3,000 people as part of a human resource development program over the next six years. This program will promote future Japan-Africa business relations, and aid Japan’s long-term goal of building partnerships with Africa. Jonathan Berkshire Miller, senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, says, “Japan wants to see its billions of aid to the continent used towards sustainable development that benefits the lives of Africa and Africans — not merely the narrow interests of one power.” Miller went on to say, “Japan does not see Africa as a ground for zero-sum competition with Beijing – but is rather looking for ways to enhance its longstanding engagement to promote healthy governance and sustainable business.” Japanese investments in Africa have been substantially smaller than Chinese investments, with China investing $43 billion in 2017 and Japan investing $9 billion in the same year.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Withdraws Extradition Bill

(Reuters, 3 Sept. 2019, Photo by Asia Times, 4 Sept. 2019)
After months of protests in Hong Kong, chief executive Carrie Lam has announced that the city will formally withdraw a bill that would have allowed people facing criminal charges in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial, meeting one of the protesters’ five demands. Despite this step, commentators say that protests are likely to continue. Protest leader Joshua Wong commented that Lam’s move was “too little, too late.” The protesters’ other demands include “the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies, the release of all arrested demonstrators, an independent inquiry into the police perceived brutality and the right for Hong Kong people to democratically choose their own leaders.” China has warned that “Hong Kong’s status as part of China is not up for discussion” and that it will not allow the protests to disrupt its security and sovereignty.

Huawei Employees Helped African Governments Spy On Political Opponents

(CNBC, 14 Aug. 2019)
A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Huawei employees helped the Ugandan and Zambian governments spy on their respective political opponents. This espionage included interception of encrypted communications and social media and the use of cell data to track locations. The WSJ investigation found no evidence suggesting that Huawei executives approved or were aware of their employees’ activities and no evidence of Chinese government involvement. Additionally, the WSJ found no unique features of Huawei technology that would facilitate spying activity. Huawei denies all allegations of spying, saying that it has “never been engaged in ‘hacking’ activities,” and that the allegations against Huawei employees are “unfounded and inaccurate.” Huawei stated, “We have neither the contracts, nor the capabilities,” to engage in the alleged espionage.

China Conducts Joint Naval Drill with Egypt

(XinhuaNet, 21 Aug. 2019, Photo by english.sina.com, 10 Sept. 2015)
According to XinhuaNet, naval forces from Egypt and China conducted a joint drill in the Mediterranean Sea on August 21. Operations included “several activities on combating terrorism and fostering maritime security, inspections of ships, and sailing at night.”