Chinese-led SEZs in Africa are they a driving force of China's soft power

Yejoo, Kim (2013-02)

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This Discussion Paper focuses on Chinese Special Economic Zones as a possible expansion of soft power in Africa. The Chinese government has aspirations to promote development on the African continent, and works according to successful own experiences, amongst which feature the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and other such experiments. While a success of the SEZs in Africa might contribute to helping establish China’s soft power in Africa, continuous commitment by both China and the host countries is necessary for this to happen. Even though the Chinese government’s unprecedented support and the high-profile politician’s visits have been successful in gaining the support from African governments and elites in terms of the establishment of SEZs, it will take longer to convince the local people since soft power is socially constructed through interaction among various agents. Most of the SEZs are still under construction and have not started operations yet. This prolonged process as well as labour-related issues such as lack of respect for basic workers’ rights, alleged violation of minimum wage legislation, and complaints about poor working conditions have resulted in resentment of local population.

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