Sino-optimism in Africa
by Seifudein Adem
Sino-optimism refers to the conviction or expectation that China is a force for good in Africa. There is little doubt that China would like to see Africa succeed. The sense of solidarity with Africa in China’s diplomatic thought is quite deep—intrinsic interest underlies China’s approach to Africa today, unlike the West’s interest, which had been on the decline since the 1990s, and is therefore now partly derivative in nature, a reaction to China’s interest in Africa. China’s leaders also realize that Africa’s economic modernization is in their long-term interest, as it could bolster the nation’s soft (and hard) power in Africa and beyond, particularly if they trigger it, or play an important part in the process. This is the first pillar of Sino-optimism, the subjective factor. The second pillar that is supposed to anchor Sino-optimism, the objective factor, does not depend on the preference of decision-makers in Beijing and/or Africa. At the center of this is the logic of capital, which is the same irrespective of who the capitalist is, whether it is the Europeans, the Americans, or the Chinese. The structural distortion in Africa’s political economy cannot therefore be simply wished away; in fact, China’s increased involvement may deepen the distortion, at least in the short run. In this context, I seek to explore the logic of Sino-optimism in Africa today, its manifestation and its foundation.
Seifudein Adem is Associate Research Professor and Associate Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University. A political scientist by field of training and interest, with a special focus on Africa and Asia, Dr. Adem’s most recent publications include Afrasia: A Tale of Two Continent, with Ali A. Mazrui (UPA, 2013), and China’s Diplomacy in Eastern and Southern Africa (Ashgtae, 2013).