What next for Africa when US-China enters the new Cold War era?
What next for Africa when US-China enters the new Cold War era?

What next for Africa when US-China enters the new Cold War era?

By Peter Kagwanja

The world is on the verge of a new cold war. On April 20, 2021, in his keynote address to the Boao Forum’s Economic Conference in Southern China, President Xi Jinping warned the world against a ‘New Cold War’ and condemned “the unilateralism of certain countries”.

The international liberal order that America helped establish about 75 years ago is falling apart. As Michael Beckley, a scholar at the Harvard Kennedy Schools Belfer Center, recently argued, fears for China are creating a new international order. Will Africa be sucked into the new Cold War, or will the continent create a new policy to lift the mass of its poor from poverty?

So far, no agreement has been reached on how to rectify the increasingly anarchic post-liberal order. The United States is under pressure to assert a pax-Americana, rededicate itself, and lead the liberal order.

Others, resigned to the reality that the American empire is crumbling before our eyes, nostalgically return to an order similar to the “Concert of Europe” in the seventeenth century. In a rethought post-Napoleonic vague consensus among major European monarchies, the world powers would form a concert to guide the international community into a new era of multipolar cooperation in the 21st century.

Old and new powers will preserve their territorial and political status, while assuming the responsibility and right to intervene and impose their collective will on weaker states, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In line with this line of thinking, former colonial powers in Europe are courting the idea of ​​a grand trade, a new ‘scramble and division’ of the globe into stable spheres of influence. They use militaristic strategies such as coups and terrorism and influence important diplomatic forums and organizations to re-establish new informal empires in the weaker corners of the world.


These top-down solutions to the collapsing international liberal order carry the promise that great powers will renegotiate their conflicting interests and mutual suspicions and hatreds to create a new win-win partnership.

New international order

However, these are no more than solutions for the strong and the powerful. China is also on a crusade for a new win-win cooperation, but from below. China’s path to a new post-liberal order is the creation of ‘a community with a common destiny for humanity’ as a radical alternative to top-down cooperation solutions that only serve the security interests of the great powers.

Beijing puts its money behind the vision of a new international order based on inclusive organizations of equal states and civilizations that, through mutual respect and solidarity, work for a peaceful and prosperous world and for the benefit of humanity.

But like the Soviet Union before that, China faces a new policy of containment that gives rise to a new Cold War. In his new article, Enemies of My Enemy: How Fear of China is Forging a New World Order (Foreign Affairs, March / April 2022), Michael Beckley concludes that: “For the first time since the Cold War, a critical mass of countries face serious threats to their safety, welfare and way of life – all from a single source. ”

The political hostility between the United States and China, threats, propaganda, and other measures that now characterize the New Cold War carry eerie echoes of the policy of containment against the Soviets. China is accused of trying to separate exclusive economic zones in the global economy, ‘act belligerently’, ‘scare countries’ and export digital systems that make authoritarianism more effective than ever.

China is pushing for a model of cooperation based on a peaceful and common vision of development. The model intellectually reflects the thoughts of Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. In his 1999 book, Development as Freedom, Sen argues that development inherently increases freedom. Peaceful development gives birth to freedom and justice. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Peace is the greatest weapon of development.”

Lee Kuan Yew created an economic superpower in Singapore. Lee’s achievements inspired reforms that have contributed to the restoration of modern China. A series of reforms introduced by President Deng Xiaoping during the reforms and the opening ceremony placed development at the center of China’s civilization state.

Peaceful development

Globally, as China’s power grows, it needs to deliver global public goods to avoid what Joseph S. Nye popularized as the “Kindleberger trap.” In a January 2017 article, the Harvard researcher claimed that the inability of the United States to assume the role of the UK in delivering global public goods, as it replaced London as the largest global power, resulted in the collapse of the global system in depression, genocide and world war in the disastrous decade of the 1930s.

China has provided global public goods to promote peaceful development. In Africa, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) form a new development architecture adapted to the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

While the world gropes for a post-Covid-19 recovery model, China has taken the concept of peaceful development to a whole new level. President Xi announced the Global Development Initiative (GDI) as China’s new tool for delivering global public goods.

GDI is expected to help the global community and the UN achieve the 2030 goals for sustainable development. It will reverse the devastating impact of Covid-19 on developing countries, address the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change, promote green recovery and realize the principles of ecological civilization that harmonize development and the natural environment.

In the Horn of Africa, where civil wars, terrorism, disease and the effects of climate change have wreaked havoc on development, China has proposed the “Peaceful Development Initiative”.

On January 6, 2022, Chinese Minister of State and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the creation of “the initiative for the peaceful development of horns during his three-nation voyage to Africa (Eritrea, Kenya and the island of the Comoros in the Indian Ocean). Of Africa” ​​for to support regional countries in tackling security, development and governance challenges.

Wang also announced that Beijing would also appoint a special envoy for Horn of Africa affairs to help create regional consensus on peace, security and development. Africa should oppose new Cold War alliances and aggressive power policies. But the continent must also be in line with peace and development.

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