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The West’s Ignorance About What China’s Doing in Africa is a Feature Not a Bug

European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell arrives for a joint press conference after a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 12, 2021. JOHN THYS / AFP

Those of us who concentrate on Africa-China relations have long warned that the current framing of the relationship as a zero-sum arena in a new cold war strips African states of agency.

The problem isn’t only that it flattens the complex compromises African leaders have to make to meet development goals as financing options keep shrinking. It is also that it creates echo chambers in Washington, Beijing, and Brussels that make it impossible to even discuss African realities.

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