Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U.S. or China? Foreign Policy Options for Nigeria (and post-colonial African States)

Depending on the abundance, or lacking, of natural resources, post-colonial African states under globalization would best serve current state interests by treading a political medium between the United States and China, while increasing developmental and economic programs with China while avoiding, if possible, quagmire-like conditions associated with American imperialism. 

Using Nigeria as an example state, Nigeria entered independence and the UN with the foreign policy pillars of non-alignment, non-interference and multilateralism (Ajaebili, 2011), basically everything the private sector would want in a wife.  Nigeria continues to attempt the pursuit of economic diplomacy under globalization, but faces the same issues that other post-colonial states face in the form of poverty, crime epidemics and a short history of political instability.  Foreign investment and private sector exploitation simply doesn’t mix with domestic instability and “many foreign companies have had to withdraw their operations from Nigeria because of crime, corruption and insecurity” (Ajaebili, 2011).  Regardless of stronger foreign relations with the U.S. or China, African states such as Nigeria must establish domestic stability and crush corruption before benefitting from their natural resources through foreign investment.  This is difficult to accomplish because former colonial master states, Britain in the case of Nigeria, have left African states with large poverty levels and massive disproportionate gaps in wealth distribution.

It is only rational for states such as Nigeria to look to China instead of the United States.  United States imperialism and “cumbersome conditionalities of Western aid” (Adekola, 2013, p. 2) do very little for Nigeria.  Pressures to join in U.S. imperial military regime removals such as the “2003 invasion of Iraq” (Whitaker, 2010, p. 1112) and U.S. bullying threatening to “suspend some categories of US economic and military aid” only bind African states such as Nigeria to a quagmire of imperialism (Whitaker, 2013, p. 1113).  Imperialism and domestic policies are draining the United States under a constant submission to the will of the global private sector which has continued to transition her to a consumer state.  If African states such as Nigeria seek to modernize and strengthen, they may have a better opportunity by increasing relations with China.  The ‘oil for infrastructure’ deals that Nigeria, under Obasabjo, held with China showed potential, and since China’s modern investment focuses are in advanced “technology, oil exploration, seed cultivation” (Adekola, 2013, p. 4) and industrial machinery, it would only seem logical for states such as Nigeria to favor relations with China.

At the same time, regardless of whom African states open their borders to for foreign investment, corruption and instability will simply offer up natural resources with no positive long-term benefits to the state if those problems are not solved.  In globalization, if internal state mechanisms in natural resource rich states are in disarray then exploitation or regime removal is imminent.  If African states refuse the major global powers through hard balancing, then regimes ruling over large enough natural resource pools run the risk of being removed by imperialist powers, such as occurred in Libya and Iraq. 

Soft Balancing toward the United States would be the most beneficial path for African states over the next couple of decades as the United States declines from international hegemony, and the international stage changes power balancing.  Until then, African states must pick and choose their resistance points according to what is beneficial to the individual state, or what is detrimental to the individual state. 

Adekola, Oluwole Gabriel.  2013.  New Perspectives to Nigeria’s Foreign Policy Towards China.  Journal of Humanities and Social Science 6:5 (Jan – Feb 2013), 1-6.

Ajaebili, C. N.  2011.  The Option of Economic Diplomacy in Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.  International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 1:17 (November 2011), 277-281.

Whitaker. Beth Elise.  2010.  Soft Balancing Among Weak States? Evidence from Africa.  International Affairs 85:5 (2010) 1109-1127.


Post-colonial states are at a sizable disadvatage due to the damages done to the infrastructure and economic structure by their previous colonial masters. These colonial master states withdrew leaving pro-western puppet governments in place which left the state vulnerable to political instability and political voids. The World Bank, IMF and private sector entities are interested in the same capital expliotation as colonial master states pursued (only at cheaper costs than those expensed by colonizing master states for maintanence, defense and stability). Nigeria actually offers a great example of the transitioning of imperialism from colonialism to globalization (aka state to private sector) because when the British withdraw from Nigeria and Nigeria declared independence, the British quickly introduced Nigeria into the GATT/WTO (not to mention NIgeria entered into the UN/IMF/World Bank). The most important aspect of post-colonial states (whether African or South American) falls in the governments and infrastructure. The private sector can not invest in states riddled with instability, corruption or heavy levels of crime. If Nigeria, or other post-colonial states, want to benefit from foreign investment instead of simply being exploited by foreign private sector entities....the state must address all forms of instability, corruption or mass crime, which stems from a massive inequality of wealth distribution....and implement sound leadership.


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