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China and the USA: cooperation or conflict?
China and the USA: cooperation or conflict?

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5.2 Competition in the wider world

One of the ways in which China is increasing its economic influence is through developing extensive connections with countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Investment in oil production has been a particular feature of relations with African states, though China has also extended into other raw material sectors, such as copper production in Zambia. China has also provided much needed investment in infrastructure in Africa and in Latin America.

Figure 19 A sign welcomes Chinese Premier Hu Jintao to Ndola, the industrial centre of Zambia’s copperbelt, in 2007

The implications for relations with the United States are complex. On the one hand, competition for oil and other resources in Africa and elsewhere may be seen in zero-sum terms with the United States losing access to supplies. The weakening of such economic ties may also reduce US political influence, something that is keenly felt particularly in Latin America, long regarded by the United States as their ‘backyard’. Supplying aid to developing countries has also given Western donors political leverage. The rise of China as a trade partner, investor and aid donor in developing countries may well reduce this mechanism of Western influence.

On the other hand, improved infrastructure and increased economic growth as a result of China’s involvement opens up markets and opportunities for investors and traders from the United States and elsewhere, delivering absolute gains. Between 2000 and 2010 Africa’s economic growth record was impressive, partly as a result of China’s investment.