Africans in Chinese Media and Chinese in African Media: Perceptions and Misperceptions

The People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. In the 1950s, the new Republic went in search for international alliances. Despite the diversity and complexity of the region, Africa became appealing in part because the majority of African countries were then under European colonial domination with growing nationalist movements demanding independence. A sense of “third world” brotherhood solidarity- a solidarity of the lesser powerful- brought China and several African countries closer together. It was the cold war era. This strategic political alliance of the leaderships did not automatically translate into a broader mutual acquaintance of Chinese and Africans.

In recent years, China’s economic boom and growing influence in world politics, has encouraged a huge migration of Chinese businesses to Africa and attracted huge numbers of African migrants to China.  Yet, Africans and Chinese still have ways to go in learning to know and appreciate one another beyond the stereotypical representations they each receive from popular media.  In this research project, we will begin by tracing back the history of the relationship between China and Africa. Next we will examine the media representation of Africa and Africans in China today and then, we will examine how China and Chinese people are perceived in Senegal and Ghana for example.

Research on the relationship between China and Africa has more heavily focused on the growing presence of China in Africa and the worry, imagined or real, that China is acting as a new colonizing force.  Emphasis on economic exchange and China’s need for raw material has cast shadow on research on the underlying cultural exchange existing between China and Africa. This research, therefore, aims to examine how these “third world brothers” perceive and represent each other through their dominant media discourse.

Research questions:

Africa and Africans in Chinese Media:

What is Africa in Chinese imagination? Why did Africa feature so prominently in the picture of China’s foreign policy of the 1950s? How did Africa help shape China’s own identity/self-portrait as a developing country?  Has the growing presence of Africans in China and growing presence of Chinese in Africa influenced the way Africa and Africans are perceived in China?

China and Chinese in African Media:

What is China in African imagination? Are Chinese welcomed brothers? How are Chinese viewed in Senegal and Ghana? What kind of cultural exchange, if any at all, occurs between Chinese and Africans in Senegal and Ghana?

Common question for the two sides:

How has Western media influenced the perception of the relationship between China and Africa?

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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