Liu Zhaoyi, Director, South Africa Branch, Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, in Global Times (April 30, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: GCIS, Republic of South Africa)
The spread of Covid-19 across Africa has coincided with some negative comments against China in African media and on local social media platforms. These include conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus and claims that China is using aid to further control Africa.
The West, meanwhile, is waging a smear campaign against China by bandying terms such as “neo-colonialism” and “resource plundering”. These slurs have intensified during the Covid-19 crisis, influencing public opinion, particularly in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Mainstream media in the West inevitably drown out Chinese voices. To counter this, China needs to consider the following:
First, the attitudes and policies of African governments towards China evolve with the external situation. As governments again look to maximize their own interests, the re-emergence of business pragmatism will prompt governments to repair their relationship with China.
Second, even with provocation from the West, there is no real anti-China wave in Africa. Rather, any acrimony is a result of emotions stemming from mounting economic pressure. This issue will eventually fade.
Third, some African politicians have the politicized the epidemic. Yet the African people remain kind hearted, even though public opinion may have been swayed by simplistic messages from external forces.
Fourth, the epidemic has made China-Africa bilateral research institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and institutions realize that exchanges cannot rely on seminars and workshops. Instead, Chinese actors should come to Africa with clear goals, better planning and long-term strategies.
Finally, the importance of youth should not be overlooked. Chinese youth can show the next generation of young Africans that China is not just powerful and wealthy but can still relate to Africa on many levels and issues such as poverty alleviation, employment and development. China and Africa can therefore face common challenges and solve problems together.