China in Africa; Africa in China

Ilaria Maria Sala reviews two books on China’s global reach and appeal

Nearly two decades after the first Forum in China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) took place in Beijing in 2000 – and many years into China’s renewed commitment to expanding abroad both economically and politically – Sino-African relations has become one of the hottest topics in Chinese studies. Initially, the bulk of studies were general overviews, often trying to analyze the relationship China had with the whole continent in one fell swoop. Now, increasingly fascinating case studies are coming to press, providing sharper analytical tools and making a larger body of knowledge available to scholars.

Two new books from University of Chicago Press offer an in-depth look at two highly relevant aspects of this political and economic relationship: The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace by Hong Kong anthropologist Gordon Mathews, and The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa by labor scholar Ching Kwan Lee.