EU PUTS AFRICA BALL IN CHINA'S COURT
Asia Times, October 30, 2008
The European Union (EU), traditionally suspicious of China's business-first, pragmatic approach to Africa, has released a groundbreaking policy paper which proposes sharing the responsibility for the continent's great challenges, marking a great step forward in Europe's approach to Beijing's many engagements in Africa.
"The EU, Africa and China: Towards trilateral dialogue and cooperation", was released by the European Commission on October 17. It combines a clear political re-orientation with pragmatic policy options, and in so doing constitutes Europe's first advance towards cooperation with both China and, hopefully, the African Union.
While China has so far remained silent diplomatically on the EU's new policy proposal, sources say Beijing is giving trilateral cooperation serious consideration. But it may take a long time for the Chinese government to make a formal response as the cooperation would involve major policy changes.
During the past two years, commentators have portrayed China's engagement in Africa as successful and a challenge to traditional donor policies and geostrategic interests. On the surface, China's bilateral and unconditional dealings with African governments seems to have undermined European efforts towards sustainable development. But Chinese and African officials claim China's "soft" diplomacy has been more preferable and successful than Europe's conditional overtures. In light of such developments, the EU has increasingly found itself under zugzwang, a position in which a chess player is compelled to move.
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