On Friday 2 November 2018 Stacey Links (law department) defends her PhD dissertation titled: Impediments to Uncovering the Human Rights Dimension of Sino-African Engagement: A critical exploration of discursive constructions and representations.
Speculation around China-Africa relations has grown in recent years, particularly since 2006 when these relations were formalised in the first form of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, China. Since then, the scholarly field of China-Africa studies has bourgeoned, becoming a field of inquiry unto itself. In this regard China-Africa studies have been particularly interested in the political, economic and environmental dimensions of these relations. Due to geopolitical shifts and increased interest in developments in the global South, commentary and policy by international actors on Sino-Africa relations has been rife. As a result a large part of the scholarly field has focused on interrogating myths that have surrounded these relations. Shifting international frameworks and relations has additionally popularised the topic of China-Africa engagement in international discourses external to the relationship itself. For this reason the ‘demystification’ of China-Africa relations has increased in scholarship and become a large part of China-Africa studies.
By using a discursive approach, the research of Links bridges the gap between discursive representations of this dimension of the relationship and reality. Furthermore it points to the constructed nature of the discourse, highlighting how its’ constructions are problematic and at times misleading. It specifically problematises the discourse’s representations of human rights, the nature of the relationship and actors through a postcolonial lens, whereby the discourse is analysed in light of its’ processes of ‘othering,’ its’ use of exclusionary frameworks and its’ colonial impulses. As such these representations are problematised insofar as they constitute impediments to uncovering or holistically understanding the human rights dimension of Sino-African relations.
Upon finalising this research, main recommendations include the re-evaluation and adjustment of policy prescriptions dealing with the human rights dimension of Sino-African relations so as to reflect the status quo and contextual nuances. This includes incorporating developments and recognising the importance of collective efforts, albeit through alternative avenues, to pursue rights such as the right to development, which remain a priority for both China and Africa.