Africa looking East : a global history of Africa-China engagement
The Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference Organising Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at Lingnan University, Hong Kong; and the Institute for Emerging Markets at HKUST
CAAC2021 5th Online Mini-symposium CAAC2021 : Africa Looking East : A Global History of Africa-China Engagement
Online Session via Zoom
In the last decade China has become Africa’s leading trading partner as Africa’s natural resources have been exported and manufactured goods are imported. China has also invested heavily in Africa’s infrastructure, constructing railways, roads and ports that will facilitate the movement of goods and people both within Africa and abroad. China’s expanding role in Africa in the 21st century has caused anxiety for other global powers, as the United States and European countries fear Chinese economic and political competition on the continent. Some have compared 21st century rivalry over Africa’s resources to the nineteenth century European “Scramble for Africa,” while competing East-West political ideologies have led to comparisons with the Cold War.
Observers are right to look to history for a deeper understanding of Africa’s engagement with China. But these historical comparisons – whether to the nineteenth century “scramble” or to twentieth century East-West rivalries – make it seem like Africa was a passive, isolated and unchanging continent upon which other global actors repeatedly imposed their agendas. Nothing could be further from the truth. And current anxieties about globalization make us forget that the world – including Africa – has been globally interconnected for a very, very long time.
This paper will present research findings from our co-authored book project that places Africa and Africans at the center of global historical encounters. It traces the deep history of African and Chinese engagement within larger circulations of goods, people and ideas that go back at least as far as the 8th-9th centuries. We frame our inquiry with two critical guiding questions: first, how does our understanding of the world change when take a historical perspective on globalization? And second, how does this history create openings for new kinds of knowledge, by allowing new stories to be told, once we shift our gaze from “Africa and its Invaders” to “Africans Looking East?”
Liu, S., & Monson, J. (2021, May 28). Africa looking East: A global history of Africa-China engagement [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://commons.ln.edu.hk/videos/892