The Dragon Has Not Just Arrived: The Historical Study of Africa’s Relations with China



The world today is fascinated with the rising power of China. Whether out of fear, concern, or simply curiosity, people want to understand China’s role in global society. Scholars in particular have begun to delve into answering the question, ‘What is/should be China’s role in the world?’ This question has proven to have a special importance for Africa owing to China’s interests on the continent. No one can deny China’s contemporary presence in Africa. New economic ventures abound in oil, minerals, timber, and factories, not to mention Chinese consumer goods flooding African markets, creating tension and global unease, particularly in the West. Too often, however, Africa’s history of interactions with China is ignored in current coverage when in fact African nations have more than half a century of interactions with the People’s Republic of China. The period under major consideration for the purposes of better understanding contemporary relations between African nations and China is the period following the Communist Revolution and particularly that post-dating the declaration of independence in each African nation. Therefore, this essay presents a discussion of the historiography of Africa’s relations with China with a special emphasis on the Cold War era, establishing the necessity of this scholarly undertaking.