How is China trying to address the huge trade surpluses it has with Africa?


I was watching this video and the African woman claims China is listening more to Africa's concerns, so I was thinking it would definitively have raised concerns about China's huge trade surplus in Africa, so I was wondering if China did anything to address this.

In the other direction, China's growing thirst for raw materials led Chinese state-owned enterprises to the country with natural resources, such as wood and minerals (like those from the Gabonese forests). By the end of the 1990s, China had become interested in African oil, too.

Over time, African laws adapted to China's demand, laws intended to force the local transformation of raw materials for export. This led to a new kind of manufacturing in Africa, managed by the Chinese, with African workers producing exports for Chinese, as well as European, American and Japanese customers.[42] African leaders have pursued an increase of the share of raw material transformation both to add value to their exports and to provide manufacturing jobs for local Africans.

China's oil purchases have raised oil prices, boosting the government revenues of oil exporters like Angola, Gabon and Nigeria, while hurting the other oil-importing African countries. At the same time, China's raw materials purchases have increased prices for copper, timber, and nickel, which benefits many African countries as well.[28]

While African growth from 2000 to 2005 averaged 4.7% per year, almost twice the growth has come from petroleum-exporting countries (2005: 7.4%; 2006: 6.7%; 2007: 9.1%) than from petroleum-importing countries (2005: 4.5%; 2006: 4.8%; 2007: 4.5%).[49]

During the year 2011, trade between Africa and China increased a staggering 33% from the previous year to US$166 billion. This included Chinese imports from Africa equalling US$93 billion, consisting largely of mineral ores, petroleum, and agricultural products and Chinese exports to Africa totalling $93 billion, consisting largely of manufactured goods.[50] Outlining the rapidly expanding trade between the African continent and China, trade between these two areas of the world increased further by over 22% year-over-year to US$80.5 billion during the first five months of the year 2012.[50] Imports from Africa were up 25.5% to $49.6 billion during these first five months of 2012 and exports of Chinese-made products, such as machinery, electrical and consumer goods and clothing/footwear increased 17.5% to reach $30.9 billion.[50] China remained Africa's largest trading partner during 2011 for the fourth consecutive year (starting in 2008). To put the entire trade between China and Africa into perspective, during the early 1960s trade between these two large parts of the world were in the mere hundreds of millions of dollars back then. Europe dominated African trade during these formative years of European decolonization process in the African continent. Even as early as the 1980s, trade between China and Africa was minuscule. Trade between China and Africa largely grew exponentially following China's joining of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the opening up of China to emigration (of Chinese people to Africa) and the free movement of companies, peoples, and products both to and from the African continent starting from the early 2000 onwards.


I couldn't find anything. In fact, the article about trade on Wikipedia doesn't even address or mention this fact, but they do show that China exports finished goods while it imports natural resources from Africa.

  • 4
    I'm not sure why you think China would say/agree that a trade surplus with Africa is a problem (either for them or for Africa). Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 17:59
  • Don't you think China wants first the resources of Africa and then the control of Africa, and is rather well-known both for taking a long view and for using economic tools to smooth its path? Why might China mind having a trade surplus? Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 21:59
  • It is a generally acknowledged fact by economists that a bilateral trade balance is largely irrelevant, though the total trade balance with the whole world is relevant.
    – H Huang
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 6:30

1 Answer 1


Look at this CGTN doc. It never really acknowledges that China has to do something about it, although the fact that some Kenyan farms were given market access to China (after more strict inspections than even those they need to meet to export to the EU!) is presented as an opportunity for Kenya to reduce its trade deficit.

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