The Sino-African Partnership

A Geopolitical Economy Approach

by Earl Conteh-Morgan (Author)
©2018 Monographs XVI, 246 Pages


The Sino-African Partnership portrays with rigor and clarity the relationship between China and Africa by delving into the geopolitical, geo-economic, and sociocultural dynamics that underlie the extensive and deepening "South-South" cooperation between the two. The analysis highlights China’s role in the partnership by underscoring its geo-strategy, multidimensional approach, and the nature of its power projection in a continent of nation-states with differing geo-strategic importance and resource endowments. Supported by a rich texture of recent historical, political, and economic insights and interactions between China and Africa reflecting established knowledge, the book also delves deep into the impact on China of globalization imperatives following the end of the Cold War and its focus on ideological rivalry.
Graduate and undergraduate students, China-Africa scholars, and general readers interested in a new perspective on the relationship between the two entities will find this essential and interesting reading. It is a unique and multidimensional examination of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, relationships, and profound development in global politics between two significant developing actors. There are new insights in this study into China’s power projection into Africa and the global reactions spawned by its many activities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for The Sino-African Partnership
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • Objectives
  • Method and Format
  • Sino-African Interactions: A Historical Overview
  • Rationale, Uniqueness, and Scope of the Study
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 2 Sino-African Relations: A Framework for Analysis
  • Conceptual Clarifications of the Framework
  • Strategy of Socio-Cultural Proximity
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 3 Geopolitical-Economic Dynamism and Nexus of China’s Engagement in Africa
  • FOCAC as Geopolitical and Diplomatic Strategy
  • The Chinese State and Geo-Economic Strategy
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 4 Clashing Worldviews and Discursive Representations of China
  • The Anti-China Narratives: A Brief Overview
  • China in Africa: Some Positive Comments
  • China’s View of Human Rights vs Universal Human Rights
  • Attempt at a More Critical and Balanced Examination
  • China: An Alternate Model?
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 5 China’s AID and Energy Geopolitics
  • Africa in China’s Energy Diplomacy
  • Areas of Mutual Dependence and Cooperation in Sino-African Relations
  • The Building of Development Capacity
  • China’s Enduring Geo-Strategy
  • China’s Power Projection Strategy
  • China’s Emphasis on Socio-Economic Security
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Foreign AID in China’s Africa Power Projection
  • Aid and Its Articulation Into Regionalism
  • Rationales and Imperatives of the Foreign Aid Relationship
  • Corporatism as Instrument for Power Projection
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 7 Geo-Economic Endowed African States and China
  • China and Africa’s Rare Metals
  • Entanglements and Extensive Cooperation
  • Regional and Sub-Regional Cooperation
  • The China-Africa Arms Relationship and Rationale
  • Growth in Chinese Arms to Africa
  • China’s Arms Sales Strategy to Africa
  • Chinese Arms: Negative Impact on African Conflicts
  • Peace-Keeping Efforts by China
  • The Seeming Contradictory Role of China’s Arms in Africa
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 8 Western Reactions to China’s Power Projection in Africa
  • Sino-American Competition in Africa
  • Multi-Pronged Political and Economic Strategy
  • Africa’s Geopolitical and Geo-Economic Salience
  • Socio-Cultural Proximity as Strategy
  • Globalization and Its Requirements
  • Sino-African Mutual Identity and Dependence
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 9 Problems and Prospects in the Partnership
  • Conditions for a Lasting Sino-African Partnership
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

| ix →


Figure 2.1: A Framework for Analysis

Figure 3.1: Structure of Interacting Forces

Figure 7.1: China-Africa Trade (Billions of US Dollars)

Figure 7.2: China-Africa, FDI (Billions of US Dollars)

Figure 7.3: Percentage of China’s Overseas Foreign Direct Investment in Africa by Destination

Figure 7.4: Cold War and Globalization Levels of Interaction

Figure 7.5: The Role of China’s Public Institutions

| xi →


This volume has three basic objectives. First, it is focused on analyzing the geopolitical, geo-economic, and socio-cultural dimensions of the China-Africa partnership triggered by the economic ascendance of China and manifested in the economic imperatives of aid, trade and investments in this globalization era. Second, the analysis attempts to elaborate on the nature, logic, movers and shakers of China’s multipronged approach to its goal of cementing ties with African states. Its activities in Africa are many and range from the focus on energy sources to issues of health care, agriculture, peacebuilding, education, and interparty relations, among many others. This extensive engagement in Africa may have provoked a US response that has generated more attention to a continent that was marginalized even during the Cold War era. Third, the book tries to argue and underscore that there is a great deal of socio-cultural affinity and shared political-historical and economic experiences between China and Africa that are contributing to a strengthened partnership between the two entities. In particular, China is able to exploit these similarities with African states and thereby deflect some of the criticisms levied at it for the ongoing extensive trade and investment activities.

China like all great powers adapted its foreign policy objectives to suit the changing times. During its weakened state as a typical Third World communist power between the 1950s and 1970s it supported national liberation ← xi | xii → movements in African states and extended foreign assistance to several newly independent African states. Its focus was ideological rivalry against the West and Russia. However, with the end of the Cold War and the focus on economic globalization China in a now much stronger economic and military state has provoked many criticisms because of the enormous scope of its investments in African states.

In this book my focus is what the nature, logic, and drivers of China’s Africa policy are. I therefore predicated my analysis on China’s geo-strategy which I argue is comprised of geopolitical, geo-economic, and socio-cultural dimensions. These dimensions underlie the China-Africa partnership and in particular are made up of China’s oil diplomacy, its disbursement of aid, trade and investment activities, and involvement in several areas related to health care, agriculture, education, infrastructure, and many more in the continent. These dimensions overlap, interact, and lend dynamism to the China-Africa partnership or cooperation which is predicated on mutual dependence. They are the foundation of China’s extensive and deep engagement with the African continent. The partnership or cooperation between two “Third World” entities is expressed and institutionalized through the political and economic elite in both regions and many segments of civil society, in ways that serve to constitute a relationship of mutual power dependence and support not only in trade and investment but in political and socio-cultural matters at the multilateral level within the UN and other international forums. In particular, a post-Cold War/ ideological rivalry past has been replaced by one based on economic globalization imperative that is bolstering ties and expanding “South-South” cooperation in many other activities other than just economic transactions.

This book has been about five years in its conceptualization and analysis and the following individuals have contributed in various ways to its completion: Bledar Prifti of St. Petersburg College, Florida; Sajjad Hussein, Darnyell Wint, Michael Blevins, and Karl Althaus all of the University of South Florida. The annual International Studies Association (ISA) conventions I attended over the past five years were also a source of motivation for me to attempt this multidimensional examination of the China-Africa cooperation in its many manifestations. Paper presentations at the ISA followed by critiques of panel members sharpened my understanding of the subject and my critical attention to it. This analysis is better because of all the input and insights I received during those annual meetings. Where there are weaknesses I attribute them to what I missed during those scholarly exchanges.

| xiii →


AFRICOM Africa Command

AGOA Africa Growth and Opportunity Act

AU African Union

BRICS Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa

CADF China Africa Development Fund

CCP Chinese Communist Party

COMNCS Chinese Oil Multinational Corporations

CNOOC China National Offshore Oil Corporation

CNPC China National Petroleum Corporation

DFI Direct Foreign Investment

DDRRR Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement, and Reintegration

DRC Democratic Republic of Congo

DOD Department of Defense

EAC East African Community

ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States

EU European Union

EX-IM Export-Import

FOCAC Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ← xiii | xiv →

FDI Foreign Direct Investment

G-77 Group of 77

IFIs International Financial Institutions

LDCs Less Developed Countries

MNCs Multinational Corporations

MOCOM Ministry of Commerce

MOFA Ministry of Foreign Affairs

MONUC United Nations Mission in the Congo

NAM Non-Aligned Movement

NAASP New Asian-African Strategic Partnership

NEPAD New Partnership for Africa’s Development

NGOs Non-Governmental Organizations

OAU Organization of African Unity

ODA Overseas Development Aid

OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

OPEC Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

PLA Peoples Liberation Army

SADC Southern Africa Development Community

SEZs Special Economic Zones

SCO Shanghai Cooperation Organization

SOEs State-Owned Enterprises

SPLA Sudan Peoples Liberation Army

SSA Sub-Saharan Africa

UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UNMIS United Nations Mission in Sudan

UNSC United Nations Security Council

UNFAO United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization

USAID United States Agency for International Development

WTO World Trade Organization

| 1 →

· 1 ·


One of the most remarkable developments in the international political economy of the post-Cold War era has been the scope, volume, and frequency of Sino-African transactions which seems to have especially catapulted Sub-Saharan Africa into the limelight of international relations. In particular, since the late 1990s the political, diplomatic, economic, and cultural interactions between China and African countries have grown steadily, and have even been relatively dramatic and extensive in some areas. For instance, since 2009 China surpassed all other regions as Africa’s number one trading partner. Since then trade ties between China and Africa have steadily improved to the point where annual trade has been about 19%.1 China’s exports to Africa even increased from 2.02% to 4.16% between 2000 to 2012 whilst its imports also increased from 2.47% to 6.23%. In terms of overall African trade, the proportion of China-Africa trade volume as part of Africa’s total trade volume increased from 3.82% to 16.13%. Apart from trade transactions, China’s aid commitments and even disbursements to African states have been very significant relative to the Cold War era. For instance, during the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC III) in 2006 in Beijing, the action plan included committing up to $1 billion in aid to Africa by 2009, and cancelling the debts of 31 African countries.2 By 2013 China-Africa trade reached $210 billion along with over 2,500 Chinese firms investing in the continent. Such ← 1 | 2 → Chinese generosity towards Africa further fuels the ongoing debate between those who support ongoing Chinese engagement with Africa and those opposed to it. The triennial FOCAC meetings may be a diplomatic strategy by China to generate enough positive public discourse that would counteract the negative discourse and framing of China’s intentions in Africa. Staving off negative framing may all be a reason why China is deepening its cultural ties with African nations. These ties range from Swahili translated Chinese soap operas in East Africa, to tourism, and the establishment of Confucius institutes in many parts of the continent. Up to 25 Confucius Institutes are now operating in 18 African countries.3 Many more are likely to be set up in the near future. In its cultural interactions with Africa, China underscores not only its equal partnership with Africa, but also believes that the two cultures (African and Chinese) have a great deal in common.

There is, in other words, a dynamism inherent in Sino-African relations which could be defined as a vitality, energy, and drive on the part of China to consolidate and solidify relations with African states so that it will attain: (1) energy security and ensure the continuation of its impressive industrial growth; (2) hedge against any serious disruptions in oil flow that may have detrimental consequences on its current energy security and objectives to ensure greater energy security; (3) ensure political diplomatic support of African states so that it never becomes geopolitically isolated in a world dominated by Western powers; and (4) has already engaged with Africa in such a way that it seems to be threatening to Western hegemony in the continent, and to the US in particular. In practice China projects its power through bilateral, multilateral, formal, and informal means. This includes private Chinese, state level business, enterprises, as well as multilateral institutions like FOCAC, New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP), or the Bandung Spirit, China-Africa Youth Festivals, Sino-African business conferences, and arms trade and military cooperation, among others.


XVI, 246
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 246 pp., 7 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Earl Conteh-Morgan (Author)

Earl Conteh-Morgan is a professor of international studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies at the University of South Florida. He is a former senior research fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute (Oslo). He has authored, co-authored, and co-edited several books and book chapters, as well as published several refereed articles in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Journal of Social Philosophy, International Journal of Peace Studies, and the Global Security and Intelligence Studies journal, among many others. He is currently researching state weakness and the onset of civil wars in Africa.


Title: The Sino-African Partnership
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