Assessing China’s “Corona Diplomacy” in Africa


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Even though China spends considerably less than the U.S. and Europe on public health assistance in Africa, Beijing is seemingly dominating the narrative with its high-profile donations of food, PPE, and medical missions.

Lidet Tadesse, a policy officer in the Security and Resilience Program at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, an independent think tank in Brussels, said in a recent blog post that the fact the Chinese aren’t just giving money to aid agencies, as is the case with a lot of EU and U.S. assistance, but are instead delivering badly needed masks and other materials is critical to understand why Chinese aid is being well received in Africa. Also, she added, the fact that China is perceived to have brought COVID-19 under control while the U.S. and European countries are still struggling to contain the outbreak is another important aspect.

But “it’s not all roses and rainbows,” she cautioned in her article. While the Chinese have certainly generated a lot of positive buzz around their COVID-19 relief efforts, big problems loom on the horizon. 

How Beijing proceeds with African debt relief and the ongoing resentment among large swathes of African civil society in the aftermath of what happened in Guangzhou could easily erase the goodwill built up over the last few months from all of those donations.

Lidet joins Eric and Cobus to assess the current state of “China’s corona diplomacy” and to explain why she thinks the Chinese approach to COVID-19 relief efforts in Africa is seen as more successful than those from other countries.