Since 2000, Africa-China trade has been growing at approximately 20% a year, with China ultimately surpassing the US as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009. China’s Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa has grown even faster, with an annual growth rate of 40% (McKinsey, 06.2017).

However, over the last decade China’s interest in Africa has expanded far beyond commercial interests. As the world’s second largest economic power, China appears intent on becoming a more prominent political and diplomatic power as well. Notably, the appointment of President Xi Jinping in 2012 marked a seismic shift in China’s foreign policy. Nothing illustrates this more than China’s shifting policy on Africa – notably, Jinping’s first overseas trip as head of state was to Africa in March 2013.

Announced in January 2006, “China’s Africa Policy” is further evidence that the Chinese government has one broad strategy in terms of its engagement with the continent. Aiming to promote the steady growth of China-Africa relations in the long term, the policy outlines Beijing’s wish to establish and develop state-to-state relations through engaging with African nations through four “fields” – political; education, science, culture, health, and social; peace and security; and economic (FOCAC, 01.2006).

Furthermore, in 2015, Beijing unveiled its second “Africa Policy” - highlighting the increasing importance that Africa presents to China in the future. While, the new policy continues to emphasise the importance of the win-win, mutually beneficial relationship, it also appears to prioritise support for Africa’s industrialisation.

Overall, China has become more self-assured in its new position in the world, and its foreign policy is beginning to reflect that.