The US thinks China is a “pernicious economic competitor with no morals” whose booming investments in Africa are propping up unsavory regimes, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
The frank assessment by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was among the latest revelations in thousands of documents released by whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks.
“China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons,” Carson said in a February meeting with oil executives in Nigeria.
“China is in Africa for China primarily,” he said, according to a confidential Feb. 23 cable written by the US consul-general in Lagos.
Carson said another reason was to “secure votes in the United Nations from African countries” to forward China’s own aims and also to depress diplomatic support for its rival Taiwan.
Beijing had pumped a total of US$9.3 billion into Africa by the end of last year, according to the China-Africa Trade and Economic Relationship Annual Report 2010, launched in October by a government-linked research institute.
Investment in the continent reached US$1.44 billion last year alone, compared with US$220 million in 2000, the report said, reflecting China’s growing interest in Africa’s resources to fuel its fast-growing economy.
More than 1,600 Chinese businesses are investing in Africa in the mining, processing, commerce, agriculture, construction and manufacturing sectors, state media has said, citing the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
China has been criticized by the West for its support of hardline leaders such as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, but many African leaders praise Beijing for not preaching to them over human rights.
“The United States will continue to push democracy and capitalism while Chinese authoritarian capitalism is politically challenging,” Carson said.
Beijing pursues a -“contrarian” approach by dealing with the “Mugabes and Bashirs of the world,” he said.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no immediate comment yesterday on the details of the messages on China’s policies in Africa. It has thus far refused to comment on the specifics of the documents involving Beijing.
Another cable sent by the US ambassador to Kenya on Feb. 17 said Nairobi had received weapons and ammunition from China in support of its “Jubaland initiative,” referring to a Somali border province.
The east African state has also received telecoms and computer equipment from China for its intelligence services, the memo said.
The cable says a Chinese telecoms firm was granted a contract for landline monitoring equipment with the help of corrupt officials, one of whom received monthly payments of more than US$5,000 used to pay “medical bills.”