Author: Ian Taylor, Yuhua Xiao.
The emergence of major Chinese economic and political stakes in Africa is arguably the most important process to have emerged on the African continent since the end of the Cold War. China is now Africa's second most important trading partner, behind the United States but ahead of France and the United Kingdom. Relations are a continuation of Sino-African historical ties, propelled by China's desire to obtain new sources of raw materials and energy for its ongoing economic growth and new export markets for China-based producers on the one hand, and African elites' initiatives to find a non-Western option/leverage on the other hand. However, various commentators have misunderstood the nature of this expansion. It is common for observers to talk of either Chinese “colonization” of Africa, or of “China Inc.'s” venture into Africa. Both views are wide of the mark and reflect an ignorance of the dynamics underpinning the developing relationships between Chinese and African actors.