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From: , Global Policy Innovations Program, More from this Affiliate
Published April 29, 2008 09:36 AM

Last month, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, became the latest high-level Chinese official to tourAfrica. He and a group of senior Chinese leaders made a stop to inspect Chinese workers building Algeria's East-West Highway. The $11 billionthoroughfare will stretch over 1,200 kilometers, traversing Algeria from Morocco to Tunisia. According to CCTV, the highway is the largest and most technically challenging overseas project for Chinese contractors since the historic Chinese-built railroad linking Tanzania and Zambia.

This visit and countless others reflect and facilitate Beijing's ever-expanding role in Africa- a role viewed by many as a prelude to conflict with the West over natural resources. Perhaps, butChina's Africa presence also creates opportunities for U.S.-China cooperation on energy, security, corruption, and health, topics that require increasingly wide-ranging and regular dialogue, which has already begun at the assistant secretary level.


In 2006, Africa supplied about 33 percent of China's oil imports and about 22 percent of U.S. imports. Both countries expect these percentages to rise. China also purchases minerals, timber, and other raw materials from Africa, and the continent is a growing market for Chinese exports.

As energy consumers, the United States and China would both benefit from increased supply. Although some African oil-exporting nations benefit from higher petroleum prices, importing states also want lower prices at the pump, and all Africans would benefit from economies of scale, increased supply, and improved efficiency. One example of trilateral cooperation is Sonangol, the China-Angola offshore oil joint venture with BP.


Peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and narcotics interdiction are key areas in which the United States and China could cooperate in Africa. In 2001, Beijing began contributing significant numbers of peacekeepers to UN operations in Africa. Today, almost 1,500 Chinese blue helmets are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sudan. Additional efforts to mitigate conflict in Africa must include the end to all arms shipments to Zimbabwe and the surrounding region.

Two challenges exist in Sudan---a solution to the crisis in Darfur and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Northern and Southern forces. As an original CPA proponent, the United States is vested in its implementation. China, which obtains about 6 percent of its oil imports from Sudan, also wants continued peace. South Africa has also shown a strong desire to work on behalf of the CPA. All three parties should work together to advance the CPA.



Africans constitute about ten percent of the global population, but comprise 60 percent of the world's population with HIV/AIDS, 90 percent of malaria deaths, and more than half of deaths due to infectious and parasitic diseases. To combat malaria, the U.S.-based PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Chinese company Shanghai Wanxing Bio-Pharmaceuticals are jointly developing a vaccine.

Cooperative efforts like this one combine both countries' medical technology, resources, and access to drugs and, if expanded, could make a real difference in Africans' health. Although the United States has devoted more resources than China to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, China vowed to increase funds to counter this scourge at the Beijing summit with Africanleaders in November 2006.