Understanding African views of China: analyses of student attitudes and elite media reportage in Kenya

Brendon J. Cannon, Mikiyasu Nakayama, Dominic R. Pkalya

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    There are few questions of greater significance in African international relations than China's actions in and engagement with other states. Chinese infrastructure, businesses, and people have blanketed the continent and revolutionized lifestyles, transportation, and political economies. The advantages and detractions of such developments, in turn, have shaped local attitudes. African attitudes towards China, nevertheless, remain largely the subject of conjecture. This article explores the contemporary attitudes of Kenyan university students to China through surveys and contributes empirical data to the literature. Combined with a comparative textual analysis of the main Kenyan newspaper, the article sheds light on largely unknown—but generally assumed—attitudes of Kenyans towards China. The findings question a stereotype of China in Kenya and, by extension, the actions and reactions of other Africans and African states towards it. They also uncover nuanced attitudes that confound the mostly negative Western narrative about China in Africa. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as debt, perceived racism and unfair labour practices, Kenyan university students' attitudes and discourse in the elite media have become less positive. There is, in addition, the broad perception that it is Kenya's leadership that benefits from the relationship and not so much its ordinary citizens.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)92-114
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2022


    • BRI
    • China
    • China–Africa relations
    • influence
    • Kenya
    • Political economy
    • public opinion


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