The China-Africa relationship, a decade after its blossoming

Lina Benabdallah is an assistant professor of political science at Wake Forest University in North Carolina who recently completed a Ph.D. focusing on South-South cooperation. Much of her research was on the ties between China and countries in Africa. She sat down with Kaiser and Jeremy for a live podcast at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to discuss the state of China-Africa relations and how they have evolved over the past several years.

At the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing, international media and many in academia became fixated on a striking new phenomenon: an unprecedented uptick in ties in economics, migration, and diplomacy between China and many African countries. Since then, discussion of the Africa-China relationship has been generally locked in a dichotomy between those who believe China is “colonizing” Africa in some significant way, and those who believe pure intentions and great benefits are directed to and from both sides.

It’s much more complicated than that, so Jeremy and Kaiser asked Lina to talk about issues such as the perception of Chinese investment projects on the African continent, China’s involvement in security in Africa, model farms projects, media cooperation, racism, and more.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: The 99% Invisible podcast, which focuses on a range of stories related to design, specifically its recent episode on Ponte City, a high-rise apartment building in Jeremy’s hometown of Johannesburg. At the time the tower was built, South Africa was a highly segregated society, and the building became one of the first places in Johannesburg where different races could rub shoulders.

Lina: Guangzhou Dream Factory, a documentary made by Christiane Badgley and Erica Marcus. It documents the lives of African entrepreneurs in Guangzhou, China, in a highly realistic way — sharing stories of opportunity, success, and challenges, including racism.

Kaiser: Read Lina’s review of Guangzhou Dream Factory, published on the blog Africa Is a Country. Also check out the novels of Adam Brooks, a former BBC correspondent in China who quit his job and started writing spy fiction based in China. Kaiser recommends his book Night Heron.

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Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and editor-at-large of SupChina.