China–Africa Media Interactions: Media and Popular Culture Between Business and State Intervention


  • Ute Röschenthaler
  • Alessandro Jedlowski
  • ajedlowski@ulg.ac.be


  • Journal of African Cultural Studies

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A growing number of studies addressed the increasing China–Africa media interactions over the past few years. Some of these studies made an attempt at interpreting the consequences of these interactions on the African mediascape, often connecting them to the wider debate about the transformations of Chinese soft power strategies (cf. Banda 2009; Gagliardone 2013; Gagliardone, Stremlau, and Nkrumah 2012; Harber 2013; Li and Rønning 2013; Rønning 2014; Wu 2012; Xin 2009; Zhang, Wasserman, and Mano 2016; see also Kurlantzick 2007; Li 2009). Others investigated African audiences’ reception of Chinese media and popular culture, and analysed African media coverage of China- related news and African visual representations of China (cf. Gorfinkel, Joffe, and van Staden 2014; Joseph 1999; Simbao 2012; Stern 2009; Wasserman 2012, 2013; Wekesa 2013). A relatively smaller number of studies explored also the activity of African media entrepreneurs in China and questioned the representation of Africa and of Africa- related news in Chinese media (cf. Castillo 2016; Ferry 2012; Saavedra 2009; Shen 2009; Strauss 2009; Zheng 2010; Zheng 2014).


Within this landscape, scholars have tended to prioritize methodological and theoretical approaches grounded in political economy and international relations, aimed at under- standing the macro-implications of growing China–Africa media connections. Against the background of this still limited but rapidly expanding literature, this special issue proposes to examine existing media connections from a different perspective, that is, by analysing the processes of production, the content, and the trajectories of circulation of both African and Chinese media products related to China–Africa interactions, focusing particularly on products such as popular films, postcards, photo journalism, news coverage, and television programmes. In so doing, this special issue aims at interpreting the collective imageries about China–Africa engagements that the new phase in political and economic connections have generated. How do these representations interact with wider debates about the perception of Chinese people in Africa and Africans in China? And what do they suggest for the analysis of the collective perceptions of south–south cultural, political, and economic entanglements that the increase in China–Africa relationships has brought about?


The ways in which the Chinese presence in Africa, or the African presence in China, is presented in both state-owned and independently produced media is diverse. Some representations are triumphalist or sycophantic, while others are disapproving or unremittingly negative. Beyond this binary, however, there are many representations that capture more ambiguous positions, and point towards the contested or fluid nature of engagements and perceptions (cf. Geerts, Xinwa, and Rossouw 2014; Mwongeli 2013). Hence, we need further analysis and more explanation of representations of Chinese people in Africa and Africans in China applying multiple methods of research. A closer look at specific examples of media products, such as those that the articles included in this issue propose, will help in subverting binaries that may still exist, and will offer original insights for the understanding of relationships and perceptions that are often equivocal and complex.

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