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BHM: Checkmating China in Africa 50 years ago

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BHM: Checkmating China in Africa 50 years ago

As Western governments’ perceived fear of Chinese influence in Africa continues to make news, we reveal how recently declassified official British government papers show that checkmating China in Africa, has always been a major Western preoccupation. Cables, marked “secret”, sent from British embassies in Africa to London in the early 1960s, talked about how Britain and its allies could prevent the Chinese from gaining a foothold in Africa.  Tom Mbakwe dissects one such “secret” cable.

This particular cable had a main title, “Communist Chinese Activities in Africa”, and a sub-title, “Chinese Interests and Intentions in Africa”. The main body read:

The Chinese have recently resuscitated the idea, first put forward by Mao Tse-Tung in 1946, of two “intermediate” zones of the world distinct both from the Soviet Union and from the United States. The first zone consists of underdeveloped countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including those still seeking independence; the second of industrialised capitalist countries, including Western Europe, Canada and Australia.

The former is of interest to China both because of her militant communism and because of her urge to establish world influence. She regards the underdeveloped world, and Africa in particular, as a key area in the struggle between East and West. She feels that her example is particularly relevant to underdeveloped countries, and her desire to gain friends and influence in these has been sharpened by the Sino-Soviet quarrel.

China’s interest in Africa began to manifest itself on a serious scale from about the time of her participation in the first Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung in 1955, which the Russians did not attend. The Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation was set up on that occasion with Chinese support.  

[The cable then delved into what the Chinese were up to practically in Africa. The activities included the following]:

(a) The training of selected individuals as communist leaders; the increase of diplomatic relations by 50% during the last 6 months; [there has been] the impact of their powerful propaganda effort; last but not least, the popularity they have earned, e.g. in Guinea and Mali, by the generous terms which their technical assistance is offered and the simple way of life adopted by the [Chinese] technicians themselves.

(b) The main limitations on the Chinese have been the reluctance of Africans to see the Sino-Soviet dispute projected into Africa; the fear felt by thoughtful Africans that China may be regarding their relatively under-populated continent as an eventful outlet for their surplus millions; Chinese inability to provide large scale economic or military aid; the inherent reluctance of Africans to put out the energy necessary to follow the Chinese pattern of “self help”.

(c) The most effective positive counter-measure to Chinese influence is continued Western economic involvement in Africa and the policy of contributing to the continent’s economic development through trade and aid. Britain plays a large part in this. The Commonwealth machinery for continuing consultation is also useful, as are British and Western positive efforts in the field of technical cooperation and information.

2 responses to “BHM: Checkmating China in Africa 50 years ago”

  1. Author Thumbnail Nostradamus_1 says:

    Great article, however it misses the point of most concern. Why are African leaders not checkmating all outside powers who benefit more from Africa countries than African countries? China, Japan, USA, UK,France and Germany and Russia are playing games at Africa’s expense.

    We have seen a succession of puppet leaders who have struck deals that see them and their family’s benefit, while citizens still suffer. Yes, work with foreign companies but ensure there is a tantamount gain which can be seen and felt by the people.

    To be honest, the same can be said about most developing countries as well!

    • Author Thumbnail Anissa Haddadi says:

      Hello, thank you for your comment on BHM: Checkmating China in Africa 50 years ago. We would like to publish this comment in our next print addition, would you be willing to allow that? Comments for publication should bear the full name and address of the writer. Kindly provide us with this information via: editorial@icpublications.com

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