The United States has lashed out at “predatory” Chinese and Russian involvement in Africa as it announced a leaner footprint on the continent that insists on accountability in trade and peacekeeping.
In a speech billed as unveiling a new US strategy on Africa, national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday echoed Trump’s “America First” philosophy, showing a distrust of international institutions and a sense of stark competition with rival powers.
Bolton denounced China for its aggressive quest for natural resources and its rising military and maritime presence — warning that the balance of power in the Horn of Africa could shift to Beijing — and accused Russia of using the continent to seek past imperial glory.
“The predatory practices pursued by China and Russia stunt economic growth in Africa, threaten the financial independence of African nations, inhibit opportunities for US investment, interfere with US military operations and pose a significant threat to US national security interests,” Bolton said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
He said that China used “bribes, opaque agreements and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands.”
China has found ready partners in part by promising not to interfere in internal affairs.
Abe Denmark, a former assistant secretary of defence now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, called Bolton’s approach on China “particularly self-defeating” and said it may drive more African nations toward Beijing.
Bolton also told African governments to expect a tighter-fisted approach to aid, with an end to “indiscriminate assistance across the entire continent.”
“All US aid on the continent will advance US interests, and help African nations move toward self-reliance,” Bolton said.
“Can’t we just engage Africa on its own merits and not make it part of the grand China competition chessboard?” he tweeted