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Jörg Friedrichs: Reasonable personnel exchange management serves the interests of China and Africa

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Dr.Jörg Friedrichs, Senior Fellow in Political Security

Jörg Friedrichs is Associate Professor at ODID and Official Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. Taking a broad transdisciplinary approach to academic research, his main interests are in the fields of international relations and political sociology. Among other things, he has proposed a new intercultural theory of international relations.

Reasonable personnel exchange management serves the interests of China and Africa

1.One of the key challenges, some experts believe that developing countries in general, but African countries in particular, in relationship with China need to do is really developing their own strategy and planning process in terms of foreign policy. What is your opinion on the foreign policy of African countries?

There is nothing wrong with developing countries in general, and African countries in particular, learning from China, India, or any other country when it comes to developing their own strategy and planning process. Indeed, we should never play learning from others against developing our own approach. In fact, only fools develop their own approach without considering what has worked for others before them.

The issue is, really, how African countries balance short-term needs for investment against long-term interest in investment that yields sufficient returns, and how they balance the narrow interests of governing elites against the wider interests of the societies these elites claim to represent. To be sustainable, any regime — democratic or otherwise — needs to govern in the perceived interest of the population.

This is a challenge for African states, some of whom seem to be so much in need of investment that they hardly develop a strategy regarding returns on that investment, and often seem to consider the direct interests of ruling elites more than the wider interests of the population — despite the fact that many African countries already suffer from limited stability and need popular legitimacy for regime survival.

2.In addition to obtaining better diplomatic relations, what other benefits do China's massive aid in Africa have?

China is locking in secure supply of resources and gaining status on the world stage. It becomes harder for Western or any other countries to impose sanctions against China. Fewer states engage in diplomatic relations with Taipei. African countries offer an outlet for countless Chinese migrants, allowing them to progress in their careers and accumulate wealth faster than they could in China itself. Especially at a time when China is struggling to accommodate the many millions of people who move into cities every year, it seems beneficial for Chinese domestic stability if there are promising opportunities elsewhere.

That said, overseas migration is one of the areas where China’s relations with African countries may turn conflictual. When Chinese workers and businesspeople outcompete the African entrepreneurs and the local labour force, this can be hugely unpopular in African countries and lead to political backlash. Therefore, a reasonable level of migration management is in the interest of both China and African countries.

3. Recently, China and the United States issued a joint statement on climate cooperation. Please tell us your latest understanding of this event.

China and the United States are picking this up where it was left under Obama, during his second term in office. Biden and Xi are raising the level of ambition, as they should, while at the same time competing for the aura of leadership. At the moment, China is one of only few countries that are growing economically at a fast pace. This suggests that China might be at risk of over-committing itself. It could damage China’s reputation if, a few years from now, China still needed to add coal-fired power plants to fuel its growth. Also, some developing countries may want China to invest in fossil-fuelled infrastructure. China could be subject to international criticism if it accommodated such requests despite its commitment to a low-carbon growth strategy. On the other hand, China will gain much praise if it is able to follow words with deeds.

Interviewer: Xu Yiding

Intervie Date:April 23, 2021



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