The Chinese Approach to the Development of Africa, Ideology and Background

To start with, the big question is: Chinese or Anglo-American, is there really a perfect model or approach to the development in Africa? We will firstly look at the big picture by comparing the Chinese ideology with that of the Anglo-American one (which Eamon will research on) in regard to development in Africa in order to understand their approaches and interpret their implications to African development. Later, we will narrow down the scope and will focus on the investigation regarding how China and the Anglo-American world have approached the development of African countries in terms of technology.

Arguably, the idea behind China’s approach to the development in African is deeply rooted in its own ideology and inspired by its own dramatic rise seen since the end of 20th century. The rise of its economy and improvement of its welfare system have been one of, if not the most predominant in its rapid development and its rising status in international politics. Furthermore, needless to argue, the domestic post-1978 economic reforms with the help of globalisation, have led to China’s opening to the World economy and are significant factors of its rise. In addition, China’s abundant domestic labour supply, both skilled and unskilled, has been crucial factors in the rise.

But are African countries in similar situations as post WW2 China? If so, how similar? Consider –


Similarities: poverty, hunger, poor health and welfare system, unemployment, lack of industries, business and trade, etc.

Different situations:
China: damage from the war; one-party system led by socialist and communist ideology and leaders, which came with dictatorship and corruption, but unified goals and strategies not only at the leadership level but also at national level, not to mention a rather unified national identity in terms of history, language and culture for a big country with an enormous population.

Africa: its struggles with the legacies of colonial rule; corrupt and dictatorial leadership; and most importantly, the African continent is made of many different countries with different cultures, languages, societies, history and politics. Moreover, the size of Africa is immense: 30.37 million km² – bigger than the combination of China, India, the U.S. and most of Europe.


Similarities: lack of international power and little share of global trade, underdeveloped technology compared to the West

Different contexts:
China: mid and late 20th century saw the Cold War, from an International Relations point of view, the World, especially the US whose main focus was its rivalry with Russia, certainly overlooked China’s potential. So many scholars such as G. John Ikenberry have stated that the World failed to predict China’s dramatic rise and it came as a surprise.

African countries: both China and Western countries, in terms of both states and international organisations in the 21st century are paying more attention, time, research, manpower to the development of the developing world especially Africa.


Echoing with the overall theme of our group, we choose to focus on investigating how the West and China have approached the development in Africa in terms of technology. Technology in the West has rapidly grown and developed from the 20th century and into the 21st century. China clearly recognises the importance of technology is essential to its development, especially telecom and internet in today’s world of globalisation. This part of historical context has been looked into by Sean but to briefly summarise, there have been hard and concerted efforts of China trying to catch up with the modernisation and development of technology after WW2, since as early as the 1960 and 1970s. The strengthening of technology has been one of the goals of ‘Four Modernisations’ which was set to invigorate the economy of China and has clearly achieved impressive results in contributing to its economic and political rise.


In the next post, Eamon will discover what some Western tech companies are doing in Africa and discuss their ideology in order for us to eventually compare and contrast with the Chinese one. To follow, I will elaborate on the strategies and results of Chinese companies such as Huawei, ZTE and TECNO in developing the technology in Africa especially in terms of telecom.



  • “China’s Investment in Africa: The New Colonialism?” , Harvard Politics Review, Feb 2017

  • “How China’s Approach Beats the West in Africa”, Harvard Business Review, Sep 2012

  • Ikenberry, G. John (2008), “The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 1
  • Cox, Michael (2012), “Power Shifts, Economic Change and the Decline of the West?”, International Relations, 2012 26: 36