Ethiopian Attack is Latest Test of China’s Strategy in Africa

Ethiopian Attack is Latest Test of China’s Strategy in Africa

Gunmen launched a brazen pre-dawn raid on an oil field in southern Ethiopia on April 24, killing 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers in their sleep. The attack was the direct result of the spreading instability on the Horn of Africa, where the violence in Somalia following Ethiopia's invasion is bleeding across the border, back into Ethiopia. While the attack was apparently not aimed at China, it highlighted the growing backlash against China across Africa.

As part of Beijing's "Go Abroad" strategy, under which Chinese firms are encouraged to invest around the world to help fuel China's rapidly expanding economy, Chinese oil firms are operating in unstable regions and dealing with regimes too risky for Western oil companies to touch. In Africa, China is the main purchaser of Sudanese oil and has become a major investor in Nigeria, even as Western companies are avoiding further investments there. Similarly, Chinese oil firms took the lead in exploring southern Ethiopia for oil in the face of rebel threats and disputed sovereignty.

Initially, most of the African countries welcomed China's "Go Abroad" investments, but in the past couple of years a backlash has formed against Beijing's policies. Miners in Zambia and textile workers in South Africa have pushed for their governments to take tougher actions against China. In southern Sudan and Nigeria, Chinese workers have come under attack from local rebels. These reactions have caused China to begin a rethink of its official doctrine of "noninterference" in other nations' affairs.

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