China and the US Repeat History in Africa
What is the only thing every history professor believes in common? That history doesn’t repeat itself. Which is about the biggest higher education whopper of them all—just a fraction ahead of chemistry-will-actually-be-useful-to-you-someday.
Of course history repeats itself—constantly. Only, every once in a while the players change. Then these players, the big boys of history you might say, do exactly what their antecedents (many of them old enemies) used to do, or still do, or would like to do more of.
Take, for example, the front-page story from Sunday’s Washington Post indicating that China is “using its clout within the Security Council” to sell, without retribution, lots of arms to Africa. This is basically nothing new. For years now, China has been selling arms to tyrants in Zimbabwe and the Sudan and, naturally, the US is very upset about the whole thing because (a) those happen to be the tyrants the US doesn’t support and (b) why should China have all the luck?
However, Africa has always been the playing field—trampling ground is actually more appropriate—for the world’s big powers. During the Cold War days, it was the US and the Soviet Union that battled for supremacy: it was a fight ignited as far back as 1955 when Nikita Khrushchev, two years after succeeding Stalin, decided that an arms transfer to Nasser’s Egypt might be considered an endearing move by the Egyptian leader. (It was.)
By 1961, representatives from Sudan, Morocco, Libya, Ghana, Mali, and Algeria were all invited to Moscow to attend the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (They all went.)
By the 1970s, Angola, Benin, and Ethiopia all had wrested their independence with the help of the Soviet Union, and they were grateful.