Week 7 Emerging Powers: China in Africa/Africa in China

Sarah Virani

The readings for this week focused on the relationship between Africa and China as emerging powers. In the first article, The Africa-China relationship: challenges and opportunities, Zeleza discusses the historical relationship between the two, highlighting the economic characteristics that exist and as well as the challenges faced. Zeleza mentions that the ideological adhesive in the relationship between China and Africa was anti-imperialism (Zeleza, 147). By focusing on the economic relationship between China and Africa, Zeleza demonstrates how historically China has become one of Africa’s largest development competitors. The “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” that are discussed in the article are important in distinguishing how China and Africa developed their relations, social systems and ideologies.

I found Zeleza’s discussion on the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation thought provoking as he outlined the outcomes of each conference. For instance, at one conference China offered to cancel $1.3 billion of debt, establish 30 hospitals and 1000 rural schools. In the discourse surrounding the relations between Africa and China, for example aid is referred to as charity relates back to the inadequate narratives that Zaleeza discusses by African and Chinese policymakers at the beginning of the article (Zeleeza, 146). I was unaware that China’s aid policies differ in oppose to those of Western nations, as they are a reflection of China’s development experience in a Western-capitalist society. The aid is used to increase exports and help new industries, or ones that were previously abandoned to expand. Nonetheless, the relationship between Africa and China is a beneficial one, however I agree with Zeleza when he says that in order for Africa to truly maximize their benefit from China, they must have clear and comprehensible policies and democratic responsibility.

In the second article, History & Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy, Alden and Alves emphasizes on the importance of the historical context of the relationship between Africa and China and how it has affected foreign policy. The authors highlight that instead of following international rules and norms, China carries out tactics that replicate their own experience with development. China’s new ‘independent policy’ that the authors refer to is structured around their practices of development and their interests on a global scale, accentuating on mutual benefits and concrete results (Alden and Alves, 52). The authors raise concern surrounding China’s changing identity from a developing country to one of the world’s super powers. I believe that this will significantly affect their foreign policies and interests on a global scale.

The final article for the week, From Guangzhou to Yiwu: Emerging facets of the African Diaspora in China discusses diaspora in China in two places, Guangzhou and Yiwu. Though these two cities are hubs for Africans in China, Africans face obstacles within these areas. For instance, African businessmen in Yiwu have difficulty communicating with others. I found it interesting that though both, Guangzhou and Yiwu are located in China, Africans in each place encounter different experiences. As Bodomo and Ma discuss, Africans in Guangzhou are not treated fairly. They are stopped and demanded to show their passports and the authors highlight the extent to which this happens through their experience at the restaurant. The role of law-enforcement officials in constructing the migrant and indigenous relations is imperative because it affects how Africans in China are treated and whether they will be able to live amicably. In conclusion, the relationship that Africa and China have with one another is continuing to grow, and I think that Africa will continue to develop in a beneficial way as long as they do not allow their states or resources to be exploited and establish concrete democratic policies that meet the needs of civil society.

Below is a link to some photos that I found were interesting and that depict some of the projects that China has implemented in Africa:


Discussion Questions

  • Would you consider Africa’s relationship with China one that is mutually beneficial? Why or why not?
  • What does Africa and China’s relationship disclose in the new international order?
  • The articles mention that China’s policies reflect their experience in the Western-capitalist world and China traditionally has not interfered with the affairs of other nations. Do you think that as they become more and more involved with Africa, this will change?



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