Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday cautioned African nations against allowing too much influence from China, saying an economic partnership with the U.S. would better serve the nations.
“Be wary of authoritarian regimes and their empty promises,” Pompeo said in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a reference to China. Pompeo asserted cooperation with the U.S. represented a path toward “true liberation.”
The comments come days after China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country in response to an opinion column in the paper that labeled China “the sick man of Asia.”
Pompeo’s remarks capped a three-day trip to Ethiopia, Senegal and Angola, during which the secretary of state pushed for economic liberalization and the support of American businesses including Citibank, Chevron and Coca-Cola.
The U.S.’s top diplomat also criticized the “failed socialist experiments of years past” that were attempted in some African nations.
The Trump administration’s relationship with certain African nations has been overshadowed in recent weeks by speculation on the future of their relationship to the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security recently added Nigeria and Eritrea to an immigration ban, although citizens of the two nations will still be able to travel to the U.S. for business or pleasure.
There is also speculation that the U.S. will reduce its troop presence in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara Desert that has experienced growth in terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda and ISIS offshoots. Currently, over 1,000 American troops are deployed to the region, mostly providing support to French forces fighting terrorist groups.
On Saturday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) reportedly told Defense Secretary Mark Esper he could “make your life hell” if the administration goes through with a troop withdrawal from Africa.