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International Symposium: Re-imagining African agency in China-Africa Relations



Date: 13-14 May 2021 (Thursday - Friday)

AM308, 3/F Lau Lee Yuen Haan Amenities Building, Lingnan University

Registration link:





Institute of Policy Studies, and School of Graduate Studies, Lingnan University



Concept Note:


After years of diplomatic engagements, China has emerged as one of Africa's most important partners in several sectors of socio-economic development. In particular, China is now Africa's largest trading partner and a major contributor to the United Nation's peacekeeping personnel on the continent. Therefore, scholars from different academic disciplines have taken an interest in relations between African states and China from varying perspectives. Correspondingly, public and media discussions on Africa-China relations are now commonplace in international and local (in most African countries) media. These debates are themed around economic, political, and security interests as well as education health, migration issues.


Stemming from historical perspectives, and given China's economic strength and influence in geopolitics, China has often been touted as the driver in its relations with Africa. Thus, the scholarly debates and media discussions have centred on China's interests and activities on the continent. However, such arguments can be problematic to a significant extent for two reasons within the current frameworks as regards the relations. First, such perspectives appear to contravene the tenets and the spirit of China's fundamental policy on Africa, which was also reiterated in the 2018 Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) summit. The policy, 'five nos' emphasises; 'no interference in African countries' pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries' internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa' ( Indeed, China and some African countries have often stressed that Africa-China relations constitute a 'win-win' situation between two developing places (south-south cooperation). Second, recent evidence suggests that African institutions and individuals have emerged as robust shapers of their relations with China (and Chinese) which marks a significant milestone in Africa-China studies. In fact, such expressions of African agency found its way onto the agenda of the 2018 FOCAC, particularly in the Africa-China Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021). For instance, analyses of China's proposed investments in Africa showed clear intentions to shut debates about China's 'debt-trap diplomacy' by decreasing interest-bearing credits in Africa as a means to making African countries more competitive economically. More importantly, China plans to introduce skills training and expand the local capacity building in Africa to assure active participation of African nations through non-mineral exports to China.  These initiatives reflect the changing interests and positions of China and African countries and worth theoretical and empirical expatiation. Indeed, these dynamics are largely consistent with global development agenda such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 17, which among others, encourage south-south cooperation and regional and international cooperation in knowledge transfer, human development, promoting national sovereignty, trade and mutually beneficial agreements to achieve the SDGs, particularly in developing countries. Hence, this symposium aims to expand knowledge on ways to improve south-south collaborative development between African countries and China from the perspectives of academics and practitioners. The symposium will contribute to research and debates regarding the agency of Africa nations, institutions, and Africans across key thematic areas in Africa-China relations. It seeks to address these questions:


  1. To what extent is Africa-China relations in various sectors China-driven? 
  2. How are African countries and institutions dictating China's relations with the continent?
  3. What are the implications of these power dynamics for ordinary people affected by Africa-China relations?



Key themes of the symposium


Consistent with some of the key targets of the SDG 17, this symposium will deliberate on the above questions from theoretical and empirical approaches under four main areas including:


  1. Economic aspect of Africa-China engagement
    1. Chinese investments and industries in Africa
    2. China's role in infrastructure building
    3. Knowledge and innovation transfer in China and Africa
    4. Natural resource contentions and people
  2. Security and peacekeeping missions
  3. People to people engagements
    1. Perceptions and attitudes towards Africans in China and Chinese in Africa
    2. Cultural exchanges between China and Africa
    3. Migration trends and experiences
  4. Human development and wellbeing
    1. Health and wellbeing (e.g. China's role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa; changing conditions of Africans in China in view of COVID-19 pandemic)
    2. Educational partnerships: experiences of people involved


The two-day event will comprise mainly of themed paper presentations by invited speakers.





  • Ka Ho Mok (Lingnan University, Hong Kong)
  • Padmore A. Amoah (Lingnan University, Hong Kong)
  • Obert Hodzi (University of Liverpool, UK)
  • Roberto Carlos Castillo (Lingnan University, Hong Kong)




  • Adams Bodomo (University of Vienna, Austria)
  • Folashade Soule-Kondou (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Shaonan Liu (Beijing Normal University, China)
  • Hannah Ryder (Development Reimagined)
  • Frangton Chiyemura (Open University, UK)
  • Gyude Moore (Center for Global Development)
  • Wing-kit Chan, Jack (Sun Yat Sen University, China)
  • Obert Hodzi (University of Liverpool, UK)
  • Roberto Carlos Castillo (Lingnan University, Hong Kong)
  • Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)




Programme with ZOOM Links


13 May 2021 (Thursday) 14 May 2021 (Friday)




Full Programme Book

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Interested in participating?


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Modes of Participation


A mixed-mode approach will be employed. Participants can choose to join the symposium either online or in-person if the COVID-19 pandemic situation and regulations in Hong Kong permit.



Partner Organisations


  • Development Reimagined
  • Africa-China Research Network