A Changing Strategy: China in Third World countries


By examining China’s different focus on Africa since mid-1950, when the People’s Republic of China was just founded, and Latin America since the recent decades, one can clearly see how Beijing’s strategy in dealing with third world countries evolved and became more sophisticated. This change of policy results not only from different contemporary context but also China’s different diplomatic need.

Originally when Chou En-lai started his Safari and China started its interaction with Africa in 1950s, the Communist government was new-born and hardly supported internationally. Facing hostility from the western forces and eventually having worsened its relationship with the Soviet in mid1950, China was eager to gain more global recognition and build up its influence (48 Alden and Alves). African nations, with their revolutionary movements going on and shared identity as developing countries, became a perfect “canvas for heroic picture of ‘struggles’ against the Soviet revisionists” (178, Adie). In hope of forming partnership and even leadership in Africa, China hopes to establishment a third world coalition against the western countries, classifying the world as “being divided between ‘imperialist’ and ‘afro-Asian’ states” (180, Aldie). Clearly, China’s goal in Africa at that time was highly political, focusing more on political influence than economic benefit. However, in the recent decades, China’s policy towards Africa changed its focus. Massive projects building up African nation’s infrastructure in exchange of business advantages and mineral resources became a feature in Sino-Afro interaction. Since the construction of the Tan-Zam railroad in 1970s with $500 million, the largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by China, China’s involvement in Africa has gradually transformed to economic and trading interactions.

On the other hand, China’s involvement in Latin America started off in a very different direction. Under the historical context of China’s globalization strategy, Zouchuqu(走出去) , Chinese government strongly encouraged state-owned or state-supported enterprise to seek investment in the world, including Latin America (2, Armony and Strauss). Here, China focused on the notion of “mutual benefit”, which marked more economics related commitment (5, Armony and Strauss). Especially with Brazil, China established a notion of mutual cooperation based on joint research and technological development (6, Armony and Strauss). Also, China gained more experience and became more sophisticated in maintaining its relationships with third world countries after 30 years of its foundation, learning to adjust to the diversification of Latin American countries (6, Armony and Strauss). China’s Latin American policy has more emphasis on globalization and “win-win” business cooperation, compared to the high profile political engagement earlier with Africa.


Ariel C. Armony and Julia C. Strauss (2012). From Going Out (zou chuqu) to Arriving

In (desembarco): Constructing a New Field of Inquiry in China–Latin America

Interactions. The China Quarterly, 209, pp 1-17 doi:10.1017/S0305741011001457

Chris Alden & Cristina Alves (2008): History & Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy, Review of African Political Economy, 35:115, 43-58

W. A. C. Adie, Chou En-lai on Safari, The China Quarterly, No. 18 (Apr. – Jun., 1964), pp. 174-194


2 thoughts on “A Changing Strategy: China in Third World countries

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