Gabon-China relations: Towards a more cautious partnership

Jean-Pierre Aurelien Cabestan


As early as in the 1970s, the then Gabonese president Omar Bongo Ondimba, although very close to France, decided to diversify his country’s external partnerships. The development of dynamic diplomatic and, since the 1990s, economic relations with China was part of this strategy. And since he succeeded his father in 2009, Ali Bongo has continued and even deepened this diversification policy. Yet, Gabon’s strategy as well as domestic political pressure, have contributed to setting limits to its diplomatic and economic partnership with China. In other words, Gabon offers an instructive case of how domestic politics and foreign policy priorities can influence an African country’s relations with the world second great power and economy. Having said that, much wealthier and less populated than many other African nations and enjoying more options than many of them, Gabon may remain a special case.