Beijing is looking at Africa as the continent of Africa has the resources it needs to realize its great power ambitions. As a result, enormous energy has been invested to expand the Belt and Road Initiative into Africa.
The central focus of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa was the construction of railroads, roads, ports, airports and power plants to service Chinese-owned mines, oil fields and farms that now send products to China.
However, a often overlooked feature of Belt and Road is Beijing’s attempt to imitate the American soft power model. After all, China’s soft power efforts have failed in most parts of the world. But in Africa, Beijing has had many soft power successes.
One of the reasons Beijing’s soft power worked in Africa is the existence of a deeply embedded story of anti-colonialism throughout the continent. But importantly, the African version of the anti-colonial story was strongly modified by the Marxist interpretation of anti-imperialistism.
This Marxist interpretation embodies capitalism and builds the story of villain victims exploiting Africans by European (white capitalist) imperialists. Therefore, for most Africans, anti-colonialism includes a worldview that essentially distrusts white Western capitalists.
Beijing’s soft power machines in Africa have learned to take advantage of this antipathy towards white Westerners and capitalism.
To take advantage of this antipathy, China has developed its own version of the race card. This suggests that there is a natural Afroasiatic affinity, as Beijing claims to share the victims in the hands of Western capitalist imperialism.
But Beijing’s soft power success in Africa is not solely due to this “victim sharing” story. China has also invested heavily in building its own media infrastructure in Africa, moving Chinese media workers to Africa and incorporating locals into Beijing’s media network. And recent innovations have spawned collaboration and partnership transactions between media owned by China and Africa. Beijing seems to be learning that soft power is most effective when the voice of the media seems to be independent.
In November 2021, two important new developments were seen in the expansion of China’s soft power machinery in Africa.
The first is the opening of the China Media Group (CMG) office in Nairobi.Second, it was tied to this opening launch Of the CMG Media Cooperation Forum.
The Nairobi Cooperation Forum has brought together media professionals from 40 African countries to create signed deals with 36 media organizations across the continent. These included collaboration agreements. Content sharing agreement; Co-creation agreement; Agreement for China to provide technical training to partners.
This CMG forum helped draw attention to how much Beijing is spending on Africa’s soft power.
Nairobi has been a hive for Beijing’s soft power activities in the last decade since China Global Television Network (CGTN) built its African headquarters in Nairobi. It opened in 2012 as an English news service designed to compete with the BBC, CNN and others.
CGTN allowed Beijing to speak directly with Africans instead of relying on mediation through the Western global media.
CGTN Africa has also established bureaus in Johannesburg, Lagos and Cairo. Importantly, the network overwhelms African journalists, increasing the appeal of news programs and their credibility to local audiences.
China Daily also has offices in Nairobi and Johannesburg, and Xinhua News Agency operates Africa’s largest foreign correspondent network with major offices in Nairobi and Cairo.There is also Beijing management Nairobi RCI 91.9FM radio station.
Nairobi also hosts the headquarters of StarTimes, a digital satellite television service in China that offers multiple channels, including popular sports channels. StarTimes moved to Africa in 2007 and currently has 33 million users in 30 African countries. By offering cheap packaging, StarTimes is especially popular in rural areas.
An important feature Beijing’s ng’s soft power is that it employs hundreds of African journalists. And now, many Africans are taken to China for a period of two weeks to ten months through journalism training and exchange programs. Beijing chooses left-wing Africans for these programs. As a result, more executives of journalists have been trained in China (and not all of them work in Beijing-run media).
By operating a large network of African-based Beijing-employed journalists, the administration was able to provide free news content to the African media. This provided Beijing with a powerful promotional tool.
The latest CMG Cooperation Forum is a major step forward in expanding this influence. Already, we can see that the content sharing agreement allows news produced in Beijing to run unedited by partner media organizations in Africa.
Similarly, co-creation agreements create enormous soft power potential. One example is a television studio for the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation studio built in Beijing. This facilitates co-production.
The global switch from analog media to digital media was also creatively used by Beijing to spread its influence. It moved quickly to ensure that African countries were building new infrastructure using China’s digital technology.
The provision of Chinese engineers and training courses has facilitated the adoption of digital technology in Africa. The fact that it now relies on Chinese-made digital platforms is a true success story on the continent of the Chinese Communist Party.
However, the movement of its soft power goes beyond the media. We also have a school-level Chinese language education program. And as the number of Chinese-speaking Africans grows across the continent, their soft power machines identify the smartest people to be offered scholarships to study further in China.
Beijing has every reason to be pleased with how successful its soft power initiative is in Africa’s approval from the African elite. Importantly, each successful soft power reinforces the shared story of Afroasiatic victims by the hands of Western capitalist imperialism. And since this helps to strengthen the Marxist interpretation of European imperialism, decolonization, and Western capitalism, it is a true favorable situation for both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
But with this success of the CCP, and with all the Belt and Road and soft power advances, there is a big irony that Beijing looks like a new imperialist force coming to exploit Africans and their resources.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.