China woos Ethiopia, pledging food, trade, investments for Horn of Africa
While China’s global competition has been a well-known fact, Beijing now signals an expansion of its ambitions in the Horn of Africa, as evidenced by Ethiopia’s recent acknowledgement that China has become the East African nation’s leading source of foreign direct investment, largest trading partner, and development financier.
China plans to send more emergency food aid to the Horn of Africa and will also fund the reconstruction of Ethiopian infrastructure destroyed in the Tigray war, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said in Beijing during a recent meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart. China supported the Ethiopian peace process, Qin also said and “is willing to deepen cooperation between the two countries in various fields to help Ethiopia’s post-war reconstruction, development and revitalization”.
Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister; noted that as his country’s leading source of foreign direct investment – as well as the country’s largest trading partner and development financier – China had a big role to play in its future growth.
This comes as experts have described China’s strategy as having been increasingly aimed at fragmenting its diplomatic engagement with the Horn of Africa to cement its foothold in the conflict-ridden region. China has been shifting the dynamics of its geopolitical influence in sub-Saharan Africa by expanding its footprint in the region as the United States and its European allies made an exit. Experts also point out that China has been weaponizing investment on foreign soils, including in the Horn of Africa, as a part of its ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ to fulfill agendas of economic and military expansionism abroad.
According to Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), “while China has until now been opportunistic, exploiting commercial opportunities in Ethiopia and Djibouti, [Beijing] could soon move into a new stage in which it uses its military under the guise of security operations or partnerships in order to shape governments to its interests along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean coasts from Sudan down to Kenya.”