A Contest for the Hearts and Minds? Chinese Public Diplomacy meets African Public Opinion

Date: Thursday, 23 April

Venue: AM103, Alan MacDiarmid Building, Kelburn Campus

Speaker: Floor Keuleers


China’s engagement with the African continent has received ample scholarly attention in recent years. However, analysis has mostly focused on deconstructing the Chinese discourse vis-à-vis developing countries as well as comparing China’s approach to that of ‘traditional’ donors. While general references to a ‘Chinese charm offensive’ in Africa are common, little attention has been paid to how the Chinese approach is actually seen by Africans themselves. This seminar builds upon a ‘strategic narrative’ conceptual framework to argue that the dominant focus on Chinese narrative formation should be complemented by work on how China projects these narratives in Africa and how they are received by Africans. It will first discuss how China engages with and tries to influence African public opinion, through an overview of public diplomacy practices on the continent. It will then bring together and analyse the available cross-country data from international polling institutes, to shed light on how African populations view China and how successful the Chinese charm offensive appears to be.

About the speaker

Floor Keuleers is a PhD Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) at the Leuven International and European Studies (LINES) Institute of the University of Leuven (Belgium). Her PhD research investigates African perceptions of the EU as a development partner and how these compare to African perceptions of China. She is currently a visiting PhD Fellow at the National Centre for Research on Europe (NCRE) of the University of Canterbury (New Zealand). She holds an MPhil in Development Studies (University of Cambridge, 2012), an Ma in Comparative and International Politics (University of Leuven, 2011) and a Ba in Political Science (University of Antwerp, 2010).