Africa at Noon on September 27, 2017

“Professionalization Trainings in China-Africa Relations: Power-Knowledge Nexus”

Lina Benabdallah
Assistant Professor of Politics
Wake Forest University

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


While the existing literature on China-Africa relations focuses on China’s power projection from the perspective of economic diplomacy in Africa and Chinese investments in natural resources extraction, this paper identifies an understudied aspect of China’s strategy in Africa—that of investing in human resource development and professional training programs for African journalists. The study constructs its analysis based on a series of in-depth interviews and official document analysis. The findings suggest that Chinese-sponsored professional development programs for African professionals and civil servants are an opportunity for African trainees to be socialized in Chinese values, norms, and expert knowledge. These trainings contribute to build a positive image of China in Africa and are far more successful than material approaches of building and projecting power including through infrastructure and resource extraction deals across Africa.


Lina Benabdallah is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University. Her scholarship is at the intersection of international relations, foreign policy, international development, and African studies. Her current book project examines China’s multilateral foreign policy in continental Africa and seeks to theorize the power dynamics within the seemingly equal Global South diplomatic relations. The book challenges traditional conceptualizations of power as understood from material (economic and military) perspectives. It argues that knowledge and technical skills transfers from Chinese experts to African trainees (peacekeepers, military officers, medical staff, journalists, etc.) via China’s investments in professionalization trainings serve as a vehicle for Chinese norms, values, and models (of governance, development, etc.) to be normalized and adopted. Dr. Benabdallah has a PhD and a MA in political science from the University of Florida. At Wake Forest, she teaches courses in International Relations and African studies.