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China-Africa Relations in a Changing Global Order


Admission requirements

The course China-Africa Relations in a Changing Global Order is intended for students from a limited number of programmes. Because of the limited capacity available for each programme, all students who enroll will be placed on a waiting list. Students in the MA program in Asian Studies: Politics, Society and Economy (60 EC) and Chinese Studies (120 EC) will have priority. Students from the MA International Relations should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. E.J. Walstra prior to registration as the number of places available in this course for them are limited. The definite admission (before January 31) will be made according to the position upon enrollment and the number of places available after the priority students have been placed.


This course will explore the relationship between two increasingly important global areas, China and Africa. The relationship between China and Africa has garnered significant interest in the last decade, particularly from Western observers. This has developed for a number of reasons, including China’s growing geopolitical importance. While the intensification of China-Africa relations is seen as exemplary of China’s wider geopolitical interests, many analysts ignore the role of Africa and agency in these relations.

Problematically, the tools we use to understand these relations are underpinned by assumptions central to traditional IR theory as well as our understanding of the actors involved. As a result, there exists a significant amount of misinformation around these relations. To shed light on this, the course focuses on how the expanding pool of research and empirical evidence can help us understand the dynamics and dilemmas of China-Africa relations, in essence serving to theorise China-Africa relations beyond the traditional.

This course covers the topic of China-Africa engagement by looking at some of the widespread representations of these relations, focusing specifically on representations of the nature of relations, actors involved, and issues such as human rights. In it we will explore questions such as 1. What is China doing in Africa? 2. What are China-Africa relations? 3. What is Africa’s response to Chinese engagement? 4. What is the role of African actors, if any? 5. What has been the response of traditional powers to the intensification of China-Africa engagement? 6. What is the future of China-Africa engagement? 7. What is the impact of China-Africa engagement on geopolitics/geoeconomics?

Course objectives

  • Acquire general knowledge of how new global players such as China and Africa engage each other

  • Develop critical thinking on how these relations present a challenge to traditional theories of International Relations

  • Explore what light critical IR theories, such as postcolonialism, can shed on making sense of these relations

  • Research and essay writing at corresponding academic level on a topic of interest related to the work covered

  • Develop critical analytical skills

  • Develop debate skills as well as the presentation of research

  • Acquire insight into policy making


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • The instructor will give interactive mini-lectures in the first half of the seminar, introducing the topic, the main problems that it raises, the principal authors and literature that has addressed the question, and so on. The instructor also initiates the discussions for the students. The students are required to engage in the discussions in the second session of the seminar. The discussions take the form of group discussions, debates, and/or role play games, etc., depending on the contents of each week’s topic.

  • The students should finish the required reading, prepare for the seminar questions (sent in advance) beforehand, and come to the seminar ready to contribute. Their performance in the seminars will contribute to overall assessment.

  • This course encourages lively debates and discussions on a number of contested issues.

  • If scheduling allows, this course frequently has a guest lecture from an expert in the field

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance and seminar engagement 10%
Short assignment 1 20%
Short assignment 2 20%
Presentation 20%
Final Assignment 30%

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of (one or more of) the essay(s) graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the respective essay(s) is possible (20-70%). The convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic for the resit. The deadline for the resit will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.

A resit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Graded papers will be returned with feedback. Students may make an appointment to discuss their papers within 30 days of the publication of their paper grade.

Reading list


Students interested in China-Africa relations are advised to refer to:

  • China in Africa, the real story;

  • A useful book that will be referred to in the course is: Brautigam, Deborah (2011), The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof.