Throughout the history of China’s engagement in Africa, even today, Beijing has spent most of its time and resources to foster ties with elites across the continent. And it’s done a remarkable job. Political leaders across Africa have built strong relationships with their counterparts in China, establishing powerful bonds built on hard-earned trust and mutual interest.
But with other stakeholders, particularly non-elites in civil society, China isn’t faring so well. Trust in the Chinese is low among broad swaths of populations in many segments of African societies that fear the Chinese as the new imperialists who use debt rather than guns to conquer their countries. Rumors and unfounded news reports about the Chinese in Africa fly around the internet, unchecked by the Chinese themselves and repeated so often that they have become normalized by millions.
The bottom line is that China has a trust problem in many parts of Africa and it doesn’t appear willing or capable to do anything about it.
This week, Eric & Cobus discuss the issue of trust in the China-Africa relationship and why it’s critical the Chinese figure out a way to build stronger ties beyond just political elites or else potentially be in the same situation they’re in the United States where trust between those two countries has effectively disappeared.