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The Past in the Present: Historical and Rhetorical Lineages in China's Relations with Africa*


China's official rhetoric on its relations with Africa is important; it frames, legitimates and renders comprehensible its foreign policy in this ever-important area of the world. This article explores the following puzzle: why China's rhetoric on its involvement with Africa has retained substantial continuities with the Maoist past, when virtually every other aspect of Maoism has been officially repudiated. Despite the burgeoning layers of complexity in China's increasing involvement in Africa, a set of surprisingly long-lived principles of non-interference, mutuality, friendship, non-conditional aid and analogous suffering at the hands of imperialism from the early 1960s to the present continue to be propagated. Newer notions of complementarity and international division of labour are beginning to come in, but the older rhetoric still dominates official discourse, at least in part because it continues to appeal to domestic Chinese audiences.

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John Fitzgerald , Awakening China: Politics, Culture and Class in the Nationalist Revolution (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996)

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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