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China and Ethiopia: Authoritarian affinities and economic cooperation

Jean-Pierre Cabestan
Translated by N. Jayaram
p. 53-62


Since 1995, China and Ethiopia have gradually forged close relations. On both sides, the establishment of this partnership was motivated as much by diplomatic, strategic, and even ideological considerations as by economic ones. For Beijing, economic and trade cooperation with Addis Ababa is a means rather than an end in itself. For Ethiopia, however, partnership with China mainly serves the internal political and economic purposes of the regime that has been in place since 1991, under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for 20 years and, since his death in August 2012, under his successor Hailemariam Desalegn. The relationship is characteristic of the special but asymmetrical links Beijing has sought to establish with countries of the South that are strategically important but economically backward. It also illustrates the attraction the “Chinese model” of development holds in Africa and elsewhere.

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Electronic reference

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, « China and Ethiopia: Authoritarian affinities and economic cooperation », China Perspectives [Online], 2012/4 | 2012, Online since 01 December 2015, connection on 30 April 2017. URL :

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About the author

Jean-Pierre Cabestan

Professor and Head, Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University; Associate Research Fellow, Asia Centre, Paris; and Associate Research Fellow, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, Hong Kong (

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