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A constructed (un)reality on China's re-entry into Africa: the Chinese online community perception of Africa (2006–2008)*

  • Simon Shen (a1)

China's 21st-century re-entry into Africa has been made with considerable new fanfare and in a manner that contrasts sharply with the Maoist ideologist policy of the 1960s. However, how the Chinese perceive Africa, as expressed by the online community, has been little studied. In a country where full democracy and complete freedom of expression are still lacking, online communication arguably plays a particularly significant role. When it comes to topics in China which are not frequently addressed in the public domain, the flow of information among the online community is paramount in shaping public perceptions. The result of systematic qualitative research on the online community in China, this paper aims to bridge the gap between formal studies of Sino-African relations and online perceptions. Reconstructing the online image of Africa is essential in understanding not only contemporary Sino-African relations from the popular perspective but also the distorted nature of information that circulates in Chinese cyberspace.

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The author acknowledges the South China Programme of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, for supporting the primary research of this article. The author also acknowledges Mr Jacky Fung and Mr Wilson Chan for their assistance in the primary research.

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