Research on China's Energy Policy and Activities in Africa

Issue: Research

Country: China, International

China's rapid and unprecedented economic growth has led to a deliberate and dramatic expansion of Chinese extractive activity into Africa. This expansion has been driven in part by policymakers in Beijing, and in part by the initiative of the companies themselves. The impact of this expansion on African countries, and on the transparency agenda, is uncertain and subject to much speculation and misconception. With support from Revenue Watch, the Centre for Chinese Studies in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has undertook to identify all relevant stakeholders, both public and private, that influence the formulation and implementation of China's energy security policy.

The uncertainty about the nature and direction of Chinese expansion in Africa is fueled by a lack of understanding of the relationship between Beijing and the private and state-owned companies. There is a possibility that the Chinese companies face some of the same incentives toward greater transparency as the traditional company partners in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), but engaging strategically with the Chinese on EITI or transparency generally will require a better understanding of how this policy is formulated and implemented, particularly with respect to Africa.  It will also require laying the groundwork through efforts aimed at increasing Chinese familiarity with EITI as EITI is currently not well-known or well-understood within the Chinese government or companies.

The aim of this project is to gain a thorough understanding of the decision-making processes and information flows between these stakeholders and outline the subtle dynamics involved. It also seeks to ascertain the perceptions held by these Chinese stakeholders of EITI and Corporate Social Responsibility—as well as perceptions of the Chinese policies and extractive industry firms held by African stakeholders—and to identify strategies to effectively engage relevant parties on these issues. The project also aims to promote understanding of EITI and gain a strategic foothold for EITI in China.

The results of the project will be a detailed report that serves to increase internal understanding of the Chinese role in Africa to facilitate strategic thinking on further engagement with the Chinese; and as a discussion piece in itself which will be a focus of the high-profile conference in Beijing, which is intended to further RWI's and EITI's engagement in the country.

For more information on the activities of the Centre for Chinese Studies in Stellenbosch, please see