Conference: Asia and Africa in Transition

NEW DATES: 28-30 June 2021

Panel: The geopolitics of China’s rise in Africa: Implications and challenges for democratisation and human rights

Convener: Yosef Kamal Ibssa, Dept. of Sociology and Political Science, University of Copenhagen

China’s dramatic rise in world politics over the last few decades can be marked as one of the principal developments in international relations. The country’s brisk economic growth and rapid integration into the global economy has had varying political and economic implications across the globe. Particularly, China’s rise has had some cumbersome implications on Africa. Beijing’s foreign policy towards the region has been defined by the values of equality, non-interference in internal affairs, common development, mutual benefit, and the principle of a win-win relationship. 

This growing geostrategic influence, rising soft power and, above all, continued economic success has captured the attention of African political leaders and societies and suggest that African countries will see China as a model to emulate. They will be attracted to its political model, which eschews the current chaos of Western democracy in favour of authoritarian development system. The attractions are even more alluring against the backdrop of the rise of populism, the Trump presidency and disconcerting trends in U.S. and European politics, which indicates a gradual erosion and deterioration of democratic principles, endangering Western liberal democracies and deconsolidation of democracy in emerging democracies after three decades of what some had heralded the “end of history.”

The China-Africa relationship is interpreted through two diametrically opposed narratives. At one end of the spectrum is the pro-China narrative or optimism depicts China constitutes a new and alternative driver, a saviour and genuine partner of Africa. At the other end of the spectrum is the Sino-phobic narrative or skepticism and fear about China’s rising economic and political intentions and influence. This narrative depicts China, as a spoiler of peace, security. Human rights and democratisation.

To understand and accurately describe the overall image of China’s engagement with Africa, this panel will delve into a variety of issues associated with the pace of China’s evolving role and influence in Africa. We invite papers that explore the pace of China’s evolving role and focuses on (these competing optimistic versus pessimistic perceptions) whether it provides an opportunity or threat to African democratisation processes, human rights, peace and security.