Sino-African Relations of Oil. Win-win or Chinese Neo-imperialism?

Bachelor Thesis, 2017

44 Pages, Grade: 24.0

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I: A Literature Review

II: Methodology and Theories

III: The Political Case

IV: The Economic Case

V: The Socio-Environmental Case



Appendix I

Appendix II


I am grateful to my parents (Andrew and Juliet Doma) for the academic opportunities they have provided to me, and even more grateful for the knowledge they have impacted in me so far. I am grateful for the support of my family and friends (especially my Grandparents, siblings, and school mates). And I appreciate the impact and help of my lecturers, without whom this research would be incomplete. I am thankful to LUG’s Librarian Jeffrey Mingle for his assistance through the whole process. I duly note and appreciate the intellectual challenge that my peers posed to me in the LUG PPR Department, thank you for the shared knowledge. Special thanks to my supervisor Alice Judell, her guidance throughout the process of writing this paper has been immensely useful. And ultimately I am thankful to God for all of the opportunities I have. I will like to dedicate this paper to my Grandparents whom despite not having any education of theirs, made educating their children and grandchildren a priority.

Table of Figures

Figure 1: Import % From Africa to China Source: UN Comtrade via Sahel and West Africa club secretariat/OECD 23

Figure 2: 2010 Export Volume from China to Africa in % Source: UN Comtrade via Sahel and West Africa club secretariat/OECD 24


For some time Africa looked to have become less important for China, however, towards the end of the Cold War China refocused its priority on Africa, giving birth to what is much debated today as South-South cooperation (Looy, 2006). This paper seeks to understand the relationship between China and African countries with primary attention given to two of Africa’s major oil producers: Nigeria and Sudan, and in extension South Sudan. Most researchers have tended to focus on Beijing’s economic adventures on the continent. For example, Hurst (2006) and Taylor (2006) discuss Beijing’s chief goal in Africa as one based on capturing energy resources and reserves in Africa (Also see Brookes, 2007). Other academics and experts have focused on comparing and contrasting Beijing’s advancements in Africa to that of Western powers, with a view to establishing China’s interests as neo-colonial or imperial. Volman and Klare (2006) and Bromley (2006) for example, describe China’s energy sourcing in Africa as a repetition of what Western powers such as the United States of America (US) had previously indulged in. Others however, have attempted to measure the benefits that can be accrued by both China and African states in the relationship. Amadi (2012) for example, questions the persistence of poverty in Africa despite increased economic cooperation with China.

This report differs from previous studies of Sino-African relations, for one the paper successfully theorizes the relations and demonstrates that studying the relationship must be carried out based on China and individual countries, rather than China and Africa as a continent. And secondly, the core purpose of this paper is understanding how China interacts with African countries, and understanding the basic elements inherent in their interactions. This research presents a holistic study of Sino-African relations with the case studies of Nigeria and Sudan, with a focus on the three factors of politics, economics, and socio-environmental implications. Framing the paper in this manner allows the researcher to develop a theory for the study, and allows for the critical development of literature that helps to explain if the relations contains elements of neo-imperialism, or if indeed, the economic interaction is one that can be described as a win-win. Basically, this paper seeks to use literature to establish Sino-African relations as neo-colonial or neo-imperial, or as a win-win South-South cooperation. In similar vein as previous research on Sino-African interaction, this paper is written on the premise that Africa has an immense opportunity to enjoy a substantial amount of benefits in dealing with China, this paper subsequently attempts to generate literature evidence for this claim.

This paper’s methodology mainly focuses on the use of literature especially journal articles, as well as credible blogs and websites, and in some cases books. This paper is written with the use of theories of global political economy, especially the theory of economic nationalism which helps the researcher to navigate through the economic complexities of Sino-African relations. The paper further uses underdevelopment theories – dependency and the world systems approach, which provides the background for investigating claims of imperialism on the part of China. This paper is structured into five primary chapters, the subsequent chapter provides a review of previous studies on Sino-African relations with a focus on various literature of debates on the issue. The second chapter outlines the method by which this research has been conducted, it describes the tools that have been deployed for writing the research. Especially, this chapter successfully theorizes Sino-African relations. The third chapter begins the first part of studying the cases of China-Nigeria and China-Sudan. In this chapter an examination of political relations between the parties is conducted. The fourth chapter goes on to analyze the economic interaction that goes on between China and African states, with the aim of establishing the relationship as a win-win or otherwise. In the fifth chapter, the research attempts to highlight the environmental impact of Chinese presence in Africa, with the goal of understanding if the relationship has the traits of the ecological disregard Western powers had in Africa. Furthermore, the chapter discusses the perceptions of Africans towards their countries engagement with China.

I: A Literature Review

China has not tried to conceal its oil explorative activities in Africa, research shows that China’s trade relations in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is carried out with mostly states that produce oil (Hurst, 2006; Taylor, 2006; Lumumba-Kasongo, 2011). Bill, Huang, and Morrison (2007) and Jiang (2009) agree that China’s African presence is mostly positive, and Chinese presence is geared towards the “externalization of China’s own modernization experiences in the past three decades” (Jiang, 2009, p. 585). Nonetheless, (Bill et. al., 2007) agree with Hurst (2006) and Taylor (2006) that China’s primary goal in this South-South relationship is oil exploration for domestic energy purposes. China seeks to lock-up major oil fields in Africa so as to own exclusive control of them, and a monopoly to manipulate oil prices in the future, among other assertions (Taylor, 2006). Further, Zhenxing (2013) emphasizes Chinese desire to do business with SSA’s big oil producers, Zhenxing attests that Chinese energy needs continue grow, therefore, China has to go exploring for oil in all parts of the world. Again, this has indeed drawn attention to Beijing, and in Zhenxing’s own words, “China-Africa oil ties based mainly on oil purchases from and oil investments in Africa are increasingly of concern to many policymakers and experts, especially in the United States, Europe, China and African oil-producing countries” (Zhenxing, 2013, p. 2). The negative reactions of Chinese interests in Africa can be considered biased, as majority of the critics are Western and assume that China’s strategies only aim to undermine Western powers especially the United States of America (USA).

Researchers oriented towards realism believe that China is simply out to gain political influence globally, some scholars perceive that Chinese interest in SSA is purely one aimed at gaining absolute and unrestrained access to Africa’s oil (Brookes, 2007). Brookes (2007) goes on to assert that “While some are critical of China for seeking exclusive access to oil and gas supplies in Africa, others applaud Beijing's willingness to take risks in markets where some Western energy firms can't or won't go for a variety of reasons, arguably adding to world energy supplies, lowering prices, and benefiting consumers” (p. 2). Volman and Klare (2006) agree with Bromley, Busby, Duquet, Moro, (2006) that China is simply following precedence in its energy sourcing, just as in the past Western powers such as the USA have done in the Middle-East. In fact, some scholars have gone on to describe Sino-African relations as a neo-colonial relation. Some Western writers go as far as criticizing Chinese efforts for industrialization by making environmental degradation arguments, and some purport that Chinese National Oil Companies’ (NOCs) refusal to impose governance conditions before they can invest, demonstrates Beijing’s disregard for democratic development. Brookes (2007) still goes on to note in accordance with Jiang (2009) the efforts of China in trying to export its brand of modernization to parts of the world that are often neglected by the West.

In criticism of (Bill, Huang, and Morrison, 2007; Jiang 2009), these researchers tend to ignore the role of historical and cultural context, like the modernization theorists of the West, Modernist theorists from South-East Asia are failing to comprehend Africa’s different style of colonialism. As Lee (2013) puts it, Chinese and African scholars “see their own regions of the world as unique, culturally and historically specific phenomena” (p. 1). In addition, most African countries have not undergone the same revolutionary process as China. Furthermore, irrespective of the positive impact of Sino-African relations on SSA, the lack of conditionality that comes with Chinese aid to Africa could have dire economic consequences in the long run, especially as trade deals are usually carried-out at the highest political levels with elites without having any major impacts whatsoever on the rest of the state. Western criticisms of Chinese NOCs for their lack of regard for Africa’s democratic build are fallacious, for indeed International Oil Companies (IOCs) for years have carried out business with Africa’s major oil producers without consideration for conditionality. Furthermore, American criticism of Chinese lack of regards for environmental wellbeing is a direct criticism of what the United States has done in the past itself (Zhenxing, 2013).

Against the arguments of Brookes (2007), Volman and Klare (2006), and Bromley (2006), China can be defended for their sweeping contributions in the infrastructural development of SSA, this in itself shows a clear picture of positive Sino-African relations, especially in a short period of time. One thing surely connects all of these scholars, the dichotomy in the reasons why China is in Africa. However, the negative impacts that this relation may have on African states cannot be taken for granted. Zhenxing (2013) for example points to the Western criticism of lack of environmental concern by China as a point of focus, African countries must not make the same mistakes as in the past, and Chinese policy-makers must adopt social policies that will leave Africa green post-development and post-industrialization.

Global political economy provides the best tools for studying this complex Sino-African relations, nonetheless, developmental models also provide fora for debating the subject matter. Amadi (2012) in a research paper raises the question of whether south-south relations are indeed a win-win, or a “new” south-south dependency. Amadi (2012) establishes that the lack of substantive development in Africa such as reduction in poverty, does beg the question of the essence of this Chinese-African relations, he does not conclude that this is a new dependency nevertheless, he rather predicts that if much changes is not experienced in Africa in the coming years, then the south-south new dependency will be emergent. Lumumba-Kasongo (2012) can be said to have carried out a similar research to that of Amadi’s, however, Lumumba-Kasongo tries to interrogate Sino-African relations from a neo-imperialist and neo-colonialist perspective. He compares the neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism purported by Western powers in the past, and goes as far as analyzing America’s past relations with oil rich Iran, and establishes in the same vein as Amadi that no empirical evidence at this point suggests that China’s Africa presence is one aimed at Chinese neo-imperialism or neo-colonialism, he mentions the evolution of international politics especially the presence of institutions such as the United Nations (UN), and international regimes as guiding principles for Chinese diplomacy with Africa, thus leaning towards a liberal institutional perspective. Amadi (2012) and Lumumba-Kasongo (2012) both approach the Sino-African relation query from a neo-Marxist perspective. Maswana (2009) in contrast to Amadi (2012) and Lumumba-Kasongo (2012) attempts to develop empirical evidence to demonstrate that there are no elements of core-periphery relationship in Sino-African foreign relation. Maswana reaches his conclusion by applying the basic features of neo-Marxist development theories of dependency and world systems in an analysis of Chinese actions and approaches in Africa. Based on Chinese policy of noninterference and Chinese criticism of neo-liberal policies, Maswana (2009) concludes that Sino-African relations provides an opportunity for dependency theorists to develop new ways of studying global economic relations (Maswana, 2009). Lee (2013) contends that theorizing Sino-African relations is quite difficult at the moment, he points to the novelty of the area as one cause, but most importantly for Lee, the primary reason for this is the Sino-centrism applied to the enquiry, which certainly does not make for a conducive theorizing of a relationship that involves two parties.

The paper aims to use secondary sources such as journal articles and others, with the aid of global political economy theories and developmental theories to explain the primary arguments concerning Sino-African relations. This research will focus on studying the cases of Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria and SSA’s seventh largest producer of crude oil Sudan (and in extension South Sudan) (AfricanVault, 2016). The investigation of Chinese activities in Nigeria and Sudan’s oil sectors will focus on how the oil relations reflect on three primary sections: politics, economics, and socio-environmental impacts.

II: Methodology and Theories

As Lee (2013) argues, in any discipline of enquiry theory and methodology are closely associated. The study of Sino-African relations is relatively new, and investigation into the area have primarily being focused on seeking out facts, and largely ignoring theoretical perspectives. Indeed, Western and African scholars have only discussed rhetorically Sino-African relations, specifically whether the relation “is an instance of colonialism, imperialism, a new scramble for Africa, or even hegemony, without engaging or using the vast and rich conceptual and theoretical resources associated with each of these terms” (Lee, 2013, p. 1). This chapter sets out to precisely accomplish a theorizing of Sino-African relations, this section aims to show the significance of theories to understanding oil relations between China and Africa using global political economy (GPE) theories, and theories of development. There is vast theoretical discourse on imperialism for example, as stated by Lee (2013), including writings from Karl Marx and post-colonial thinkers on economic domination and cultural exportation, and thoughts on hegemony that fuels contemporary international relations debate on aids and loans, and diplomacy and the establishment of equilibrium between approval and compulsion, and finally, new discourse on development especially as investment is increasingly moving in a south-south course rather than in the previous north-south route (Lee, 2013).

Many theories and debates have been discussed on the question of theorizing Sino-African relations, see

Appendix I. For the purposes of this paper, the GPE theory of economic nationalism as well as underdevelopment theories – dependency and the world systems approach provide the best tools for understanding Sino-Sudanese and Sino-Nigerian relations. This paper does not disapprove the significance of other theories to understanding Sino-African relations, however, economic nationalism and theories of underdevelopment present the tools that precisely capture the north-south debate. As Zhenxing (2013) presents, China does not in any way deny its economic incentives in Africa, therefore, economic nationalism theory provides avenue for strictly understanding if Chinese intentions in Africa are solely for selfish national interests on the one hand. While on the other hand, theories of underdevelopment make it possible to interpret Sino-Sudanese and Sino-Nigerian oil relations in a manner that attempts to tackle the alleged claims of Chinese imperialism and a new scramble for Africa (Lumumba-Kasongo 2012; Maswana 2009).

As Nakano (2004) presents, at the core of economic nationalist theory is the idea of enhancing national power, primarily, economic nationalists are concerned with maintaining national unity through the spread of national resources away from the margins of class. Economic nationalists advocate free trade as long as it improves national power, even more essential is the fact that when states pursue international economic liberalism, it does not necessarily reflect a market liberalism in the national economy. The argument is that state intervention in the national economy is vital for the proper functioning of the international liberal economic system (Nakano, 2004). Indeed, as Sun (2014) asserts, one of China’s political agendas towards Africa is motivated by Beijing’s desire to be supported by Africa toward achieving its “One China” policy, and to having Africa’s backing in multilateral forums such as the UN and the World Trade Organization (WTO). While economically, China sees Africa as its basic source for natural resources and new markets to spur its economic growth domestically (Sun, 2014).

To understand an antithesis of dependency theory – i.e. modernization theories, see

Appendix I. For this research, dependency theories and the world systems approach provide interesting lenses for understanding Sino-African oil relations because of China’s status as part of the global south. Recent literature on SSA’s development with regards to Sino-African relations often takes the shape of an enquiry into the dependent nature of the partnership, scholars prefer to investigate whether Beijing’s new adventure in Africa incorporates elements of underdevelopment theories. Dependency as Phillips (2014) elaborates, emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as the antithesis of modernization theories. Dependency theories originated from Latin America by a group of economists with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), based in Chile and led by Raúl Prebisch. Prebisch advanced a structuralist hypothesis of the global system and the situation of underdevelopment he encountered in states of Latin America. Dependency theory’s core attributes lie in the structural divide between the wealthy center of the global north and the poor periphery of the global south existing in a global capitalist system. Dependency theorists believe that unfair “terms of trade” which is the ratio of export to import prices exists, that makes the center wealthier to the detriment of the periphery. To put crudely, as the center gets richer the periphery gets poorer, in other words underdeveloped (Phillips, 2014). Subsequently, Immanuel Wallerstein in the 1970s further elaborated on dependency with the world systems approach. The world systems proposed one more unit to the center/periphery of dependency. According to world system theorists, countries belong to one of three core, periphery, and semi-periphery. “The modern world-system can be understood structurally as a stratification system composed of economically, culturally, and militarily dominant core societies (themselves in competition with one another), and dependent peripheral and semiperipheral regions. Some dependent regions have been successful in improving their positions in the larger core/periphery hierarchy, while most have simply maintained their peripheral and semiperipheral positions” (Chase-Dunn, 2007, p. 1060).

Maswana (2009) contends that China does not easily make it possible for theorizing its relations with African oil-producing countries using underdevelopment theories. China’s status in the Center/periphery context provides for an interesting analysis, theoretically China lacks the core characteristics of a center power, and neither does it resemble a typical peripheral state. One apparent defiance to dependency by Sino-African relations is the absence of “a persistent deterioration in the net barter terms of trade between primary and manufactured products” (p. 11). Furthermore, Sino-African relations are built strictly around economic development, nevertheless, most of the recent deals made between African states and China go beyond profit making, they extend to long-term partnership relationships (Maswana, 2009). Additionally, as Kalu (2012) notes, a detailed observation of Africa’s growth trend prior to the advent of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2002 vis-à-vis a decade since its inception, indicates that increased business between China and Africa has not being to Africa’s disadvantage. Indeed, since the establishment of FOCAC Africa has experienced increased rates in gross domestic product (GDP), higher gross national income (GNI), and high GDP per capita (Kalu, 2012).

This paper orbits around an analysis of secondary resources, especially the use of journal articles as well as academic blogs, and credible internet webpages and other online resources. Two case studies have been selected to be analyzed based on three aspects; political, economic, and socio-environmental. The case studies, examining the relations between China and Nigeria, and China and Sudan, has a timeframe of enquiry from the year 2000 to 2015.

III: The Political Case

The approach to comprehending Sino-African oil relations, especially in Sudan and Nigeria focuses on Beijing’s dealings with Nigeria and Sudan. Politically, understanding Chinese activities in Sudan involves a closer look at Chinese policy of “non-interference” or “non-intervention”, especially Beijing’s role in the Darfur crisis, and its importance to ending the crisis in South Sudan. From a Nigerian perspective, this section lays emphasis on Sino-Nigerian economic friendship beyond oil production, and how Nigeria enjoys Beijing’s noninterference policy.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation (2014) report that the conflict in the Darfur region of West Sudan started in 2003 when two different groups rebelled against the Sudanese government in retaliation to what they described as willful mistreatment. The administration in Sudan has been extensively accused of equipping militias from the Arab ethnic groups with weapons, who apply scorched-earth strategies against the rebels’ populations, Khartoum however, denied all forms of accusations. UN peacekeepers in 2009 had reported that major fighting was over, yet, the conflict escalated in 2010 forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Experts have described the rebels’ motives as stemming from a lack of political participation, lack of basic amenities and infrastructures, and a general sense of marginalization. Since fighting began in 2003, the number of deaths as estimated by the UN as of the first half of 2014 was over 400,000, the number of people displaced as of 2014 was at about 2.3 million. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur was signed in 2011 by the Sudanese government alongside the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a body that represents small groups of rebels. Nonetheless, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and other groups refused to sign the deal. The Doha peace process led by the UN, the African Union (AU), and Qatar yielded no significant results as rebel groups continued to fight the military (Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2014). As Sikainga (2009) puts it, the UN described the Darfur conflict as the “worst humanitarian crisis” the world had witnessed yet. Indeed, “behind the tragic events in Darfur lies a complex history of deeply entrenched social inequalities, an environmental crisis and competition over natural resources, conflicting notions of identity, the militarization of rural societies, and, above all, a chronic problem of bad governance that has plagued the Sudan since its independence from British colonial rule in 1956” (Sikainga, 2009).

China’s policy of noninterference in the Darfur area of Sudan has come under increasing scrutiny from Western governments and various human rights advocacy groups, who especially claim that Chinese economic dealings especially in the Sudanese oil sector, only serve to indirectly encourage Sudan’s government to relentlessly engage in the conflict (Agubamah 2014, & Macfarlane 2012). As argued by Agubamah (2014), Western governments as well as Western scholars and media constantly criticized Chinese motives as only pursuing economic policies to its own benefits, without any concerns whatsoever to the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region. As a result, China’s activities have been described as a key factor that has precipitated the crisis to its worst levels, and Beijing has increasingly been asked to behave as a responsible stakeholder on the international stage. In 2008, as the crisis in Darfur escalated Western leaders began campaigns to pressure China into changing its behavior by demanding a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games (Agubamah, 2014).

Indeed, as Su (2016) advances, Sino-Sudanese relations can be traced to the very Second Civil War of the Sudan which lasted from 1983-2005. Chinese oil companies took charge of oil fields discovered and subsequently abandoned by US companies after the US government placed sanctions on Sudan for President Omar al-Bashir’s human rights violations. By the late 2000s Malaysian and Indian companies alongside the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Sinopec had become key investors in the Sudanese oil sector. Chinese companies hold majority shares in consortiums such as the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC) with a 40 per cent share, and a 47 per cent share in the Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC). China indeed, is the biggest importer of petroleum today, China imported 49,000 and 65,000 barrels of crude oil from Sudan and South Sudan respectively in 2013, totaling 86 per cent of Sudan’s and South Sudan’s exports. As the Sudanese Civil War raged on, China imported 40 per cent of its African crude oil from Sudan which summed up as nine per cent of Chinese total oil imports globally. The income accrued from the export of oil to China sustained al-Bashir and his administration, for this reason international critics have accused China for being sponsors of al-Bashir’s genocidal regime, pointing to Khartoum’s crimes in Darfur. The accusations nonetheless, have not discouraged the Chinese from continuing business with Sudan and South Sudan, Sudan has in fact seen oil revenues rise from US$61 million in 1999 to approximately US$596 million in 2001, an increase of around 875.7 per cent. Most of the increase in revenue has been spent on arms, and China at this point became Sudan’s biggest supplier of arms with deals increasing to an estimated US$23 million in 2005 from just US$1 Million in 2002. Additionally, the West has criticized China’s noninterference policy, in fact China is accused of doing the exact opposite by signing oil business deals, by selling arms to Khartoum, by engaging in peacekeeping missions in Sudan such as deploying 700 troops to the UN Mission in South Sudan in 2015, and also engaging in diplomatic negotiation processes (Su, 2016).

However, as Agubamah (2014) presents, China is not the only country with huge investment in the Sudanese oil sector, India and Malaysia hold big stakes too but have nevertheless, being spared the scrutiny suffered by Beijing. Sudanese revenues from exporting petroleum to China have played a key role in some of the significant events of the Darfur conflict. With enough oil revenue from China Khartoum has been able to develop a grand strategy to provide space to accommodate its primary enemy, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Better economic conditions aided by Chinese deals in the oil sector was significant for the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the deal that set a revenue sharing process between Sudan and South Sudan (Agubamah, 2014). Sudan confirmed and willingly accepted the deals that China presented to them, China’s willingness to work with Khartoum to handle the crisis represents a different way of dealing with Africa, and cannot be described as imperialism. As Shinn (2009) contends, on the one hand it is generally agreed that what is going on in Darfur is unacceptable, on the other hand, there is debate on what constitutes as a genocide according to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Indeed, Washington was the only government that had claimed that the conflict in Darfur had resulted in a genocide, then-US-Secretary of State Colin Powell first argued that a genocide had occurred in Darfur in 2004, subsequently majority of human rights groups backed his assessment. However, the UN, AU, and other governments have assessed the situation in Darfur as war crimes and crimes against humanity (Shinn, 2009).

In addition, recently China has repeatedly emphasized its ‘Five Principles’. Panda (2014) notes that it has become part of Beijing’s daily rhetoric when it attempts to defend its UN voting record, or to criticize the West’s tendency to interfere in other countries national politics, to lay emphasis on its all-important five principles. Namely; mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and peaceful co-existence. China’s five principles reflect Mao Zhedong’s vision when he proclaimed that China had “stood up” in 1949 preceding the century of national humiliation. China has designed its foreign policy based on this principles to demonstrate its conscientious independence in global politics, and how it aims to treat other nations, and how it desires to be treated (Panda, 2014). In China’s five principles, shared respect for autonomy and territorial integrity has been one of Beijing’s guiding principle for its foreign affairs in SSA. In dealing with Africa precisely in the context of Darfur, these principles are reflected in Beijing’s reluctance to intervene or interfere in the domestic politics of a sovereign African Nation. However, this principle has evolved for China, especially as they now recognize that intervention sometimes becomes necessary by the international community, and thus China has developed criteria that must be reached before they can support actions of intervention. For China to support an intervention by the international community, the intervention must first be considered legitimate, secondly the intervention must happen with the authorization of the UN, thirdly it must be carried out at the invitation of the state being interfered with, and finally an intervention must respect the sovereignty of the state in question (Shinn, 2009).

Chinese noninterference policy towards Darfur does not necessarily imply that Beijing is completely unwilling to execute the obligation to safeguard, Agubamah (2014) argues that China can only be compelled to participate in an intervention after its criteria for interference have been met. As Sceats and Breslin (2012) present, China uses various mechanisms to deal with situations of interference, they find ways to participate without actually substantially partaking, “for example, in relation to the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, it threatened to veto but ultimately abstained on resolution 1556 (2004) imposing an arms embargo on all non-state actors including the Janjaweed militias. It later voted in favour of resolutions authorizing peacekeeping missions and abstained on resolution 1593 (2005) referring the situation to the ICC” (p. 47). Since the conflict in Darfur erupted Beijing has been at the heart of the crisis, and has been in constant communication with the relevant parties in Darfur by acting as mediators, as intermediary between leaders, and have also engaged in peacekeeping missions (Agubamah, 2014).

Sino-Nigerian political relation lacks an intense conflict like Darfur’s conflict that can result in problematic international intervention that questions Beijing’s African policy. Nevertheless, Nigeria and China do share a form of political relationship, such as enhancing political mutual trust in a bid to advance cooperation of strategic worth, extension of cultural exchanges and collaboration in combating diseases such as bird flu and malaria, and the promotion of collaboration in international politics, advancement of human rights, fight against terrorism and engaging in peacekeeping endeavors, and the promotion of South-South negotiations (Egbula & Zheng, 2011). As Mthembu-Salter (2009) points out, Sino-Nigerian relations took strengthened flight after Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s return to civilian rule happened to coincide with Beijing’s new orientation towards Africa in 2000. During President Obasanjo’s second tenure in office (2003-07), Chinese-Nigerian relation intensified, the president visited China twice while during the same period Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao both paid separate visits to Nigeria. Nigeria and China now look to have both developed coherent policies towards dealing with each other, indeed, these policies are chiefly built around economic benefits. Beijing’s primary objective towards Abuja rest’s around reinforcing its presence in Nigeria’s energy sector especially crude oil, augmenting the share of Chinese multinational corporations (MCNs) in Nigeria, and bolstering Nigeria’s market for Chinese merchandize (Mthembu-Salter, 2009).

Adekola (2013) generally finds Sino-Nigerian relations useful and as an opportunity for the Nigerian government to refocus its domestic and foreign policy. Indeed, Nigeria’s economic growth, political development, and social progress has been tied to the status quo that has largely been dictated by the global capitalist system of the West. This system according to Adekola (2013) ensures “that existing international division of labour allocated to it remains – the role of supplying raw materials and importing finished goods from the industrialized West” (p. 1). Adekola’s dependencia way of thought calls for a shift in paradigm for Nigeria, the giants of Africa must look to get rid of their dependence on foreign capital so as to avoid a vicious circle of debt and unsustainable development or underdevelopment. Nigeria should be able to intensify its national industrious force for development. It is in the light of Nigeria’s over dependence on Europe and North America, and Nigeria’s excessive transfer of wealth in form of natural resources to Western states that Nigeria’s ever expanding relationship with Beijing must be treaded gently, and guided by policy-makers to avoid consequences suffered in the past (Adekola, 2013).

Utomi (2008) explains that during the Cold War, China tried to position itself as a non-aligned partner to Africa and had a policy of conditionality-free development aid. Subsequently, as China pursues its economic national interests in Nigeria for oil today, China once more presents itself as a partner that pursues development with a human approach. Apart from its apparent interest in Nigeria’s petroleum sector, China seeks to engage in areas of infrastructural development and the intensification of Nigeria’s Agricultural sector. For example, a three party contract comprising China, Nigeria, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), sent 500 professionals from China to assist in sectors of water conservation in Nigeria’s desert regions and the production of food. Besides, additional contracts and deals in the past years have seen private as well as public Chinese firms engage in enlargement and reconstruction in areas including electricity, transportation, and telecommunications (Utomi, 2008).

Egbula and Zheng (2011) argue that Sino-Nigerian relations defies just oil exploration and extends to other areas. Beijing has ensured through its policies that its relationship with African countries is one built around South-South co-operation, partnership, and mutual benefit. Beijing’s April 2011 white paper on its foreign aid policy outlined its strategy for offering aid based on camaraderie amongst developing nations. Chinese aid policy espouses numerous forms, such as technical support, emergency humanitarian aid, material needs, training of personnel, medical volunteers, among others. On debt relief policies China is certainly at the top, Nigeria has been one of the key beneficiaries of Beijing’s debt relief policy since 2000 (Egbula & Zheng, 2011). Nigeria can learn from China, as Adekola (2013) puts it, “the process of economic development and liberalization embarked upon by China which has turned her into an investment magnet and one of the most competitive markets in the world, should be very instructive to Nigeria” (Adekola, 2013, p. 4).

Apart from China’s position as a periphery (or more appropriately a semi-periphery) nation, its approach to dealing with Sudan and Nigeria based on the essence features of dependency theories is devoid of neo-imperial qualities. The West’s global system requires intervention in other countries to promote liberal democracy and open market policy when it believes necessary. However, as Shinn (2009) demonstrates, Beijing’s policy towards Sudan already rules out such possibilities, unless otherwise requested by the partner country. According to dependency theories, one basic characteristic in an unequal relationship is the transfer of raw materials from periphery states to core states, and in return get expensive manufactured goods. China is well known for its export of the cheapest finished goods internationally, especially to developing countries. Something present in Sino-Nigerian relation. Howver, as Utomi (2008) claims, China has engaged in agricultural activities with Nigeria in areas such as food production and water conservation. Dependency to a large extent exonerates Beijing from allegations of neo-imperialism (University of Delaware, 1999).

IV: The Economic Case

China’s interest in Africa’s key oil producing countries is explicitly one built around economic success, therefore, this section aims to analyze the benefits of South-South cooperation, especially if the relationship is a win-win situation. This part of the paper studies whether financial benefits of this relations only accrue to China (imperialism), or are mutually beneficial. To understand Sino-Nigerian economic relations and the impacts of this relationship on Nigeria, emphasis is laid on Nigeria’s trade with China. With emphasis on the mode of exercising trade relations between the two countries, thus asserting if China’s economic nationalism only favor’s them alone. In an annual report, the China-Africa Center submitted in 2010 that China had surpassed the USA as Africa’s largest trading partner. Sino-African trade relations had suffered a slump prior to this revelation, resulting from the 2007/2008 global financial crises. Nevertheless, that did not hamper Chinese-African trade relations, indeed, as Sino-African trade expanded, statistics emerged revealing that Sudan and Nigeria were two of China’s biggest African trade partners, with Sino-Sudanese trade volume in 2009 at US$16.06 billion and Sino-Nigerian trade at US$6.39 billion (FOCAC, 2010).

Ayoola (2013) notes that Sino-Nigeria trade volume spiraled in 2004 to around 300 per cent, by 2008 trade between Beijing and Nigeria reached US$7.2 billion, in 2009 trade expanded to US$7.3 billion, and US$7.7 billion in 2010, by 2015 the total trade volume between the two countries was at US$14.94 billion. And as reported by the Nigerian Premium Times Newspaper, Sino-Nigerian bilateral trade volume from 2004-2015 accumulated to US$101 billion (Premium Times, 2016). Trading between Nigeria and China at this volume makes Nigeria China’s second largest African trade partner behind only South Africa (Ayoola, 2013). Fick (2016) reported that Nigeria had signed an interim deal with Chinese firms estimated at US$80 billion aimed at infrastructural rebuilding in the oil and gas sector, a sign of Beijing’s resolve to improve the largest economy on the African continent especially as it endured its worst recession in over 10 years. The contract outlined details covering all of Nigeria’s energy division, including the instalment of new pipelines, upgrading of crumbling refineries, and expanding ignored power and gas sectors of the economy. According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 38 Chinese firms are engaged in this agreement, the Sinopec oil group and Norinco manufacture arms, are two of this companies. Security concerns have led analysts to question the viability of the implementation process of this deal. If this deal does get implemented the NNPC would be at the driving helm (Fick, 2016). Indeed, this was not the first time that Beijing and Nigeria had engaged in such public-private ventures, as Egbula and Zheng (2011) record, in May 2010 NNPC and the firm China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) entered into an agreement worth US$23 billion for the establishment of three refineries and a fuel multiplex, which was financed by the China Exim Bank and Sinosure. For the first refinery worth US$8 billion, the NNPC covered 20 per cent of the financing, while CSCEC covered 80 per cent, and the Lagos government made available infrastructure and land. It was agreed that the daily operation of the refinery will be done by the Chinese firm as a majority shareholder, and repayment of the loan done from revenues generated. The structure is located in the Lagos Lekki Free Trade Zone, and is projected to produce 300000 barrels of crude oil a day, and an annual liquefied petroleum gas of 500000 metric tonnes. It is hoped that the project will reduce unemployment in the country, as well as minimize Nigeria’s over dependence in the import of refined petroleum (Egbula & Zheng, 2011).

Nabine (2009) in a study explains that in the short-run, Sino-Nigerian bilateral economic relations will not necessarily make much of an impact on Nigeria’s growth. Nonetheless, in the long-term it is expected that the Nigerian economy is bound to gain from such trade relations. According to Nabine’s research, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) into Nigeria is a result of Nigeria’s dynamic labor market, which in itself is a driver of Sino-Nigerian trade, and has quite the positive impact on Nigeria’s growth. Furthermore, the research showed that there is expected positive growth in the long-run, without necessarily any short-term impact. Nabine (2009) concludes that indeed, it is up to Nigeria to maximize a relationship that can be quite beneficial for its economic growth (Nabine, 2009). Ayoola (2013) and Manko (2016) both argue that China and Nigeria’s bilateral trade has contained a persistent element of trade imbalance for much of the history of the economic relationship. Indeed, Nigeria has continued to play the role of a periphery to arguably a semi-periphery, the relation has been one based on the export of primary goods (oil) from Nigeria to China, and in return Nigeria imports manufactured goods from China. This mode of trade has resulted in an imbalance between the two nations. This trade imbalance problem can be easily attributed to Nigeria’s lack of technical expertise to manufacture certain commodities at home, the consequences have been advantageous to China and detrimental to Nigeria. The trade imbalance affords China Nigeria’s large market, with an appetite for the consumption of imported merchandise, and an opportunity for investment in Nigeria’s under-performing sectors. Many problems confront this economic relations, such as poor infrastructures on Nigeria’s part, poor technology, and insecurity, among others. Nevertheless, the trade imbalance between the two nations is of more concern (Manko, 2016). Indeed, as seen in Figure 1 and Figure 2, according to a 2010 data Nigeria exported the least to China, while in terms of export from China to Africa, Nigeria comes second only to South Africa (Egbula & Zheng, 2011). For example, in terms of trade imbalance, 2005 bilateral Sino-Nigerian trade totaled US$2.5 billion, out of this total Nigeria only earned US$400 million while China made US$2.1 billion (Manko, 2016).

As Ferraro (2008) maintains, one key feature of dependency theory is the dynamism found in the relationship between core and (semi-)periphery nations, because the relationship does not just reinforce the unequal exchange, it also intensifies it as the two groups carry out more business. According to this therefore, there are two primary elements of dependency theory found in Sino-Nigerian economic relations, one is unfavorable terms of trade found in the large margin of trade imbalance that only benefits China, and secondly, the center periphery relationship detected in the export of primary products from Nigeria to China and the import of finished goods to Nigeria from China. According to Ferraro’s (2008) thesis, the trade imbalance between China and Nigeria, and the exchange of raw materials and a dumping ground for manufactured goods is a reflection of the intensification of Sino-Nigerian relations, which as understood above has led to large trade imbalances between the two countries (Ferraro, 2008). This shows an element of economic nationalism on China’s part, nevertheless, the onus as argued by Ayoola (2013), Utomi (2008), Egbula and Zheng (2011) is on Nigeria to now force increased FDI, and fix their trade deficit, while ceasing the benefits of trading with China. Some things do set China apart from previous powers that have traded with Africa, China’s willingness to invest in sectors others will not, its determination for infrastructural advancement, and its investment which has resulted in a consistent high economic growth for the continent, which is reflected in Nigeria’s emergence as Africa’s largest economy (Alessi & Xu, 2015). Beijing’s desire to help Nigeria build new refineries and renovate old ones, exonerates China’s economic policy towards Nigeria from allegations of purely economic nationalism (Egbula & Zheng, 2011).

Since South Sudan’s break away from Sudan, it has struggled economically and otherwise. Economic investigation hence, seeks to question the degree to which Chinese economic nationalism is at the heart of Beijing’s policy towards South Sudan. According to Barber and Yuhua (2012), early in 2012 the tensions between Sudan and South Sudan had resulted in the loss of income from oil exportation for Juba, this had left the country in political as well as economic disarray especially as oil revenues finances 98 per cent of Juba’s budget. Shutting down oil production in 2012 was a unilateral decision made by the administration in Juba, as a result Juba looked to other means such as foreign capital in other to finance its budget. South Sudan at that time despite its suspicion of the Chinese, which resulted from Beijing’s support for the regime in Khartoum, began to realize the opportunities that partnering up with China accorded, especially in sectors of national development and parching up Juba’s infrastructural defalcation (Barber & Yuhua, 2012). Indeed, there is a desire by Chinese private firms to infiltrate the new market Juba offers, while Juba sought loans away from the West, Beijing and China’s Exim Bank demonstrated a desire to offer low-interest loans to cater for infrastructural development, and maintained that the contract be offered to Chinese state-owned companies. In terms of diplomatic relations however, South Sudan’s outreach to Beijing were met with inaction. It is noted that two factors influenced the loan amount and technical support the Chinese were willing to offer to Juba. One was the stoppage of the production of oil, and the second one was attributed to the insecurity in the country (Barber & Yuhua, 2012). As South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir paid a state visit to China in April 2012, the media circulated reports of an US$8 billion loan to Juba, one which the Chinese government never confirmed, it was later confirmed by officials in Juba that only a loan amount of US$1.2 billion had been agreed upon, while the US$8 billion loan was a prediction of the amount of Sino-South Sudanese bilateral deals that could happen subsequently (Barber & Yuhua, 2012).

In Sudan, business continues to flourish with China, and in Sino-Sudanese economic relations we notice a similar case with Nigeria, a large amount of trade imbalance to the deficit of Sudan. In 2015 China was Sudan’s largest trade partner with an export percentage and import percentage of 56.43% and 22.91% respectively. Further, Sudan’s major export commodity was oil and mineral fuels (53.70%), while its largest import was finished goods such as vehicles, and motor parts (12.25%) (globalEDGE (UN Comtrade data), 2015). One can easily detect dependency elements in Sino-Sudanese economic relations, one in the export to China of raw materials and the import to Sudan of finished merchandise, and secondly, in the trade imbalance to the disadvantage of Sudan (Phillips, 2014).

Economic nationalism is quite persistent in the way in which China has treaded carefully in dealing with South Sudan. Beijing and private owners from China are weary of the security issues that surrounds investing in South Sudan. However, Barber and Yuhua (2012) argue that the primary reason why China has been hesitant in signing agreements is reflective in the halted production of oil in South Sudan, which leaves minimal incentives for doing business. In response, Chinese officials often demand that Western powers who openly supported Juba’s secession from Khartoum step-in and lend South Sudan a hand as it struggles for post-independence national development. Nevertheless, Beijing has reiterated its genuine desire to help Africa grow despite being careful to invest in South Sudan, and this is a demonstration of a partnership that defies just the exploration and exploitation of energy resources. Indeed, “the Chinese Government has shown its willingness to develop friendly relations with South Sudan by delivering humanitarian aid, anti-malaria drugs and sports facilities. An international conference centre in Juba with Chinese support is also being considered to improve the conference facilities for Africa’s youngest member state” (Barber & Yuhua, 2012, p. 6). In Sino-Nigerian as well as Sino-Sudanese economic relations, there is a presence of economic nationalism and characteristics of dependency and world systems approaches, but available evidence do not assertively position China as of the moment as just another imperial power looking to leave its disastrous mark on Africa.

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Figure 1: Import % From Africa to China Source: UN Comtrade via Sahel and West Africa club secretariat/OECD

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Figure 2: 2010 Export Volume from China to Africa in % Source: UN Comtrade via Sahel and West Africa club secretariat/OECD

V: The Socio-Environmental Case

This section of the paper approaches Sino-Nigerian and Sino-Sudanese relations from two areas, first, the paper attempts to understand the environmental facet of this relationship, and secondly, the paper aims to investigate the grassroots impact of Sino-African oil relations, ergo, understanding the perceptions of Nigerians and Sudanese towards their countries’ engagement with Beijing. Further, as Laura Parisi and Albert Bergesen posit, the World systems theory provide the best tool for understanding the environmental impact of Sino-African oil relations. Indeed, as the world has come to dwell on the notion that at the core of global interaction is financial and political practices, the dynamism of the world systems approach hence, provides the right lenses to understanding the effects political and economic processes can have on the environment (Bergesen & Parisi, 1997). As argued by Roberts and Grimes (2002), the world systems theory provides the best approach to understanding certain questions concerning ecological degradation and preservation. Such enquiries include understanding the possibility of an upper-stage social structure that determines how different countries approach policies on the environment, and going backwards in history to comprehend the effects on the ecology caused by the evolution of capitalism (Roberts & Grimes, 2002).

Major criticism towards Sino-African relations as argued by Taylor (2006) have come from Western observers, some of this criticisms have rested around issues such as human rights abuses in Khartoum, or the sale of arms by Beijing to Sudan without international licensing and oversight. Additionally, China has been accused of pursuing policies that only benefits its national interests, it is alleged that Chinese policy in Sudan primarily aims to consolidate its oil reserve exploitation in Sudan (Taylor, 2006). Macfarlane (2012) describes this allegations as often neglectful of African feelings, as apolitical and ahistorical, and generally simplistic. This accusations primarily aim to cause anxiety and increase frenzy and thus, magnifying the dissimilarity between actuality and opinion. Idun-Arkhurst and Laing (2007) argue that domestic responses in Africa to Chinese presence have been mixed, policy-makers and people engaged in the infrastructure and job creation sectors tend to interpret Sino-African relations as a win-win. China is acclaimed for daring to go where others such as Western powers will not, for example, China vetoed every effort made by the UNSC to place sanctions on the Sudanese government, and the rationale behind Beijing’s stance was that poor economic outcomes would only serve to intensify the crisis in the region, and that lack of financial capacity would limit the government’s ability to manage the crisis and its outcomes. However, some perceptions are negative, for example, people in the manufacturing industries are concerned about the long-term consequences of cheap Chinese goods to Africa, excessive import of Chinese products could stifle local industries as it will encourage complacency and discourage competition (Idun-Arkhurst & Laing, 2007). According to Lowe (2009), Chinese expansionism in Africa is at a risk of facing hatred from the grassroots. There are concerns that China is ripping African countries of its resources, and that Chinese nationals are taking over the jobs of locals. In Sudan especially, rebels are wary of Beijing for backing the Sudanese government that they allege oppressed its people and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, this has resulted in heightened tension between locals and Chinese nationals, and in some cases there have been demonstrations and violence against migrants and businessmen from China (Lowe, 2009 & Hanauer & Morris, 2014).

Askouri (2006) argues that Chinese investments are ruining communities in Sudan, Beijing’s investment have only served to enrich the ruling class while on the other hand, exploration and exploitation of oil has led to the displacement of families, and large acres of farmable lands to be polluted and wasted. Indeed, as the government in Khartoum signed deals with Beijing, they adopted a policy that enabled them to use proxy militias to aid in depopulating regions such as the Upper Nile region which is home to the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups. Other infrastructural projects such as dam installations in the River Nile of the Northern Sudan area has led to the displacement of over 50,000 subsistence farmers. Further, based on Beijing’s policy of noninterference, the Chinese have stood by and watched without action as thousands were left dead and displaced as a result of human rights abuses by the Sudanese ruling elite (Askouri, 2006). On the question of the impact of Sino-African relations on ecological life, Patey (2012) explains that the consequences of Sino-Sudanese oil relations on the environment came to fore as the Civil War began to wind down. Calculating the environmental damage triggered by oil explorative activities in Sudan is quite complicated, it ranges from environmental imprints left from the construction of roads to oil overflow problems. However, the most daunting concern for the Sudanese relates to water production and consumption. As Patey (2012) maintains, “The most worrisome issue, however, is “produced water,” which comes to ground along with extracted crude oil and holds toxic concentrations of chemicals and minerals; if it is discharged into the surrounding area without proper treatment, it becomes a severe hazard. The Heglig oil facility alone, for example, generates 10 million cubic meters of produced water a year. Water levels have risen as the Heglig oil field has matured, and the facility’s reed bed technology is no longer able to handle the increasing quantity of produced water. Contaminated water—as well as hazardous-waste dumping—threatens not only the vast marshland of the Sudd, but also the region’s inhabitants: after consuming contaminated water, livestock have died and civilians have fallen violently ill, building further resentment against the oil sector” (Patey, 2012, pp. 564-565).

In Nigeria’s case, environmental degradation has always been a sensitive issue especially for the populations in Nigeria’s oil-rich region. As Oyeranti, Babatunde, Ogunkola, and Bankole (2010) argue, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector as well as Nigeria’s manufacturing and construction sectors, are the primary sectors in Nigeria likely to cause environmental problems, and this sectors are those that house major Chinese investments in Nigeria. Activities of oil exploration in the particularly Niger-Delta area of Nigeria has led to the rise of militias who bemoan the risks of oil exploration to their lands, which are no longer farmable, and which has also polluted the sources of their water (Oyeranti, Babatunde, Ogunkola, & Bankole, 2010). Egbula and Zheng (2011) further emphasize this concern, “Nigerians are sensitive to the environmental implications of China’s growing involvement. China’s appetite for energy resources and its poor environmental track record at home have raised concern among conservation groups in Africa. Civil society groups fear that Beijing’s political un-conditionality will extend to the environmental realm and maximizing profits will be prioritised ahead of environmental concerns” (Egbula & Zheng, 2011, p. 18).

China indeed, is working hard to mitigate environmental degradation issues by enforcing modified policies that places emphasis on sustainable development. Indeed, as Shinn (2016) explains, The Chinese Export-Import Bank which is the primary institution that aid in financing Chinese firms that invest overseas, has emerged as one of the leading proponents of better environmental policies. According to David Shinn, the bank adopted its own environmental strategy in 2004 (see Appendix II) and developed a method of impact assessment, which encouraged firms from China investing abroad to embrace the policies of sustainable development and environmental protection adopted by host countries as they engaged with them (Shinn, 2016). According to the Center for Global Development (CGD), the Chinese Exim bank initially was not willing to reveal the contents of its new environmental policy, however, responding to the request of a US non-governmental organization that campaigns for the safeguard of the Pacific Rim (Pacific Environment), the bank in 2007 decided to make the contents of its environmental policy public for the first time (CGD, 2007). As Shinn (2016) explains, in the initial years of the FOCAC, the Chinese government did not pay attention to the environmental practices of Chinese companies in African countries. However, this approach has gradually shifted especially as during the 2006 FOCAC in Beijing, China and African states agreed to adopt a new approach toward expanding collaboration in matters of ecological conservation, the exchange of ideas, and intensify policies of mutual sustainable development (FOCAC, 2006). Further, an OECD delegation met with Chinese delegation in Beijing in 2006 and agreed to a number of recommendations aimed at improving environmental practices by Beijing and Chinese companies abroad, one key recommendation agreed to was increased environmental oversight by the Chinese government over the operations of Chinese companies abroad (Shinn, 2016). The 2006 meeting was in response to the suggestion of the Chinese Ministry for Commerce that “OECD and China cooperate on issues of corporate social responsibility, and that OECD explain its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to Chinese companies” (Bosshard, 2008, p. 12). The 2009 FOCAC meeting in Sharm el-Sheik focused precisely on the issue of climate change, it is perceived that Beijing is increasingly demanding better environmental practices by its companies as they invest in Africa. Chinese firms now apply environmental impact assessment tools, and are now even willing to ask for help from Western experts on sustainable development and fair environmental practices (Shinn, 2016). For example, in 2008 Chinese State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in charge of the central government’s firms issued orders demanding that state-owned companies intensify their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, such as raising product quality, environmental protection, work safety, labour rights, and social engagement (Bosshard, 2008).

In a research poll conducted by the BBC in 2014 on understanding the perceptions of Nigerians to Chinese presence, it was discovered that 85 percent of Nigerians perceived Chinese presence as positive, with just 10 percent of the surveyed deeming it as negative (Steinbock, 2015). Utomi (2008) explains that Nigerian officials and businessmen generally find Chinese activities in Nigeria as positive, one reason is China’s nonintervention policy, and even more is the lack of conditions that come with Chinese aid, as well as Beijing’s willingness to enter into long-term ventures. However, some Nigerian officials also argue that Sino-Nigerian agreements sometimes have their own demerits, the disadvantages nonetheless, are not considered as factors that could threaten long-term relationship. Some officials believe that Beijing’s noninterference policy and lack of conditionality for aid could encourage the Nigerian government to abuse human rights, especially as Beijing’s human rights record are not very positive (Utomi, 2008). A Pew Research Centre survey in January 2011 established that majority of Nigerians (76 percent) held positive views about Sino-Nigerian relations, this perception has remained constant in previous years with 75 percent in 2007, 79 percent in 2008, and 85 percent in 2009 (Pew Research Center, 2011). Indeed, it can be argued that the Nigerian public just as their leaders interpret Chinese presence as generally positive for similar reasons, however, a small number of the population have lamented particularly the poor quality of manufactured goods that are imported to Nigeria (Egbula & Zheng, 2011).

Beijing now employs soft power tactics in a bid to reassure Africans of their willingness to be partners (Hanauer & Morris, 2014). Nye (2006) describes soft power simply as cultural power. A Nation’s soft power can be derived from three resources; first its culture, especially where it is considered attractive, secondly, from a country’s political ideologies especially when it adheres to them domestically and globally, thirdly, its foreign policies measured on its moral authority and legitimacy (Nye JR., 2006). China exercises its soft power in areas such as the advancement of Chinese culture, people to people exchanges, and providing aid in areas of ensuring safety and securing stability in conflict prone regions such as Darfur and South Sudan (Hanauer & Morris, 2014). As Ramani (2016) puts it, China is making efforts to present a good outlook to African countries through its cultural exchange programs, China successfully established Confucius institutes at the University of Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria. And in 2009 China introduced its first Chinese Cultural Center in Nigeria. China has additionally promoted its soft power politics through the media, by engaging with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) through its StarTimes initiative, this has been a massive tool in attracting Nigerians to Chinese events and is largely considered a success in Sino-Nigerian relations (Ramani, 2016).

In understanding the socio-environmental aspect of Sino-Sudanese as well as Sino-Nigerian oil relations, features of world system theory according to Roberts and Grimes (2002), tend to suggest a semi-periphery and periphery relationship that results in environmental degradation to Sudan and Nigeria. As Bergesen and Parisi (1997) present, the world system historically attributes environmental degradation to capitalism, and as argued by (Albert and Xu 2016, and Egbula and Zheng 2011), the growth of China has been detrimental to its environment, and that bad policy has been transferred to its relationship with the African continent. And as developing countries in Africa strive to industrialize they will become even more incorporated into the global capitalist system, resulting in even more environmental hazards (Bergesen & Parisi, 1997). The manifestation of environmental degradation in Nigeria and Sudan resulting from its incorporation into the capitalist system through business with China and the West, presents China as just another exploitative power with only its economic interest at heart (Egbula & Zheng, 2011).


Discussions on the expansion and intensification of Sino-African relations has tended to focus primarily on Beijing and its role in African countries, ignoring sometimes the position of the countries they engage with. This paper explicitly develops a theory for studying Sino-African relations, albeit with a focus on oil producing African nations. The paper delves into the debate on China in Africa, especially the questions of whether Chinese interests can be interpreted as neo-colonialist or imperialist. Economic nationalism and underdevelopment theories – dependency and world systems, provide the best lenses for investigating China’s relations with Nigeria and Sudan, with an extension to South Sudan. The theories examine the cases based on three essential aspects of interstate interaction: political factors, economic factors, and socio-environmental factors.

The political aspect of Chinese relations with Sudan and Nigeria focuses on the proactive role of Chinese non-interference policy in the Darfur conflict in Sudan, and for Nigeria this investigation focuses on understanding Nigeria’s strong relationship with Beijing beyond just economic gains. Chinese economic activities cannot be separated from their political endeavors. As noticed in Beijing’s reluctance to particularly question Khartoum’s violations in the Darfur conflict, China continued to do business with Sudan despite international consensus condemning their actions. China’s non-intervention policies do not necessarily imply an absolute lack of willingness by Beijing to act, indeed, China has played quite the quintessential role in Sudan serving as an intermediary between Khartoum and the international community, and has gone as far as deploying troops in the Darfur region as part of a UN Peace-keeping mission. In Sino-Nigerian relations there is a clear diverse interest from Beijing other than just crude oil, China definitely seeks to assert itself in Nigeria’s energy sector. However, China has demonstrated its willingness to aid Nigeria’s economic growth and development through investment in infrastructures, and an expansion of Nigeria’s agricultural sector. Private Chinese investors are also engaged in various sectors of Nigeria including telecommunications, energy, and transport. China and Nigeria have successfully developed strategies for working together, and their relationship has thrived. China has been described by many academics as having an economic model that suits Nigeria’s financial growth efforts, and to a wider extent China can serve as a model for other African countries. China is willing to compromise its policy of non-interference as long as the necessary criteria are met, such as – an interference carried out on the invitation of the state concerned, and acted upon under the auspices of the UN. China believes in diplomacy in conflict resolution, and demonstrates that the use of force must always be considered as a last recourse. Additionally, China’s foreign policies mirrors its domestic policies. This is clearly reflected in Beijing’s five principles – which also serves as the foundation for China’s policy of non-intervention. China practically treats other nations as it would prefer to be treated – respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and non-aggression. China in its dealings with Sudan and Nigeria adopt policies aimed at supporting each other’s sovereignty.

The economic section of the cases of China in Nigeria and Sudan aimed to study the business relationship between Beijing and African countries, with emphasis on highlighting who enjoyed more benefits from the relationship, or to establish the situation as a win-win venture. Sino-Nigerian relations spans government to government contracts, as well as public-private partnerships. The structure of the economic interaction primarily entails bilateral engagement between the two parties, typical Chinese trade deals for example, constructing a refinery involves financing by the Chinese with the contract for construction granted to a Chinese firm, and payment done through the operation of the refinery over a period of time. However, based on theoretical analysis of Sino-Nigerian relations elements of dependency theory are contained in the economic agreements of the countries. Nigeria in this context reflects a periphery nation as it continues to export primary goods to China, while in return finished and expensive goods are imported into Nigeria. The nature of trade between Beijing and Abuja has resulted in a large trade imbalance – with Nigeria suffering a major trade deficit. Further, the situation of China and South Sudan reflect a major outlook of Chinese economic nationalism. China was willing to engage in business with Juba, nevertheless, the government’s insistence on shutting down oil production compelled China to limit its trade deals with South Sudan. By refusing to engage diplomatically with Juba and by limiting the degree of trade agreements, Beijing explicitly highlighted its sole concern in engaging with African countries – i.e. economic nationalism. Chinese financial engagement with Sudan is comparable to that of China and Nigeria, a major feature of the partnership is large trade imbalance. In 2015 Sudan was China’s African largest trading partner, while Sudan exported a volume of raw materials under 23 per cent to China, Beijing exported over 55 per cent of finished products to Sudan. The economic case between China and Nigeria, and China and Sudan is one that echoes Western allegations of economic self-interest on the part of Beijing. Nonetheless, current empirical evidence does not affirm such allegations as China in the case of South Sudan still signed contracts despite Juba suspending oil production.

In comprehending the socio-environmental facet of Sino-African relations the two primary areas of concern include; grasping the environmental implications of Sino-African trade relations and understanding people’s perception of Chinese presence in their countries. Feelings in Sudan about China is mixed, government officials and people engaged in the manufacturing and employment sectors acclaim Chinese presence. While some locals are worried about losing their jobs to Chinese nationals. There is major concern in the grassroots about Beijing’s continued support for the Sudanese government that is alleged has committed various crimes, such as crimes against humanity and repressed its people. A situation that has led to conflict between Sudanese locals and Chinese nationals in some regions of the country. Additionally, in Sudan only the elite is said to be enjoying the benefits of Chinese agreements while majority of the population are at risk of displacement due to environmental degradation resulting from oil explorative activities. The effects of Chinese presence in Sudan has been most felt when it comes to water production for consumption, in some regions water drilled from the ground usually contains chemicals from crude oil extraction and if consumed can lead to severe damage and loss of life. In Nigeria on the other hand, the general consensus between officials and average citizens on Chinese presence is one considered as a positive, many surveys show that a high percentage of Nigerians are contend with Nigeria’s engagement with China. There are environmental concerns nevertheless, primarily the oil rich Niger Delta area of Nigeria has been besieged by conflict resulting from oil exploitation that they believe has damaged their farmable lands, and polluted their lakes. Capitalism has been one of the leading causes of environmental degradation globally, and as long as Sino-African relations continue to expand the practice is not expected to retract anytime soon. Just as Beijing’s domestic policies are reflected in its foreign policy, their lack of disregard for environmental wellbeing at home is also reflected in how they have engaged with African states. China however, has recently made efforts to mitigate and counter environmental disasters resulting from its dealings with African countries, such as policies adopted by the Chinese Export-Import Bank outlining environmental guidelines for Chinese private firms investing in African countries. Indeed, China’s initial disregard for environmental concern positioned it as simply another exploitative imperial power.

This research lays the foundation for future studies of Sino-African relations, much literature on the relations has focused on the economic aspect of Chinese presence in Africa and analysis has primarily paid more attention to Beijing, often ignoring perceptions from African countries. Further study can go on to diverse areas of concern in the relations, with a focus on the grassroots impact of Sino-African relations. To fully understand the nature of Chinese-African relations researchers must endeavor to study the relations individually in different countries, and must outline the factors in a holistic way rather than just focusing on the financial factor. It is important for researchers to always keep in mind that China’s approach towards different African countries can usually take varying forms. Indeed, China can usually have a common interest in engaging with African countries, nonetheless, the nature of approach can always be different and the object of interest may also vary. Hence, a study of Chinese-Africa engagement must involve a study of individual countries, with an understanding of the country’s basic demographics as well as the country’s economic and political structure. A focus on the grassroots will help researchers suggest policies that will guide governments on how to ensure that the benefits of engaging with China is fully enjoyed by all. Additionally, every study of socio-economic and political interaction between states requires theorizing, as theories provide a bedrock for interpreting state actions and attitudes. Future studies on Sino-African relations should incorporate theories that can help in explaining state actions rather than just literatures that seeks empirical evidence.

This study demonstrates that African countries have problems that are particularly unique to them, therefore, in engaging with African countries China and other countries or international bodies must ensure that their policies towards each African state is unique and specific to that state. African governments must develop policies that can help them maximize engaging with China, a major area of concern is balancing trade. In other to eliminate trade imbalances African governments must expand FDI, to do these it is relevant that countries have advanced infrastructures, a stable security system, and improved technology, so as to attract and encourage investments. The burden as noted in the research literature to eliminate unfavourable terms of trade lies with African countries, Nigeria for example, must develop technical expertise aimed at boosting the production of certain commodities, expand human capital, and encourage entrepreneurship. Economic policies by African countries must be designed to provide some form of protection for local manufacturers, as an elimination of domestic production will indicate an elimination of competition. Furthermore, with the exploitative nature of capitalism and its ecological dangers, African countries in dealing with China must ensure that environmental sustainability is always a subject of discussion in every agreement. This is to say that all deals between investors and African countries must be linked to the sustainability of the environment, such a policy will ensure that the depletion of resources is controlled and environmental risks reduced. In cases of ecological disasters, it is usually people at the grassroots that suffer, policy formulation must hence, put at its core the implication of every contract on the grassroots. Mechanism must be developed to ensure that all environmental risks to people are absolutely eliminated, and a method must be developed to ensure that if people do get hurt they are well compensated. It is necessary that the policy outlook of African countries for engaging with foreign investors is revisited completely, the same policies that have been used in the past to engage with Western investors if applied now in dealing with China, the same consequences should be expected. Generally, the new engagement policies must focus on constraining the abilities of foreign investors to carry out activities without sufficient control and oversight, indeed, the onus mostly lies with African states.


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Appendix I

Debates on Theorizing Sino-African Relations

Heller (2003) argues that Chinese foreign policy from a theoretical aspect should be studied as a form of defensive realism. According to this then, China’s relationship with oil producing African states must be interpreted as Beijing’s attempt at protecting its national interest through energy security, especially as regards to its economic growth which is mostly dependent on oil (Heller, 2003). Realism has been described to be rational and thus has a disregard for morality in international politics, China indeed has been criticized mostly by Westerners for its policy of noninterference when dealing with African states. The policy of noninterference is based on the idea that China prefers to separate its financial endeavors from politics, however, how they interpret their business as different from politics is quite ambiguous. For example, the Chinese own huge stakes in Sudan’s oil sector, thus Beijing has often threatened to veto the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) votes on sanctioning the Sudanese president for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, Chinese noninterference policy applies only when it serves its personal needs (Osondu, 2013). “The Chinese government is much less prescriptive about domestic governance than Western governments are and has shown to be willing to work with highly authoritarian, repressive regimes and autocratic leaders as well as with more democratic states such as Zambia and South Africa” (Horst, 2014, p. 9).

Dunne (2014) presents the core attributes of the liberal school as thus, liberalists in international politics belief in the idea that morality and justice are a necessary criteria for interstate behavior. According to liberalism, states that engage in international trade with one another often have little incentive to engage in war, because of the gains of economic cooperation. Further, the liberal-institutional school emerged with the belief that anarchy in international politics could be controlled through the establishment of international organizations, at the core of this belief is the idea that states are no longer the primary actors in foreign relations, because of the presence of non-state actors who influence international relations. The economic model of the liberal school is capitalism, a system that believes in limited government intervention in the market. Liberalists believe that cooperation and peace can be attained through the application of international regimes, norms, morality, international trade, and the pursuit of open market policies by states (Dunne, 2014). Some scholars generally argue that liberalism does not apply to the interpretation of Sino-African relations, while on the other hand, liberalism like realism as a western theory often tends to criticize the relationship with a negative outlook, as argued by Sun (2014) scholars perceive Beijing’s affairs with Africa as lacking a moral background. Especially when Chinese activities in resource exploitation are perceived as selfish and meant to serve

Chinese national interests with no regards for Africa’s fragile political system and environmental wellbeing (Sun, 2014). Nevertheless, Chinese non-interference policy can somewhat be applauded by liberalists, as can their efforts for cooperation through the UN be criticized as they always tend to veto every UNSC policy that goes against their national interests (Dunne, 2014).

Buecker (2003) posits that for Marx, international conflict is a result of class struggle rather than the anarchic nature of the international sphere, “two particular features characterize a class: members of society that share the same relations to the means of production and classconsciousness” (p. 52). Marx believed that the masses in the society were transformed by the economic situation into a workforce with common conditions and interests perpetrated by an oppressive capitalist system. In foreign relations the basis of international conflict is a class struggle between the bourgeoisie that is nationally structured and controls various state structures, as against a growing international proletariat in a capitalist economic system (Buecker, 2003). However, the relevance of Marx and Marxism to understanding Sino-African relations of oil can only be properly captured by an off-shoot of the Marxist school, known as neo-Marxism.

To understand properly the theories of underdevelopment, comprehending modernization theories is a good starting point. The advent of modernization during the post-war period as Phillips (2014) argues, emerged as a theory meant to set developing countries on a path to a Westernized system of development. Modernization theorists perceived development as a social change process, one in which the end result was for less developed nations to acquire status similar to that of developed states (Phillips, 2014). The most criticized model of this theory was propounded by Walt Whitman Rostow. Rostow (1959) presented his idea of the five stages of economic growth which he believed that if properly practiced by developing states, would result in their modernization just as their Western counterparts (Rostow, 1959). However, as a result of the failure of modernization processes in Latin America, particularly through neo-liberal policies popularly known as the “Washington Consensus” to develop Latin American countries in the late 1990s, the modernization argument has now been refocused on how China’s growth popularly regarded to as the “Beijing Consensus”, provides an alternative way for developing countries to modernize (Zhao, 2010).

Works Cited

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Horst, B. J. (2014). A perspective on the Chinese investments in Africa from a Chinese and Western perspective. University of Armstadam, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences University of Armstadam. Armstadam: University of Armstadam. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from

Osondu, A. (2013, September). Off and On: China’s Principle of Non-Interference in Africa.

Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 4 (3), 225-233. doi:10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n3p225

Sun, Y. (2014). Africa in China's Foreign Policy. John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative . Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from

Appendix II

Export-Import Bank of China

Environmental Policy

About China’s Environmental Protection Policy

1. Environmental Management Policy

The core of the policy is to adopt preventive measures and enhance environmental management, in order to not produce and to produce less environmental pollution and destruction. The main measures include:

(1) To include environmental protection into the national economic and social development plan and the annual plan. To deal with environmental pollution and ecological destruction amid economic development.
(2) To strictly enact environmental impact assessment and the “three synchronized approach” for the construction projects, i.e. the design, construction and operation of the core project and pollution prevention facilities should be synchronized. Now, over 95% of construction projects comply with such requirements in China.
(3) To improve the environmental legislation, law and regulations, so as to bring environmental management into a legal and regulatory framework.
(4) To improve the environmental management institution. These institutions, which are formed at four levels of administrations, from central, provincial, municipal to county level, will implement environmental management according to law. State Council’s departments and corporations can also building corresponding institutions to manage its own sector or corporations’ environmental problems.

2. Environmental Economic Policy

It mainly includes capital investment and tax return or exemption policies:

(1) Corporations to include the expenditure incurred due to pollution abatement into the fixed assets investment plan.
(2) To give financial support to the national major pollution abatement and ecological protection projects; municipal government to spend the budget of municipal maintenance in the construction of environmental facilities; to levy the discharge treatment fee for pollution abatement.
(3) Tax return or exemption policies

- Income Tax Incentives: those who make use of waste water, waste gas and waste residue as raw materials for production will have the partial or full tax return in five years;

- Exemption for adjustment tax on directing investment: those who build sewage treatment plants and comprehensive resources utilization projects, the fixed assets adjustment tax on directing investment is set at zero;

- Value-added tax exemption: those who use corollary waste, fly ash and other waste residue as raw materials for construction materials, and those who use waste liquid and waste residue to extract gold and platinum can have value-added tax exemption;

- Construction tax exemption: the pollution abatement project at sources, when applying for premium loan, can have construction tax exemption;

- Custom tax exemption: to impose fixed (lower) tax rate for the imported municipal and paper mill sewage treatment equipment;

- Consumption tax reduction: to impose a 30% reduction of consumption tax for the production and sale of low emission cars, including sedan vehicles, sport utility vehicles and coach cars;

- Tax return on specialised agricultural products: The specialised products due to the grain for green, restoration of forests and grassland policies will have 10 year specialized agricultural product tax exemption.

3. Environmental Technology Policy

Its purpose is to raise the energy and resources utilization efficiency, and reduce the pollutant’s discharge. The main measures include:

(1) When taking the technological improvement measures, the industries should adopt advanced technique and clean production technology so as to raise resources utilization and energy efficiency;
(2) to impose a phase-out plan for the backward technology and equipments in corporations that waste energy, resources and pollute environment, according to the environmental law,
(3) Corporations should use non-toxic, harmless or lowly toxic, lowly harm materials during production.

4. Environmental Industry Policy

During the strategic adjustment of economic structure, we should promote the improvement of environmental industry, raise the technological elements in the environmentally friendly products and implement measures to promote socialization of environmental industry, and make environmentally friendly products marketable and standardized.

5. International Cooperation on Environmental Protection

China has been paying high level of attention to international cooperation on environmental protection. When seriously playing our part in environmental protection, China actively takes part in international environmental affairs. China aims at promoting regional and global cooperation together with a new partnership, so as to speed up the progress to resolve environmental problems. China emphasises the respect for national sovereignty amid international cooperation, and take the national interests of different countries and long-term interests of the world into consideration when handling environmental problems.

6. China Ex-im Bank’s environmental protection policy

China Ex-im Bank is paying a high level of attention to our funded projects’ environmental impacts. We enhance environmental monitoring and management before, during and after the project implementation.

(1) Before – Project Review

China Ex-im Bank considers projects’ environmental impact assessment as one of the basic requirements and elements during the project review. We require the funded projects to conduct feasibility study of environmental impacts, and obtain endorsement or approval from the recipient country’s environmental administration. Those projects that are harmful to environment or do not gain endorsement or approval from environmental administration will not be funded. This policy is enacted throughout over thousands of China Ex-im Bank’s funded projects.

(2) During – Project Examination

China Ex-im Bank conducts regular examination for project implementation, which includes the project’s environmental impacts. Once any unacceptable negative environmental impacts result during the project implementation, China Ex-im Bank will require the implementation unit to take immediate remedial or preventive measures. Otherwise, they will discontinue financial support.

(3) After – Post-project review

When the project is stopped or completed, China Ex-im Bank will conduct post-project review in project implementation and completion status, and its impacts. Environmental assessment is a necessity in the post-project review. According to the post-project review, China Ex-im Bank will revise the measures taken before and during the project implementation for similar projects. If necessary, the related requirements and policies will be fully revised.


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Sino-African Relations of Oil. Win-win or Chinese Neo-imperialism?
Lancaster University
Politics and International Relations
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Comment from Supervisor: "Joffrey, your dissertation is simply excellent. The depth, clarity, and soundness of your work is quite amazing. This peer-reviewed journal quality! Well done!"
sino-african, relations, win-win, chinese, neo-imperialism
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Joffrey Doma (Author), 2017, Sino-African Relations of Oil. Win-win or Chinese Neo-imperialism?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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