Jimmy Carter says US, China should partner in Africa

Former US president Jimmy Carter. (John Bazemore, AP, File)
Former US president Jimmy Carter. (John Bazemore, AP, File)

Former US president Jimmy Carter warned on Monday of the risks of sliding into a Cold War with China and called on the powers to find common cause on African development.

Marking the 40th anniversary of his January 1979 normalisation of relations with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, Carter voiced concern that both countries were increasingly describing each other as threats.

"If top government officials embrace these dangerous notions, a modern Cold War between our two nations is not inconceivable," the 94-year-old former president wrote in The Washington Post.

"At this sensitive moment, misperceptions, miscalculations and failure to follow carefully defined rules of engagement in areas such as the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea could escalate into military conflict, creating a worldwide catastrophe," he warned.

Carter, who has devoted his post-presidential career to eradicating poverty, said that the "easiest route" to cooperation between the United States and China was in Africa.

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"Both countries are already heavily involved there in fighting disease, building infrastructure and keeping peace - sometimes cooperatively. Yet each nation has accused the other of economic exploitation or political manipulation," Carter wrote.

"Africans - like billions of other people around the world - do not want to be forced to choose a side."

"By working together with Africans, the United States and China would also be helping themselves overcome distrust and rebuild this vital relationship," he wrote.

The United States has stepped up warnings to developing countries about Chinese assistance, accusing Beijing of wooing countries with projects that become debt traps.

US-China tensions have soared in 2018 over trade disputes, although President Donald Trump has frozen the latest planned tariff hike and on Saturday reported "big progress."

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