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2. China/Africa vs. China/South America

China/Africa vs. China/South America

China's engagement in Africa is often seen by many observers in a vacuum without a broader understanding of how the relationship compares to Beijing's strategy in other regions of the world. South America, in particular, provides an interesting contrast for how China's engagement is both similar to what it's doing in Africa but also highlights a number of fascinating distinctions. Dr. Matt Ferchen is a leading expert on Chinese-South American relations. Dr. Ferchen is an Associate Professor of international relations at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing and he is also a Resident Scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center where he runs the China and the Developing World program. Dr. Ferchen joins Eric & Cobus for the latest installment in our ongoing series of China and the world discussions to compare China's engagement in Africa with what it's doing in Latin and South America. If you would like to join the discussion, tell us what you think by heading over to the China Africa Project Facebook page at or hit us up on Twitter: Eric: @eolander Cobus: @stadenesque Matt Ferchen: @mattferchen

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3. China in Africa Podcast: China's big media push in Africa

China in Africa Podcast: China's big media push in Africa

China is embarking on an aggressive media campaign in Africa with the launch of CCTV's new broadcast operation in Nairobi, Kenya. The network says it hopes to join BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera among the major players in the international news business. Both Cobus and Eric have their doubts that Beijing is actually capable of attaining that goal given the fact that CCTV does not have a very good track record producing compelling content for an international audience.

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4. China's controversial trade in Africa's natural resources

China's controversial trade in Africa's natural resources

China often faces blistering criticism for its voracious appetite of Africa's natural resources. Chinese companies are spread across the continent mining, logging and fishing to feed both hungry factories and people back home. In most, if not all, African countries, environmental protection laws are minimal at best, totally ineffective at worst, allowing Chinese companies to operate unregulated in this legal void. While in many cases, this has led to horrific environmental abuses, in other instance local actors throughout Africa say the Chinese are often unfairly accused of operating in the informal economy that accounts for 9/10 African jobs. This week, Eric and Cobus tackle the myths and realities of China's natural resource extraction record in Africa.

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5. Why China's development model is gaining popularity in Africa

Why China's development model is gaining popularity in Africa

Phd candidate Eljse Fourie is the special guest this week to discuss her research on how China's economic development model is gaining popularity in parts of Africa | Anti-Chinese, anti-immigrant journalism in South Africa | The increasingly cozy relationship between Chinese and African elites.

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6. Europe isn't happy China's building all the roads in Africa

Europe isn't happy China's building all the roads in Africa

It's well documented China's investment in African infrastructure dominates that of every other country, particularly those in Europe. So it was a bit surprising to see the agenda at the 2014 Build Africa infrastructure forum in Brazzaville where Chinese speakers and a discussion about the huge Chinese presence in the continent's infrastructure sector. The fact is that China's economic model gives it tremendous advantages over Western countries when it comes to financing and building infrastructure regardless of whether Europe and the US like it.

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7. China-Africa trade may be booming, but big problems loom

China-Africa trade may be booming, but big problems loom

Trade between China and Africa will break another new record this year as it's expected to top $200 billion. As trade continues to grow, officials from both regions frequently point to these figures as evidence of steadily improving ties. However, Beijing-based attorney Kai Xue warns that while the trade stats are indeed impressive, they also mask emerging difficulties in the Sino-African relationship.

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8. China's growing appetite for African real estate

China's growing appetite for African real estate

Amid a prolonged economic downturn and a weakening yuan, Chinese investors have steadily turned their focus to buying overseas assets. While there a number of complicated reasons behind the massive capital outflows over the past 18 months, the fact remains that both individual and corporate investors are looking abroad for growth opportunities and hedges against currency fluctuations at home. In 2015, an estimated 750 billion dollars of Chinese money left the country. For individual, foreign real estate is among the preferred investment options as Chinese families buy second homes in Australia, the United States and Europe. For some, these homes are purely for investment but for many other Chinese buying real estate allows them to secure residency, secure a base for their children's education and as environmental conditions worsen in China, living abroad is increasingly seen as a desirable option. Africa has not been a popular destination for Chinese real estate investors but there is new evidence to suggest that may no longer be the case. Dr Honita Cowaloosur of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town recently completed an in-depth research study on China's growing appetite for property in South Africa and Mauritius. Honita joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why Chinese investors are now choosing to invest in African real estate and why the continent is seen as an increasingly desirable investment destination. Join the discussion. What do you think of more Chinese investment in African real estate? Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque

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9. How a little bridge in Guangzhou connects China & Africa

How a little bridge in Guangzhou connects China & Africa

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is home to China's largest African migrant population, predominantly from Nigeria. In the city's Little North Road neighborhood there is a small pedestrian bridge where immigrants from all over the world go to relax, hang out and have their picture taken by local Chinese photographers. Brooklyn-based artist Daniel Traub was so intrigued by these images that he made an arrangement with the photographers to collect the images of thousands of African migrants for a multimedia art project. Although Traub's vast image archive from the Little North Road offers tremendous artistic potential, it also raises serious ethical questions over whether it is moral to publish these images when the individuals did not provide informed consent. Traub joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the art and the ethics of his Little North Road project.

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10. Have We Reached Peak China-Africa?

Have We Reached Peak China-Africa?

Longtime China-Africa scholar Luke Patey, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute of International Affairs, is among a growing number of analysts who believe that the outcome of this year's FOCAC summit clearly demonstrated that Africa now has a diminished role in China's global economic agenda. Luke joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what's behind this trend and his provocative column in the Financial Times on why  the "Chinese Model is Failing Africa." Join the discussion. Do you agree with Luke and other scholars who suggest that we may have reached the peak of China's economic engagement in Africa as China now looks elsewhere for safer, more profitable investments? Or do you think these skeptics are wrong? Let us know. Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @LukePatey Email: [email protected]

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11. China: Africa's friend or foe?

China: Africa's friend or foe?

Yaounde-based economist Simplice Asongu challenged the prevailing stereotypes about the Chinese in Africa in a recent opinion column. So much of anti-China narrative, he wrote, is rooted in inaccuracy and mis-information. That said, he did challenge African governments to negotiate better with the Chinese as a means of building a more equitable relationship.

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12. China may be a lot of things in Africa, but it’s not a colonizer

China may be a lot of things in Africa, but it’s not a colonizer

One of the most durable narratives about the Chinese in Africa is that the PRC is now just the newest foreign country to colonize the continent. While the Europeans may have used brute force, according to this widely-held perception, the Chinese instead using money to buy Africa’s land, corrupt its leaders and export its raw materials. Sure the methods may be different but the outcome is effectively the same: Africa is again being victimized by yet another imperial power. It’s not surprising that a lot of people think this way. In the west, European and U.S. media outlets continue to frame news coverage of the Chinese in Africa in a colonial context.”Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?,” reads a May 2017 headline from the Sunday New York Times and’s “Recolonizing Africa: A Modern Chinese Story?” highlight the pervasiveness of this language. There’s just one very small problem. China is NOT colonizing Africa. When one country colonizes another, as the Europeans did in Africa, it’s an all-encompassing form of domination. The French, Belgians and British, among others, used horrendous violence to impose their language, culture, religion, administrative systems and then stole the resources in their conquered lands without even a consideration of compensation for its inhabitants. By any measure, the Chinese in Africa do not fit this profile. In fact, when it comes to investment, the Chinese are not even the leading source of FDI in Africa, ranking below both the French and Americans, according to Ernst & Young. Some might argue that China’s new military base in Djibouti is a sign of Beijing’s imperial ambitions on the continent. That too does not equate colonialism as the Chinese are paying the Djibouti government handsomely for the privilege to lease their land alongside the U.S., French and Japanese militaries who are also there. And what all about the resources? Those too are being paid for either in the form of cash or infrastructure but they are not being pillaged as they were by other foreigners a century ago. Just because the Chinese are not colonizing Africa does not mean there are innocent of creating all sorts of new problems across the continent. China’s preference to deal with elites, particularly those in less democratic countries where corruption is rife and transparency is minimal, deserves scrutiny. China’s unwillingness to do more to clamp down on its own companies who engage in rampant environmental and wildlife destruction across the continent should be passionately scorned. Those and many other problems brought about by China’s surging presence in Africa should be investigated and criticized when they are found to be at fault. But that is not colonialism. Kenya-native and the founder of the Beijing-based sustainable development consultancy Development Reimagined argues that not only is it factually incorrect to label China as some kind of neo-colonial power in Africa, it’s also disrespectful to her ancestors and the tens millions of other Africans who suffered under the brutality of actual colonial rule. “To call China a colonial power is to diminish the true horrors that were faced by the colonized communities, including by my own relatives, who were detained by the British colonial authorities,” she wrote in a provocative article for Project Syndicate entitled “The People’s Republic of Africa?” Hannah joins Eric to discuss why she thinks the perception of China as a new colonial power in Africa is so durable. Join the discussion. Do you agree with Hannah that China may be a lot of things in Africa but it is not a colonizer? Or do you see history repeating itself where Africa is once again the victim of an aggressive foreign power seeking domination? Let us know what you think. Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @hmryder

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13. The Soil from South Africa Performs in Beijing

The Soil from South Africa Performs in Beijing

A four-member acapella group from South Africa has been putting on performances at the National Center for the Performing Arts here in Beijing to help commemorate the year of South Africa in China. Source: China Radio International (

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14. China's rapidly changing views on wildlife conservation in Africa

China's rapidly changing views on wildlife conservation in Africa

A dramatic shift in Chinese public opinion about animal welfare and global wildlife conservation appears to be underway. Supported by high-profile celebrity campaigns by NBA legend Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, there is growing awareness in China over the country's role in the illicit African wildlife trade. On Chinese social media, evolving public opinion is reflected in the emerging consensus among young people that eating sharks from Mozambique or consuming ivory from Kenya is no longer "cool." It is very likely that this increased public opinion pressure, both at home and in Africa, played a role in the Chinese government's decision to ban the domestic ivory trade. That change is not only taking place online but also on the ground in places like Kenya. A group of young Chinese expats is now mobilizing their local community in Nairobi to partner with wildlife conservation groups to save zebras and other animals from being trapped in deadly snares. The events have been organized by China House Kenya, the first NGO in Africa dedicated to Chinese corporate social responsibility and social integration. China House founder Huang Hongxiang and Wildlife Conservation Project Manager Sunny Huang join Eric & Cobus to explain how their recent de-snaring events highlight the rapidly evolving views among Chinese youth about animal welfare and conservation.

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15. China in Africa: 2014 Year in Review

China in Africa: 2014 Year in Review

2014 marked another landmark year in Sino-African relations as bilateral trade between the two regions broke new records while political/diplomatic/military ties all strengthened across the board. Yet despite the tangible progress made this year, this burgeoning relationship also began to encounter some of its most significant obstacles as both governments and publics across the continent showed significant frustration with Chinese environmental, labor and corporate social responsibility practices. In this special edition, Eric and Cobus reflect back on the most important milestones of 2014 and look forward to 2015 in China-Africa relations.

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16. China-Africa relations in the Xi Jinping era

China-Africa relations in the Xi Jinping era

For much of the past twenty years, China's strategy in Africa could easily be summarized in two words: invest and extract. Today, that is no longer the case as China's agenda in Africa, and throughout much of the global south, has broadened significantly in pursuit of Beijing's military, humanitarian and geopolitical interests. While investment and resource extraction still play an important role in China's African policy, these economic motivators are definitely not as important as they were even just a few years ago. Evidence of this can be found in the Sino-African trade and FDI data that reveal steady declines over the past several years. Whereas five to ten years ago, Chinese companies didn't have as many options on where they could invest, so Africa's relatively open markets were rather appealing. Now, with the development of Beijing's hugely ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) global trade initiative, the government is "encouraging" (read: pressuring) Chinese companies to diversify their investments to support OBOR in other parts of the world including Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe among other regions. Although China may be losing some interest in Africa in terms of trade and economics, that does not necessarily mean that the continent's overall importance to Chinese foreign policy is diminishing. The recent state visits in Beijing of leaders from Cameroon, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, all in just the past month, suggests that Chinese president Xi Jinping places a high degree of importance on his government's relations with Africa, both at the national and regional levels. "I would say the political-military relationship is the emerging area of interest that I think we are going to see more in the future," said Joshua Eisenman, a China-Africa scholar at the University of Texas in Austin and a senior fellow for China studies at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. Professor Eisenman is among a growing number of scholars who are carefully watching the evolution of China-Africa relations in the new Xi Jinping era. He joins Eric & Cobus to talk about what to expect in the coming months as both Africans and Chinese officials prepare for the upcoming Sino-Africa mega-summit, the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, that will take place in Beijing in September. Join the discussion. Are you encouraged or more concerned about the evolving Chinese strategy in Africa that is shifting away from economics to focus more on political/military issues? Let us know what you think. Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @joshua_eisenman Email: [email protected] Get a curated digest of the week's top China-Africa stories delivered straight to your inbox with our weekly email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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17. Sam Pa, China's mysterious middleman in Africa

Sam Pa, China's mysterious middleman in Africa

Publicly China's engagement in Africa is based on "mutual benefit" or, as Chinese officials like to phrase it "win win." Behind the scenes, though, it's a little more complicated. Many of those multibillion dollar natural resource-for-infrastructure deals have been arranged by mysterious middlemen like Sam Pa and his Hong Kong-based Queensway Group. These go-betweens, according to reporting from the FT's Tom Burgis, often do not live up to Beijing's lofty ideals as common Africans see little from the fruits of these deals while politicians, brokers and other elites pocket millions in profits.

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18. Why "Nambia" is so important to the China-Africa narrative


U.S. President Donald Trump revealed deeper levels of ignorance about Africa than many thought possible during a luncheon speech this week to a group of African leaders. During his brief, 800-word speech, Trump twice mentioned the non-existent country of "Nambia." Immediately after the speech, there was widespread disbelief and even confusion as to whether the president was referring to Gambia, Namibia or Zambia. Later, the White House confirmed that the president had indeed spoken in error about Namibia. While the gaffe itself is insignificant, it comes amid a broader context of growing U.S. detachment from Africa as Washington's policy for the continent appears increasingly rudderless. Wednesday's speech was the first major address (which is being generous) the president has given about Africa since he came to office, while policy for the continent drifts amid turmoil over at the State Department. Trump was slow to nominate an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs whose confirmation is now stuck in the Senate. Reaction to the "Nambia" speech largely ranged from ridicule to "what else do you expect from this guy?" African social media commentary, which are usually quick to criticize foreign leaders who disrespect Africa, were surprisingly benign, just laughing it off. Namibian president Hage Geingob, for his part, even went so far as to suggest that Trump's error was actually a blessing as it will invite more attention to be focused on his country. What's interesting here is how the United States, despite any sense of a coherent policy, declining corporate investment and steadily expanding military presence in Africa seems to get a pass from critics who level charges of "neo-colonialism" and "imperialism" towards other countries including China, Japan and some European states. In this edition of the China in Africa podcast, Eric & Cobus discuss the different narratives about the U.S. relationship with Africa compared to that of China's and some of the reasons why African perceptions vary so greatly between the U.S. and China. Join the discussion. What do you think of the "Nambia" speech? If another world leader made the same mistake, how would you react? Let us know what you think. Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque

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19. China appears to be losing interest in Africa

China appears to be losing interest in Africa

For the past 15 years, the China-Africa story has been one of "win-win development," steadily rising investment and booming trade. Africa represented a new era of possibility for Chinese companies seeking alternative sources of raw materials, untapped markets for finished goods and an attractive destination for hundreds of thousands of PRC migrants. For the most part, everyone seemed very happy. The Chinese were getting what they wanted while African governments were enthralled to finally have the chance to break centuries of U.S. and European dependence. The problem is that this was always a highly unequal relationship. China, the world's largest country with the planet's second largest economy, was always going to have a massive advantage in its dealings with the comparatively small, largely poor developing countries in Africa. The sobering reality is that while China is very important to Africa, Africa really doesn't mean much economically to China. In all, African trade represents less than 5% of China's total global trade balance making it something of a rounding error when compared with China's trade volumes with countries in the Middle East, Europe and North America. Now, as Beijing is ramping up its vast global trading strategy known as "One Belt, One Road," the Chinese have a lot more options on where to invest and trade with other parts of the world. That may explain why trade volumes with Africa fell sharply in 2016, plummeting over 30% from $220 billion in 2015 to just $149 billion last year. Similarly, Chinese investments on the continent may still be rising but not as fast as they have in recent years. It appears that a growing number of Chinese customers have had enough of the risk and volatility in many African markets, preferring instead to invest in countries with higher levels of political and social stability. Migration patterns are another indicator that experts like Beijing-based investment attorney Kai Xue look for when analyzing the stability of Sino-African ties. Kai Xue advises a number of major Chinese multinationals on their outbound investment strategies and has been noticing a growing number of Chinese migrants are packing up and leaving countries like Angola and South Africa among others. According to his estimates, the number of Chinese migrants on the continent has fallen sharply in recent years amid slowing economic growth in Africa and rising anti-Chinese sentiment in many countries. While there are no official statistics on the number of Chinese expatriates in Africa, Kai Xue estimates the figure is now well below 1 million. Kai Xue is among a growing number of Chinese analysts who are increasingly bearish on the outlook for Sino-Africa ties. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why he thinks this once promising relationship now faces an uncertain future. Join the discussion. How will African countries react if China begins to dis-engage, shifting its trade and investment to other parts of the world? Let us know what you think. Facebook: Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque

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