File image taken in November 2017 displays US President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing

As Africa braces alone for a surge of coronavirus bacterial infections, each China and the US are claiming to be Africa’s best supporter, but there is extra at stake in this escalating rivalry than basically tackling the virus, writes BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.

US Secretary of Condition Mike Pompeo was adamant that “no place will rival what the US is carrying out” in terms of supporting the combat towards Covid-19 in Africa. And he went even further to say that “no nation ever has, or at any time will” do a lot more to assistance international health.

Mr Pompeo was talking on a meeting get in touch with with a tiny group of African and Africa-centered journalists. I was a single of them.

At the time – very last month – I set the bluster about “no country ever accomplishing more” down to the now-acquainted rhetorical behaviors of the Trump administration, which was evidently seeking to polish its internationalist credentials in the aftermath of its choice to convert its back on the Globe Health Corporation (WHO) at the peak of a international overall health disaster.

These young children in Ghana welcomed US Very first Girl Melania Trump in 2018. Her husband did not vacation

It seemed churlish to level out that the $170m (£134m) in new help that Mr Pompeo was bragging about offering Africa was practically unquestionably matched – or exceeded – by the donation of just one particular Chinese billionaire – Jack Ma.

But a several days in the past, I saw an post about Africa in a Chinese state-controlled media outlet, the World wide Periods, and was reminded of Mr Pompeo’s remarks, and struck by the extent to which Africa has become a aspect – a modest corner, potentially – of Washington and Beijing’s new cold war battlefield, and that – as in the earlier, official Cold War – a sudden disaster, like Covid-19, is inevitably transformed into some kind of proxy conflict.

Drive in opposition to multi-social gathering democracy

The World-wide Periods write-up boasted that China’s “good political method” had underpinned its individual achievements in countering Covid-19.

And then it went further more. Definitely now was the time, it argued, for African nations to conclude their unsuccessful experiment with western multi-party democracy – an experiment that experienced led to inequality, ethnic and spiritual divisions, violence, and “the destruction of life and houses.”

Story carries on

In its place, Africa really should abide by China’s one-party-state path.

China is a key investor in infrastructure initiatives in Africa

Soon later on, I spotted a further post in a further state-controlled Chinese newspaper, China Day-to-day, that praised the “domino result” of Beijing’s ambitious “Belt and Street Initiative” in Africa, a big financial investment and infrastructure technique that was accelerating the continent’s recovery “from hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonial domination, and now Covid-19”.

Mr Pompeo’s answer to that was brusque. China’s Communist Party was imposing “an great amount of money of debt… on African countries… on incredibly onerous conditions that will influence African individuals for an terrible very long time”.

Chart exhibiting progress of China’s financial loans to African governments

A several times later I dialled into a Zoom discussion about China-US relations in Africa – explained by the moderator as an “increasingly toxic duel” – and listened to a Chinese professor remarking that the coronavirus was serving to African journalists recognize the virtues of China’s (closely censored) media landscape.

“Western media are concentrated on the lousy, destructive news,” explained Professor Zhang Yanqiu, but audience needed far more constructive stories during a time of disaster.

In other words and phrases, she said, they desired China’s design of “constructive journalism.” She mentioned that she experienced lately encountered obvious enthusiasm for the product amongst Ethiopian journalists. But is African journalism so easily influenced?

Go through extra about China and Africa:

When I asked Mr Pompeo irrespective of whether he thought that America’s graphic in Africa had been damaged by President Trump’s current responses about utilizing disinfectants or UV gentle to handle the virus, the secretary of point out did not reply the question immediately but alternatively recommended that Mr Trump’s public utterances experienced been misunderstood or deliberately twisted by biased or govt-controlled media outlets.

It was a peculiar minute on the convention connect with.

“Listening to Mr Pompeo, it all of a sudden felt like Beijing and Washington’s sights about ‘constructive journalism’ were no more time so much apart””, Source: Andrew Harding, Supply description: BBC Africa correspondent, Image:

For decades American diplomacy has – to some diploma – sought to encourage and safeguard independent journalism in Africa against authoritarian regimes and censorship.

But now the American president himself routinely dismisses his country’s personal journalists as “pretend”, “lamestream,” and “enemies of the people today”.

Listening to Mr Pompeo, it all of a sudden felt like Beijing and Washington’s views about “constructive journalism” were being no for a longer time so far apart.

Trump was ‘misunderstood’

It is correct to place out that the US – not minimum by ex-President George Bush’s substantial Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) programme – has finished a large volume to market health care in Africa.

But it is also obvious that China is employing the cover of Covid-19, and America’s quite a few interruptions and present struggles, to market its political agenda on the continent with increasing boldness and – I suspect – efficiency.

That is not to recommend that African states – or journalists – are pawns, to be manipulated at will by world wide powers.

But how several governments on the continent, heavily in debt to Chinese banking institutions and underneath growing Covid-19-connected economic tension, may now be tempted to abandon “the failed… populist multiparty structure”, and shift to the “resilience” of China’s political process?

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