China and the U.S. are often portrayed as struggling for influence around the world. But to look at it this way is to risk a self-fulfilling prophecy, as this view implies that international relations are a zero-sum game and are, in fact, about being “either with or against” one or the other. European countries do, for instance, have quite elaborate contacts with Beijing – and the U.S. does not see that as a power struggle about influence there.
African states are enjoying the liberty to broaden the scope of their external relations, going beyond the limitations that the U.S.-Soviet cold war inflicted on them. This has several aspects: First, it is comforting to be in demand by numerous partners and to see some more options beyond the previously marginalized position. Second, it gives additional choices and makes international relations more complex, but also more flexible. Third, most African states do not want to throw themselves at either the U.S. or China, but want to be members of the international community with diversified foreign relations.
Thus, to avoid a U.S.-China “cold war,” we should ensure that African states do not face an either-or choice. The development toward a more multipolar world is a fact of life, with not only China but also India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and others playing an increasingly important role in their regions and globally. This might be making the world a less predictable place, as there is more than one or two actors to consider. But it is the world beyond the cold war. We should engage constructively with it — and leave African states their choices in this world.
(…) But China should also learn from the US. Looking back on Sino-African relations, we can see that although in recent years, emphasis has been laid on bilateral cooperation in areas such as human resource development and the two sides launched the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Program in 2010, China’s investment in soft projects is still rather limited compared with its investment in hard projects.
No wonder despite the continued scholarships granted by the Chinese government to African students to study in China, top African students still choose Western countries as their prime destination for overseas study.
More soft power needed in Africa - http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-02/27/content_14696733.htm