Five Facts from China and Africa: A Century of Engagement

China and Africa: A Century of Engagement, the new book by David H. Shinn and Joshua Eisenman, is as comprehensive as its title suggests. This book, the first of its kind to be published since the 1970s, examines all facets of China's relationship with each of the fifty-four African nations. Selecting just five facts from this detailed study was a bit of a challenge, but nowhere near as labor-intensive as Shinn and Eisenman's research.

1. Chinese scholar Gao Jinyuan noted that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt reportedly wore silks that likely came from China. Around 166 CE, the Roman emperor sent northeast African goods as gifts to the Han emperor.

2. Between 1417 and 1419, Zheng He, a naval explorer in the court of Ming Dynasty Emporer Yongle with a fleet comparable in size to the Spanish Armada, made a voyage to the Somali coast. There is evidence that he reached Malindi on the Kenyan coast and Mombassa, and Mafia Island off Tanazina. (West African gold and slaves first arrived in Portugal in 1441.)

3. Zhou Enlai began his historic ten-country visit to Africa in 1963, signalling the begining of high level face-to-face contact betten African leaders and representatives from the People's Republic of China. While on tour, Zhou Enlai revealed the PRC's five principles for relations with African and Arab countries. These principles have served as official line of Chinese-African relations since then:

  • China supports the African and Arab peoples in their struggle to oppose imperialism and old and new colonialism and to win and safeguard national independence
  • It supports the pursuance of the policy of peace, neutrality and nonalighmsne by the governments of African and Arab countries
  • It supports the desire of the African and Arab peoples to achieve unity and solidarity in the manner of their own choice
  • It supports the African and Arab states in their efforts to settle their disputes through peaceful consultation
  • It holds that the sovereignty of the African and Arab countries should be respected by all other countries and that encroachment and interference from any quarter should be opposed.

4. In 2010, Nigeria imported $7.4 billion in goods from China while china's imports from Nigeria reached only $1.1 billion. Nigeria's trade deficit with China is creating tension between the nations. The United States remains Nigeria's largest trading partner.

5. From 1988 to 2010, the percentage of Africa's total trade with China rose from 0.7 percent to 13.31 percent. China's total trade with Africa grew from 1 percent to 4.3 percent.

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