Where Beijing, Washington, and African Governments Can Work Together

From Competition to Cooperation

A boy dancing in front of Chinese peacekeepers in Gao, Mali, August 2015.  Emma Farge / REUTERS

The first month of Donald Trump’s presidency has raised the specter of heightened competition between China and the United States. The tensions have been at their peak over issues involving the two countries’ trade policies, their roles in the South China Sea, and their policies toward Taiwan. But in Africa, too, Trump’s team appears concerned about competing with China, which is the continent's largest trading partner. Among a list of questions that the president’s transition staff submitted to the State Department about U.S. policy in Africa was one that asked, “Are we losing out to the Chinese?”

Many officials in Beijing and African capitals likewise believe that China and the United States are locked in a zero-sum competition on the continent. Such views have been common since the 1990s, when China began to accelerate its engagement with Africa by building infrastructure, investing in natural resources and

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