In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section China in Africa

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • China’s Goals in Africa
  • Sectorial Experiences
  • African Voices
  • Chinese Voices and International Fora (FOCAC)

African Studies China in Africa
Meine Pieter van Dijk
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 August 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0192


The presence of China in Africa has increased rapidly, as measured by the number of Chinese living in Africa or the quantity of goods and services, aid, and investments coming from China. The consequences will be discussed in this article, focusing on the economic relations between China and Africa and looking at the political and social consequences. After presenting some general overviews and works of reference, the goals of China in Africa are reviewed. Next, Chinese aid, trade, and investments are discussed, dealing with the issue of whether these three instruments for cooperation are always separated clearly and how effective they are. Some of the issues concerning China’s presence in Africa are examined: (1) Is China pushing the so-called Beijing consensus, and will this be at the expense of the Washington consensus? (2) What is the role of public and private Chinese enterprises in Africa, and to what extent do the Chinese respect local environmental and labor regulations? (3) What is the role of Special Economic Zones created by China, which often specify the conditions for foreign investment in the country concerned? Several sources cited deal with different countries or different sectors in which Chinese or Chinese firms are particularly active and are summarized under Country Studies and Sectorial Experiences. The final sections are African Voices, on the different issues discussed, and Chinese Voices and International Fora (FOCAC), which provides reflections on the International Forum for co-operation between Africa and China where the collaboration takes shape.

General Overviews

Several general introductions to the topic in the category of info sheets or policy briefs are found in Konijn 2012 and the Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Stellenbosch. However, Brautigam 2009 and Halper 2012 also provide the broader picture, and Manji and Marks 2007 and Alden 2007 are also helpful. Van Dijk 2009 is an edited volume that focuses on a few specific issues. Dollar 2008 draws the lessons from China’s economic success for African countries.

  • Alden, C. China in Africa. London and New York: Zed, 2007.

    Infrastructural improvements help African countries, and China secures loans and provides investments. The author points out that everyday life is changing for millions of Africans because of that. Cheap Chinese imports mean that, for the first time, poor people can afford new clothes, shoes, or radios.

  • Brautigam, D. The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Brautigam situates the current relationship between China and Africa within a historical framework that goes back to the 1960s. She emphasizes that Chinese motivations are not short-term commercial interests, but rather strategic, broader, and longer-term interests. Her argument is that China is genuinely interested in extending to Africa the lessons it learned from its own development and that what may appear to be commercial moves are the result of careful thinking about mutually beneficial activities.

  • Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Stellenbosch. Weekly News Briefing and China Monitor.

    The Centre has a blog called Links We Like, which regularly introduces interesting sources of information on China–Africa relations. The focus of this series is on academic and news websites, but they also feature governmental, nongovernmental and private sector sources.

  • Dollar, D. Lessons from China for Africa. Policy Research Working Paper 4531. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2008.

    This is one of the first publications in which the lessons learned from China’s successful development after 1978 are drawn for the African continent. The author emphasizes that the expansion of China’s infrastructure network was a major component of China’s development strategy.

  • Halper, S. The Beijing Consensus: How China’s Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century. New York: Basic Books, 2012.

    Halper argues that the Chinese model of development, labeled as “market authoritarianism” is gaining adherence. He finds that the “Washington consensus” is being replaced by the “Beijing consensus.” The focus of the book is on the growing power of China in the developing world, arguing that China’s approach to Africa’s need is better adapted than the slow and patronizing post-colonial approach of European investors.

  • Konijn, P. China in Africa: A Profile of Political and Economic Relations. Leiden, The Netherlands: African Studies Centre, 2012.

    The info sheet provides information on the role of trade, investments, and aid in China–Africa relations. Special attention is paid to migration and an example is given of “resources-for-infrastructure” loans, which China has signed with several countries. Available online by subscription.

  • Manji, F., and S. Marks. African Perspectives on China in Africa. Chicago: Pambazuka, 2007.

    This is one of the few systematic overviews of China’s involvement in Africa. The authors ask whether China is the last in a series of exploiters of Africa’s raw materials, or whether China will really help the Africans “to free themselves from the tyranny of the neo-liberal policies.”

  • Van Dijk, M. P., ed. The New Presence of China in Africa. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009.

    The presence of China in Africa has increased rapidly, as measured by the number of Chinese living in Africa and by the quantity of trade, aid, and investments. Van Dijk concludes that the Chinese government helps Chinese entrepreneurs by providing market information and visas, facilitating access to loans, and helping with money transfers. Preference is given to Chinese investments in strategically important industries, such as oil and minerals.

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