Article from ROAPE Volume 35 Number 115
History & Identity in Construction of China's Africa Policy
One of the most notable features of the forging of China's new activist foreign policy towards Africa is its emphasis on the historical context of the relationship. These invocations of the past, stretching back to the 15th century but rife with references to events in the 19th century and the cold war period, are regular features of Chinese diplomacy in Africa. Indeed, it is the persistence of its use and the concurrent claim of a continuity of underlying purpose that marks Chinese foreign policy out from western approaches which have by and large been content to avoid discussions of the past (for obvious reasons) or insisting on any policy continuities. However, beneath the platitudes of solidarity is a reading of Chinese historical relations with Africa emanating from Beijing that is, as any student of contemporary African history will know, at times at odds with the historical record of Chinese involvement on the continent. &break; This article will examine the use and meaning of history in the construction of China's Africa policy. It will do so through first, a brief discussion of the relationship between foreign policy, identity and history; second, a survey of Chinese foreign policy towards Africa from 1955 to 1996; third, an analysis of the implications of Beijing's approach for its efforts to achieve foreign policy aims regionally and globally.