The Pros and Cons of China and the Chinese in Africa
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, PhD
Although the oral and written record of ancient China’s early beginnings in Africa is scant, the connection with Africa is much longer than several European nations. What is well documented, however, are modern China’s connections with Africa which came to the fore at a meeting of Asian and African states in April 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. Scholars refer to this meeting as the Bandung Conference whose sole aim was to promote economic and cultural sovereignty and to vigorously oppose colonialism and neocolonialism by western and non-Western nations. Leading the Chinese delegation at that conference was Premier Zhou Enlai who, between December 1963 and January 1964, completed a ten-country tour of Africa. These two events spurred the ongoing Sino-African relations.
Over the years, China has, for instance, been offering economic and technical support to states and societies on the continent; and was supportive in the war of national liberation of several African countries. China has also contributed to peacekeeping missions and is today known mostly for providing aid and loans and aiding in the infrastructural development of the continent. So, how could these be bad for Africa? Compared to China, what is the scorecard of the European countries that were involved in the “invasion, annexation, division, and colonization of most of Africa” – other than the continuing colonization, arrogation of resources, and the dismissal of Africans?
China -- officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC) -- is today considered the dominant foreign power on the continent. And the Beijing approach, some scholars have argued, is simply an improvement on the inhumane scheme that began right after the Berlin Conference of 1884/1885. In essence, they think of China’s decades-long activities in Africa, not as virtuous, honorable, or altruistic; but as exploitative, dubious, opportunistic, and duplicitous. Some African leaders and elites, they assert, are no match for the shrewdness and scheming tendency of Beijing and its many business and political leaders who show up on the continent and on their way back cart resources that far outweigh their past and current investments.
Other than the periodic visits by government officials, the continent is home to an estimated 1.5 million Chinese some of whom are alleged to be involved in extralegal, exploitative, and demeaning activities. It is also alleged that they violate social and cultural norms and guardrails. A further allegation is that Chinese citizens can get away with these violations because many states are too weak, too afraid, or too corrupt to bring them to order.
The Chinese are today more powerful and influential (in Africa) than all the citizens of Euro-American nations, and had earlier displaced the Pakistanis, the Indians, and the Lebanese. At this point in history, it seems no one -- not even the US, Canada, Germany, France, Brazil, or Britain -- can afford to ignore China; and no society, no matter how big or small, provincial or cosmopolitan, or agrarian can ignore the Chinese citizens.
Traditionally, topics are suggested for contributors to write about. For this project, we have decided to take a different approach: Contributors are asked to first pick a country (i.e., Senegal); a cluster of countries, (i.e. Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Botswana); or a region (i.e. West Africa, East Africa, or Southern Africa); and then engage the questions that are listed below as it relates to the country, the cluster of countries or the region they are interested in. Contributors can pick one or multiple questions to examine.
- Are African leaders furthering their national interests, self-interest, or the interest of China and Chinese citizens?
- What is the relationship between African-based Chinese citizens and their host communities? Who benefits more and why?
- Is China and its citizens, like all others before them, doing Africa more harm than good?
- If Africans are at a disadvantage, then, what is it about African leaders that makes them easily hoodwinked and exploitable?
- If communities in Africa are being taken advantage of, what are the remedies available to them to correct the imbalance?
- What is the endgame for China in terms of its foreign policy and for African governments in terms of their development agenda and indebtedness to Beijing?
- Would China and the Chinese society tolerate the African and African businesses if they acted in the same/similar manner as they do in Africa?
- Do African governments have access to the same or similar business and investment opportunities in China as China does in Africa?
- Why do Euro-America countries complain about the role and place of China in Africa?
- Do African governments need aid and loans from China to build their infrastructure; and do they need Beijing’s assistance to develop their respective economies?
Note: Contributors can also aggregate the entire continent when responding to one or more of the questions. Or they could pose and examine questions that have not been asked if such questions fall within the overall thrust of our book, i.e., questions relating to governance, sovereignty, the natural environment, transfer of technology, and China’s relationships with other states and institutions outside of the continent.
Submission Requirements/Due Date:
- Please submit a 300-350-word abstract plus a 150-250-word biography (About the Author) by March 31, 2023.
- You will be notified of the acceptance or rejection of your abstract by April 17, 2023.
- The first draft of your chapter, 8000-9500 words, is due on September 29, 2023. The second draft would be due on October 30, 2023.
- Information concerning our publisher will be relayed later. For citation/formatting, please adhere to the APA Format (sixth edition). Please send your abstract/queries to: Sabidde@gmail.com
About the Editor:
Sabella Abidde is a professor of political science and a member of the graduate faculty at Alabama State University, Montgomery. He is an alumnus of Saint Cloud State University Minnesota; Mankato State University Minnesota; University of Oklahoma, Norman; and Howard University. Dr. Abidde is the series editor of Africa-East Asia International Relations (Springer Nature), and African Governance, Development, and Leadership (Lexington Books). He is the editor/coeditor of China and Taiwan in Africa: The Struggle for Diplomatic Recognition and Hegemony (Springer, 2022); Africa-China-Taiwan Relations, 1949–2020 (Lexington Books, 2022); and Human Trafficking in Africa: New Paradigms, New Perspectives (Springer, 2021). He is a member of the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS); The African Studies and Research Forum (ASRF); and the American Association for Chinese Studies (AACS).
Department of History and Political Science
Alabama State University Montgomery, Alabama 36104