Rising China and Africa's development: oil
Rising China and Africa's development: oil

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1 A brief introduction to China’s relationship with Africa

China has engaged with Africa for many centuries, with Zheng He’s voyages to East Africa in the fifteenth century considered the start of regular contact between China and the African continent.

During the European colonial era, Chinese indentured labourers were shipped to Southern Africa in the nineteenth century to build infrastructure and work plantations following the abolition of slavery. While many of these so-called ‘Coolie’ labourers were returned to China, a few stayed on and established the first permanent settlements of Chinese people in Africa. In the mid-twentieth century Maoist China reached out to Africa as part of its geopolitical strategy of forging key alliances with ‘socialist’ countries and to oppose Russian and American influence on the continent. The Tanzam Railway, linking Tanzania and Zambia, is held up as the pinnacle of this era of socialist cooperation and still resonates today as a symbol of China’s supposedly benign interests in Africa.

Described image
Figure 3 Zheng He’s ship. Zheng He was admiral of the Chinese fleet during the Ming Dynasty and commanded expeditionary journeys across Asia and to East Africa from 1405–1433
Described image
Figure 4 Map showing the Tanzam railway. Completed in 1975, it stretches 1,100 miles linking Dar Es Salaam to Lusaka
Described image
Figure 5 ‘Serve the Revolutionary People of the world’. Promotional poster from 1971 depicting a Chinese worker helping to construct the Tanzam railway

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371