How apropos that my last post was focused on why the United States needs to think of investment in Africa in terms larger than ROI, especially if we want to compete with China.
Apparently China got the memo, since they’re committing to send a multi-dimensional peacekeeping force to support the MINUSMA mission in Mali that will be relieving French soldiers who had been fighting alongside Mali’s army against Islamist insurgents.
It would appear that China is angling to be more than an extractor of resources in Africa. This isn’t to say that they don’t have their own strategic interests in mind, and the timing is probably meant to send a message to both American and African political actors as President Obama is currently making his first significant visit to the continent.
Announcements like these, which demonstrate that China is actively playing ball on the international stage, should make the U.S. think harder about where it sits in the contemporary multipolar global pecking order. China is certainly a rival, and while they’re investing in the same infrastructure the U.S. is currently letting fall to ruin whilst also sending serious peacekeeping deployments to the next frontier markets, they gain the advantage in a global political economy that will likely reward a Keynesian focus on domestic investment combined with a commitment to political multi-lateralism.
If the U.S. plans to play a role in the 21st century other than “anachronistic declining superpower” it will have to find the political will to invest in modern infrastructure and education, and see United Nations peacekeeping missions as chances to develop the in-depth political-economic relationships that undergird mutually beneficial investment opportunities in Africa.
Thanks to Chris Neu and Gerard McCarthy for being good Facebook curators. Mr. Neu gets credit for finding the James Traub piece on China and Russia and Mr. McCarthy posted the Military.com post on China’s peacekeeping contingent. They both are associated with TechChange, and make me a more informed writer.