2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 192

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The Politics of China’s Expanding Role in Africa: International Implications, Domestic Dynamics, and Local Policy

Organizer and Chair: Carla Freeman, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Discussants: Adama Gaye, Independent Scholar, Senegal; John Harbeson, Johns Hopkins University, USA

A growing body of research examines the impact of China’s intensifying engagement in Africa. This panel addresses a topic that scholars have only begun to study: how Chinese involvement in Africa is affecting politics on the continent. Drawing on field work in both China and Africa—specifically, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Senegal and South Africa—the panel explores this question from international, national, and local perspectives. The panel begins with a wide-angle lens, first, exploring the extent to which African countries are using existing institutions and developing new fora to develop a pan-African response to assert common interests vis-à-vis China, then examining Chinese soft power and the values shaping Chinese interactions with the continent. The panel then focuses on the issue of emerging anti-Chinese sentiment at the national level and studies the role of African domestic political actors in this development. It concludes by examining the role of Chinese in the context of urban and urbanizing Africa, including the role of individuals and firms in shaping the local political economy. The panel benefits from the input of three experts on China-Africa relations. Carla Freeman, an specialist on China’s foreign policy and political economy, will chair the panel and frame the discussion. Adama Gaye, a Senegalese journalist and author of a book on China-Africa relations and a recent visiting scholar at Peking University, will serve as the first discussant. John Harbeson, a leading expert on Africa's political development and role in international politics, will serve as a second discussant.

An Africa Strategy for China? China’s Growing Role in Africa and the Pan-African Response
Carla Freeman, Johns Hopkins University, USA

An Africa Strategy for China? China’s Growing Role in Africa and the Pan-African Response
Tabitha G. Mallory, Princeton University, USA

China’s involvement in Africa has evolved from early support for African decolonization to levels that today make it the major trading partner of many African countries and the leading source of overseas direct investment on the continent. China has also emerged as a key source of development aid and military supplies for some African states. Among the results of China’s enlarged interactions across Africa have been an improved national economic outlook for many countries and the revitalization of interest by the West in the continent. As Beijing has expanded its relationships throughout Africa, it has done so principally through bilateral political linkages as well as by corporate and individual actors, from large Chinese state companies to entrepreneurs. One exception is its peacekeeping role in African conflict zones, where it has become the major source for peacekeeping troops. Another has been the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meetings, which have helped disperse Chinese contributions in areas from social development to food security around the continent. For their part, African countries have responded to China's attention as competitors. However, there is also an awareness on the part of both African governments and their publics that there are benefits to cooperating in response to the opportunities and challenges China’s interest presents. This paper analyzes the emergence of a Pan-Africa response to China, examining its scope, history, anatomy, and impact, to describe how it has developed, what form it is taking, and how it is influencing the dynamic between China and the continent. [PLEASE NOTE: This paper is coauthored by Carla Freeman and Tabitha Mallory]

Chinese wholesale/retail in Dakar and Johannesburg: ethnic enclaves or new spaces of interaction?
Romain Dittgen, University of Paris, France

Chinese in Africa are part of a rather recent migration logic, showing the growing importance of transnational mobility and reflecting the socioeconomic evolution in Africa and China. Within this complex group, independent Chinese migration flows deserve a particular attention. While the presence of those migrants is often linked to trade activities, this paper aims to analyze their insertion strategies to see if they are influenced by the local context. Contingent on the number, province of origin, localization, interactions or potential tensions with the local population as well as economic impact, results can differ a lot from one country to another. This paper argues that these apparent “ethnic enclaves,” disconnected from the host society, as they are often described by the media, are at the centre of diversified interactions. In this sense, to what extent can we say that the arrival of Chinese retailers and a vast set of products are initiating development opportunities and create new dynamics? In order to shed light on how those Chinese engage with and impact their local environment, this paper focuses on Dakar and Johannesburg. Beyond the very obvious spatial effect, this study highlights the cases of wholesalers/retailers within those two cities and analyzes their impact on local development.