Copyright © 2012 International Development Options
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Volume Six Winter-Spring 2011-2012 Numbers 3-4.
SOCIOLOGY OF DISCOURSE ON CHINA-AFRICA RELATIONS
Institute of Global Cultural Studies
Binghamton University, New York, United States
Published online February 10, 2017
The relationship between China and Africa, or Sino-African relations, has come under scrutiny recently, with more articles and books having been written about it in the last ten years than in the preceding fifty years all combined.1 Despite the generous attention, however, the nature and outcome of this relationship are still far from clear. Implicitly or explicitly, analysts have certainly sought to address the inescapable question of whether or not China is a force for good in Africa. The empirical evidence, however, seems to lend support to the contradictory claims that China is looting Africa and that it is developing the continent. This is so partly because the knowledge we acquire from the discourse is a social knowledge that is based on judgment and interpretation in which similar empirical facts could lead to different conclusions and vice versa. It is also so because the discourse takes place at different levels: ideological, political and intellectual. The risk is, thus, real that the more one reads about China in Africa, the less one knows about it. The substantial literature and the competing claims about Sino-African relations, therefore, suggest that there is a need for a disciplinary framework, disciplinary in both senses of that term. This article seeks to make a modest contribution toward that end by addressing the following questions. What are the divergent perspectives about Sino-African relations? How did they emerge? What are the driving forces behind them? Is the sustained discourse about Sino-African relations a good thing for Africa in any case?