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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Annual Mystery Tour of Africa

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi listens to Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (not pictured) during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on December 31, 2019. Noel CELIS / POOL / AFP

What a snapshot of this moment in foreign policy: as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarks this week on his annual tour of African countries, the Pentagon is publicly disagreeing with U.S. President Trump about exactly which Iranian sites might be targeted in possible airstrikes.

On the surface, the two don’t seem to have very much in common. After all, the China-Africa relationship and that between the U.S. and the Middle East both have their own complicated histories and tend to set their own patterns. However, if one takes a step back, revealing contrasts start emerging – a little like those weird Magic Eye paintings from the 90s.

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