WP117: African perspectives on China-Africa: Gauging popular perceptions and their economic and political determinants

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Working papers
Gadzala, Aleksandra and Marek Hanusch

China ’s recent political and economic inroads into Africa have generated much excitement in the current literature, with scholars and policymakers endeavoring to assess the merits and risks implicit in this renewed engagement. Absent from the literature, however, are systematic analyses of African perceptions of the rapidly growing China-Africa links and their underlying determinants. This article fills this void by examining indeed not only African attitudes towards China ’s African presence, but deciphering the very considerations informing these views. Employing multi-level modeling techniques, we estimate the effects of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, Sino-African trade, and African notions of democracy and human rights on African attitudes regarding ‘ China-in-Africa .’ Our results suggest that the negative rhetoric emanating from much of the surrounding literature tells only part of the story, as African perceptions of China are found to be near equivalent to those held vis-à-vis Western countries. The results contained in this study further illustrate the adverse effects of increasing Chinese imports on African attitudes, and the negligible impact of FDI in this regard. In keeping with mainstream literature, this article further finds that Africans who attach particular value to human rights and democracy are overall largely critical of the burgeoning Chinese presence across the continent. These results are predicated upon a data-set containing twenty African states supplied by Afrobarometer Round 4.