By Paul Chung
Xi Jinping and the gracefully fashionable first lady, Peng Liyuan, arrived in Dar es Salaam on Sunday as part of Xi’s maiden overseas tour.
Xi, who was elected China’s new president this month, will continue to South Africa and make a final stop in Congo before returning to Beijing. In South Africa, he will attend the fifth BRICS leaders meeting held in Durban.
Xi’s African tour immediately follows a two-day state visit to Moscow in which the president and Vladimir Putin discussed military cooperation, geopolitics, and energy security.
Xi’s rhetoric in Africa, however, will be decidedly different. The African tour comes at a time when China now exerts tremendous soft power and influence over resource-rich Africa. Xi must prove that Beijing is still committed to balancing Sino-African trade relations and promoting the continent’s long-term economic development track, not just resource extraction for its own economic growth. Sino-African trade has doubled since 2007 to more than $200 billion. In 2009, China became Africa’s largest trading partner.
“China-Africa cooperation is comprehensive. No matter whether [a country] is rich or poor in resources, China treats it equally and actively carries out pragmatic cooperation that benefits both sides,” said Xi prior to the trip.
But not everyone is convinced. At a time when more and more African leaders are skeptical about China’s growing influence, it remains to be seen how the new leadership in Beijing will set the tone of future Sino-African relations.
Not to mention that Taiwan totally showed China up when a talented group of African orphans from Malawi, Swaziland, and Lesotho living in Taiwanese orphanages visited the island to express their relentless gratitude. Where’s the love for China?