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China in the African mediascape: a critical injection

December 31, 2009
Journal of African Media Studies, Volume 1 Issue 3, December 2009

Authors: Fackson Banda
DOI: 10.1386/jams.1.3.343/1

Keywords
media in Africa, China-Africa relations, China and ‘soft power’, Chinese foreign policy, critical cultural studies

Abstract

Deepening Beijing media support in Africa is resulting in an infrastructural realignment reflecting more export of Chinese media technology and technical knowhow; this has been matched by increasing African dependence on such external media intervention. This infrastructural realignment seems to be underpinned by China’s dual objective of ideological consolidation and cultural reproduction across Africa, often associated with its ‘soft power’. The purpose of this article is to critically analyse the dimension of China’s intervention in the African media landscape. At the core of this analysis is an assessment of the type of support that China has been extending to African media institutions since it rekindled its interest in Africa after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Related to the assessment of such Chinese support is the need for a critical-theoretical framework within which Chinese interventions can be studied and analysed in future research, focusing on this Sino-African media interpenetration. This study thus sets out to historically contextualize Chinese support to the African mediascape, arguing that contemporary Chinese media interventions in Africa must be seen as part of China’s long history of anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggle in its project of national and international identification. The study concludes that current Chinese support to Africa’s media takes the tripartite form of infrastructural realignment, ideological expurgation and cultural reproduction. It ends with a call for a critical-theoretical trajectory for understanding Sino-African media relations, suggesting a triangulated theoretical approach that draws on a critical cultural studies tradition. Key to this theoretical project is the need to study China in Africa’s mediascape in terms of how its influence will, if at all, reconfigure African media production, representation, identity, consumption and regulation. The setting up of Confucius Institutes in some African countries – often with Chinese financial support – presents a platform for both theoretical and empirical engagement.

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