Algeria-China Relations

 

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Country Profile

GDP: US$170.37 billion

GDP growth in last 5 years: 2.6%

Population: 41.32 million people

Prime Minister: Abdelkader Bensalah (Acting since April 2019)

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Sabri Boukadoum

Ambassador to China: Hassane Rabehi

 

Development Strategy

National Vision 2030

 

Bilateral Relations

The PRC was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), Alrgeria’s independence movement from France. When the FLN declared the Algerian provisional government in December 1958, China was the first non-Arab country to recognize it. By that time, Mao had come to regard Africa as a newly important factor in world politics. As one scholar has written, Peking regarded the Algerian Front de Liberation (FLN) as an avant-garde anti-colonialist movement and sought to shape it, along the lines of the Viet-Minh movement in Indo-China, into an instrument of revolutionary strategy against France and the West generally.

The Chinese viewed Algeria not just as the linchpin of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle in Africa but also as a means of validating their revolutionary-ideological claims and later as a prize in the inter-communist rivalry with the Soviet Union. But even today, Beijing’s rhetorical framing of its intentions and activities in Algeria, and in Africa generally, proclaims an “imagined fraternity with African anti-colonial and developmental struggles” and an image of China as a uniquely non-exploitative international actor. That said, Beijing’s support for the FLN also stemmed from practical political considerations. Beijing sought to leverage aid projects in Algeria and elsewhere in the developing world in order to obtain support for its “One China” policy and to bolster its claim to represent China at the United Nations.

Between 1958 and 1962, the Chinese provided military assistance (i.e., funds, arms, and equipment) to the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), the armed wing of the FLN, with diplomatic missions elsewhere in Africa (e.g., Morocco, Guinea) serving as transit points for their activities. After Algeria gained independence in 1962, China provided various forms of material support: donating shipments of wheat, laminated steel, school equipment, a 13,000-ton freighter, and four transport aircraft; extending a $50 million low-interest loan; and dispatching a medical team and supplies.

During the 1960s, China became progressively more involved in Africa, with Algeria serving as a bridgehead for aid to the continent’s national liberation movements. On the political front, China and Algeria closely coordinated their efforts in the United Nations on issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to apartheid in South Africa. Yet, China encountered a number of challenges and limitations in consolidating its relations with Algeria. In providing aid to post-independence Algeria, China found itself outmatched by the Soviet Union and the West. China’s relations with Algeria soured over the new revolutionary government’s increasing cooperation with the Soviet Union. In fact, policy toward Algeria became a source of Sino-Soviet friction while the intensification of the rivalry between Moscow and Beijing, in turn, complicated China’s relations with Algeria, which, aiming to advance its own ambitious agenda, sought to promote Third World solidarity.

During the radical initial phase of the Cultural Revolution (1967-1971), which produced intense domestic upheaval, China reduced its activities in Afro-Asia. Thereafter, China embarked on an effort to revive its foreign policy, but focused most of its attention and an extensive aid program on Southern Africa, as opposed to the Maghreb. During the 1980s, the Chinese and Algerian economies followed markedly different trajectories. Reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 precipitated China’s opening up to global markets, within the span of little over a decade transforming the country into a manufacturing powerhouse. In contrast, Algeria’s economic situation deteriorated markedly, worsened by the collapse of oil prices and decline in the value of the dollar. The 1990s was a decade marked by acute economic and political crises that gave way to a protracted period of brutal conflict. During this “dark decade,” China reportedly sold an estimated $100 million in arms to Algeria, though in other respects commercial relations remained flat.

The pace and character of progress in the development of the bilateral relationship since the early 2000s has, to a large extent, been shaped by internal developments in Algeria. With security and stability to the country restored, and flush with cash from windfall oil revenues, the Algerian government enacted two policy initiatives — the Economic Support and Recovery Plan (or PSRE, 2001-2004) and Complementary Growth Support Program (or PCSC, 2005-2009) — designed to revitalize and diversify the economy. The PSRE and PCSC featured a massive public investment program, with emphasis on basic infrastructure and housing.

 

Economic Indicators

Algerian exports to China in 2018: US$1,178,824

Algerian imports from China in 2018: US$7,923,382