This article examines the challenges faced by Beijing in managing this increasingly complex relationship, reflecting upon the structural factors that encourage harmony and introduce discord in China–Africa ties. It examines how various policy solutions being considered by China, ranging from increasing participants in the policy-making process to tentative engagement with international development regimes, may still not address the most difficult issues involving adverse reactions to the Chinese presence from African civil societies and political opposition groups. In particular the lack of a strong civil society inside China inhibits the ability of its policy makers to draw on the expertise of the kind of independent pressure groups and NGOs that are available to traditional donor/investor states. The article concludes by asking how the Chinese system can make up for these weaknesses without moving further towards the existing models and practices of the developed countries.
Chris Alden is a reader in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and director of the China in Africa Project, SAIIA. He is the author of China in Africa (Zed, 2007) and co-editor of China Returns to Africa (Hurst, 2008).
Christopher R. Hughes is professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he teaches and researches international relations and foreign policy analysis with a special focus on China and Eastern Asia. His most recent monograph is Chinese Nationalism in the Global Era (Routledge, 2006).