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China-Africa Relations in a Changing Global Order (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant research MA programme. Students from other programmes are kindly referred to the course description of either the regular MA version of the course.


This course will explore the relationship between two increasingly important global areas, China and Africa. The relationship between China and Africa has garnered significant interest in the last decade, particularly from Western observers. Many have noted the intensification of China-Africa relations as exemplary of the ‘rise of the Global South.’ Nevertheless, this relationship has been mired in assumption and myth that has resulted in widespread misrepresentation of China-Africa engagement.

This course will explore some of the major misrepresentations regarding these relations, focusing specifically on the misrepresentation of human rights.

In order to do so it will start by revisiting some of the more traditional explanations for state behaviour from International Relations theory, looking at the shortcomings/limitations of these lenses in understanding China-Africa relations. It will demonstrate how critical IR theory can help us understand the dynamics and dilemmas of China-Africa relations that traditional theories overlook. Specifically it will look at postcolonial critiques of International Relations Theory.

The human rights angle taken in this course will also shed light on how shifts in global power create dilemmas relating to the construction, maintenance and disruption of international norms.

Course objectives

  • Acquire general knowledge of how new global players such as China and Africa engage each other

  • Develop critical thinking on how these relations present a challenge to traditional theories of International Relations

  • Explore what light critical IR theories, such as postcolonialism, can shed on making sense of these relations

  • Research and essay writing at corresponding academic level on a topic of interest related to the work covered

  • Develop critical analytical skills


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

The instructor will give interactive mini-lectures in the first half of the seminar, introducing the topic, the main problems that it raises, the principal authors and literature that has addressed the question, and so on. The instructor also initiates the discussions for the students. The students are required to engage in the discussions in the second session of the seminar. The discussions take the form of group discussions, debates, and/or role play games, etc., depending on the contents of each week’s topic.

The students should finish the required reading, prepare for the seminar questions (sent in advance) beforehand, and come to the seminar ready to contribute. Their performance in the seminars will be assessed. Students will also give presentations on their short essay during this course.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance and seminar engagement 10%
Mid-term short essay 20%
Presentation of short essay 20%
Final essay 50%

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of (one or more of) the essay(s) graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the respective essay(s) is possible (20-70%). The convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic for the resit. The deadline for the resit will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.

A resit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Graded papers will be returned with feedback. Students may make an appointment to discuss their papers within 30 days of the publication of their paper grade.

Reading list


Students interested in China-Africa relations are advised to refer to:

  • China in Africa, the real story;

  • A useful book that will be referred to in the course is: Brautigam, Deborah (2011), The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof.