News Analysis: U.S. hits hurdle in promoting "beware of China" doctrine

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, January 24, 2023
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DAKAR/NAIROBI, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is visiting Senegal, Zambia and South Africa with a purpose said to continue emphasizing cooperation with Africa to counter the growing influence of so-called rivals, including China, on the continent -- the same purpose as that held by other U.S. officials in their intensive visits to Africa in recent months.

But what Yellen may not realize is that when she steps off the plane onto the boarding bridge, she is likely heading to a terminal built by a Chinese company. Her car will also be driving on a road or bridge built by a Chinese contractor. Modern infrastructure built by China can be found almost everywhere in African countries.

The highway between Blaise Diagne International Airport, Mbour and Thies, located about 30 km east of Senegal's capital Dakar, connects several of the country's major cities. Like the Mbour-Fatick-Kaolack highway currently under construction, both road projects are funded by Chinese corporations and they will strengthen Senegal's highway network and connectivity between the coast and the interior.

Senegalese President Macky Sall highlighted the two projects as he thanked China for its continued support for "all the beautiful infrastructure" created under the Plan for an Emerging Senegal, a policy framework including aims to advance the country's road system by 2035.

Sall also expressed his thanks at the inauguration of the Foundiougne Bridge, financed by Senegal and the Export-Import Bank of China. The bridge, considered the longest river bridge in West Africa and built by a Chinese construction company, shortens the distance between the southern Casamance region and the rest of Senegal across the Gambia, strengthening the country's ties with other countries in the sub-region.

During her trip, Yellen boasted that the United States offers a "better and more reliable way" for the continent to grow and prosper and, like her administration, blamed China's practices and investments in Africa and highlighted a so-called "legacy of unsustainable debt."

However, according to a report by the British non-governmental organization Debt Justice, African governments owe three times as much debt to Western private lenders as to China, and these Western lenders charge twice as much interest as China does.

African scholars and economists say the so-called "debt trap" narrative clamoured by the West is unfair to China. "The debt trap issue has been a political smear," said Charles Onunaiju, director of the Nigeria-based Center for China Studies, adding that such claims are just a red herring to absolve the West of any responsibility.

Moreover, Chinese investments in Africa are mainly aimed at building infrastructure and helping the countries strengthen its own sustainable development. Adem Feto, a researcher at Ethiopia's Arsi University, argues that the use of Chinese loans is productive as it targets the infrastructure, health and education sectors.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said during his visit in Africa this month that China is an active participant in the Group of 20 (G20) Debt Service Suspension Initiative. China has signed agreements or reached consensuses with 19 African countries on debt relief and has suspended the most debt service payments among G20 members.

He added that China has also engaged in resolving the debt problems of a number of countries, including Zambia, within the G20 framework.

In addition to experts on international relations and economics, African netizens also questioned the accusations made by U.S. officials against China.

One of the issues raised by them on social networks drew a broad consensus: Yellen accuses China for trapping poor African countries in debt. China canceled many debts. What has America done recently for Africa other than whining and bitching?

Despite U.S. claims that the African continent is a key partner in its global value chains, Africa accounts for less than 2 percent of total U.S. import and export trade. U.S. trade with Africa has been declining year after year.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the value of overall U.S. exports to Africa dropped from 32.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 to 26.7 billion in 2021, while imports have fallen from 93 billion dollars in 2011 to 37.6 billion in 2021. Enditem

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