Brotherly Strangers: Kenya’s & Zambia’s Relations with China 1949-2019

Wed October 11th 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for African Studies
Encina Commons
615 Crothers Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Room 123

Africa has become a major platform from which to analyse and understand China's growing influence in the global South. Yet, the impact of their historical relationship has been largely overlooked. Through the triangulation of the global Cold War, African history, and Chinese history, this study provides a detailed analysis of China-Africa relations in the second half of the 20th century. Examining the encounters, conflicts, and dynamics of China-Kenya/Zambia relations from the 1950s until the present, as well as the basis on which historical narratives have been constructed, the book presents two contrasting state perspectives underlining the concept of 'African agency'.

Driven by a class-based analysis of world revolution, Communist China's foreign policy did not distinguish significantly between Kenya and Zambia. Both countries sought ideological and material support from China in the years after their independence. The Kenya African National Union under both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi pursued a consistently pragmatic foreign agenda, and despite political tensions and ideological rifts with China since the mid-1960s, Sino-Kenyan trade has continued to grow steadily. In contrast, China-Zambia relations under Kenneth Kaunda were cordial despite their political differences. Zambian leaders maintained a relatively high consensus that any alleged Chinese Communist threat would not be allowed to fuel power struggles within their United National Independence Party. Challenging both the widely accepted role of China-Africa's historical lineage, as well as the tendency to assume uniformity in China's relationships across the continent, the author explains the development of these relationships and sheds light on the historical underpinnings - or lack thereof - on contemporary China-Africa relations.

About the speaker:

Jodie Yuzhou SUN is Senior Lecturer in Modern African and Global History at the Department of History, Fudan University, China and Research Fellow of the International Studies Group, University of the Free State, South Africa. She holds an MSc in African Studies and a DPhil in History from the University of Oxford. Her research interests are modern African history, Cold War history and China-Africa relations.

Her first monograph (Kenya's and Zambia's Relations with China 1949-2019, James Currey, 2023) examines the history of post-colonial Kenya’s and Zambia’s relations with the People’s Republic of China from ideological, political, economic and social perspectives. She has published in Cold War History, International Journal of African Historical Studies, Journal of Southern African Studies, and Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. Read more about her work here.

She is an Executive Board member of the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network and the founder of China-Africa Shanghai International Network (CASIN). As a Visiting Scholar at Stanford’s Center for African Studies in 2023-24, she will conduct research on ‘Third World Crossings’: Afro-Asian Networks, Decolonisation and the Cold War as well as deliver a course tentatively titled ‘Africa and China: Pasts and Presents’.