The Dragon Shapes Its Image: A Study of Chinese Media Influence Strategies in Africa

by Michael Leslie

Abstract

As China continues its human, cultural and commercial expansion into Africa it has a clear strategic interest in managing its image on the continent. The leadership in both its government and private sectors know China must find ways to counteract negative reports that accuse China and some African leaders and their regimes of being complicit in China’s accelerating exploitation of African labor and resources, undermining and weakening regulatory controls, and illegal profiteering in their countries. In addition, there are continuing attempts by Western media to portray China as the new colonizer in Africa, creating a perception that China is the new bully on the block, and positioning it as a country that should be watched and monitored with suspicion regarding its Africa intentions. It would appear that the continued expansion of Chinese trade and investment in Africa will depend on China’s success in developing and deploying a vigorous “soft” and “smart power” strategy that counters such allegations and media representations. This paper examines the extant research on Chinese government media-related strategies in Africa, suggesting directions future research on this topic might take.

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Michael Leslie is Associate Professor, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida. He spent his 2013 sabbatical at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and regularly teaches and conducts research at other Chinese universities. His research focuses on racial and cultural stereotypes in the media and their impact on international audiences.

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