Leaked Cables: How the US Views China's Engagement in Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao reach out to shake hands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

The U.S. is closely monitoring China’s rising influence and engagement in Africa, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, a nonprofit media organization that specializes in leaking classified government information. The U.S. believes the emerging Asian donor is in Africa primarily for its own interest, one of the leaked cables said.

“China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa for China primarily,” a February 2010 cable from the U.S. embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, said.

The cable also stated that China is using its engagement in Africa to “secure votes in the United Nations from African countries.”

The memo was based on a conversation with U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson, according to the Guardian. The newspaper says other documents claim that China is providing intelligence and military support to Kenya as well as weapons “in support of its Somalia policies.”

A memo from the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, advised that the U.S. be cautious in its dealings with China in Kenya because of “dovetailing” interests. The memo also included concern over the Chinese counterfeit goods that have been prevalent in the Kenyan market.

“The GOC [government of China] turns a blind eye to the flooding of the Kenyan market with Chinese counterfeit goods, such as batteries, which directly damage U.S. market share here; and the GOC has not demonstrated any commitment to curb ivory poaching,” the document claimed as quoted by the Guardian.

The past years saw China’s rise as one of the key donors in Africa, providing mostly investment-driven aid without strings attached. Devex has reported that the Asian country’s engagement in the continent has caused unease within the international development community for several years, but has since been welcomed by a number of key players such as the U.K.

>> Western Donors Embrace China for African Development

Devex has also reported that, based on some of the first batch of U.S. cables made public by WikiLeaks, African officials prefer untied Chinese aid over planned U.S.-China development cooperation in Africa because of fears that the latter will slow down the flow of assistance to the region.

>> Leaked Cables Point to Africa’s Preference For Untied Chinese Aid

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.