26 June 2009


Kerry Brown

Professor Kerry Brown

Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Dr Zhang Chun


  • The Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), established to coordinate relations between the two entities, is due to hold its next meeting later this year. This paper assesses what the outcomes from that meeting will be on this evolving, dynamic, and complex relationship.
  • China's involvement in African countries goes back many years. Relationships from mid 1950s to late 1970s based more on emotional intimacy than that of 1980s and the period after the cold war. To some extent, the current relationship builds more on pragmatic economic considerations. China is already Africa's third largest trading partner.
  • China is a complex actor, and Africa a complex continent. China, while predominantly state led in its behaviour, differs depending on which country it works in Africa, how it works, and what actors are involved, be they state, or non state, companies.
  • Some of this involvement has been positive, with major investment, under very flexible terms, going to aid projects. Some has been highly problematic, causing China reputational damage.
  • In the coming years, China will almost certainly increase its interests in Africa.