Week 7 – Emerging Powers: Africa/China

For this week, our readings focussed on the relationship between China and Africa and the various aspects and historical developments that have shaped it into what it is today.

The article entitled History and Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy by Chris Alden and Ana Alves examines the historical context of the relationship between Africa and China, and the influences that this history and the identities that have formed from it are having on China-African relations. In this article the authors discuss the role of identity as an emerging global power that understands the pressures of Western imperialism and as a result sees itself as being able to provide a mutual partnership for African countries. With this identity China has continued to market itself as an alternative source of development from the West and emphasised the importance of its historical relations with Africa as a foundation for their partnership. In their article the authors exemplify these ideas by elaborating on the historical development of the relationship between African and China that began in 140BC, as well as the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’ that establishes the moral grounds of it’s partnership with other countries. Overall, the authors determine that these focuses in China’s identity are a means to create a sense of continuity and solidarity in its relationship with Africa.

The article by Paul Zeleza largely builds of these ideas by discussing the complexity of the relationship between Africa and China that is often overlooked and oversimplified by academics and media sources who often frame the relationship in a fairly negative light because of the way that it opposed Western foreign aid trends. China’s role as being an alternative to Western powers as a source of development assistance has been essential to its relationship with African states, which have developed over the years through the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation conferences. Overall, Zeleza maintains that it is essential for African countries to strengthen their laws and establish a humanistic agenda that builds on their self-determination and sustainable development.

Lastly, the article by Adams Bodomo and Grace Ma takes an alternative perspective to look at growing rate of African migration to China. In their article, the authors consider the treatment of African people in various areas of China and their role in the local economies of Chinese cities. Here, the authors determine that there is a need for law-enforcement officials to better facilitate migrant-indigene relations in order to ensure more positive experiences for Africa people working in China.

These articles provided insight into the deep and complex relationship between China and the continent of Africa as their roles in the global economy shift. As we have read, there are many factors that continue to influence this relationship and how it is perceived by both African and Chinese actors as well as local people and the international community.

– M. Thwaites


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