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China’s military influence in Africa grows

FILE - Members of the presidential guard march during the Armed Forces Day in Richards Bay, South Africa, on Feb. 21, 2023. The parade took place as a naval exercise was underway off the east coast of the country with Russian and Chinese navies

FILE - Members of the presidential guard march during the Armed Forces Day in Richards Bay, South Africa, on Feb. 21, 2023. The parade took place as a naval exercise was underway off the east coast of the country with Russian and Chinese navies

China’s People’s Liberation Army marked the 96th anniversary of its founding this week with President Xi Jinping overseeing celebrations in China, but the anniversary was also commemorated in many African countries where Beijing has influence and is keen on expanding military cooperation.

Among them was Zimbabwe, where ties with the PLA date back to the 1960s and China’s support for the guerilla movement — now the ruling party — that fought for the country’s independence from white minority rule.

"The precious memories of the solidarity and synergy between our two armies are our shared legacy which continues to shape and inject momentum to our relations nowadays," China Ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhou Ding said at a reception attended by Zimbabwe’s acting minister of Defense and army officials from both nations.

Zhou noted that just the previous week, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa had commended a group of young Zimbabwean pilots who trained for four years in China, reflecting “the fraternal relations between our two countries and our two militaries,” Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper, the Herald, reported.

Mnangagwa himself trained at the PLA Army Command College in Nanjing. Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told VOA the PLA anniversary celebrations are not only happening in Zimbabwe.

“You’re going to see the same thing in South Africa, Kenya and all these embassies where you have a military attaché. ... With the case of Zimbabwe, I think what China wants to put across is the special relationship that it has with Zanu-PF first and foremost,” he said, referring to the ruling party.

For his part, Zimbabwe’s acting Defense minister, Daniel Garwe, vowed to continue to cement ties with China “today and in the future as we are both faced with geopolitical threats,” the Herald reported.

Zimbabwe, where the same party has been in power for over 40 years, is under Western sanctions for corruption and human rights abuses. In neighboring South Africa, also governed by a former liberation movement that benefitted from Chinese support, a local newspaper ran a lengthy op-ed by Major General Shang Hong, Chinese defense attaché to the country.

“As an important part of our overall bilateral relationship, the PLA-SANDF (South African National Defense Forces) friendship, guided by our two presidents, has been embracing pragmatic cooperation in various fields with tangible results, including high-level exchanges, mechanism building, joint training and exercise, military academies, medicine and health, international peacekeeping, etc.,” he wrote.

He noted that South Africa had hosted China, along with Russia, for joint naval exercises earlier in the year and that the head of South Africa’s army had recently visited China, “thus laying a solid foundation for enhancing strategic mutual trust and deepening pragmatic cooperation.”

Events to mark the PLA anniversary were also held in South Sudan, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Nantulya said the PLA uses these occasions to emphasis how it contributes to Africa, whether through participating in UN peacekeeping missions or military education.

A recent paper by Nantulya details how China “treats the education and training of foreign military personnel as an opportunity to promote China’s governance model to develop closer relationships with foreign militaries and governments and to build a shared understanding of security."

“Many alumni of these programs go on to play leading roles in their countries’ militaries and governments,” he wrote, noting that thousands of African officers attend such trainings each year.

Russian competition

Many analysts contend that in an increasingly polarized world, the African continent — which is resource rich, has a growing population and is strategically located — is a stage where major powers are vying for influence, not only China and the United States but increasingly Russia.

Russia — which also has ties to many former liberation movements — has long been by far the biggest arms supplier to Africa.

“However, China is ahead on every other metric, when you look at military professionalism, when you look at military training and capacity building, when you look at support to the African Union,” said Nantulya.

Analysts think the war in Ukraine and related Western sanctions could benefit China in terms of catching up to Russia in weapons sales too.

“Russia's ability to supply military equipment, for instance, is hampered both by its expulsion from international cross-border payment networks like SWIFT and by it having to consume most new arms production for its own needs,” Darren Olivier, director of conflict research consultancy African Defense Review, told VOA.

“China is well placed to take over much of Russia's market share in that regard. It has increasingly been a supplier of weapons to African armed forces over the years, with deliveries ranging from basic infantry weapons to increasingly sophisticated transport aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and air defense systems,” he said.

Asked whether sanctions on Russia had seen an increase in Chinese arms sales to Africa, the Chinese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Comments

+2 #1 Lysol 2023-08-06 01:12
There is nothing wrong with China's military influence in Africa or Russia's Wagner Para-military group in some parts of Africa, The West has no monopoly over Africa's military.

That is colonial mentality. Africa should be free to decide its own future and destiny.
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0 #2 Akot 2023-08-06 15:56
The fight is for control of Africa land riches!

China controls S. Sudan oil & Chinese are served, live paradise, while poor S. Sudanese are migrating to EU/UK/USA!

Africans living in developed well governed lands know this, reason Nigers in France came out to say NO to what's going on on!

Africans, please, this is not about past colonial time, but China & Russia wanting to control Africa land riches, while Africans die day & night migrating Europe!

Why do Africans at the mercy of Putin, Xinping, knowing they are not coming for Africans, but for themselves & their people?

Now silend Wagner boss's house was invaded by Putin who found 110 million USA Dollars in it; where did Prigojin get it from?

Africans MUST WAKE UP, +60 years ago colonials aren't the DANGER, but selfstyled lifetime rulers Putin, Xinping are!
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0 #3 Akot 2023-08-06 16:11
Do Africans hear Putin, Xinping talk about poor Africans dying crossing seas to reach EU?

Why is China & Russa fight to control African land riches not a danger to Africans, but former white colonials who want normal business with Africa are?

Would Africans be dying to reach developed lands if Africa was well governed, Africans served with public/social services, the very services they get, know they will get, in UK/USA/EU?

Uganda didn't have to go for armed war against UK, for independence, but just peaceful negotiotions, yet Sudanese Idi Amin & now Rwandese Museveni, made Ugandans slaves, yet for Africans, this is normal because they are black!

Kagame & Museveni can't share power in their motherland Rwanda, but each own a country & they are not considered conquerors even when they have declared themselves lifetime rulers who allow no opposition!
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0 #4 Akot 2023-08-06 16:22
[China’s military influence in Africa grows]

Agreed!

Africans are fighting former white colonials while Russia & China are making their stand & will control Africa land Riches!

USA/EU/UK MUST close their borders for Africans migrating, before China & Russia control Africa!

Why are Africans not aware that Putin & Xinping want to own Africa land riches, then fill the continent with Chinese & Russians?

Just as USA/UK/EU MUST stop financing useless African rulers, NOW, especially as more & more Africans are dying migrating to these developed lands!

USA/UK/EU maintaining membership of defunct UN is more dangerous to them than to Russia & China that use the body to reafirm their fight & hold on Africa & land riches!

Not to forget that now, Putin & Xinping really need the money from Africa land riches!
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+1 #5 kabayekka 2023-08-06 22:15
Lysol you have a good point. But the decision the continent of Africa is taking in this article is Chinese neocolonialism.

Africa having lost so much human resource for many centuries has about a population of 2 billion people. Ssengavuddemu ngazeemu seems to be the poor man's slogan.

The African leadership having failed to narture such its lower population how is it going to manage to exist together again with the heavy population of over 5 billion people from Ido China?

One understands that China has over a 100 million university graduates every year that come out from very modern colleges and they badly need employment? The standing military personnel of Ido China is approximately a billion and a half people ready to fight what?
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0 #6 kasede 2023-08-07 00:07
Quoting Lysol:
There is nothing wrong with China's military influence in Africa or Russia's Wagner Para-military group in some parts of Africa, The West has no monopoly over Africa's military.

That is colonial mentality. Africa should be free to decide its own future and destiny.
CORRECT, Sir.
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