Chinese Soft Power in Africa: Production of Ambivalent Solidarities

  • Maria Repnikova, Global Communication, Georgia State University
    Coach House, Green College, UBC, and livestreamed

    Wednesday, February 1, 5-6:30pm, followed by a reception
    in the series
    China Power
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    This talk will explore the workings of Chinese soft power initiatives in Africa through the empirical lens of China-Ethiopia encounters. Specifically, the analysis will focus on how Chinese soft power is envisioned, deployed and received, including in the varied and contested affinities that Chinese initiatives produce on the ground. The talk will draw on ten months of fieldwork in Ethiopia and China, including the study of China-led elite trainings, Confucius Institutes and state media operations in Africa. Maria Repnikova will introduce the distinctive facets of Chinese soft power engagement in Africa, namely its pragmatic orientation, ambivalent reception, opportunistic engagement, and alienation and cynicism vis-à-vis China.

    Maria Repnikova is an expert on Chinese political communication, and is an Associate Professor in Global Communication at Georgia State University. She has written widely on China's media politics, including propaganda, critical journalism, digital nationalism and soft power. Dr. Repnikova is the author of the award-winning book, Media Politics in China: Improvising Power Under Authoritarianism (Cambridge 2017), as well as the recent, Chinese Soft Power (Cambridge Global China Element Series). Her public writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic amongst other outlets. Other than working on China, Repnikova does comparative work on information politics in China and Russia. Most recently, she has been researching and completing a monograph on Chinese soft power in Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia. Dr. Repnikova holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar. In the past, she was a Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center (2020-2021), a Visiting Fellow at the African Studies Center at Beijing University (2019) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication (2014-2016).

    With China’s rise as a major player on the global stage, understanding the nature of Chinese power and how it is exercised has become increasingly important. This series of lectures brings together leading experts from a diverse range of fields to illuminate how power operates internally within Chinese society, and externally in its relations with the rest of the world. The series will explore how social relations (or guanxi) operate in Chinese society today, the role of cultural practices in reproducing and contesting state power in authoritarian China, the impact of a rising China on the established global order, and the projection of China’s soft power overseas. In examining the multiple dimensions of Chinese power—political, economic, cultural, social—these speakers will deepen our understanding of power in China as well as how it is exercised by China.


  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.

February 1st, 2023 from  5:00 PM to  6:30 PM
Coach House
6201 Cecil Green Park Rd
Green College, UBC
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
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