Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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F: (540) 464-7443

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Lexington, VA 24450

U.S., China: Competitors or Allies in Africa?


LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 7, 2011 – As the world watches China surge on to the international stage, debate rises about U.S.-Chinese relations in Africa.

A two-day conference, sponsored by Virginia Military Institute’s Center for Leadership and Ethics in partnership with the VMI Department of International Studies and Political Science, seeks to provide a balanced look at U.S. and Chinese interests in Africa.

“The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa: Stability and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Nov. 3 and 4, will offer seven panels covering topics including “China and U.S. Strategic Relationships with Africa” and “What the U.S. and China Mean for Africa’s Development.”

Dr. James J. Hentz, conference program coordinator and head of VMI’s international studies department, said the theme for this conference evolved out of his passion for African and U.S. foreign policy.

“It’s important to look at what the United States has in common with China,” Hentz said. “By putting Africa in the middle of the equation, we can ask, ‘What does Africa need from the U.S. and China?’”

Top-tier panelists from the United States, China, and Africa will share their expertise, and three keynote speakers will offer perspectives from academe, government, and national security:  Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of state; Dr. Jendayi E. Frazer, the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to South Africa; and Maj. Gen. Christopher Leins, deputy director of Politico-Military Affairs (Africa), United States Army Reserve.

Following Thursday’s panels, speakers and attendees are invited to attend a reception celebrating the music and food of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The conference will conclude on Friday with a parade conducted by the VMI Corps of Cadets.

“In the span of 25 years, China has become a major player in the world economy, which means it can serve as a potentially destabilizing force,” said Dr. Howard Sanborn, conference panelist and assistant professor of international studies. “As a result, China is making an effort toward building a firmer relationship between itself and the U.S., as well as with its allies on the African continent.”

International studies is the most popular major at VMI, boasting the highest cadet enrollment of all academic departments.

“We work very hard to ensure that the VMI cadet experience includes not only all of the academic coursework necessary to prepare our students to be citizen-soldiers, but also to ensure they are given the broad, deep, and enriching experiences that conferences like ‘The Eagle and the Dragon in Africa’ provide,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Susan J. Rabern, director of VMI’s Center for Leadership and Ethics. “Few regions of the world are of greater long-term vital interest, and it is important that our students have the opportunity to hear from world experts.”

The Center for Leadership and Ethics provides a full spectrum of leadership and character development experiences to the Corps of Cadets.

For more information about the conference and speakers and to register, visit