Russia and China in Africa: Prospective Partners or Asymmetric Rivals?

Image: Getty, Gianluigi Guercia/AFP
Image: Getty, Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

Since 2000, China and Russia have established their standing as resurgent great powers in Africa. The expansion of China’s influence in Africa has been undergirded by its economic might.

Summary:

  • Since 2000, China and Russia have established their standing as resurgent great powers in Africa.
  • The expansion of China’s influence in Africa is undergirded by its economic might, exemplified by Beijing’s lead role in facilitating connectivity projects across the continent.
  • Russia’s resurgence in Africa appears opportunistic, as Moscow has capitalised on state fragility and protracted conflicts to secure mining concessions and lucrative arms deals.
  • Russia’s involvement in Africa is underpinned by a strategic pursuit of great power status. It has positioned itself as a crisis-proof partner for countries facing economic isolation and has deployed private military contractors to influence the trajectory of local conflicts in its favour.
  • Although the Soviet Union and China were asymmetric rivals in Africa from the 1960s to the 1980s, the current Sino–Russian relationship is more cordial.
  • Russia and China coordinate on challenging Western norms, eroding US-initiated unilateral sanctions and supporting non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
  • Limited strategic coordination in the economic and security spheres and infrequent dialogue on regional conflicts suggest that Sino–Russian relations in Africa resemble a competitive partnership, which falls short of bilateral cooperation.

15 Dec 2021