African Political Elites and the Making(s) of the China Model in Africa
States in Africa are labelled “system ineffectual,” inconsequential to global politics, and lacking material and ideational capabilities to structure their foreign relations. The result is a portrayal of a passive Africa at the whims of its bilateral partners—be they China, the United States, or Russia. Contra this impolitic framing of Africa, this article explores how states in Africa are strategically shaping the norms of development paradigms promoted by foreign powers and influencing external actors to legitimize their preferred norms. Empirically focusing on China’s development model in Africa, the article examines how norms related to the model are being shaped and diffused; and how through the ingenuity of political elites, China is making the China model “on the go.” The main argument is that political elites in Africa are strategically reconstructing the China model, creating their own multifaceted versions that delicately balance their own domestic interests and their bilateral relations with China while deriving maximum benefits from the People’s Republic of China.