State support for China
Meanwhile, a further strengthening of state relations and engagement with China is taking place. The support and advice proffered by China has been embraced by African leaders. The Chairperson of the African Union publicly thanked the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation for their generous donation to the continent.
Various other leaders have expressed praise and adulation for China, wrapped in the usual ‘mutual-support’ and ‘win-win’ language that has been the hallmark of modern public relations. Meanwhile, China’s President Xi, in a phone call to Namibia’s President Hage Geingob, was reported to say that the only way to defeat the pandemic was for countries to “pull together and fight in solidarity.”
At the time of writing, it is unclear how African leaders will react to the #ChinaMustExplain campaign. The intense anger from African citizens has already prompted a twitter statement from the AU Commission, and various African ambassadors have written to China’s Foreign Ministry expressing concerns.
Despite talk of a rupture in relations, however, it seems unlikely that African Presidents will publicly criticise or condemn China over the issue in the immediate term at least, or that the fundamentals of the elite-level relationship will be significantly altered. China’s seemingly superior capacity and effectiveness in halting the spread of COVID-19, versus the struggles by Western (Euro-American) democracies, appears to resonate with some African governments.