China and Africa: The Next Decade

Feb. 02, 2013

The Center for China-US Cooperation in the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver hosted a one day conference on “China in Africa” on 1 February 2013. The organizers invited former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, David H. Shinn to give the keynote luncheon address. Ambassador Shinn took the occasion to predict the way the China-Africa relationship will look in 2023 in a speech titled China and Africa: The Next Decade.

Below is Ambassador Shinn`s full speech:

David H. Shinn
Adjunct Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University
Remarks at Conference on “China in Africa”
Center for China-US Cooperation
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
University of Denver
Denver, Colorado
1 February 2013

If ten years ago in 2003 I had given a presentation like the one I will attempt today, ten years later in 2013 I would probably be terribly embarrassed by the number of mistakes in my predictions of ten years earlier. This prospect concerns me less today. Ten years from now in 2023, I will be 82 and either no longer pontificating on these issues or, if I am, my audience may give me the benefit of the doubt on the grounds that I experienced early onset senility.

Put another way, how many of you would have predicted accurately in 2003 the state of China-Africa relations in 2013? Looking a decade ahead in international affairs is always a precarious task. By 2023, China will have passed from the Xi Jinping era, which has just begun,to a new leadership. The fifty-four countries in Africa (or will the number have increased by 2023?) will all have experienced varying degrees of change. The number of variables in the China-Africa relationship is enormous.

Nevertheless, I want to take this occasion to look into the future. If nothing else, my remarks should encourage more debate this afternoon.

Some Assumptions
I begin with a few basic assumptions about China that will also impact its relations with Africa over the next ten years. In my view, China’s leadership will remain stable and in full control of the country. Its focus will remain on ensuring domestic political stability and economic development. But structural challenges such as its aging demography, continued migration to cities, higher population growth rate as a result of loosening of restrictions on the one child policy, higher labor costs, dangerous levels of income inequality, worsening …

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