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China in Africa: The Real Story

China, Debt and Human Rights

Deborah Brautigam

Photo:  C. Chappat / Biblioteca de la ONU en Ginebra
Not long ago I received an email about a visit to Beijing being planned for Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the United Nation's Human Rights Council's independent expert on debt and human rights. It unfortunately got buried in my inbox as I was finalizing the new book and then heading off to Ethiopia for a conference and some research. Now I see that he has completed his trip to China. His report will be finalized soon.

A story in the Voice of America website, "UN fears Rights Violations in China-Backed Projects" suggested that the UNHRC was concerned because their research suggested some patterns in Chinese finance. 
Investigations by the UNHCHR [sic] show Chinese companies and financing institutions have little concern about human rights violations surrounding projects promoted and financed by them across different countries, including some in Africa.
This concerns the United Nations because Chinese institutions and companies are funding more projects globally than the World Bank, the U.N.’s independent expert on finance and human rights said at a press conference Monday in Beijing.
Whenever I see claims about what China is doing abroad, I'm curious about the evidence. I looked on the website of the UNHCR to see if they had published their investigations and found a stack of interesting studies here. What a great resource. Systematic research on these issues is clearly growing, with environmental issues receiving the bulk of the attention.

Do Chinese institutions and companies fund more projects globally than the World Bank? "Funding" has a lot of meanings. Since the special expert's mandate is to consider debt, we can focus on loan-financed projects. Let's look at Ethiopia, since they are one of the largest clients of both the World Bank and Chinese banks. The table below is drawn from the Debt Management office at the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It compares Chinese official debt disbursements with World Bank (IDA) disbursements, over the last five fiscal years. All figures are in millions of USD.

         2009/10     2010/11     2011/12     2012/13     2013/14

IDA         525            394            551            773            851
China      169            299            372             743         1324

Source: Ethiopia Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

Commentary:   Disbursements allow us to see the figures that are actually in play, rather than commitments that might not come to pass. The Chinese figures here probably do not include disbursements of several very large supplier-financed, non-government guaranteed credits to the Ethiopia Telecoms Corporation from Huawei and ZTE for telecoms projects. Commitments made to future projects and funds disbursed after mid-2014 (for example on the Addis-Djibouti Railway) are also not included.

Without accounting for inflation, the World Bank had disbursed $3094 million in loan credits since 2009, while the Chinese government has disbursed $2907 in official lending -- but their growth rate is a lot steeper. So if there are higher levels of official finance from the World Bank side, this is likely to change very soon.

What about numbers of projects financed by each? The World Bank's website says that they have financed 25 projects in Ethiopia between 2009 and 2014 (this does not include "additional financing" for existing projects). According to the Ethiopians, since 2009 there have been 21 separate loan-financed projects from China, including those financed by suppliers' credits. So, more projects financed by World Bank credits than by Chinese loans. I expect this to continue, as the Chinese have very limited manpower to develop projects: hence, fewer but larger projects.

And human rights? It is ironic that the focus on human rights and debt at the UNHRC has its origin in concerns about "the effects of structural adjustment and economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights."  The World Bank, of course, was often criticized for its role on these issues (along with the IMF). It is a sign of how things have changed that the World Bank is now seen as more progressive and helpful, while the new bankers in town -- Chinese bankers -- are seen as the new threat.

Note: This story was updated on July 14 after I received the Independent Expert's statement.

Chinese in Mauritius: Going the Way of the Dodo?

Deborah Brautigam

Journalist James Wan writes about the venerable Chinese community in Mauritius in his latest article for New African magazine: "Meet Africa's Most Integrated Chinese Community"  (June 15, 2015).
Since 1999, making at least five research visits, I've spent more than 12 months in Mauritius, and wrote about the Chinese there in several early articles. The Chinese connection was critical for the country's industrialization. Many Mauritian companies today are headed by ethnic Chinese, including CMT, one of the largest textile firms. The legendary Hakka town of Meixian in Guangdong is the origin of many Mauritian Chinese. James gives us a glimpse of the possible future of other Chinese settler communities in Africa: thriving economically, marginalized politically.

h/t to Winslow Robertson

Will Africa Feed China?

Deborah Brautigam

I've not been blogging much as I finished my new book, Will Africa Feed China? Last week I sent off the final edits. The manuscript is in production and OUP will be shipping it out on October 1 (Amazon is predicting a November release). I will post more on the book as the publication date comes closer.

Also looking forward to having a full-time research manager, Janet Eom, who will be starting at SAIS-CARI on July 1. We have been awarded some great research funding by Carnegie and the UK Economic and Social Research Council/DFID and Janet will be busy helping us to program these funds.

I hope to be blogging more now. I have a big backlog of posts on a number of topics, including the Lowy Institute's new Chinese aid data, South African survey research on Chinese enterprises, outrageous China-Africa stories, labor unions and Chinese firms, new data on economic cooperation, and more. Off next week to an Africa investment conference in Addis Ababa co-sponsored by the World Bank, China Development Bank, Govt. of Ethiopia, China-Africa Development Fund and UNIDO. 

New research on the China International Fund in Africa

Deborah Brautigam

J. R. Mailey at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has just published his new paper on the China International Fund, a.k.a. "The 88 Queensway Group" (click to see his earlier work with the U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission.)

J.R. gave us some highlights from the new paper, "The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries," at our SAIS-CARI April conference on Chinese overseas finance. He does extensive, careful work. I haven't read this yet, but I anticipate that it will be based on sound research.

A hat tip to Winslow Robertson

Chinese aid for South Africa?

Deborah Brautigam

Image Credit: Flickr/ GovernmentZA via The Diplomat
I was struck by an article today in The Diplomat on Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's visit to South Africa, where Wang met with South African president Jacob Zuma. The article noted "In their meeting, both Wang and Zuma stressed the importance of Chinese aid for South African development."

I immediately wondered about this. South Africa, is, like China, an upper middle income country. China gives South Africa very minimal official development assistance [yes, this is true even if researchers relying on AidData mistakenly list South Africa as one of China's biggest aid recipients ... sigh...]. South Africa has received only scholarships, some Confucius Institutes, and a handful of "gift" projects that are basically symbolic; there is very little official aid. The relationship is all about business -- and politics -- and has its bumpy side. Consider the long standing concern with South Africa's industrial development and competition with Chinese imports, for example, or the ongoing kerfuffle over the inability of the Dali Lama to obtain a South Africa visa.

The article linked to a video of a CCTV clip with the title "Two sides vow to strengthen industrial cooperation". Listening to the clip, I found no mention of Chinese "aid", per se, although they did mention China's "consistent support and help" to South Africa while also emphasizing that Beijing sees the relationship as one of "mutual benefit".

Does anyone else wish that we could get away from the language of "aid" -- this notion that cooperation (or support or help) to an African country should be automatically termed foreign aid -- a one-way transfer of alms from richer to poorer countries?  Here's to more discussion about things like "industrial cooperation" or even "support and help" that poor countries provide to richer countries. After all, the West clearly receives support and help for its goals from the aid it gives, no? 

Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Africa: Policy Briefs

Deborah Brautigam

Our sister website, the SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, has now published the latest (and last) in a series of policy briefs focused on Chinese agricultural investment and other engagement in Africa. These policy briefs provide original, fieldwork-based insights and information that is not available anywhere else. The papers on which they are based were presented at our 2014 SAIS-CARI conference on Chinese agricultural investment: 'Land Grabs' or 'Friendship Farms'?

  • Policy Brief 01/2014: The Political Ecology of Chinese Investment in Uganda: the Case of Hanhe Farm, Josh Maiyo.
  • Policy Brief 02/2014: Chinese Agricultural Investment in Mozambique: the Case of Wanbao Rice Farm, Sérgio Chichava.
  • Policy Brief 03/2014: Chinese Training Courses for African Officials: a “Win-Win” Engagement?, Henry Tugendhat.
  • Policy Brief 04/2015: Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Zambia: A Grassroots Analysis, Solange Guo Chatelard and Jessica M. Chu.
  • Policy Brief 05/2015: Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Africa: Case Studies in Ghana and Nigeria, Yang Jiao.
  • Policy Brief 06/2015: Assessing the Impact of Chinese Investment on Southeast Africa’s Cotton: Moving up the Value Chain?, Tang Xiaoyang.
  • Policy Brief 07/2015: Neither ‘Land Grab’ nor ‘Friendship Farm:’ Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Angola, Zhou Jinyan.
We appreciate support from the Smith Richardson Foundation and from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies that made the conference and these policy briefs possible.

Mysteries of the China Africa Development Fund

Deborah Brautigam

The China Africa Development Fund (CAD-Fund) launched by China Development Bank (CDB) in 2007 remains poorly understood. For example, a 2012 statement by the Africa Finance Corporation outlining a strategic partnership being developed by the AFC and the CAD-Fund describes the CAD-Fund as having "US$50 billion" in funds under management.   Surprise: when fully mature several years from now, CAD-Fund will only be a $5 billion fund. In the past 3 years, no one has corrected that error at the AFC website.

Others have described the small CAD-Fund as a "sovereign wealth fund" -- this is not technically correct, as an adviser for China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC) confirmed to me. Sovereign wealth funds are usually funded directly from central bank reserves arising from trade and budget surpluses (e.g. Korea Investment Corporation; China Investment Corporation) or natural resource exports (Kuwait Investment Authority, etc.). The CAD-Fund is a private equity fund, and was supposed to raise its own funds on the private market, after the initial infusion of $1 billion from CDB.

After two years of trying to raise the second $2 billion, CAD-Fund had to ask CDB for help. CDB arranged to provide CAD-Fund with a loan at LIBOR plus a margin, with an 8 to 10 year term. As noted in the financial newspaper Caixin in April 2012: "Development bank takes out loan after domestic institutions decline to invest" in CAD-Fund.

On another note, it is true that the CAD-Fund is not at all transparent. Its website gives no lists of the projects in which it invests, aside from a few paltry examples. Is this standard practice for other private equity funds, or something uniquely Chinese?

African Roads: Why So Many Chinese Contractors?

Deborah Brautigam

Thika Road, Nairobi      credit:
Sitting in yet another airport, after yet another delayed flight, after yet another conference on China and Africa. Pondering this question: African governments routinely award road construction contracts to Chinese and other foreign companies: South African, Italian, and so on. Why is this the case? A recent discussion in the comments section of this blog addressed that issue. Readers' thoughts welcome.

@Anonymous: Africa needs more infrastructure, no one denies that. I just have one question. Why is it that it is only foreigners who can build this infrastructure? Why can't we Africans rise to the challenge of learning how to construct the infrastructure we need? Is constructing infrastructure too hard for us Africans?

@Margaret Lee: I agree with you. Africans have the capacity to build infrastructure. The problem is that the Chinese are sending many of their people out of China to get jobs because there are too many people in China. All over the continent you have well qualified African engineers who can design new infrastructure and people to actual do the construction. In addition, most African countries have the monetary resources to pay for the needed equipment and supplies. The real issue rest with African leaders who are not serious about African development and would rather allow foreigners, like the Chinese, to do the work. This has been the problem with Africa since independence. Noted brilliant African scholar, now deceased, Claude Ake in his book on Democracy in Africa says,"..the assumption so readily made that there has been a failure of development is misleading. The problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place. By all indications, political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development.."

China and Mozambique: Soft Power and Media

Deborah Brautigam

What I'm reading: a new paper by Sérgio Chichava, Lara Côrtes and Aslak Orre on the coverage of China in the Mozambican media, and what this says about the Chinese soft power strategy. From the conclusion: 
Where representatives of Western donor nations, so predominant in the Mozambican political landscape, actively attempt to mould the Frelimo-based elite into its own image, China’s politicians emphasise that it cooperates – and does business – with that elite no matter what it may privately may think about its virtues and conduct. This may well be a successful diplomatic strategy in the short run. The above findings go in the direction of suggesting that in the long run, the close association – diplomatically, in business and in people’s minds – of China with Mozambique’s elite, could become an obstacle, in particular [when it] concerns the question of Chinese soft power. At least if Mozambique’s newspaper reports on China are anything to go by, China’s soft power builders need to give some thought on how to make more of its positive image (“the bankroller”) and that which could potentially be positive but has not yet made a considerable mark on the Mozambican media, Chinese culture and language. Similarly, how can it play down what seems to affects it negatively the most: Illicit resource extraction and corruption in Mozambique, and authoritarian governance in China.

Thanks to Sérgio for sending me a copy of the paper and to Henry Tugendhat at IDS Sussex for circulating a link to the online version in the Future Agricultures blog.

China and Industrial Policy in the South

Deborah Brautigam

The Huajian factory outside Addis Ababa [The Economist]
What I'm reading:  A new paper by Daniel Poon at UNCTAD: China's Development Trajectory: a Strategic Opening for Industrial Policy in the South, UNCTAD, December 2014.

Poon points out that China is at a crucial crossroad, serving at the same time as the world's low-end workshop and its most prominent proponent of industrial policy. China wants to move up the value chain, and Poon says: "The gap between China’s industrial ambitions and its current capabilities provides a strategic opening for other developing countries to bargain for enhanced opportunities for domestic investment, learning, technical change and structural transformation."

This paper helps frame the work on Chinese industrial investment in Ethiopia that we are doing at SAIS-CARI. I am just back from Addis-Ababa where we interviewed a number of firms in the leather sector with some kind of skill-building or technology-transfer linkage with China. Fascinating.

China Africa Research Manager Position available at SAIS-CARI

Deborah Brautigam

Our new center, the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), has been awarded a Carnegie Corporation grant to build CARI's capacity to bridge scholarship and policy. We are seeking a full-time research manager, who will take a leading role in organizing the center's work and programs. We are looking for someone with a master's degree (or equivalent experience), excellent organizational skills, and familiarity with communications, including social media and website management. Field research experience and Chinese language skills would be a plus. Deadline for applications is January 31, 2015 with a mid-February start date (negotiable). This is a 2 year, fixed-term position, although there is some possibility of renewal, depending on funding.

For detailed information on the post and how to apply please see the Johns Hopkins University HR website, requisition number 64680:

Chinese Agricultural Investment in Zambia

Deborah Brautigam

Photo credit: Solange Guo Chatelard
Our sister website, the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS-CARI) has just published the fourth policy brief in our series: Solange Guo Chatelard and Jessica M. Chu, "Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Zambia: A Grassroots Analysis," SAIS-CARI Policy Brief 04/2015.

Solange and Jessica are Ph.D. students who traveled across Zambia to interview many of the 30 or so Chinese agricultural investments in Zambia, which currently hosts the largest number of Chinese farming investments in Africa. Their report makes fascinating reading. Highly recommended, as are Policy Briefs 1 through 3.

African Public Opinion on China and the US

Deborah Brautigam

Pew Research Center

What do Africans think about China? How does this compare with the US? I get asked these questions a lot, and I always try to resist responding with anecdotes along the lines of: "a taxi driver I spoke with in Ethiopia believes X about China/the US." The best data we have will be found in public opinion polls. Below is a quick survey of polls I know about. If readers have links to other polls, I'd love to include them.

The Afrobarometer asked a public opinion question on China in 2008 but I don't think they've repeated it. In that survey, 47% thought that China "helped somewhat" or "helped a lot" while 30% answered "don't know". For the US, 54% thought we "helped somewhat" or "helped a lot" and 29% didn't have a response.

The BBC regularly does a World Public Opinion poll (PIPA) asking some comparative questions on China, although their coverage of African countries is spotty. Their survey in 2011 had five African countries, Kenya (73% positive), Nigeria (85%), Ghana (72%), Egypt (55%) and South Africa (53%). All had at least 50% positive rating. Another BBC survey in two African countries in 2011 reported a positive view of the impact of China's growth on their country: Kenya (77% positive), Nigeria (82%). In 2013, the PIPA survey showed positive ratings of 78% for China in Nigeria, 68% in Ghana, and a decline to 58% in Kenya. Their 2014 survey showed a rise in favorable public opinion on China in Kenya (65%), stable in Ghana (67%) and a bit of a positive jump for Nigeria (85%).

The Pew Charitable Trust also includes some questions on China/US public opinion.

I think the most recent Pew survey took place in the Spring of 2013. The table from the US/China question is reproduced to the right. On average, 65 percent of Africans viewed China favorably, and 73 percent the US.

Earlier Pew surveys on this topic seem to have only included one country, Kenya. In 2010, 94% of Kenyans surveyed viewed the US favorably and in 2011, 83%. In the table on the right we can see a favorable opinion for the US of 81%,  In 2010, 86% of Kenyans surveyed viewed China favorably, and in 2011, this dropped to 71% and in 2013, it rose to 78%.

A survey of African stakeholders carried out in 40 African countries by the OECD for the African Economic Outlook 2011 found that emerging partners such as China were ranked as having a comparative advantage for cooperation in infrastructure, innovation, and even health compared with Africa’s traditional bilateral and multilateral partners. Economist Helmut Reisen, former head of research at the OECD’s Development Center commented: “these results are striking considering all the effort traditional donors have put into these sectors.”  

Call for Proposals: Chinese Overseas Finance and Aid

Deborah Brautigam

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) SAIS China Africa Research Initiative (SAIS-CARI) announces a call for papers for a Conference on China's Overseas Finance and Aid, April 10 and 11, 2015.

Call for Papers

The SAIS China Africa Research Initiative (SAIS-CARI) will hold its second public conference on April 10, 2015 with a private researchers' workshop on April 11, 2015, in Washington, DC at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The theme will be Researching China’s Overseas Finance and Aid: What, Why, How, Where and How Much? The goal will be a deeper, comparative understanding of the rise of China's state-supplied overseas finance, including grants, foreign aid loans, commercial loans, export credits and special investment funds. Papers will examine the motives and modalities, trends, sectors, and impacts using a variety of methods from quantitative analysis to case studies. 

We are pleased to announce a Call for Papers for this conference and workshop. Proposals can be submitted at any time but are due by February 1, 2015.  

Papers are welcome on the following topics, inter alia:

  • Recipient experiences and impact of Chinese finance and/or aid
  • The relationship between Chinese businesses and Chinese overseas loans 
  • Special lines of credit for companies in China's "going global" program
  • Comparisons between Chinese finance and that from other countries
  • Process tracing studies of successful and/or failed projects financed by China
  • Political economy of banking-project relationships 
  • Export credits and Chinese business promotion 
  • Triangular aid cooperation (North-South-North) case studies
  • BRICs Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
  • China Africa Development Fund

The list is for suggestion only; other topics are also welcome. We especially welcome papers that are based on fieldwork and focus on case studies of specific projects. Applicants are welcome to discuss their proposed research with the conference organizers before making a proposal. Comparisons between Chinese and other financiers and donors would be particularly welcome, or comparisons between Chinese finance in Africa and in other regions (including China). 

Prospective authors should submit a two page proposal to by February 1, 2015. Proposals should include a 500 word abstract of the paper, a brief description of the research project and methodology, and a short biography of the author. We may request other information. Researchers whose papers are accepted will be provided with two nights accommodation and meals during the conference. A limited amount of travel support will be available for selected researchers to attend the conference. Authors should indicate whether they need travel support in order to participate.

Application Deadline:       February 1, 2015
Notification:                      February 15, 2015
Deadline for Papers:        March 15, 2014
Conference:                     April 10-11, 2014

Papers can be in English, French, Portuguese or Chinese, but applications and presentations must be made in English.

For further information, please email:

Does Chinese aid mainly go to African presidents' villages?

Deborah Brautigam

A new paper released by the folks at AidData argues that Chinese aid goes disproportionately to the birthplace regions of African leaders. Media comment is building up on this paper, and an article in The Guardian seems to be leading the way. I am actually somewhat sympathetic to the argument of the paper. My own anecdotal observations suggest that at least one of the 3 primary schools financed in many African countries by the Chinese (following a 2006 FOCAC pledge to build 100 primary schools across Africa) has often been located in an African president's hometown. However, the vast majority of Chinese official aid projects are financed in capital cities -- something the researchers neglected to discuss.

Unfortunately, I think the Guardian article got a few things wrong.

1.  The Guardian article links to accurate official statement that the Chinese spend more than half of their foreign aid in Africa but then disregards the official published Chinese statistics on aggregate official aid to Africa (which would be a total of about $26 billion up to 2012*) in favor of the overblown figure circulated by AidData ($80 billion between 2000 and 2012). The article strongly implies that the AidData figure is an official figure. It is not. It purports to include all finance from China (real and "under discussion" including commercial loans, export credits, and other trade-related finance). Further, despite some improvements, AidData still gets a lot of these figures wrong, as our SAIS-CARI spot check of their hydropower project data revealed. They over count, by a big margin.

2. This misunderstanding continues in this sentence: "Researchers took data that China published on its foreign assistance," and geo-coded it. Whoa, Nelly! China did not publish that data, it was AidData that collected it, mainly from media reports.

3. The Guardian article also said that African leaders are three times more likely to spend Chinese aid in areas where they have ethnic ties. The paper in question actually said that they found no evidence for this. Their purported finding was that all things being equal, Chinese finance is more likely to go to the region of birthplace of an African leader than to another given region.

Readers of this blog know that I have been critical of AidData in the past. This summer our team looked again at their data and found that it had been improved -- although they still have a large number of "false positives" (projects that AidData says have been promised finance, but where our investigations show that these projects were wishful thinking on the part of an African government or a Chinese contractor: many never secured finance). But -- perhaps because of their name -- they cannot stop describing their numbers as "Chinese aid" even when their own discussions suggest that much of what they are tracking is trade and investment finance, for generating business.

* In the 2011 White Paper, the Chinese total for all aid provided globally from the start of the aid program up to 2009 was $37.7 billion with the 2014 White Paper announcing another $14.4 billion between 2009 and 2012. Assuming the percentage going to Africa was about half, this would have been $26 billion.

Guest Post: Ivory and the China-Africa Connection

Deborah Brautigam

We've seen a lot of discussion of the news media coverage of the new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency of the criminal ivory smuggling racket and its claims of Chinese diplomatic involvement in this criminal activity. Anthropology Professor Stephanie Rupp at the City University of New York is an expert on these issues, and a China-Africa hand. I asked her if she would give us a guest post for the blog.In the wake of recent claims regarding officials from the Chinese government’s involvement in ivory smuggling, the impact and demand of China for elephant ivory has once again come to the fore. A recent report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) catalogues the impact of Chinese criminal syndicates and Tanzanian corruption in the ivory trade.  This report dovetails with other research indicating that Tanzania – and the ports of Dar and Zanzibar – provides a significant point of exit for ivory aggregated by means of networks that criss-cross the continent. It is important to emphasize that the ivory trade is a complex network that spans multiple nations in both Africa and Asia, a point that is indicated, but not emphasized in the EIA Report.
In the Congo River basin, where my research is focused, elephants have been aggressively targeted with a marked surge over the past decade.  Indeed just this week 256 elephant tusks were confiscated in southern Cameroon.  When I returned to my research site in southeastern Cameroon on the border with the Republic of Congo in the summer of 2014, the price of ivory in had increased tenfold over the past decade, from $40/kilo to $400/kilo.  The urgency of the situation for elephant populations throughout the continent is clear: elephants in both forest and savannah contexts are under severe pressures from poaching.
On the Asian side, Thailand is the second-leading destination of African ivory after China.  When I went to Thai markets to look for ivory during the summer of 2013, it was apparent that Thai markets are awash in ivory. Most of it appears to be “new stock,” ivory harvested after the 1989 CITES ban on international ivory trade.  The CITES ban prohibits the trade of ivory across international boundaries, but not within particular nations – such as Thailand, India, or Zimbabwe, for example – that host elephant populations.  Given the state of deterioration of the Thai national elephant herds, the relatively paucity of ivory on Asian elephants (only males produce tusks), and the proliferation of ivory networks throughout both African and Asian nations, new stocks of ivory in Thai – and other Asian markets – are likely to be from Africa.

Numerous governments – the US, France, the Philippines,and China -- have staged the very high-profile destruction of ivory. For the most part, these public performances of ivory destruction are media events designed to signal the state's official line in cracking down on ivory poaching.  While these events signal important official recognition of the issues of ivory markets, such events are primarily public performances that may well allow trade in ivory to continue.  

The issue of direct government involvement in the specific visit by the Chinese delegation in 2013 needs additional – and rigorous – substantiation.  Evidence for involvement by Chinese government in exporting ivory through this official delegation comes from Tanzanian carvers who supplied carvings (ebony, ivory, or both) to the delegation.While particular relationships between international “officials,” business people, or travelers and particular artisans would not seem unusual, such specific ethnographic comments require substantiation.

Moreover, the idea of “Chinese” pressures on African elephant populations has to be much more carefully disaggregated: participants in contemporary ivory networks hail from multiple nations in addition to China. Even in EIA report highlights the involvement of actors in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand. Though the primary destination, China is not the only end-market for ivory.

The plight of elephants today is a result of many centuries of human exploitation of these animals for their ivory. The last surge of demand (only one of many) spiked about a century ago, when consumers were the nouveau riche of the Gilded Age in North America. At the end of the 19th century, approximately 95% of all ivory leaving Africa left through Zanzibar, bound for New England ports and ultimately for elite markets in cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. Piano keys, billiard balls, hair combs, handles on knives and revolvers: elite commodities drove the hunting of the largest “tuskers” in East central, and southern Africa a century ago, with detrimental affects on the population size and genetic pool of elephants that remained in the 20th century. Today's pressures on elephants, driven again by a surge of consumption of elite commodities by another nouveau riche – this time in Asia – needs to be seen in the context of this larger global history.  

Taking a larger historical view helps us see that contemporary ivory networks rest on cultural values and historically deep pathways that are multiregional and multicultural, and should not devolve into “China-bashing.” This perspective allows us to break through the facile dichotomies such as “China-Africa” and “Chinese traditional vs. Western liberal values” to appreciate the global complexities of cross-cultural appreciation for ivory, and the long-term multifaceted pressures that this appetite for ivory exerts on elephants.
                                                           --- Dr. Stephanie Rupp

Interview with Young China Watchers

Deborah Brautigam

Thought I would share an interview I did last week with Young China Watchers (YCW), which is "a dynamic group of young professionals seeking to foster the next generation of China thought-leaders. Through regular roundtables and talks with senior figures in the China academic, policy, and business communities, and through original interviews and feature articles, it provides a chance for engaged individuals to interact and discuss the most pressing issues emerging from China today."

Click here for the interview, where you can also see the latest version of the cover of my new book! 

Senator Kerry at SAIS: China in Africa

Deborah Brautigam

Yesterday Senator Kerry came to our School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) to talk about the US relationship with China, describing it as the most consequential relationship our country has for the 21st century. He touched on China's role in Africa, positively -- a change from the past, where Secretary Clinton several times described China-Africa relations as a kind of neo-colonialism. Here's what Kerry said:
And as we’ve seen recently with the Ebola epidemic, China has also shown that it is prepared to take on a bigger role in addressing international crises – including those that emerge far from Asia, even those on the opposite side of the globe. We’re very grateful that China has committed more than $130 million to date in aid and supplies to help address the Ebola crisis. And last week, China announced its plans to dispatch a unit from the People’s Liberation Army to Liberia to help manage the crisis. That’s global leadership, and it’s important, and that cooperation with us is more than welcome.
It's not been easy for the US and China to build a cooperative relationship in Africa. Much more could be done in fighting Ebola together -- a good place to build some positive guanxi among Americans and Chinese in Africa. 

How much of Africa's oil is going to China?

Deborah Brautigam

Looking into oil exports from Africa today -- an intern wrote up a story on a recent talk I gave. She sent me a draft, and I saw that she had mistakenly heard me say that China was taking 90 percent of Africa's resources (what I had actually said was that natural resources and commodities make up 90 percent of Chinese imports from Africa).

I know a lot of people still believe that China is vacuuming up the vast majority of Africa's resource exports. So what is the data? Let's look at oil. According to the US government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) China is importing 22% of sub-Saharan Africa's oil.

Thanks to fracking and shale gas, the US has cut way back on sub-Saharan African oil. We only imported 13% of SSA's oil exports in 2012. Europe gets the most: 28%.  So, China imports 22% of sub-Saharan African oil and "the West," 41%.

What about North Africa? The major producers there are Libya (Europe has 71%, China has 12%, the US 4%) and Algeria (Europe gets 72%, "Asia" gets 10%). If this was added to the totals, China's percent would shrink and Europe's would expand.

China is a big consumer of African resources -- timber, cotton, copper -- but as far as oil, it is still quite a bit smaller than "the West".