The 1960s saw many nations win their independence. The US, USSR, and other countries sought influence in these newly-independent nations. China was no different. It also sought to extend its influence abroad. And by the 1960s, it was powerful enough to influence more countries than just its neighbors. Africa was of particular interest. The continent had gone from having only a few of independent states in 1960 to having dozens by 1969. By the end of the decade, most of the continent was ruled by independent African countries. While most of these countries were voluntarily relinquished by European colonial powers, others had to fight long wars of independence. And even after independence, the violence continued in much of the continent.
Britain and France were the two main colonial powers in Africa. Combined, they ruled over the majority of the continent. Unlike Portugal, by 1960 they were willing to give independence to most of their colonies. Neither country was willing to abandon their economic or political influence on the continent, however. France would create the French Community, in which its former colonies would continue to have close ties with Paris. French colonies would be given the chance to approve or reject this in referendums. Algeria was not included in this, as France viewed it as core French territory. Guinea rejected the arrangement, and became independent in 1958. In 1959, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Shijie met with Guinean President Ahmed Sékou Touré. In 1962 Touré went to Nanking. Guinea was China’s first ally in Africa.
France accused China of interfering in the referendums, and France was right. Some Chinese agents were caught bribing people to oppose the French Community. China was particularly active in Madagascar. Madagascar had a large Chinese community, and the Kuomintang was active there. There were Chinese schools that taught Kuomintang ideology there. Still, Madagascar voters approved joining the French Community with 70% of votes in favor. In 1963, Chiang Kai-shek went to Madagascar, hoping to convince Philibert Tsiranana to align his country more with China than France. He was unsuccessful. China was successful in Algeria, where the anti-colonialist government of the country aligned itself with China. China also had an ally in Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic.
Shen Qi, who had worked in propaganda, worked as ambassador to several African countries, including the Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. He continually pushed for greater involvement in Africa. China would send doctors and other professionals to African countries. In addition, thousands of African students would go to Chinese universities, many for free. There they would learn Mandarin and Kuomintang ideology. This would be done in conjunction with Chinese investment in African countries. Shen Qi argued that China would reap great long-term benefits, even if the benefits were not immediately apparent. Chiang Kai-shek supported Shen Qi’s efforts. In the 1970s, James Shen, the new foreign minister, was making regular visits to Africa.
China put efforts into the former British colonies as well. Kwame Nkruma had already fallen into the Soviet-aligned camp. Jomo Kenyatta was more favorable to China, however. In 1971, Vice President Sun Fo (who was anticipated to succeed Chiang Kai-shek soon) met with Kenyatta in Nairobi after his visit with Golda Meir in Israel. China’s close relations with Kenya put Somalia more firmly in the pro-Soviet camp. Despite China’s anti-colonialism, its relationship with South Africa during apartheid was complicated. China opposed Apartheid, but maintained good relations with South Africa during the 1960s. In the 1970s, China opposed Apartheid more loudly, but continued to trade with South Africa. On the other hand, China never had diplomatic relations with Rhodesia.
Britain and France, while being the most important colonial powers, were not the only colonial powers. Spain and Portugal still maintained their colonies well into the 1970s. China used threats of supporting anti-colonial movements in Africa in order to ensure their cooperation in Macao. China didn’t support Anti-colonial movements in Spanish Africa at all due to the good relationship between the two countries. Belgium would relinquish control of Congo (Congo-Léopoldville), Rwanda, and Burundi in 1960. Congo-Léopoldville almost immediately found itself in a civil war. Communist rebels, backed by the Soviet Union, threatened the regime of Joseph Kasa-Vubu. In response, both the United States and China (along with Belgium) supported the Congo-Léopoldville government. The United States was able to provide more aid than China, and thus Congo-Léopoldville was closer to the US during those years.