Politics of China’s Engagement with Africa, Promoting Rentierism?

Vahid Nick Pay and Elemchi Nwosu

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03068374.2020.1762358


This paper seeks to explore the political implications of China’s economic relationship with Africa using the case study of Sino-Nigerian economic relations. China—perhaps the most prominent rising economy of the contemporary era and Nigeria—one of Africa’s largest economies with a fast-growing consumer population provide an ideal context to study the economic significance of bilateral ties for the ‘Global South.’ Nigeria’s prospects of sustained economic growth, through Sino diplomatic relations, could appear relatively bleak considering issues involving its growing debt burden, unequal trade composition and deteriorating governance standards, some of which are attributable to China. This paper explores both sides of the argument before concluding that certain political aspects of Sino-Nigerian bilateral relations do indeed undermine sustainable economic development in the long run. It is argued that unequal economic practices, lack of transparency, disregard for environmental concerns, exclusion of civil society and absence of serious engagement with wider social actors and other checks and balances could indeed nurture elements of rentierism across Africa—particularly in resource-rich countries like Nigeria leaving significant detrimental effects that could well outweigh short-term gains.

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