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Fall 2017 Seminar - China and Africa: Political, Cultural, and Economic Engagement (2)

China and Africa - Political, Cultural and Economic Engagement

The Institute for African Development hosts a weekly seminar series under the general theme “Issues in African Development.” The series examines a different sub-theme each semester and has become a key introductory course on African development at Cornell. It is widely acclaimed as an excellent introduction to African politics and the challenges of development on the continent.

In Fall 2017 we will be discussing China's Engagement with Africa - Political, Cultural and Economic Implications. 


Although China–Africa engagement is not new, the engagement has increased remarkably in recent years, as highlighted by the phenomenal growth in trade and investment between China and Africa. Trade volumes between the two rose significantly, from US$10 billion in 2000 to more than US$198 billion in 2012. In 1996, China displaced the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner.

China’s impact on African economies has been diverse, depending in part on the sectoral composition of each country’s production. Overall, China’s increased engagement on the continent has generated important gains for African economies and presents a significant opportunity for Africa’s growth and integration into the global economy.

In terms of recent history, China’s trade and investment with Africa date back several decades, with most of the early investments made in railway construction (Tazara railway) and other infrastructure projects at the start of the post-colonial era. The scope and pace of China’s investment flows and engagement with Africa today is unprecedented. There are also growing cultural and educational ties.

China’s business investments reach into a range of sectors including energy, mining, and agriculture. In the education sector, China admitted 15 thousand African students to its universities in 2009 alone. According to University World News (June 22, 2017), China has so far established 46 Confucius Institutes across more than 30 countries on the African continent, highlighting the remarkable and visible parameters of the internationalization of higher education in Africa.

China’s fast-growing economic ties with Africa have spurred considerable attention and debate, especially in Western countries. While the expansion of trade and investment between Africa and China has been generally welcomed, there is concern about how China’s growing presence might negatively affect African development. These concerns range from debt sustainability to labor practices, governance and human rights issues, and environmental impact.

The fall seminar series is expected to provide a forum for discussion and interrogation of these and other issues related to China’s rapidly growing engagement with Africa.

 We will begin with a broad overview of the topic, provided by Ambassador David Shinn. Subsequent presentations will include a historical perspective on China’s engagement with Africa, the importance of rhetoric in intercultural engage-ment, the impact of Chinese migration in Africa, the effects of China’s ocean policy on African maritime security, China-Africa litigation and dispute settlement, the importance of knowledge transfers between cultures, industrial labor relations with Chinese firms in Africa, the importance of African governance in partnership with China, and Chinese investment and financing models for infrastructure in Africa.