On September 30th JEFCAS hosted the fifth Seminar organized within the framework of the Yorkshire African Studies Network. The Seminar was entitled “The State and Emerging Powers in Africa: China and India”. Attended by our colleagues from Leeds, Sheffield and York University, JEFCAS had the great honour to host five guest speakers to Bradford:
- Dr Christopher Alden (The London School of Economics and Political Science)
- Professor Franklyn Lisk (University of Warwick)
- Dr Shogo Suzuki (University of Manchester)
- Dr Gerard McCann (University of York)
- Alex Vines (Chatham House)
The Seminar was opened by Dr David Lewis from Peace Studies (Bradford University) with a presentation titled “Norm-takers, norm-breakers or norm-makers? ‘Rising Powers’ and the peace and conflict agenda in Africa. With his introductory presentation Dr Lewis pointed out a number of potential difficulties and challenges for the peace agenda in relation to Chinese and Indian involvement on the continent. He also highlight a number of narratives that simplify Chinese presence in Africa, and advocated for adopting a deeper and more diverse approach towards analysing the role of Emerging Powers in Africa and their roles in instigating peace and conflict.
Dr Lewis presentation was followed by a panel involving three speakers, who analysed China’s involvement in Africa from different perspectives.
Dr Christopher Alden’s presentation titled “China-Africa and the Challenges of Consolidation” focused on discussing motivations of Chinese involvement in Africa, expanding the discussion to African interests in China. Firstly, the Chinese motivations for involvement in Africa were debated through examining the resource security rationale; development of market (as a modest priority); movement into financial services (indicated by a long term commitment), and politics of recognition and multilateralism. African involvement in China was discussed from the perspective of new trade, development assistance and investment opportunities, regime stability and as a mode of forging strategic partnerships. Furthermore Dr Alden discussed the modes of Chinese engagement in Africa and the way in which African elites view Chinese involvement on the continent.
The second presentation in the panel was presented by Professor Franklyn Lisk. Professor Lisk focused on “China’s growing engagement in Africa: Implications for policy space and impact on economic development”. After giving historical background on China – Africa relations, Professor Lisk discussed some of the most important policy documents and declarations signed mutually by China and various African Countries. Professor Lisk’s presentation expanded to include African – Chinese Economic Cooperation. He pointed out at the rationale adopted in the sphere of economic involvement that is taking place with the “view that absence of external conditionality provide African policy-makers with more ‘space’ to formulate their own strategies and experiment with a meaningful range of policy options”. The discussions on some of the consequences of this approach were linked to the rest of presentation on the role of investments, aid and development sector. Professor Lisk concluded his presentation with a number of recommendations for both China and Africa in relation to their future economic cooperation.
The final presentation in the panel on China was given by Dr Shogo Suzuki and discussed the issue of “Why do we need “myth-busting” in Sino-African relations?”. By introducing the very provocative terminology of “Dragon Slayers” and “Panda Huggers”, Dr Suzuki discussed different, often contradictory perspectives on the way how China-Africa relations are viewed by academics, policy makers, media and regular people. By presenting some of the most striking examples of this ‘corrupted attitudes’, he tried to explain its origins and link it to the more structural problems in the area of African Studies and the approach of Western researchers to the studies of Africa and Asia.
The afternoon panel focused on the role of India’s involvement in Africa and included presentations by two speakers Dr Gerard McCann and Mr Alex Vines.
Dr Gerard McCann’s presentation on “India in Africa: changing geographies of power” discussed new perspectives and numerous imperatives in India – African relations. Dr McCann referred to the rising role of India and discussed it’s aspiration to become an important player on the African continent. He talked about India’s economic and political role, linking it to some interesting aspects of the role of Indian diaspora on the continent.
The concluding presentation by Alex Vines on the “India’s Security Policy and Africa” became an excellent summary of the Seminar. It not only focused on India, but in a very interesting way it pointed into the contrasting interests of India and China in Africa and its mutually changing attitudes in the sphere of politics and security. Alex Vines discussed some of the consequences and tensions that often arise both in India and in China in relations to its competing roles in Africa.
During the whole Seminar, as well as in the closing – round table session, a number of interesting questions and perspectives were discussed and argued, both by the guest speakers, as well as from different approaches presented by participants of the Seminar. Among many others, the issues of the “neo-colonialism” or “ new scramble of Africa” made by China and India, as well as problems of the need to engage in deeper, more balance and at the same time more diverse way in studying and researching on China/India – Africa relations, become most discussed themes.