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Scholastic aptitude

Before 2000 there were only smatterings of China-Africa research. Today the field is brimming with output from private and public think tanks, universities, publishing houses and freelance scholars.

Observers of theAfrica-China relationshipsee the creation of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation in 2000 and the emergence of China as Africa's No 1 geo-economic partner in 2010 as the catalysts for the deluge in research seeking to comprehend the "new type of partnership". [More]

Scholars and their research

Yoon Jung Park of Rhodes University, a Korean American, is responsible for anonline platform on China Africa studies.

She cut her teeth in Africa China academia when she undertook doctoral studies on Chinese South Africans and their ethnic, racial and national identity constructions at the University of the Witwatersrand, graduating in 2005.[More]

Scholastic aptitude

Scholastic aptitude

Sven Grimm, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University. He has re-invigorated the center since taking over in 2011, having worked in the area of Africa's relations with external partners since 1999

He says he is "interested in China as one of the major partners of Africa and following an evolving relationship (by) exploring its potential, its real impact, and how risks are managed".[More]

Scholastic aptitude

Scholastic aptitude

A stable trope in the Africa-China research output is a push-back on what Macharia Munene, an Ohio University-trained history and international relations scholar at United States International University in Nairobi, has called "the rule of power" by Western powers as opposed to the "rule of law" where their interests are concerned.

He says he was motivated to focus on Africa-China relations because "China cannot be ignored by serious people...". [More]

Scholastic aptitude

Scholastic aptitude

Scholastic aptitude

Lloyd Amoahis a professor at Ashehi University in Ghana and a doctoral graduate from Wuhan University with a bent for the funny side even with serious issues. In a recent academic paper, he tells of how some erroneous Western portrayals of China are not only negative but also exaggerated and then propagated as fact.

Scholastic aptitude

Chris Alden can claim an African perspective in that he is associated with the South Africa Institute of International Affairs, where he heads the China Africa Project.

His seminal contribution to the field was in theorizing on China as a "hegemon, partner or competitor" in a 2006 paper, which he appears to have fleshed out into the book China in Africa, published in 2007.

"I think the first and most important legacy China has had is in breaking the Western donor cartel..."

Scholastic aptitude
Garth Shelton, a professor of international relations at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, said many use terms such as "neo-colonial" without thinking."It is often based on a lack of research. There are a lot of academics who subscribe to the idea the China-Africa relationship has negative consequences,"he said.

Scholastic aptitude

Mahmood Mamdani, executive director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Mekerere University in Kampala

, said the Chinese don't have a history of being colonizers. He points out that China ruled the waters in the 15th century when Zheng He made his voyages to Africa, but it never sought to colonize any nation.

Scholastic aptitude

Established scholars are guiding new researchers into an emerging truth-seeking tradition.

Maddalena Procopio, an associate researcher at the Association National de la Recherche Espace Chine-Afrique, is now conducting fieldwork, under the guidance of Chris Alden, on the Kenyan state and society's responses to Chinese socio-economic agency.

Related reading:Critics of China-Africa relations 'not objective'

Scholastic aptitude

Most of the dynamic institutions carrying out research into China and its involvement in Africa are based in South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse, underscoring its academic aptitude and its higher-order engagement with China as a fellow member of the BRICS geopolitical organization.

Stellenbosch University's Centre for Chinese Studies and theSouth African Institute for International Affairs at the University of the Witwatersrand produce most of the research on Africa-China relations.

CCS has been exclusively devoted to Africa-China relations since 2004, initially as a Confucius Institute in partnership with East China's Xiamen University. SAIIA's China research on the other hand is largely an offshoot of its global powers and Africa initiative.

Between them, these two institutions have emerged as outstanding bases for Africa-China studies, having generated copious amounts of literature. [Full Story:Greatest depth comes from the south]

Scholastic aptitude

Chinese-in-Africa-Africans-in-China research network

It is a global community of Africa-China enthusiasts representing a truly eclectic and global mix - academics of all hues and persuasions; journalists and civil servants and social activists; consultants and businesspeople, to name but a few.

It started out in 2007 as a small research working group after a public seminar co-hosted by the Centre for Sociological Research at the University of Johannesburg and the South African weekly newspaper the Mail & Guardian.

That meeting in Johannesburg was motivated among other things by a dearth in the literature on interactions between Chinese and Africans on the continent against increasing ill-informed anti-Chinese sentiment in parts of Africa.These early stirrings served to rouse Park along with scholars such as Tu Huynh, Barry Sautman, Yan Hairong and Karen Harris, all prolific China-Africa specialists.

Along the way, the network would benefit from the stewardship of Jamie Monson, Solange Guo Chatelard, and Heidi Ostbo Haugen, who are equally familiar names in China-Africa scholarship.

In 2009 the initially small group transformed into a global research network heavily relying on the Internet, withPark serving as convener-cum-moderator.

Full story: The great connector on the Web

Verhoeven and Oxford University China-Africa Network

Scholastic aptitude

Harry Verhoeven, who has a frenetic energy and makes regular trips to Africa, is the convener of the Oxford University China-Africa Network, which he founded in 2009.

It organizes conferences, workshops and seminars and also produces a newsletter. Next year it is planning a major conference in conjunction with Fudan University in Shanghai at Oxford that will focus on China's soft power and the China model.

Verhoeven says that one of the big largely unwritten and under-researched aspects of the China-Africa relationship is the individual human stories of the many thousands of Chinese who now live on the African continent.

Full story:Thousands of human stories not told

Scholastic aptitude

Collaborative work is indeed already underway.
Most of the African researchers maintain collaboration with Chinese counterparts.

No.1 The Centre for Chinese Studies has links including exchange agreements with Xiamen University, the Institute of West Asian & African Studies within the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and Development Research Council. The center hosts visiting academics and organizes lectures for stakeholders.

No.2 Herman Wasserman has recently structured an exchange agreement betweenRhodes UniversityandTsinghua University. In his capacity as a key driver of the Highway Africa conference held annually in Grahams Town, South Africa, he has helped put China-Africa transnational issues on this significant new media conclave. He is also associated with two big international projects researching South African media in the context of BRICS and China's soft power initiatives.

No.3 One of the outstanding examples of collaborative effort is being undertaken by the University of the Witwatersrand's department of journalism dubbed the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project and initiated in 2010. The project, which includes an annual conference, hosted a group of 10 Chinese journalism students during the football World Cup in 2010, says Brigitte Read, the project's coordinator, preparing for the fourth such conference.

Scholastic aptitude

As much as Africa-China scholarship has been gaining traction over the past decade, gaps still abound. One of the frustrations shared by scholars undertaking primary research is the difficulty in getting Chinese and African interviewees to talk, lending an unhelpful shroud of secrecy to the phenomenon and contributing to the much lamented myths.

No.1 For many academics in the field, Park included, doing Africa-China research is not easy. Language and cultural considerations are the first barriers."I wish I spoke Chinese. It would certainly make the field research easier," she says.Echoing a challenge other Africa-based researchers have pointed out repeatedly, Park further identifies "gaining access and earning trust" that makes "many Chinese migrants reluctant to speak to researchers".

No.2 In a recent talk at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Jessica Achberger, who has studied Africa-China relations, identified one of the challenges in Africa-China studies as "Western hegemony over scholarship (that) dictates a pessimistic view", such that, as a corollary, scholars fail to ask the right questions.

No.3 While recognizing financial and human resources as a key challenge for African researchers, Grimm says "the situation is brightening as there is an increasing number of Africans having been to China and knowing the cultural background and about political and economic relations between China and Africa".


It's all go on the intellectual frontier

By Herman Wasserman

Chinese, african organizations are helping make sense of a much debated relationship

Media coverage of the Sino-African relationship tends to focus on what Chris Alden and Yoon Jung Park, in a recent book, have called the "upstairs" dimensions: Chinese investment in Africa, development aid and the impact of these relationships on geopolitics. The establishment of the BRICS group of emerging nations is probably the clearest indication of these shifts, and has attracted a great deal of debate. Media coverage of the BRICS, as with China-Africa relations more generally, has largely been dominated by economic and political issues.

But growing interest in China in Africa is not limited to business people, entrepreneurs and politicians. Increasingly, China-Africa relations are also becoming the topic of scholarly attention by academics and researchers at institutes and think tanks.

The author is professor and deputy head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa.

Academics help shape multitude of dreams

By Joseph Onjala

Think tanks forums provide the best avenue for exchanges between scholars from two sides

The China-Africa Think Tanks Forum is an initiative launched by Zhejiang Normal University in 2011 to create a shared platform for dialogue and exchanges between Chinese and African think tanks. The Institute of African Studies and the China-Africa International Business School at the Zhejiang university act as the forum's standing secretariat.

With Zhejiang Normal University as its host, the think tanks forum is organized under the auspices of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The cooperation forum's Beijing Action Plan (2013-15) calls for 100 academic research, exchange and cooperation programs of Chinese and African institutions and scholars to be sponsored over the next three years...

The author is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi.

Scholastic aptitude

Africa can choose its own friends

Scholastic aptitude

The West's claim that China's relationship with Africa is neo-colonialism stems from its own policy toward Africa, which results from the fear its strategic interests will be harmed as a result of structural changes in African countries and China's growing presence on the continent.

It camouflages the importance of these strategic interests by cloaking them behind concerns about Africa's security and development and the plight of the poor. According to this perspective, Africans are not capable of deciding for themselves who are their friends and who are their enemies.

Misleading portrayal of China in Africa

For years, many in the West have accused China of grabbing land, extracting resources and neocolonialism in Africa.

Hillary Clinton, then-US Secretary of State, made a veiled attack on China during her visit to Africa when she said "the days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves leaving nothing or very little behind should be over in the 21st century".

Long tradition of friendship

As bilateral exchanges have further developed over the past decade, the West has taken an increasing interest in Sino-African ties. Some Western politicians, media and NGOs are critical of China's activities in Africa and argue they threaten established Western interests in Africa.

'New colonialism' targeting China-Africa co-op untenable

China-Africa cooperation has flourished in recent years, catching a great deal of mostly objective press attention worldwide.

A trickle of critics, however, have struck a chord of dissonance, warning of the "new colonialism" looming on the continent in a veiled swipe at Beijing's efforts to forge closer ties with Africa.

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Scholastic aptitude