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What China’s President Xi’s extended tenure means for Africa

20 8 7

CHINA’S decision to suspend presidential term limits is still reverberating around the world. The announcement, made after a vote by China’s parliament in March, prompted some commentators to draw comparisons with “third termism” in Africa, when leaders flout democratic conventions to stay in power as long as possible.

These concerns certainly resonate on a continent where leaders like Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Yoweri Museveni of Uganda are clinging to power. But there is also a wider question that must be asked: what does an extended tenure for Chinese incumbent Xi Jinping mean for Africa beyond the constitutional issue of term limits?

For the foreseeable future, Africa’s engagement with China will be shaped by Xi’s vision. This makes it important to unpack exactly what that vision is. That’s why the South African Institute of International Affairs – where I work and conduct research on China and Africa – has just published a policy paper identifying five key trends for Africa.

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We did this by drawing on Xi’s own writings and public comments. The trends will open certain opportunities for Africa in its relationship with China, and close down others. It is important for the continent to take note of these trends because Xi’s extended tenure will arguably deepen their impact over the next decade.

Visitors chat with exhibitors at a booth selling books of Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in the southern city of Guangzhou, China April 15, 2018. Source: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

1. Communist Party centrality

Dealing with China means dealing with the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xi rose to power by strengthening his control of the party........

© Asian Correspondent