Partner or Predator?

An Analysis of Burgeoning Sino-African Relations

  • Hannah Christensen


Neo-colonialism has been observed on the African continent since the decolonisation period of the 1960s, however recent accusations of the neo-colonialist behaviour in the new trend in Sino-African relations have shown there is little consensus on the definition of the term. Using a conceptual framework inspired by Kwame Nkrumah’s 1965 work, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, this paper analyses Sino-African relations from the perspective of three facets: economic, political, and cultural neo-colonialism. While China has updated the mechanism of neo-colonialism in several ways, such as using non-conditional aid, concessionary loans for infrastructure projects, and South-South cooperation rhetoric, its goals are relatively unchanged from that of the colonial powers of the past, namely obtaining natural resources and creating spheres of influence. As Nkrumah describes, an important mechanism of neo-colonialism is that, unlike colonialism before it, neo-colonialism must contend with the independence of the territories that the neo-colonial powers are attempting to control. By providing marginal improvements to quality of life in Africa in this environment, China has been able to present itself as the ideal alternative to Western aid in order to facilitate, as Nkrumah terms it, a change in masters (Nkrumah).