Chinese activities in Africa have expanded massively during the last decade. To be sure, most of this has been purely economic—such as bartering access to natural resources in exchange for loans.
But these money-making activities have grown so much in recent years, China is realizing it can’t keep relying on African governments to protect them—and the thousands of Chinese nationals who’ve moved to the continent.
Beijing isn’t giving up on making business deals in Africa. Far from it. It’s just that protecting those economic ties is turning into a job for the Chinese military.
David Shinn, a former American ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso—and an expert on China-Africa relations—believes Chinese investment in Africa will slow down over the next 15 years.
But there’s a catch. China’s military will grow to take a more prominent role. “The other sectors are pretty well advanced at this point, and the security connection is still relatively modest,” Shin tells War Is Boring.
“Although it’s grown a lot, particularly since the Chinese got involved in 2008 in the anti-piracy operation off Somalia,” he adds. “That has significantly increased ship visits to Africa—and not just on the east coast—but throughout Africa.”
China’s economic growth and internal stability relies on free and open trade routes. In 2008, when Somali pirates began abducting merchant ships on a weekly basis—and jacking up insurance costs—China joined the international naval mission to stop the hijackers.