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scramble for africa
Japan to Challenge China in Africa?

Is Africa becoming the latest battleground for east Asian diplomatic and economic competition? Official visits by both Chinese and Japanese officials, including Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, suggest that a new arena may be opening up in the Game of Thrones.

Officials from those countries don’t see it that way. In Ethiopia, Shinzo Abe told an audience of dignitaries that when Japanese companies do business in Africa it is a “win-win” situation. Competing with China “is not our intention at all,” said a Japanese deputy chief cabinet secretary last week as Abe toured the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. China’s foreign ministry spokesman concurred, saying China had long provided African countries with “sincere and selfless help,” and that any attempt to stir up a competition for influence in Africa is “a wrong decision which is doomed to fail.”

But the concurrent visits to Africa by Chinese and Japanese officials follows a pattern of diplomatic and economic outreach and competition, from Southeast Asia to Latin America. Thankfully, there’s plenty of opportunities in Africa for everyone.

One important thing to look out for—especially over the next few weeks or months as the Abe Administration seeks to change the rules that restrict Japanese arms exports—is any sign that African countries are looking to buy weapons or military equipment from Japan. Abe is trying to move his country away from its pacifist past and to make sure Japan’s defense forces are able to compete with China’s. One way he can accomplish that goal is by loosening the restrictions on arms exports to allow the Japanese military equipment sector to grow as a deterrent against Chinese aggression. He has already nailed down arms sales or military cooperation agreements with Turkey, France, and England. Will Africa be next?

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  • Anthony

    Are Western lens/coloration (battleground) appropriate prism to view/analyze China/Japan African engagement in 1st quarter of 21st century. Japanese and Chinese business investors (as well as Japan and China proper) may be enhancing future trade opportunities (as noted).

  • TommyTwo

    Remember the old days of Taiwan’s checkbook diplomacy?

    “China’s foreign ministry spokesman concurred, saying China had long provided African countries with ‘sincere and selfless help.'”

    Did he actually keep a straight face?

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