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US to counter China, Russia’s influence in Africa

WASHINGTON: The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt and predatory business practices, US national security adviser John Bolton said.

The United States’ No 1 priority will be developing economic ties with the region to create opportunities for American businesses and protect the independence of African countries, as well as US national security interests, he said in prepared remarks.

“Great-power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa,” Bolton said. “They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.”

Bolton’s speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, comes as US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, seek to resolve trade disputes that have roiled global markets and created economic uncertainty.

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” Bolton said in his remarks.

Bolton had equally harsh words for Russia. “Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance,” he said.

He accused Moscow of selling arms and energy in exchange for votes at the United Nations, “votes that keep strongmen in power, undermine peace and security, and run counter to the best interests of the African people”. Bolton said the “predatory practices” used by China and Russia stunt economic growth in African and threaten its nations’ economic independence.

China’s development policies in Africa have been a concern for Washington as the United States seeks to ramp up development finance in the face of Chinas global ambitions.

The head of the US Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) said in July that China is saddling poor nations with unsustainable debt through large-scale infrastructure projects that are not economically viable.

Bolton contrasted China’s “bait and switch” policies in Africa to the American approach. “The way we do business is much more straightforward,” he said.