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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is China Good for Africa?: A Brief History of Sino-African Relations

[See part 1]

The history of interactions between China and Africa is a relatively short one. The early 1400s saw the first Chinese visits to Africa when the Ming Emperors began dispatching ships to the continent's Eastern coast. Between this initial contact, when both parties were relatively powerful in their own spheres of influence, and now, both Africa and China underwent periods of brutal subjugation at the hands of Western colonial powers. These colonial experiences helped develop a mistrust amongst both Chinese and Africans towards the intentions of outsiders, particularly Westerners, which lasts to this day.

Some of the more notable, contemporary relations between China and Africa date back to the 1960s when China undertook major infrastructure projects as part of the Cold War competition for influence in the post-colonial developing world. The Chinese took a break from courting African nations to concentrate on internal affairs in the 1980s but have recently returned with the intention of gaining access to various African natural resources that China needs to fuel its economic expansion.

This economic expansion has given China increased prestige as a major player on the world stage, something Chinese modernizers have sought since the period that Chinese historians call Chinas "Century of Humiliation". This period extends from the Opium Wars beginning in 1840 through the Japanese invasion and occupation of China during World War II. As Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Representatives and an expert on China, noted, "This period has dramatically shaped the world view of the last three generations of Chinese modernizers." It first drove Mao's Communist revolution and then the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, which have set the stage for the current economic rise of China.

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