A Triangular Relationship
Leuven Global Governance series
Edited by Jan Wouters, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Matthieu Burnay
Chapter 13: China and the European Union in Sub-Saharan Africa
The first decade of the 21st century bore witness to a number of catalytic changes within the international political sphere that have been accorded considerable levels of attention by mainstream Western media and political analysts, such as the 9/11 attacks, the War on Terror or lately the international financial crisis. Other developments of concomitant importance have received considerably less attention. This was the case regarding China’s meteoric return to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). At first, China’s rapid expansion was initially kept off the mainstream radar, until Western analysts, journalists and politicians could no longer turn a blind eye. When they finally turned their attention to this phenomenon, the response – for the most part – bordered both on frenetic fascination and apprehension, as Beijing was perceived to be directly threatening Western interests on the subcontinent. For the European Union (EU) in particular, China’s rise was interpreted as an intrusion into Europe’s supposedly ‘sacred’ backyard. With its foreign policy mindset focused elsewhere, Brussels was caught short by Beijing’s apparent opportunism.
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