Skip to main content

2021 | Book

Africa-China Cooperation

Towards an African Policy on China?


About this book

This book offers a range of perspectives on the Africa–China partnership in the context of the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Incorporating historical, political, social and cultural dimensions, it offers innovative views on the Africa–China relationship that combine theory and practice, and critically examines the prospects of a Pan-African policy towards China, complementary to China’s comprehensive African policy. The chapters address a number of key questions, including: What steps are being taken to achieve a more coordinated approach and policy towards China on the African continent? Does Africa even need a collective strategy in the first place? How would a coherent policy framework affect Africa’s relations with Europe and other external partners? How do the pillars of the partnership align with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Africa’s Changing Geopolitics: Towards an African Policy on China?
Recent years have seen a greater focus on the African continent from external powers for various geopolitical and geoeconomic reasons. While the continent has consistently been home to six or seven of the fastest growing economies in the world in the last two decades, it is also home to significant demographic and technological changes that promise to propel it towards greater strategic importance in global politics. Indeed the population of the continent is set to grow towards 2 billion people by the year 2050, making it central to some of the relocation of production centres taking place in the global economy.
Philani Mthembu, Faith Mabera
Chapter 2. A Call for an African Policy Framework Towards China
The chapter argues the case for an African policy framework towards China as a strategic approach to redressing the variegated cleavages of asymmetry in the Africa–China relations. The absence of an African policy towards China against the background of China’s documented policy towards Africa, informs Africa’s poor socio-economic performance vis-à-vis China. The chapter draws on secondary literature based on both the primary documents, namely, China’s Africa policies of 2006 and 2015 and the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which are the centrepieces of China’s strategy towards Africa. China’s Africa policy and FOCAC documents are analyzed with an infusion of perspectives from academic literature. The conceptual anchor of the argument is African agency which essentially anticipates Africa as an actor rather than being acted on. African agency is leveraged for the analytical interpretation and proactive proposals in charting the policy framework drawing on the African Union’s Agenda 2063 plans. The chapter concludes with perspectives on the steps to be taken in the development of an African policy towards China.
Bob Wekesa
Chapter 3. Regionalizing Sino-African Diplomatic Engagement: Kagame and Overcoming the ‘One and the Many’ Paradigm
At the beginning of 2017 The Conversation ran a short analysis on ‘How the African Union’s planned overhaul may affect its ties with China’, by Yu-Shan Wu (italics added). Her article referenced: The Imperative to Strengthen Our Union: Report on the Proposed Recommendations for the Institutional Report of the African Union, 29 January 2017.
Francis A. Kornegay
Chapter 4. The Need for Africa’s Common Policy Towards China: A Decolonial Afrocentric Perspective
Relations between Africa and China have grown substantially since 2000. They have also grown in the range of policy issues on which there are agreements and the intensity of cohesion between Africa-China expected in order to deliver on these promises. They have been declared a strategic partnership designed to be mutually beneficial.
Siphamandla Zondi
Chapter 5. Pan-African Perspectives on International Relations—Africa and China
For more than one thousand years, Africa–China relations have evolved from exploratory, diplomatic, trading encounters, to complex, dynamic interactions that have benefitted both Africans and Chinese. However, as pressures to protect and sustain respective national interests intensify, so do the methods that influence and expand these interests. What has generally been understood as mutually beneficial interactions between Africans and Chinese over the centuries is turning out to be lob-sided, in favor of States with better capacity to protect their own interests. As African States move further into this new century, it becomes clear that their capacity to interact with China on a mutually beneficially level is slowly disappearing, along with their capacity to clearly define and protect their national identities, national sovereignties, and national economic integrity. By highlighting and analysing the factors that contribute to this decline in the value-outcome of these relations, this paper argues that there is need for a change of approach regarding how Africans understand and apply directives regarding their international relations, and their national identities as Africans.
Kwesi Dzapong Lwazi Sarkodee Prah
Chapter 6. The Role of China’s Development Finance in Africa: Towards Enhancing African Agency?
Africa’s place in the global development landscape has largely been analysed from the perspective of donor country viewpoints, and recipient countries on the continent have been assumed to be inactive agents. African countries are thus largely portrayed as passive recipients on the receiving end of the largesse of donor countries. However, recent years have drawn a much closer focus on Africa’s agency in the development landscape as more actors enter the area of development finance, with China having taken a clear lead. The growing number of actors means that African countries have a wider diversity of development financiers than in the past, and this creates an opportunity for enhanced agency at the country and continental levels.
Philani Mthembu
Chapter 7. China’s Evolving Approach to the African Peace and Security Agenda: Rationale, Trends and Implications
China’s involvement in peace and security initiatives in Africa marks a significant attitudinal and policy shift in Beijing’s foreign policy and security policy calculus. While the core of engagement with Africa has been economic, the deepening and broadening of China’s material interests has re-oriented its focus on the strategic and operational benefits of undertaking a security role alongside its commercial pursuits. The complex and volatile African security environment has also exposed the limited utility of a static non-interventionist stance and prompted the recalibration of China’s foreign policy objectives, while remaining committed to the projection of its image as a responsible power in the global arena. This chapter seeks to highlight and analyse the paradigmatic shifts that have informed China’s role as an emerging peace and security actor in Africa. It analyses the different areas of China’s engagement in African peace and security landscape and puts forwards key policy implications for China–Africa partnership in peace and security looking ahead.
Faith Mabera
Chapter 8. Cultural Approaches to Africa’s Engagement with China
During the 2018 summit on the China–Africa Cooperation in Beijing, China proposed to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal and the development plans of African countries, and boost their industrialization process. The proposal revealed that China is way beyond the implementation of several China–Africa frameworks agreements and had now begun the process of synthesizing and advancing its Africa engagements into global strategy.
Paul Zilungisele Tembe
Chapter 9. One or Many Voices?: Public Diplomacy and Its Impact on an African Policy Towards China
When thinking about the China–Africa relationship, very different ideas and views on what it means, arises. The economic links are the long-standing and conventional narrative of relations—including China’s infrastructure engagement in Africa since the 1950s and the ever-growing trade links since the 2000s. While politically, it is the story of a long-standing historical friendship—and even images of African policymakers rubbing shoulders with their Chinese counterparts, as exemplified by the triennial Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
Yu-Shan Wu
Chapter 10. The EU and Africa: A Multilateral Model for the Future of Africa–China Relations?
China–Africa relations are considered part of the vanguard of future international relations, representing an example of burgeoning South–South relations and alternatives to the historic hegemony of the Global North. In distinct contrast stands the seemingly dated and historically burdened relationship between Africa and Europe, including the European Union. Yet, beyond the perceptions lie elements of the China–Africa relationship which in fact replicate some of the dynamics of a conventional asymmetric relationship, especially with respect to the bilateral nature of most of China’s engagement with the continent. In contrast, EU–Africa relations are deeply multilateral, providing the African Union with an opportunity to play a consolidating role, increasing Africa’s coherence and leverage through unity. This channelling of relations through the AU in fact corresponds with recent initiatives to update Africa’s partnerships—meaning that EU–Africa relations could, ironically, serve as a partial blueprint for the future direction of China–Africa relations. Trilateralisation of the EU–Africa–China relationship, however, remains more of a distant possibility in terms of deeply substantive engagement.
John Kotsopoulos
Africa-China Cooperation
Dr. Philani Mthembu
Faith Mabera
Copyright Year
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN

Premium Partner