China’s foreign policy and its human rights impact in Africa. A comparative study of Ethiopia and Uganda

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

32 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Content

1.1. Introduction
1.2. An Overview
1.3. Understanding foreign policy
1.4. Foreign policy and human right
1.4.1. China’s foreign policy
1.4.2. China’s foreign policy and human right
1.5. An overview of Africa China relation
1.5.1. The material need
1.5.2. Access to new market and investment areas
1.5.3. Political Influence
1.5.4. Case of Taiwan
1.6. The place of human rights in Africa-China foreign relation
1.6.1. Prioritization of economic and social rights
1.6.2. The development paradigm
1.6.3. Focus on group right
1.6.4. Stability as a precondition
1.6.5. Why China succeed in Africa?
1.6.6. How human rights affected?

2.1. Human right experience of Ethiopia
2.2. China’s investment intention and impact on human right in Ethiopia
2.3. Human right experience of Uganda
2.4. China’s Investment Intention and Impact on Human Right in Uganda





As we have seen, the foreign policy of states and there relation is governed by the national interest and code of conduct in which each state need to objectively achieve, protect and govern their interaction. Securing ones advantage and national interest of states, their foreign policies mostly hang-on their national interest and comparative advantage in any interaction. Hence, the foreign relation guided by foreign policy of states affects the economic, social, political and moral values of either each or non-dominant partner states that are in relation. For example, the lately developed Asian state, China, had got an overwhelming investment and aid provision in African states since the late 21 centuries. China’s footprint on the African continent had been increased alarmingly and become big and bold. But, the China-Africa relation had face so many criticisms from the perspective of human right issues. In Aftermath of the coming of China, the issues of human right violation in Africa were intensely and frequently raised. Therefore, under this study, the paper seeks to address the effects of China’s foreign policy and relation on the human right protection and promotion of selected African states (Ethiopia & Uganda). In doing so, secondary documents like, journal articles, books, Magazines and reports were used. Data’s were also collected from different Medias and newspapers to get the full picture of the study issue.

Key words

Foreign relation, Foreign policy, China-Africa relation, Human rights

Publishers notice

The author of this text is not a native English speaker. Please excuse any grammatical errors and other inconsistencies.


1.1. Introduction

The paper seeks to address the correlation of foreign policy of states on human right in general and the foreign policy of Chinese on the human right situation of Africa in particular with reference of two (Ethiopia and Uganda) selected African states. The paper tries to specify why the African states welcomed China and push out Europeans and USA, which are the most coercive states for human right and democratization than China. It also seeks to overview China’s approach to human rights in it foreign relation juxtaposition with the human right situation of selected African countries (Ethiopia & Uganda) before and after the coming of China in the continent. In doing so, the paper tries to critically analyze the ‘place’ of human rights in China’s foreign policy and relation and its effect on the human rights promotion and protection of Ethiopia and Uganda. The human right situation of these countries before and after the coming of China as main companion of foreign relation and investment were used to substantiate the effect of China’s foreign policy on human rights.

During investigation, the qualitative research approach is deployed by going through different literatures like, Journal Articles, books and magazines, periodic reports, media’s, status records of states, reports of international and national human right instruments as well as NGO’s concerning human rights as the basic sources of data throughout the paper. To properly investigate the case; two African states namely, Ethiopia and Uganda were selected. In their experience of partnership of foreign investment and development cooperation with China, the two African countries had been received the highest and lowest aid and investment share from China than the rest African countries. Ethiopia receive 1.5 million dollar per year which place the country on fourth place from the continent while Uganda remain have insignificant relation with China beginning from 2011GC.[1] In their human rights record, the two countries had vivid disparities since 2011, while Ethiopia’s human right record deteriorates, the Uganda had better place in accordance with the report of World Freedom House record. So, the article tries to comparatively assess the human right situation of these two African states for endorsing the effect of China’s foreign policy on human rights.

1.2. An Overview

As David Forsyth states, as well see the global, regional, national, and sub-national actors for international human right, we will see, time to time again, that liberal norms have indeed been injected into international relations, and that: the notion of human right is here to stay in international relations, human rights as ‘soft law’ is important and pervasive, private actors.[2] Yet, there is variation among states in how seriously they take international human rights instruments, in which obligations they accept, and in the extent to which they attach reservations and other conditions to their acceptance.[3] For example, even though China’s rapid and consistent economic growth has increased its presence and relevance in world affairs[4], according to Thomas Lum & Hannah Fischer, the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices stated that China’s human rights record remained poor in 2007.[5] China has regularly spoken out against interference on human rights grounds in its internal affairs and those of other states, and it is often assumed that its ascendancy as a global power is threatening to this part of the international system.[6] China’s hunt for natural resources has been a boon for some countries in Africa. The relationship is allowing resource-rich states in the continent “to exploit untapped resources to gain leverage and to negotiate better deals with older customers.”[7] Arguably, the partner states’ state that there is opportunity in which both sides benefited from the relation.[8] However, it is still debatable that the China-Africa cooperation is a win-win situation. The apparent absence of human rights considerations in China’s Africa policy is also another concern of critics. One important critics of Beijing’s resource-based foreign policy has little room for morality and ‘naturally entrenched’ human rights.[9]

Nevertheless, the China’s investment policy are welcomed by most African states and in contrary USA and European get a retreat from the African concern proportionally than before the coming of China.[10] Africa, which always blamed by UN and USA in violation of human rights over their citizens is seems like that using China as an alternative for aid and support. That is why Denis Tull argues that China has presented an attractive alternative to conditional Western aid, and gained valuable diplomatic support to defend its international interests to most African states.[11] Most African states like Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya etc. are the most five tope investment areas of China in Africa.[12] Like their donor, these African countries except Kenya have a worst human right record in accordance with the Human Right Council World Report of 2009-2013. For example, the world human right record of Ethiopia under 2008 (p: 170-182), 2009 (p: 71-76), 2010 (p: 118-123) and 2013 (p: 114-121) clearly stipulate the deterioration of human right from time to time while the interaction and relation with China increased alarmingly from 9 million dollar per year to 1.5 billion dollars annual aid and support for economic and social developments.[13]

Know a day’s China become one of the world’s largest states in terms of economy that have GDP of 8.227 trillion USD.[14] Chinese trade and commerce have exploded over the last decade; they have been an economic boon to many developing countries, correspondingly boosting China’s clout in countries as remote from Beijing as Angola, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan.[15] This economic power makes China more influential in the world, ‘side to side’ with the world’s super power called USA. While USA becomes the typical example and put itself as the defender of human right in the world, China remains reluctant on the case. More than this, USA and other European states always blame China as the violator of human right in the world.[16] Despite this, the principle of human right in the world is consider as the major principle of democracy and the fundamental motive for achieving development in which economic cause is one part, China’s approach is mostly blamed that it is indifferent to the issues of human rights for its effort of development. According to IPS, in 2009, China pledged to give Africa 10 billion dollars in concessional loans over the next three years, and is accelerating its drive to pour vast sums of money into developing infrastructure in many African nations. This has been welcomed by African leaders. So, it seems that Africans should be cautious about China’s interests in Africa, but also be aware that criticism levied against China by various Western countries may also have double standards and be part of a wider agenda whereby the rich countries are feeling threatened by the rise of a potential economic competitor. Western standards of human rights and raising this as an issue are a good thing, but their own aid policies have often been with their own interests in mind, so caution is probably warranted for anyone bearing gifts. But, as Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist tries to state about, as China’s power and influence grow, the Chinese government now finds itself weathering criticism for its support of cruel regimes around the world. But in many places, China has purchased its clout at the cost of maintaining warm ties with murderous governments, from Burma, North Korea, perhaps most prominently, Sudan while the two U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have accused Omar Hassan al-Bashir's regime of genocide. Chinese government defending its long-standing principle that national sovereignty should reign supreme, seeking natural resources to fuel its red-hot economic growth, or offering a new model of international development and diplomacy.

With standing the problem, there are many controversial reports and writings on the issues of China’s human right approach and the human right situation of China locally. It is the world view that China’s human rights are deteriorated over and over; evidently China’s economic progress is very radical and had a significant influence over the world economic politics.

1.3. Understanding foreign policy

The definition of foreign policy is very difficult that every state of the world used their agreed understanding for themselves. But for the sake of this paper it better to use the most commonly used definition of foreign policy from Britannica encyclopedia. It says;

Foreign policy is a policy, strategy or guiding principles for states for outside (foreign) contact and relation with any other states, individuals and non-governmental organizations which consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations in the world.[17]

When we look this definition, foreign policy is the reflection of the national interest of states that used to direct the relation of states outside the territorial boundary. So, foreign policy is the reflection of the internal (domestic) policy of states to the outside world for achieving certain necessary goal or national interest. Some scholars like Juliet Kaarbo, Jeffrey S. Lantis, and Ryan K. Beasley argues that “Contemporary politics and globalization have blurred the line between what is foreign and what is domestic”[18] policies in the state. This fusion of the two policies make very difficult to differentiate foreign policy from domestic policies. As a result of this; what states need for their internal objective and able not achieve internally will impose to the external world to fill their deficiency that they face internally. For example as Juliet Kaarbo, Jeffrey S. Lantis, and Ryan K. Beasley; “ Economic groups often have an interest in foreign relations as they seek to promote their foreign business adventures abroad or to protect markets from competitors at home.”[19] In other words , economic groups can shape the principle of states in their foreign relation . In this case; the economic need of individuals as well as states especially for developing state become the major challenge to be redirecting their foreign policy in accordance with their host states for economic gain in form of aid and technical assistance.

1.4. Foreign policy and human right

Beginning from the 19th century, human rights are always critical issues in foreign policy matter that states are used to take as their duty in their foreign relation with any outside states. For example as Ruby Gropas argues about, “a declaration which set a new standard of civilization which human rights have entered international law (UDHR) with an unprecedented level of standard-setting and development of monitoring and reporting mechanisms”[20] is basic bench mark which introduced human right in to the world politics.

This incorporation of human rights in international relation makes human right law and principle as part and parcel of international foreign policy of state as the international duty that they discharge. But these international human rights mostly affected by the domestic policy of states. That is why even David P. Forsythe argues that “…..most foreign policy decisions on human rights usually reflected to some degree various domestic influences beyond the calculations of national interest held by foreign policy officials”.[21] So, states may use human rights as a pretext to intervene on the internal matters of other states for their domestic objective. Minding this, Anuradha Chenoy argues that “the problem on the issue of human rights and foreign policy has arisen because the way the question of human rights has been often used by states to intervene in other states for their own geostrategic interests”.[22] For example, US intervene in Indo-China war, in concept of ‘saving Vietnam’, was blamed that it targeted to protect the expansion of communist rule which hundreds of thousands killed in the process.[23] As a result of this; the implementation of human rights in international arena loses its credibility.


[1] David Kampf, China’s Rise and the Implications for International Human Rights, 2007, Dr. Uche Ofodile, Trade, Aid and Human Rights: China’s Africa Policy in Perspective, University of Arkansas School of Law, 2009.

[2] David P. Forsyth, human right in international relations, Cambridge university press, 2000

[3] (David P. Forsythe, Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, United Nations University 2000).

[4] David Kampf, China’s Rise and the Implications for International Human Rights, 2007

[5] Thomas Lum & Hannah Fischer, Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy Implications, October 31, 2008

[6] Sonya Sceats &Shaun Breslin, China and the International Human Rights System, October 2012.

[7] Dr. Uche Ofodile, Trade, Aid and Human Rights: China’s Africa Policy in Perspective, University of Arkansas School of Law, 2009.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Denis M. Tull, China’s engagement in Africa: scope, significance and consequences, 2006

[11] Ibid

[12] Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology Vol. 4, Issue 2 -2009

[13] Chris Alden, Dan Large and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira ;China Returns to Africa: Anatomy of an Expansive Engagement , December 2008 p 74

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid: p.12

[16] David kampf, China’s rise and the implications for international human rights, 2007 P. 33

[17] Encyclopedia Britannica 7

[18] Juliet Kaarbo, Jeffrey S. Lantis, and Ryan K. Beasley:The Analysis of Foreign Policy in Comparative Perspective

[19] Juliet Kaarbo, Jeffrey S. Lantis, and Ryan K. Beasley:The Analysis of Foreign Policy in Comparative Perspective

[20] Ruby Gropas; Is a Human Rights Foreign Policy Possible? The case of the European Union

[21] David P. Forsythe; Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, 2000

[22] Anuradha M chenoy, Human rights and foreign policy: 2013

[23] (David P. Forsythe, Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, United Nations University 2000).

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China’s foreign policy and its human rights impact in Africa. A comparative study of Ethiopia and Uganda
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The author of this text is not a native English speaker. Please excuse any grammatical errors and other inconsistencies.
china’s, africa, ethiopia, uganda
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MA Gizachew Wondie (Author), 2015, China’s foreign policy and its human rights impact in Africa. A comparative study of Ethiopia and Uganda, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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