- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
I see where China announced a plan to build a big old “friendship” bridge in the west African nation of Mali.
China is serious about Africa. Bridges don’t bother me so much. What really worries me is the day when Beijing starts deploying “private security contractors” to African countries, in part because that might be when the precedents established by the U.S. government in Iraq come back to haunt us. Among other things, Chinese mercenaries are gonna be much cheaper than their American counterparts — and also are likely to be even cozier with their own government back home. Imagine the State Department trying to figure out how to respond when the Beijing government insists, “That’s not a mechanized brigade of the PLA, that’s the Shanghai Double Happiness Security and Friendship Corporation.”
I am not sure what China is up to in Africa. But I have the nagging thought that we will figure it out in 15 years and be sorry.
KIN CHEUNG/AFP/Getty Images
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.| Passport |