Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a six-nation tour through Africa and she’s already raised the hackles of China simply by saying that the United States was offering “model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That’s America’s commitment to Africa.” This immediately brought a retort from Beijing accusing SecState of firing cheap shots across the bow. Sounds like there’s a guilty nerve being struck somewhere.
China’s extreme sensitivity to Mrs. Clinton’s remarks are really not all that consequential, even if they do amount to a tacit admission of guilt that China’s trade with Africa is driven by taking high-value manufactured goods and only trading back raw materials. What is important is the importance of Africa’s role is clearly being recognized here, and that’s importance that’s likely to grow in the decades ahead.
The 21st century has been mostly kind to a continent ravaged by poverty and civil war. While there are certainly exceptions—namely in the South Sudan—Africa overall has seen 5 percent economic growth since 2000, according to The New York Times. And that’s the best growth rate the continent has had since being liberated from the colonial powers.
But if we take an even bigger picture view of the future, it becomes apparent that good relations in places like Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, where economies are growing and people are pushing to move forward are more important than relations in Western Europe, where exactly the opposite is transpiring.
From the perspective of the Catholic Church, Blessed John Paul II had the vision to shift the focus away from the industrialized world and into the growing Third World, including Africa. It’s time for an American president to have that same kind of vision. And the answer won’t be found in secular liberalism for political change any more than it was in the spreading of the Gospel.
The answer in our political life is to continue to support the movements for democracy, to back stable governments committed to market economies, defund corrupt ones and if necessary, allow fleeing refugees from the latter countries to find safe haven in the United States.
The world is changing. Western Europe may be today’s news, but they are dying. If countries like Poland & Eastern Europe are where tomorrow lies, Africa isn’t far behind.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com.