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The opening ceremony of China's military base in Djibouti. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

China is leveraging debts to gain control of strategic ports and secure primary access to African oil in Angola, Kenya and Djibouti.

Why it matters: The Chinese are offering up attractive infrastructure projects to the countries that need them most and following up with escalating demands for influence. That approach will spread to even more of the globe under Beijing's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

Angola is using its precious resource, crude oil, to chip away at a $25 billion debt to China.

  • Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1983, China has loaned $60 billion to Angola through investments, loans and projects — one of the most recent being a $600 million deep sea port off the African nation's shores.
  • Instead of using cash, Angola pays China back with oil (it's Africa's second-largest producer) which means its ability to repay debt depends on the price of oil, writes Yinka Adegoke, Quartz's Africa editor, in his weekly brief. It also leaves less oil for Angola to sell to other trading partners.

Djibouti is home to China's only overseas military base, and it could soon give up a key port to Beijing.

  • After developing ties with African countries through its involvement in a global anti-piracy effort, China built up enough of a relationship to set up a full-scale military base in Djibouti, where the U.S. also has a base. Tensions escalated this month when Chinese military fired lasers at U.S. aircrafts from the base.
  • And China's influence in Djibouti may expand. As of the end of 2016, China owned 82% of Djibouti's foreign debt, per a report from the Center for Global Development.
  • "Chinese shippers could use the country to tap lucrative East African markets. China also built a railway from Addis Ababa to the port to transfer Ethiopian goods," the Wall Street Journal's Nikhil Lohade and Matina Stevis-Gridneff write.
  • Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti's foreign minister, brushed off concerns, saying Chinese debt is "so far manageable." He said, "Let me first underline the fact that no country can develop itself without having a strong infrastructure. And China is, from that perspective, a very good partner."

The majority of Kenya's external debt is Chinese, and the country has a growing trade deficit with Beijing.

  • More than 70% of Kenyan foreign debt is owned by China, per Quartz. And Kenya has just joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China's answer to the World Bank. "The growing interest in the multilateral financial institution in Africa points to China’s emergence as a favored lender, rivaling the World Bank," per Adegoke.
  • But the Kenyan public is wary of China's influence, he writes. "The concern is Uhuru Kenyatta’s government and others before had been naive in their lopsided dealings with the Chinese."

Go deeper: Sri Lanka falls into the Chinese debt-trap

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.