The European Business Council for Africa

Is China still a “systemic rival” for the EU? It depends who you ask. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left no doubt that she supports the designation at her news conference following the recent EU-China summit. But top EU diplomat Josep Borrell has sent conflicting signals on the matter, calling the label “controversial.” Lately he has begun pointing out that Beijing is not a “systematic rival,” when no one ever said it was. While France’s Emmanuel Macron has used the term “rival" in relation to China, Germany’s Angela Merkel has never done so in public. Last year, according to German officials, she complained that the term was beginning to define the relationship with China and urged diplomats to put the focus back on areas of partnership with Beijing. Since then, the tone used by officials in Berlin when talking about China has softened. As one told me: “We do not oppose the use of systemic rival. But this term did not come from us and we don’t view it as binding.”

Over the past 20 years there’s been remarkable growth in China-Africa links because of increased trade and investment. As a result there’s also been a great deal of movement of people between China and African countries. It’s estimated that there are now about 500,000 Africans in China, while the the number of Chinese in the 54 African countries ranges between one and two million. 

Though Chinese people can now be found in most African countries, there’s a claim that some commentators and media outlets make: that they hold themselves apart from their host societies.

The U.S. government is leading the world’s humanitarian and health assistance response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are mobilizing all necessary resources to respond rapidly, both at home and abroad. As part of this comprehensive and generous U.S. response, the State Department and USAID are providing an initial investment of nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to help countries in need, on top of the funding we already provide to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Even though China spends considerably less than the U.S. and Europeans on public health assistance in Africa, Beijing is seemingly dominating the narrative with its high profile donations of food, PPE, and medical missions.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping made preserving diplomatic ties in Africa a centerpiece of his opening address at the World Health Assembly earlier this week, as Beijing faces a backlash among some Western democracies for its role in the coronavirus pandemic. 

With the traditional big donors to Africa, such as Europe and the United States, focused on containing the continued spread of the virus, Xi moved to position China, which has its own outbreak largely under control, as the global leader in health.
At the gathering of World Health Organization (WHO) member states, Xi pledged to give $2 billion to the WHO over the next two years to assist developing economies -- and reminded Africa that its long relationship with Beijing had seen Chinese aid help treat 200 million Africans over the past seven decades

China is seizing on the global disruption created by Covid-19 to go for broke in asserting leadership and positioning itself as the most consequential external actor on the African continent. Right now, it is meeting little effective resistance from Europe or the United States. Whether or not China’s attempt to use this crisis to its advantage fully succeeds will depend on how the Chinese manage the internal contradictions inherent in its approach.

China has long sought to portray itself as a friendly, non-judgmental alternative to partners like Europe and the United States, appealingly free from the baggage of colonialism and Cold War machinations on the continent.  In promoting the ‘Chinese model’ of development fuelled by state capitalism and authoritarian governance, China has enjoyed a great deal of success. It is Africa’s indispensable infrastructure partner, has deeply penetrated African markets, and accrued significant influence over African governments with its generous financing packages.

Reportage of the biggest indipendent media channel in Quebec "7 Jours sur Terre" and the Canadian journalist and broadcaster Benjamin Tremblay on how China is behaving in Africa. 

You can watch the video here.



Clean up the foreign trash!”. “Don’t turn our hometown into an international rubbish dump.” “This is China, not Nigeria!” Resembling the anti-migrant racist hatred you frequently see on UK social media, these are just a few examples of countless anti-African rants from Weibo users in China in a surge of popular racism over the past month.

Despite the huge amount of censorship on China’s social media, none of these posts have been removed. Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have become the primary target of suspicion, racial discrimination and abuse amid public fear of a second wave of Covid-19. And this intolerance has peaked in Guangzhou, a city of 12 million people in the highly industrialised Guangdong province.

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Despite a truce, US-EU trade relations are still tense

As recently as a week ago, a big transatlantic bust-up seemed inevitable, with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland the most likely boxing ring. America had taken offence at France’s digital-services tax, which hits the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google, on the ground that it discriminates against American companies. The French had insisted that the tax was only a temporary measure and would be repealed as soon as governments were able to reach a multilateral agreement on tax reform. The Americans, unconvinced, were poised to whack duties on $2.4bn of French champagne, beauty products and handbags.

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Global investment flows flat in 2019, moderate increase expected in 2020

Foreign direct investment fell slightly from US$1.41 trillion in 2018 to $1.39 trillion in 2019. Flows to developed countries decreased by 6%, while those to developing economies were unchanged.

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