China-Africa relations in 2020: Perceptions and realities


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Just by looking at social media and news coverage in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, it would be safe to assume that China-Africa ties are in serious trouble. The prevailing narrative in many countries is one where Africa is increasingly victimized by China through debt, labor abuse, and outright discrimination, among other problems.

But that’s only part of the story.

A different narrative showcases how China’s political ties with African governments have never been stronger. The Chinese are providing desperately needed relief to struggling African states through debt relief, COVID-19 supplies, and the promise of being among the first to access a vaccine when it’s available.

Significant portions of both of these are true, which makes it very difficult to understand the current state of China-Africa relations.

Hangwei Li, an award-winning journalist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of London, and Johannesburg-based attorney and China-Africa analyst Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa tackled this challenge in a new article published by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. Hangwei and Jacqueline join Eric and Cobus to discuss the competing agendas that complicate public perceptions of the Chinese in Africa.