In May 2020, the Heritage Foundation, a Washington a based think tank published a report entitled “Government Buildings in Africa Are a Likely Vector for Chinese Spying”. The report alleges that China may be monitoring Africa, and that African countries may be exploited economically by China as a result of the alleged surveillance activities. The crux of the matter according to the report is that, China’s increasing influence in Africa is eroding the aged-long hold of the United States (U.S.) within the continent and that steps must be taken to weaken Chinese influence. To give credence to the report, words like, “hypothesis”, “possible” and “estimation” were frequently used to rationalise its blame on China.
Without any convincing evidence, the definitive conclusion of the whole report is that the cooperation between China and Africa affects the interests of the United States, and that the United States must teach Africa how to “avoid danger”.
The report is both shocking and surprising. It is hard to believe that an assumption that “China may be monitoring Africa” would become the title of a supposed credible think tank report that should have been rigorous and objective.
As a conservative think tank that fully supports President Trump, the Heritage Foundation hoodwinked Africa into similar agenda when the United States cracked down on China and made up a report according to its own way of thinking. However, it is worthy of mention that the same United States under Trump, that has treated Africa with so much disdain and scorn, with derogatory and slanderous remarks is pretending to love the continent more than its people. Nothing reveals the love and disposition of the Trump’s America towards Africa than the bellied disdian exemplified in the vexed remarks “shithole countries” speech. On one hand, the administration in Washington would like to show off itself as Africa’s “savior”, trying to teach African countries how to “avoid danger” allegedly posed by China, but would arrogantly tout its conqerous quest over Africa as revealed in the report.
In fact, the logic behind this seemingly volte face attitude is not difficult to understand. As evident in the controversial report, the United States only cares about its own interests in Africa, trying to drag Africa into its dispute with China is still part of her self-serving agenda for self-preservation.
To fully understand the motive behind this report, there are questions that require some attention: 1. Why is the Heritage Foundation pandering to Mr. Trump? 2. What is the role of Western countries in African economic development? 3. What is the true attitude of the United States towards cooperation with China and Africa? 4. How can China and Africa have their own voices?
*The Prejudice of American Think Tanks
American think tanks can be roughly divided into liberals, conservatives and centrists. The liberal think tanks emphasize the role of the government and advocate a peaceful and tolerant foreign policy; the conservative think tanks advocate small government and prevention and containment, and advocate the United States as the first; the policy of the centrist think tanks is between the two. These three types of think tanks in the United States are concerned about China’s issues to varying degrees, but think tanks with different political tendencies tend to produce very different conclusions.
Curiously, soon after the election of Mr. Trump as president, as a conservative traditional foundation, the Heritage Foundation vigorously advocated “military expansion and preparation for war” and “the United States first” mantra suddenly found expression within body. Their views were in line with Trump’s governing philosophy, so they were valued by Trump. Mr. Trump’s military expansion plan is very close to the 2016 military strength index released by the Heritage Foundation; note also that “Trump’s campaign and transition team are also full of American conservative think tanks.”
To underscore the correlation, no sooner President Trump took office than he started withdrawing from international organizations, provoking trade wars against various countries, pursueing counter globalization and repudiating multilateralism to which the United States had long promoted and fully subscribed. It can be said that his coming to power has profoundly changed the political ecology and foreign policy of the United States. In order to cooperate with Mr. Trump, some think tanks in the United States have gradually abandoned the principle of neutrality and objectivity, and have written a large number of reports containing political and cultural prejudice, especially for developing countries. It is the analysis and judgment of political, economic, livelihood and other issues of other countries which seriously deviated from the objective facts through reports, index rating and other methods for countries that are regarded as threats by the United States, such as China, Iran and Venezuela.
Take the Covid-19 pandemic as an example. In 2019, Johns Hopkins University of the United States released the ranking of global health and safety index in 2019, which aims at assessing the ability of countries to prevent pandemic. In the rating of the US think tank, the United States ranked first with 83.5 points, while China ranked 51st with 48.2 points. But this does not reflect the reality as results in 2020 show. The United States became the worst-hit country with highest fatality rate in the world in the fight against the new epidemic.
In addition, in the reports of American think tanks, the United States is always at the top of the list of countries with best human rights record in the world. But with a large-scale riot against racial discrimination that broke out in the United States this year, it is obvious these things are not as presented. In people’s cognition, think tanks are “non-profit organizations that are independent of the government, political parties and interest groups, and are engaged in the analysis of public policy issues”. But in the context of increasingly serving political interests, people begin to doubt the authority of American think tanks. As a representative of conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation of the United States has been serving the political interests of the Republican Party, making it more political and ideological than other think tanks.
Hence, its controversial report in question dubiously dubbed the friendly cooperation between China and Africa as the main danger facing the United States, and drawn a rash conclusion that the “challenges” brought about by China’s expanding influence in Africa can only be solved by the United States. It can be said that the report is full of the consistent cold war thinking of the United States, which shows that the United States is still unwilling to give up “transforming” Africa according to its own ideas. In the specific part of the accusations against China, the report severally used words such as “hypothesis”, “possible” and “estimate” to cover up the lack of evidence.
For example, the report states that Beijing’s eavesdropping on African government buildings likely extends well beyond the AU headquarters，more than half the Huawei devices it tested had at least one possible backdoor, The Chinese state also likely has the capacity to parse the high volume of data they would collect in such a surveillance operation.If the CCP collected embarrassing or harmful information on an African official, it could blackmail cooperation from him or her, Assume that all communication with African government counterparts is vulnerable to Chinese exploitation.
At the end of the accusation against China, the Heritage Foundation has come up with its own “solution”, that is, Embassies should offer assistance to host-country governments with protecting their vital digital networks and infrastructure. This could include best-practices training or technical support for sweeping networks or buildings. The truth of the matter is that the United States itself lacks the will to help Africa build infrastructure, but it tries to let African countries “clean up” existing infrastructure; the United States itself has been exposed as a “PRISM Plan” to monitor the world, but it has no evidence to accuse China of monitoring Africa. This report glibly stated that African countries will face security risks if they use Huawei’s equipment, and the political intention is very obvious. It, however, did not state the kind of security threat it poses.
*China’s infrastructure construction in Africa
If we carefully study the economic situation of African countries, we can understand why the United States is criticising and vilifying China’s infrastructure interventions in Africa. In today’s Africa, every aspect of life, the people’s livelihood are evidently monopolized by Western multinational enterprises. Western countries and enterprises continuously send Africa’s resources, development dividends and raw commodities back to the West. The only thing Western countries are unwilling to do is to help Africa build infrastructure and help African countries improve their self-development ability.
There are some basic facts about the West’s aged-long engagements with Africa which ironically had aided the underdevelopment of the continent: The logistics, finance, energy, telecommunications and other high-profit industries in Africa are all monopolized by Western countries. The largest media group in Africa is French Vivendi Universal. The French Bollore Group controls 25 container terminals and hundreds of port logistics warehouses in Africa. In Africa, Britain mainly controls the banking, financial and communication industries; France controls almost all the former colonial energy, telecommunications, hydropower services and retail industries; Germany has operated in Africa for nearly 100 years in the fields of medical devices, renewable energy and electronic information. At the same time, the United States, Britain and France set up military Bases with troops in Africa in their psychological warfare to control African countries.
It is a known fact that, infrastructure is an important foundation and basis for a country’s economic development. Having good infrastructure can improve the lives of African people and help African countries develop their economies. However, due to the large investment requirements and low-profit in infrastructure construction, Western countries, which are used to making a lot of monopoly profits in Africa, are unwilling to help Africa build infrastructure for a long time. Many African countries have not built any new railways since independence. Because of its own similar colonial experience and history, China has supported the national Independence movement of African countries since the 1960s.
After the reform and opening up, China, with its rapid economic development, began to help African countries build infrastructure. China has built a large number of railways, highways, airports, ports and hydropower stations in Africa. On this basis, China has carried out economic cooperation to enable African countries to improve their infrastructure. The West has never been willing to do so in the post independence era of African countries.
*America’s true attitude towards Africa）
In 2018, U.S. President Trump openly declared that African countries are “shithole countries”. This vulgar remark became a subject of headlines in the media and caused a world uproar. Many African countries accused the US president of arrogance and being disrespectful, insulting the African people and collectively demanded apology from Mr. Trump who remains rather unremorseful. But here in this Heritage Foundation’s report, the same United States is still posturing as Africa’s Messiah. “The U.S. should not expect these governments to offer much assistance in ameliorating America’s counterintelligence problem in Africa,” it said. “Some, if asked, or in an attempt to curry CCP favor, may even actively collaborate with Beijing to hinder American efforts to protect its interests on the continent,” it added. It can be seen that the United States has never respected the development rights and interests of African countries and the well-being of their people. The so-called “solution” in this report is nothing more than to maintain the political and economic interests of the United States in Africa and drag Africa into the dispute between China and US.
As a matter of fact, as early as the last century, African countries had taken a lot of detours because of the “American model”. In the late 1990s, the United States vigorously promoted the “Washington Consensus” to Africa, advocating political multiparty and economic liberalization. The evil consequence of economic liberalization is that the undeveloped economies of Africa are all controlled by Western multinational enterprises. Politically, the United States penetrates the governments of African countries through intelligence agencies, government consultants, non-governmental organizations and other means, dominates the political situation of African countries, and does not hesitate to send troops to directly intervene in Africa’s internal affairs. In the 21st century, African countries have spontaneously abandoned the “Washington consensus” and “look east”, and began to explore a path of independent development suitable for their own countries. The influence and attraction of the United States in Africa has gradually declined, which has aroused the dissatisfaction of the United States. This is also the reason why the US government and think tanks are all out to discredit China Africa cooperation.
*The idea and path of China-Africa Cooperation
At present, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown a profound impact on the world pattern. Hegemonism and Unilateralism have dominated the foreign policy of the United States. In China-Africa cooperation, we should be alert to the irrational diplomacy of American politicians, carefully observe and analyze the words and deeds of the US government and think tanks, and recognize the logic behind the US speech.
Take China as an example. After the first outbreak of the epidemic in China, President Trump said at a press conference that “we have received the information about the epidemic situation from the Chinese government. The Chinese government has done a good job in responding to the epidemic situation, and we are willing to help China.
However, when the U.S. government failed in its approach to prevent the spread of the epidemic and the epidemic began to break out on a large scale, the attitude of the American politicians changed from that of indifference to blaming others. China was accused of hiding information and failing to fight the pandemic. When China’s containment efforts on the pandemic improved and began to provide large-scale assistance to other countries in the world, the United States not only failed to offer immediate assistance to other countries, especially those with inadequate medical facilities, but also conscripted medical supplies from other countries in various ways.
Today, the irrational behaiviours of U.S. leadership are increasing. The ideological bias of the United States should not be allowed to strain China-Africa cooperation. In furtherance of China-Africa cooperation, China and Africa countries should uphold the sense of community of common destiny between China and Africa. The well-being of the two people must be the centrepoint and goal of China Africa cooperation.
Academic circles and think tanks should take the initiative to explain and clear the doubts of people in China and Africa and interpret China Africa cooperation objectively. As developing countries, China and African countries should keep the principle of independence, freedom and equality and mutual benefit, find a development path suitable for their own national peculiarities.