About the Project

China has increased dramatically its economic engagement with Africa. At the same time, it has also been using Africa as the testing ground for the promotion of its soft power around the world. As important platforms for the promotion of soft power, large investments are being poured into the official media organizations to improve their reporting and broadcasting capacities.

China’s intervention in African media in recent years includes greatly increased and increasing media presence in Africa. For instance, China's broadcasting giant, China Central Television (CCTV) launched its African head office operation in Kenya at the end of 2010, enabling its news reports to cover the entire continent. Similarly, CNC World, the English-language TV channel of the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, reached cable television audiences in Africa from Jan. 1, 2011, following an agreement between CNC and South Africa-based MIH Group. Xinhua’s launch of mobile news in sub-Saharan Africa in April, 2011 also enables about 17 million Kenyan mobile subscribers to receive the latest news released by Xinhua.

For China, the African media’s construction of images of this ‘new other’ and the situating of these in relation to established foreign actors and experiences such as those of the West is no less crucial to the overall success of its ‘thrust’ into Africa. Therefore, China has been rolling out training packages for African journalists in China as well as cultural exchange programs, inviting heads of press authorities and media groups as well as correspondents from Africa to visit China, cover news and explore ways of conducting effective cooperation. In addition, it has been providing infrastructural and technical support to the media sector in Africa, which has been mainly towards state-owned media.

  1. The project aims to ascertain the effectiveness of China's approach by building soft power through its communications strategies in Africa by addressing questions including the following:
  2. What image, or identity, does China project to the African media publics?
  3. Is China’s infrastructural and technical support to the media sector, mostly owned by the state, having an impact on the power balance in Africa, favoring public and state-owned actors over private ones?
  4. How are Chinese perspectives of journalism being taken up in African media institutions?
  5. How are the representations of China by the Chinese media and African media received by African media publics?

Answers to these questions will form the basis of the main research questions for the project:

  1. Does China’s state-centered one-actor model help to advance soft power in the diversified Africa?
  2. What are the implications of China’s increased intervention in the African cultural and media sphere for the western liberal democracy model?
  3. What are the implications for the global media world order?

Findings of the project will offer insights into the changing global media world order which has been thus far dominated by the West, and provides a critical ‘entry point’ to understanding the broader sociopolitical, economic and cultural implications of the China-Africa relationship. It will disseminate its findings by an international symposium in September 2014 and by presentations at international conferences. It will produce balanced academic works and insightful policy papers that will enable scholars, opinion leaders and policy makers in the EU as well as in Asia to better understand the nature of China’s engagement with Africa.