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A Better Africa for Africans Is Goal of U.S. Policy
The ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy in Africa is to create a better environment for Africans and better prospects for their future, and not to compete with China for influence. <br /> <br />Summing up U.S. policy toward China and its
The ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy in Africa is to create a better environment for Africans and better prospects for their future, and not to compete with China for influence.

Summing up U.S. policy toward China and its operations in Africa, Thomas Christensen, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said, "There is no zero-sum competition between China and the United States in Africa."

The United States "will continue to work with the Chinese to try to make their policies ... their investments and their assistance in Africa more effective for the long term. The best way to do that," he said, "is to have them along with others encourage African governments to adopt good governance practices and to create the foundations for long-term stability."

Christensen, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs James Swan both made that point in testimony June 4, 2008, before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

Christensen said China, like the many nations that trade and invest in Africa, has multiple goals and three major objectives: to secure supplies of resources and markets for Chinese exports; to increase China's power and prestige on the international stage as a leader of the developing world; and to compete with Taiwan for diplomatic recognition by African states.

China's role in Africa from the U.S. perspective, Christensen told the lawmakers, largely has been positive. "On an abstract level, China's own domestic reforms and opening up to the outside world provide a good example for some of the more insulated economies on the continent, and on a more concrete level, we believe that China's investment in infrastructure and in the building of businesses in Africa provides positive results for the African people."

The United States, Christensen said, "is encouraging China to do more in Africa (and worldwide), albeit in coordination with the United States, the major donors and the international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank."

Christensen quickly cautioned, however, that "Chinese aid and investment policies are not transparent and ... generally lack the conditionality that has been attached by the leading donors and by those international institutions." That conditionality, he said, is "designed to encourage good governance," which he called "the foundation of sustained economic development there."

The United States engages China with regard to Africa on a broad array of senior-level dialogues, he told the lawmakers.

Christensen readily acknowledged that China's engagement in Africa has grown very quickly but cautioned everyone to "keep things in perspective." China's aid to Africa is somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion annually, he said, an amount "significantly lower" than aid from the United States, the European Community and international institutions.

China's total investment stock to date in Africa, Christensen said, stands several times less than the level of U.S. investment. To put things in perspective, in the energy sector, he said, the United States estimates that China's production in Africa is about one-third of the total production of one U.S. firm -- Exxon Mobil Corp.

Going forward, Christensen said, the United States is "trying to encourage better aid and investment practices that will not only better assist African development but will ... help China's own reputation on the continent."

Christensen said the Chinese government is composed of "multiple agencies" that are all working on a broad array of aid and investment policies and projects for Africa and that they are not particularly well coordinated.

Christensen said U.S. aid packages to Africa -- such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President's Malaria Initiative -- have grown very quickly this past decade.

In his comments, Swan reminded lawmakers that China's engagement with Africa is not new and that it initiated bilateral assistance to Africa in 1956. Swan reiterated that the aid China gives Africa annually is "significantly overshadowed" by the more than $30 billion in assistance given by the United States, EU and multilateral institutions.

That said, he acknowledged, "there is no question that China's economic and commercial engagement in Africa has increased dramatically and diversified in the last several years."

China is now Africa's second-largest trading partner after the United States, he said, and Africa is becoming an increasingly important export market for Chinese consumer goods. Swan said it is the Africans themselves who largely will shape the relationship with China.

Swan outlined areas where greater cooperation with China would be welcome, like partnering in post-conflict security-sector reform in Africa.
Focusing on Sudan, he said, the U.S. dialogue with China on Darfur continues and is "now producing results." Swan said the United States has welcomed positive trends in Chinese behavior with regard to Darfur and Sudan and said the United States has told them "frankly, we think they could do a lot more."

Additionally, he said, the United States has encouraged China to reconsider its close military relationships with repressive military regimes in Africa, which harms China's public profile. He said there also may be some additional opportunities for cooperation in non-security sectors in Africa, such as health and agriculture.

The text of statements prepared for the hearing is available on the Senate committee Web site.