As anticipated last January, China has announced the appointment of its special representative for the Horn of Africa. The post has been assigned to an experienced diplomat, Xue Bing, former ambassador to Papua New Guinea and with diplomatic experience in Africa, America and Oceania.
The appointment of Xue Bing was announced on February 22 by the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, who confirmed his task will be the “peaceful development of regional strategies to enable the countries of the Horn of Africa their long-term goals of stability and prosperity”.
The appointment of a special representative was decided by the Chinese government for the management of China’s increasingly large interests in the region, especially for the management of its naval base in Djibouti and as a result of the serious ongoing political and military crisis in Ethiopia.
Chinese investments in the area include the increasingly close financial relationship with Ethiopia, where Beijing has also financed the construction of the railway line that connects Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti, and which is now one of the most important routes for freight traffic towards the Doraleh terminal.
In addition, China is looking for further port infrastructures both in the Red Sea and on the African coasts of the Indian Ocean, with a view to strengthening the network of ports of call to promote consolidation of the One Belt One Road Initiative, building a global logistics management system to support maritime traffic to and from China. In this context, renewed interest was shown in dialogue with Eritrea, which was the subject of high-level visits by Chinese diplomats, during which projects relating to a possible Chinese entry into the management of the ports of Massawa and Assab were discussed.
No less important for Beijing, however, is the management of its investments in Kenya, especially in the transport infrastructure sector and with particular reference to those connected with the movement of goods towards the port infrastructures on the coast, as well as in the oil sector in South Sudan, which represents a significant source of energy supplies for China.
Finally, China is also alarmed by the evolution of the persistent political instability and security in Somalia, where the jihadist militias of al Shabaab have returned in recent months to launch an increasing number of terrorist attacks both in Somalia and Kenya.
In announcing the appointment of its special representative for the Horn of Africa, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated its intention of launching a multilateral dialogue with countries in the area in order to identify tools capable of guaranteeing a solution to the numerous crises affecting the entire region. At the same time, China reiterated its long-standing criticism of the US government, accusing Washington of interfering in regional political dynamics, fueling instability and creating the conditions for widespread conflict.
In particular, China complains about the attempt of the U.S. government to exert political pressure on the governments of Kenya and Sudan to prevent the development of projects negotiated by Beijing in the field of infrastructure, ports and, potentially, for the opening of new logistical bases for its navy.