U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while traveling across Africa, saw the limits of his country abroad.
Blinken confronted authoritarianism, growing threats from newly energized extremists, and persistent challenges posed by COVID-19 and climate change, all of which have stubbornly resisted various U.S. interventions.
But nowhere on his three-nation tour to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal was he able to escape obvious signs of the intense competition between the U.S. and China: a geopolitical power struggle that has been playing out largely in China’s favor for the past two decades, especially in Africa.
He had to admit that “we have to be judged on what we do, not simply on what I say” as President Biden has promoted an “America is back” narrative, intended to signal a U.S. return to the international arena and institutions that his predecessor had eschewed.
He saw a lot of Chinese influence as he made his rounds in the various African nations. And while the Biden administration’s efforts to help African nations combat the coronavirus pandemic and encourage climate-friendly policies appear to be making some initial progress, the broader picture is less encouraging.
America must step up and fulfill its obligation. Biden has spoken of returning Africa to a place of prominence in U.S. foreign policy, but he has allowed other priorities and urgent developments, including pressing matters in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, to crowd it out in the administration’s first 10 months in office.
Biden and Blinken are hoping to change China’s increasing power.
“Regarding U.S.-Chinese competition in Africa, I mean, I don’t want to sound cynical, almost, about it, but sometimes it’s a good thing for you if you’re the attractive bride and everybody is offering you wonderful things. You take what you can from each of them.”