China's ties with Africa are evolving into a multi-faceted relationship of increasing complexity. After nearly two decades of debt-financed infrastructure development, Beijing's exposure to African debt is reaching disquieting proportions with an estimated US$132 billion owed to China in 2016. Managing this new role as Africa's creditor poses uncomfortable questions for creditor and debtor alike. Concurrently, the quiet surge of Chinese investment in manufacturing in Africa is transforming local economies in ways that are beginning to alter the continent's position within the global economy. Finally, the proliferation of Chinese businesses and migrants across Africa is inspiring greater Chinese involvement in UN peacekeeping and private security initiatives.
This article examines how these structural changes are challenging core practices and principles which guided China–Africa relations in its formative decades. For instance, under the banner of an alternative to western policies China promoted the absence of conditionalities attached to its concessional loans and grants. Equally, promotion of industrialization of African economies marks a key shift away from China's resource-centric engagement with the continent. And, in the case of security, Beijing's commitment to avoid intervention in domestic affairs is being set aside with implications for its principles, and ultimately status, in Africa.