Reading Post – China’s Response to the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa

Ian Taylor’s article titled “China’s Response to the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa” does an outstanding job in giving a background to the epidemic and by describing Chinese relations with Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to show the stakes that Chinese had in helping the region. The article concludes on a provoking thought criticizing the ability of emerging powers like Russia and China to take on the responsibilities of global leadership. Though, Taylor’s criticisms are with foundation and it is true that China has economic interest and is motivated by maintaining its image, he fails to mention that China’s actions demonstrate a commitment to help and work with its trading partners given the resources that Beijing has.

The rise of China in Africa has been a wakeup call to Western countries, especially former colonizers, who have taken their relationship with African countries for granted (51). China is more willing to work with failed states, as seen with Guinea (44-45), and is willing to put up with government irregularities that other Western countries would not have ignored (48), making China a more appealing trading partner. Furthermore, African leaders seem to have more agency when dealing with China. This is not to say that Sino-African relations are without flaws, but it is to highlight that whether good or bad, African leaders have found more appealing to cooperate with China than other powers. Despite the growth in trade between China and Africa and China’s rise as an economic super-power, the country is still a developing country and is experiencing many hurdles in development and with the well-being of its population (51). Given China’s position, its contribution to relief effort is impressive.

Chinese officials almost always skew their statistics and make it difficult to accurately describe its effects on the continent since it only describes positive aspects and exaggerates them. China’s response to the Ebola crisis was certainly driven by the economic interest it had in the region and by the desire to keep its image and increase its diplomatic influence in the region as well. Regardless of its intentions, Beijing demonstrated a commitment to help its African partners given the lack of experience it has with the epidemic and the lack of medical capacity to even handle the virus (50). Comparing China’s contribution to the U.S. is not helpful given the differences in their ability to combat the disease and the amount of time each power has had as “leader” in the international community. The effort that China put in responding to the Ebola crisis suggests that Beijing is truly committed to helping its African counterparts and hints that Beijing may provide greater help in the future if it continues to grow and develop the infrastructure domestically and abroad to take on greater responsibilities globally.

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