As the volume of scholarly and public policy work on the intersections between Africa and China reaches a critical mass, there is now both a window of opportunity and an urgent need to provide the rigorous theoretical groundwork for future research and teaching for the next generation of scholars, and to strengthen cross-regional research collaborations.

With this goal in mind, the SSRC and Yale University co-organized Making Sense of the China-Africa Relationship: Theoretical Approaches and the Politics of Knowledge, a conference held on November 18 and 19, 2013, at Yale University as part of the China-Africa Knowledge Project. This conference brought together a small number of leading scholars and some graduate students from China, Africa, North America and Europe to explore questions about the production of knowledge and the theoretical underpinnings of this work—specifically, how this knowledge is produced, for whom, and how; and how to connect this empirical work to broader bodies of theoretical knowledge. For more information on the conference, please click here.

The following think pieces were presented at the conference and explored some of the following questions:

  • How does the China-Africa relationship, and the scholarship on it, inform and informed by broader bodies of theory and analytical approaches?
  • How does it connect to broader scholarly and policy discourses regarding the economic, political and cultural dimensions of globalization?
  • What does it reveal to us about new relationships in a changing global order?
  • Is there a larger frame or field within which to understand these relationships, and what would it be? (Transformations in the global South? Emerging geopolitical powers?)
  • How do we teach and prepare students in our respective institutions to research and engage in this cross-regional research?

Politics of Knowledge:
He Wenping, The Present State of China-Africa Scholarship and Public Discourse
Daouda Cissé, Establishing China-Africa Linkages – Knowledge networks and research agendas
Jamie Monson, Historicizing Difference – Construction of Race Identity in China-Africa Relations
Seifudein Adem, Decoding the discourse on China in Africa

Migration and Diasporas:
Howard French, One Million Migrants – Asymmetry as imperialism in China-Africa relationships
Liang Xu, The three phases/faces of China in independent Africa – Reconceptualizing China-Africa engagement
Elle Wang, Identity and Diaspora – A multidisciplinary understanding of African migrants in Yiwu city and Guangzhou, China

International Peace and Security:
Jason Tower, Chinese Involvement in Peace and Security in Africa and Beyond
Cyril Obi, Oiling neocolonialism and conflict? – The implications of China’s engagements with African petro-states for peace and development
Daniel Large, The Securitization of China’s Africa Relations

Trade, Aid, and Development:
Paul Kamau, Chinese Ascendancy in the Global Clothing Industry – Implications for sub-Saharan Africa
Luke Patey, The Global Impact of Africa on Chinese companies – Chinese national oil
Isaac Odoom, Locating African agency in Africa-China relations
Romain Dittgen, Blurred Lines – Hybrid processes of Chinese oil investment in Chad

Theoretical Approaches and China-Africa Scholarship:
Chris Alden, In Search of Gravity’s Rainbow – Theoretical approaches and China-Africa scholarship
Sanusha Naidu, The empirical and ideological approaches to emerging powers
Ching Kwan Lee, From rhetorical to theoretical agendas in China-Africa studies