Sino-African Relations in a Global Context: Rise and Limits of China s Influence in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • CABESTAN, Jean-Pierre (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


A development of the PI’s previous GRF, this new research project aims at assessing the rise but also the limits of China’s influence in Sub-Saharan Africa in putting Sino- African relations in a global context.

This research will be based on data collected in Hong Kong and mainland China as well as fieldwork conducted in Africa. It will adopt both a quantitative and a qualitative approach. Fieldwork will be conducted in a sample of eight countries selected because of their different size, historical background, spoken language, economic structure and resources and political orientations (South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Chad).

Firstly, this research will attempt to measure China’s weight in the selected African countries’ economy, political system, society and external relations in a comparative manner. It will evaluate the “relation intensity” that has been reached between China and these African countries. Then it will compare this with the “relation intensity” between these nations and their other major partners, inside and outside of Africa.

Secondly, this research will concentrate on evaluating China’s influence on African countries’ foreign policy. Here the working hypothesis is that while African countries can no longer ignore China’s diplomatic concerns, especially its so-called “core interests”, they can balance China’s growing influence in cultivating closer relations with their traditional partners, especially the ones providing security guarantees, or their new emerging partners. As a result, African countries’ foreign policy may not have fundamentally changed because of China’s growing economic, diplomatic or cultural presence on the continent.

Thirdly, this research will explore the major limitations of China’s influence in Africa as well as identify the main reasons of these limits. It will in particular attempt to assess whether China’s difficulties are the result of African governments or elites’ own policy adjustments or the outcome of other big powers’ reactions and counteroffers. It will also try to evaluate African elites’ attitude vis-à-vis China’s authoritarian and state-centred economic success story as well as interest in Chinese culture and civilisation, or more generally the impact of China’s soft power on this continent, in comparison with other big powers’ respective soft power. Finally, it will check if the nature of the political system matters or if it remains a marginal factor in African countries’ relations with China.

This new project is aimed at writing a single-author book on the rise and the limits of China’s influence in Africa
Effective start/end date1/01/1531/12/18

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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