Discussions on the politics of Chinese engagement with African development have been marked by increasing concern over Chinese use of aid in exchange for preferential energy deals. Normative liberal discourse criticizes the Chinese for disbursing ‘rogue aid’ and undermining good governance in the African continent. These criticisms not only ignore the longer-term motivations and modalities of Chinese aid and the historical diversity of Chinese relations with Africa, but also uncritically assume ‘Western’ aid to be morally ‘superior’ and ‘more effective’ in terms of development outcomes. This paper consists of three parts. First, it will discuss the debates surrounding Chinese engagement in Africa, especially around aid and development issues. Second, the paper maps the historical development of China–Africa engagement and investigates the impacts of the changing modalities of Chinese aid with reference to case studies of two countries: Angola and Ghana. It then offers a comparative analysis of the similarities and differences between these two cases. The principal argument is that Chinese and Western donors employ different ideologies and practices of governance to conceal their own interests and political discourses in the African continent.