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Understanding Africa's China policy: A test of dependency theory and a study of African motivations in increasing engagement with China

Nkemjika E Kalu, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


African states are increasingly engaging with China—politically, socially and economically—especially through the machinations of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This dissertation asserts that Africans are willing partners of the Chinese, motivated by their state-centric belief that engagement with China is in their national interest. This assertion contradicts the assumption of most literature to date that appears to borrow from the logic of dependency theory and presents African nations as pawns, subject to the demands of a dominant and exploitative China, who is benefiting at Africa's expense. Economic trends from the decade before the launch of the FOCAC and the 10 years following indicate that increasing engagement with China has not been detrimental to African economic development. Following the establishment of the FOCAC in 2002, Africa as a region is reporting significantly higher GDP growth rates, increased GNI, and GDP per capita. Additionally, African states and China have on the whole experienced a balanced trade flow with few exceptions of uneven balances not always in favor of China. Clearly African states are benefiting from their relationship with China. A case study of Nigeria in 2011 revealed that Nigerians are willing to experience a continued trade deficit with China in order to achieve other important objectives. Nigerians are looking to learn from China's industrialization process and the economic policies that have resulted in higher growth rates and amelioration of poverty. Chinese investments in Nigerian and African infrastructure development are considered significant and relevant for economic and social development. The influx of affordable Chinese goods has increased the spending power of the average Nigerian and increased the profit margins for Nigerian retailers. Nigerians are engaging with China because it is in their best interest and as this relationship continues to grow, it will need to be managed in order to maximize the benefit to Nigeria.

Subject Area

International Relations

Recommended Citation

Kalu, Nkemjika E, "Understanding Africa's China policy: A test of dependency theory and a study of African motivations in increasing engagement with China" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3550408.