Zimbabwean leaders welcome Chinese COVID-19 experts at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare on May 11, 2020. Jekesai Njikizana / AFP via Getty Images Being Chinese in Africa has been the worst possible stigma for most of 2020. Africans have cursed the Chinese, and blamed them for it. . The COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, China has been blaming Africans for the epidemic, too. Viral videos in March and April 2020 showed Chinese authorities forcibly evacuating Africans from their homes in Guangzhou, China, alleging the spread of COVID-19. These measures caused an uproar on the continent. On social media, there have been calls for the deportation of Chinese residents in Africa. The hashtag #DeportRacistChinese Twitter prevailed across the continent. Beijing sought to improve its pandemic-era image in Africa through “mask diplomacy,” an attempt to provide the continent with vaccines, medical equipment, and personnel – and it worked. As a doctoral student in geography who wrote extensively on Africa, he recognized the “masked diplomacy” by China as part of its wider incursion into Africa that arose out of the global retreat of the US. China Builds Africa China’s growing economic influence in Africa has been in the works for two decades. In North Africa, China has spent $ 11 billion since 2015 on the Trans-Maghreb Highway – from Western Sahara to Libya – that will connect 60 million of the region’s 100 million people. Algeria East-West Highway, part of the Maghreb Expressway, was partly built by a Chinese consortium. Andia / Universal Images Group via Getty Images In East Africa, China has built a network of roads and a railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti that has facilitated trade. In South Africa, Namibia partnered with China and the African Development Bank in 2013 to expand a $ 300 billion port. Angola will benefit from a hydroelectric power plant with Chinese financing of 4.5 billion dollars. Similar infrastructure projects are underway in West and Central Africa. Some Western leaders have described Chinese financing mechanisms as debt traps, indicating that they are burdening African countries with high debt as China’s power increases in the region. But China’s willingness to fund Africa’s infrastructure has been viewed favorably by African leaders – especially as US trade with Africa has been declining steadily for a decade. Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in 2018: “They say that China has made a lot of loans to Africa, but another view of the issue is that those who criticize China over debt give too little, and Africa needs funding to build capacity for development.” In 2002, the volume of trade between the United States and Africa nearly doubled China’s trade with the continent: $ 21 billion, compared to $ 12 billion. By 2008, trade between the United States and Africa had jumped to $ 100 billion. But by 2019, it’s down to $ 56 billion. Meanwhile, trade between China and Africa rose from $ 102 billion to $ 192 billion in the same 11-year period. Today, no other country comes close to matching China’s investments across Africa. The Trump administration ignored Africa while China exerted its influence. Trump has never set foot on the continent as president – the first American president in 27 years to avoid Africa. Employees unload medical donations from China at Algiers International Airport, Algeria, April 21, 2020. (Xinhua / Via Getty Images) The first China in Africa is already Africa’s largest economic partner, China has been able to quickly turn over after the coronavirus hit to bring aid to the region, interest and expertise. The results are immediate. Some African leaders who had criticized China’s treatment of Africans in China during the early days of the epidemic changed their rhetoric. For example, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared that he is “satisfied with the progress” of Nigeria’s relationship with China. In addition, Beijing holds strong leadership positions within international institutions that play important roles in Africa. Of the 15 UN agencies, China heads four, including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. No country competes with China in this sense. China is also creating international organizations to rival the Western-dominated UN jobs, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the China Development Bank. As of 2018, the China Development Bank has funded 500 projects in 43 different African countries worth $ 50 billion. Beijing is also courting influence and favoritism in ways that go beyond lending. China canceled $ 78 million in debt owed by Cameroon in 2019 – money borrowed for infrastructure development – in exchange for Cameroon’s support for its candidacy for the position of FAO Director-General. Cameroon, an influential country in Central Africa, is distinguished by its diverse economy and strong private sector. The importance of the new relationship between the United States and Africa to the United States, China’s growing influence in Africa has global repercussions. US companies are increasingly facing stiff competition from state-backed Chinese firms as they bid for contracts in Africa. If left unparalleled, Chinese firms could increasingly outperform American firms. The Biden administration has pledged to engage more with Africa, which likely indicates a long-term U.S. strategy to confront China in Africa. But China’s strategic distribution of vaccines and donations of personal protective equipment to African countries has built much of goodwill and cemented its reputation as a responsible global power working to protect vulnerable populations in Africa – something that the United States and Europe have largely overlooked during the pandemic. The United States may be ready to recommit to Africa, but by the time it starts over, it may be too late to beat China. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Written by: Dinko Hanan Dinko, University of Denver. Read more: One year after the Coronavirus: Two countries hit them, three countries got it wrong How COVID-19 is changing the English language Dinko Hanaan Dinko belongs to the World Research Network as a junior fellow.