The Image of Africa in China: The Emerging Role of Chinese Social Media

by Lianxing Li

Abstract

While the debate on Africa’s image is sliding into two extremes in the Western world, either too desperate or too optimistic, China’s narrative on this continent remains politically oriented and does not fit the fast growing economic and trade relationships between two sides. As the online social platform is gaining mass popularity in China, however, many new forms of information dissemination channels have been established focusing on various developments in Africa. The monopoly of information in the mainstream media represents new opportunities for the Chinese, especially those potential investors, to understand a more diversified Africa and a real China-African relationship, with the hope of avoiding investment failure and misbehavior. This paper first takes one of the traditional mainstream Chinese media as an example, to examine how limited it was when it comes to reports and news on contemporary Africa, giving a rather incomplete and sometimes misleading impression for Chinese migrants before their departure to Africa during the past few decades. It also analyses new social media in China and how it differs from traditional media in terms of ownership, usage, and impact. This paper finds that the new media is providing a change in the perception of Africa and the China-Africa relationship.

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Lianxing Li was the Chief Africa Correspondent for China Daily 2012-15 and is currently engaged in investigative reporting and in-depth feature writing for China Daily and China Daily Africa Weekly. He has written in-country report on twenty African nations on a wide variety of topics. He has also served as a reporter covering conflict and war zone.

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