In This Review

Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations
Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations
By Lina Benabdallah
204 pp, University of Michigan Press, 2020
Purchase

Benabdallah argues that Chinese policy toward Africa reveals a new approach to international relations that emphasizes the construction of social networks and knowledge production as means to build close bilateral ties. She provides impressive evidence of the multiple ways China has developed these networks, including through thousands of workshops for Africans in China and a large number of high-level visits by Chinese officials to the African continent. Readers will no doubt be skeptical of the book’s contention that China’s diplomatic outreach is truly novel, but they will be intrigued by the numerous examples of Chinese efforts to forge complex networks of influence throughout the region to advance Beijing’s own version of soft power, including through the establishment of Confucius Institutes at universities across Africa. Benabdallah also provides a useful corrective to the common tendency in the West to view Chinese diplomacy in Africa exclusively through the prism of commercial ambitions and natural resource extraction.