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Oh, the Talking Points: Why It’s Sometimes Better When U.S. Officials Leave China Out of the Africa Conversation…

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin participate in a Peace, Security and Governance Forum during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on December 13, 2022. EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / POOL / AFP

At the outset of the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, one message was clear: African countries hate being made to ‘choose sides’ between the U.S. and China. So, U.S. officials were determined to avoid the appearance of making them do so. That meant steering away from China-related discussions as much as possible. 

There was just one snag: most reporters were only interested in framing the summit as a competition with China. What followed was a repeated cycle of U.S. officials trying to talk about Africa as reporters kept peppering them with questions about China.

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