China has been building key government offices and facilities in African countries for decades and fitting them with gear that likely allows the Chinese government to spy on everyone, from presidents and prime ministers to judges and generals and beyond, according to a recent Heritage Foundation report.
The Palace of Justice in the Angolan capital of Luanda was built in 2012, while in the notorious kleptocracy of Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese erected the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in 2015. And in Zimbabwe, where its former leader, the late Robert Mugabe, once called Chinese leader Xi Jinping “a God-sent person,” China has built the country’s National Defense College and is constructing its parliament, according to the report.
In all, “Chinese companies have built, expanded, or renovated at least 24 presidential or prime minister residences or offices; at least 26 parliaments or parliamentary offices; at least 32 military or police installations; and at least 19 ministries of foreign affairs buildings,” the report states.
That gives Beijing extraordinary access to gain insights into the most intimate workings of governments across Africa, and to the information that gives China clairvoyant-like powers to adjust its tactics to maximum advantage.
In conjunction with physical assets, China has also built 14 “intra-governmental telecommunication networks,” with Chinese-made systems such as those from Huawei. Meservey expects that those networks are all compromised in favor of China’s intelligence-gathering activities, giving the regime a significant advantage over not only its political and commercial competitors in Africa, but also over host-country officials who may themselves be liable for misdeeds.
The breadth and depth of intelligence coverage China has been able to achieve through its construction projects across Africa is a sign of the continent’s importance to Beijing’s geopolitical strategies, the report points out.