China in Africa

Myths, Realities and Opportunities

Mthuli Ncube is Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank. He holds a PhD in Mathematical Finance from Cambridge University. Michael Fairbanks is Senior Advisor to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and co-founder of ISOKO Institute. He was a Fellow at the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University.

Published in Harvard International Review Fall 2012

Myths and realities about China’s ambitions in Africa abound: China is monolithic, mired in stale ideology, subverting the Bretton Woods system, and unwilling to provide global public goods. Another is that China has no “soft power,” that is, the ability to engage almost one billion Africans by persuasion, attraction and market relations rather than brute economic and military force.

These myths, which cause some to conclude that China is interested in a “resource grab,” or aiming to displace the West, may cause strategic errors by other nations or the global governing institutions. It hurts the interests of Africans who have made great strides to eradicate poverty, build democratic institutions, and integrate into global networks of trade and investment.

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