‘China-powered’ African Agency and its Limits: The Case of the DRC 2007–2019

Le président chinois Xi Jinping (2e à gauche) rencontre Bruno Tshibala Nzenze (2e à droite), le Premier ministre de la République démocratique du Congo lors d’une réunion au Palais du peuple, le 6 septembre 2018 à Pékin, en Chine. Image: Getty, Lintao Zhang
Le président chinois Xi Jinping (2e à gauche) rencontre Bruno Tshibala Nzenze (2e à droite), le Premier ministre de la République démocratique du Congo lors d’une réunion au Palais du peuple, le 6 septembre 2018 à Pékin, en Chine. Image: Getty, Lintao Zhang

Does China provide African countries with ‘China-powered’ agency to challenge other external actors for their own political benefit?

Summary:

  • The issue of whether dealing with China saps African countries of agency, or actually increases it, is a long-running controversy.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo is a particularly important case study of how much African countries can control their external relations via engagement with China.
  • The Sicomines deal – an extremely controversial resources-for-infrastructure loan deal in 2007 – allowed the DRC to maximise its agency by playing off China and western entities against each other.
  • However, China learned from this experience, and it changed Chinese practices on the continent.
  • The DRC example shows how African countries both possess agency, and how it is circumscribed by external factors.
12 Nov 2020
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Research by
Series
SAIIA Policy Insights No 96, November 2020
Country
China, Democratic Republic of Congo
SAIIA Programme
Foreign Policy
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