The Panda Menace

With all the recent coverage of China's involvement in Africa, Antoine Halff takes an in-depth look at Beijing's burgeoning relationship with the resource-rich continent.

Issue: July-Aug 2007

I AM PRIMARILY an energy specialist-not a China specialist-but these days it is impossible to think about energy, the Middle East, the future of Africa or just about anything without thinking long and hard about China.

Like everyone in the energy sphere, I have seen my world transformed these last few years by the surge in China's demand for energy and other commodities. Many see China's achievements in this area as the triumph of mercantilism: A foreign policy blindly driven by short-term commercial interests and divorced from any other consideration, be it human rights, good governance, democracy or environmental sustainability. But China's advance is not without setbacks. Its very successes-especially in Africa-are generating a growing backlash that highlights the broader problems and limitations of its general "go-abroad" policy. As a result, Beijing is outgrowing pure mercantilism-and China is becoming a victim of its own success.

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