A Chinese government spokesman mistakenly used a photo to criticize U.S. diplomacy.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a trip to Africa, where he outlined the U.S. strategy in sub-Saharan Africa.
During the event, the White House releases a list of facts about U.S. strategy in the region. It mentions that the U.S. and its allies see Africa as an integral part of their national security.
Meanwhile, the White House also criticizes China’s strategy in the region. It said the Chinese communist regime sees the region as an important arena to challenge the rules-based international order, advance its own commercial and geopolitical interests, undermine the openness, and weaken U.S. relationships with African people and governments.
The remarks angered Beijing.
In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on August 9 wrote a tweet, claiming China brings techniques to Africa, while the U.S. brings violence to the region.
Zhao attached two photos side by side to compare China to the U.S.
The photo on the left shows a Chinese surveyor and an African native with the caption: “China shares mapping techniques in Africa.”
The photo on the right shows an American soldier crouching on an African who is using a rifle next to him. The caption reads: “The U.S. offers shooting training in Africa.”
According to Apollo News, Zhao Lijian made the most basic factual error with the tweet.
The photo on the right is a 10-year-old one. It actually shows a U.S. Marine helped train the Uganda People’s Defense Force in actual combat marksmanship.
The Ugandan soldier was a field engineer who is undergoing counter-insurgency training to fight the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of the terror group al Qaeda.
In December 2006, the UN Security Council, including China, unanimously approved the establishment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This is a regional peacekeeping mission of which the Ugandan infantry is a part. These field engineers are deployed to support Ugandan infantry operations.
In other words, the military training shown in the photo is an operation approved by China in a vote of the UN Security Council.
AMISOM’s mandate ended on March 31 this year and was replaced by the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia.
In fact, China has increased its military influence in Africa. Beijing is selling weapons and providing training to African countries.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute issued a report in March, saying that China was Africa’s third-largest arms supplier in 2017-2021. It accounted for 10% of the world’s arms exports to the region.
Some analysts believe that China’s arms shipments to Africa are driven by profit. Some others say it’s a strategic consideration.
On the economic front, China has surpassed the U.S. in regional development investment.
However, some Western officials claimed that China is engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy under the Belt and Road Initiative, using the region’s unsustainable debt for geopolitical interests.