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Not just cobalt, that’s why China flirts with Congo

Not just cobalt, that's why China flirts with Congo

Moves and aims (economic and not only) of China in the Republic of Congo. The in-depth analysis by Giuseppe Gagliano

From January 4 to 9, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and Seychelles.

The purpose of these visits stems from various reasons all fully consistent with the projection of Chinese power in Africa.

Firstly, they arise from the need to implement the Beijing Action Plan of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) (2019-21); secondly, the aim is to consolidate Sino-African cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

In this regard, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has promised that Beijing will extend $ 11 billion (€ 9 billion) in vaccine loans to Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Third, from the need to consolidate the Belt and Road .

In fact, it should not be forgotten that Africa constitutes an immense market for China both in terms of demographics and in terms of natural resources.

However, the real novelty of these visits is represented by the cooperation that China and the European Union – through WHO – intend to put in place to accelerate the development and production of Covid vaccines -19 thus guaranteeing equal access for all country with the aim of making the vaccine a public good globally.

On the other hand, just in June 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping had declared at a meeting of African leaders that "African countries will be among the first to benefit" from a coronavirus vaccine, once its development and spread in China. It goes without saying that sending the vaccine is not a choice dictated by altruistic reasons but by very precise strategic choices aimed at transforming Africa into an area of ​​Chinese influence to counteract both the American and French presence.

But there is another aspect that must be brought to light: we had just mentioned the importance of the natural resources present in Africa. In this regard, of particular interest is the relationship that China has achieved over time with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Exploited by the Belgian sovereign Leopold II for the reserves of rubber , the presence of cobalt is currently a very precious resource.

In fact, cobalt plays an important role in lithium-ion batteries, conducting heat to prevent smartphones and electric vehicles from catching fire. The importance of cobalt's numerous commercial, industrial and military applications prompted the US government in 2018 to consider it a commodity of "strategic and critical" importance to US security.

It is no coincidence that China had moved with foresight and clarity long before the United States as evidenced by the fact that today's global cobalt supply chains are dominated by China. If we consider that most of the world's cobalt is currently produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 40 to 50 percent of the cobalt production of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is owned by Chinese companies.

Over the past two decades, China has invested heavily in cobalt mining operations in Africa. As part of a $ 6 billion deal in 2007 called "Infrastructure Minerals , " China secured mineral rights in a large cobalt mine in the DRC in exchange for construction projects such as roads, highways and hospitals.

Finally, one last consideration: most of the initiatives implemented by China in the field of foreign policy arise from long-term planning and not from occasional reasons (think of the problems faced several times in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea ).

While on the one hand this modus operandi certainly presents unknowns – also determined by the stability of Chinese domestic politics – on the other hand, however, this approach allows China to carry out large-scale projects fully consistent with the aspirations of a power that has ambitions of global hegemony

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/non-solo-cobalto-ecco-perche-la-cina-coccola-il-congo/ on Tue, 12 Jan 2021 07:23:43 +0000.