China: Xi’s third term will see ‘Discourse Power’ strengthened in Africa

By Cobus van Staden
Posted on Monday, 2 January 2023 12:05

China's President Xi Jinping looks on
China's President Xi Jinping looks on as he attends a session during the G20 Leaders' Summit, in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, November 16, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/Pool

Xi Jinping’s third term will likely see the re-energising and reshaping of China’s external relationships after its Covid lockdown. But how will China’s political engagement with Africa evolve? 

In a new paper Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington DC, identifies three trends to watch:

How Xi Will Reboot Chinese Messaging in Africa:

COMMUNIST PARTY OUTREACH

“[T]he CCP International Liaison Department (ILD)—an arm of the Central Committee and a FOCAC implementing agent—has relations with 110 political parties in 51 African countries. Roughly two-thirds of ILD’s work globally is in Africa. […]

[T]he ILD will be more central in a largely party-driven foreign policy. ILD describes its work as exchanges and cooperation that influence attitudes and policies toward China and “make the other side understand, respect, and approve our values and policies.”

“In July 2022, ILD opened its first overseas political school, the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Tanzania. It received its first batch of 120 students from the former liberation movements of Southern Africa—the ruling parties of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Such engagements—deeper and more systematic—will be more common as the CCP looks to institutionalise its influence on the ground.”

DISCOURSE POWER

“Xi has directed the CCP to “form international discourse power (huayuquan, 话语权) that matches our comprehensive national power and international status.”

This is a CCP term of art that describes the ability to shape and control the narrative, key messages, and political ideas—as well as offer and build support for Chinese models as alternatives and discredit opposing ideas.” […] [T]he emphasis on “discourse power” means China will make maximum use of its propaganda and media infrastructure [in Africa.]”

JOURNALISM TRAINING

“The CCP will reboot its “people-to-people work” after a three-year Covid-induced freeze… In January 2023, Africa will host the Chinese Foreign Minister’s first overseas visit of the year, maintaining a tradition for the 33rd year in a row.

A few months later, roughly 60 African journalists and broadcasters will travel to China for the seventh round of 10-month media fellowships, where they will cover the first plenary sessions of the next National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, slated to take place in March 2023, when the new leadership will be sworn in.”

Published in partnership with the China Global South Project

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