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The Stark Difference Between How African and U.S. Governments See Engagement With China Was Clearly Evident in Nigeria

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama speaks during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP

The huge divide between how African governments see their engagement with China and how it’s framed by the United States was on full display at a press conference late last week in Abuja with visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his host Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.

While Blinken appeared to intentionally avoid using some of the more controversial rhetoric about “debt traps” and imported labor that has long informed official U.S. thinking on this issue, he wove in subtle, indirect references to several of the longstanding criticisms of Chinese investments in Africa. But Onyeama, like many of his peers in other foreign ministries, was not afraid to push back on that narrative:

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