‘With those views, you should work for the Communist Party of China’: challenging Western knowledge production on China-Africa relations

  • Liam Michael O'Brien


China’s relations with the African continent continues to be misrepresented within the Western (North American and European) academe. This is due, in part, to the methodological and epistemological assumptions underpinning many research agendas. These agendas are founded upon a range of histories, theories and frameworks that have been produced in the West, by the West, and for a particular end  within a particular location, or, event.This paper brings forward some original empirical data - from five months field research in South Africa which questioned power and agency (participation and self-determination) in response to Chinese Development assistance  to support, and bring into conversation, emerging literatures which focus upon the ‘uneven production of knowledge’ on and about China. It works with critiques of historicism and emerging concepts such as Sinological-orientalism and Sinologism, to explain how the continued measuring and representation of China through Western concepts, understandings and logics, come to reduce, in an Orientalist manner, accurate relations between China and Africa.Conclusions join calls for more balanced and disinterested scholarship on the China-Africa relationship and argue that this can only be achieved through greater geo-graphical and temporal specificity within writing. Within current work on China-Africa relations there is a lack of empirical qualitative data being collected, or, arguments are being extrapolated from limited cases. This paper represents a critical case that introduces new voices and alternative narratives from (South) African’s themselves.