Africa - Asia Initiative

The Africa-Asia Initiative brings together Harvard faculty and graduate students from across the university with scholars from across the globe to identify key areas for research and theoretical interventions.

Over the course of the past ten years, China’s influence on the African continent has eclipsed that of any other nation. The Chinese government declared 2006 the “Year of Africa,” acknowledging and accelerating China’s engagement across the continent. This engagement now spans heightened diplomatic ties, major investment and trade pacts, and security agreements. Migration between China and the African continent has reached unprecedented levels. Yet this major geopolitical transformation remains poorly understood, with much media coverage polarized, representing Chinese interests either as benevolent investors or as rapacious resource extractors and African stakeholders either as canny profiteers or helpless victims of a new colonialism.

Thus, despite increasing academic interest, the nexus between Africa and China is in critical need of further study. The opportunity to shape the agenda of the field of Africa-China studies is a rare opening to frame a new kind of area studies. To meet this need, the Harvard University Center for African Studies has launched a four-year Africa-Asia Initiative.

The Africa - Asia Conference Series explores key themes Including:

  • The role of business and entrepreneurship, including dynamics between state and individual enterprises, the effect of Special Economic Zones, and labor relations, and the significance of natural resources;

  • The concept of “empire,” including historical dimensions and parallels, particularly theories of empire and the significance of China’s policy of non-interference in light of its increasing role in security on the African continent;

  • The importance of law and legal enforcement regimes, including the role of bilateral trade agreements, environmental protection regimes, labor law, immigration law, and corporate social responsibility, and the role of bodies such as the Supervision and Administrative Commission (SASAC) and Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC);

  • Disability and public health, Chinese medical missions in Africa, and distinctions between Chinese and “Western” approaches to public health.


  • Emmanuel Akyeampong
    Professor of History and of African and African American Studies (FAS)
    Faculty Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies
  • Mark T. Fung
    Johns Hopkins University-SAIS and former General Counsel, China-Africa Development Fund in Beijing

  • Xu Liang
    Ph.D. Candidate, History Department, Harvard University

  • Jianbo Lou
    Director, Center for Real Estate Law
    Peking University Law School

  • Professor John Macomber 
    Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

  • Professor Erez Manela 
    Professor of History, Harvard University


Stellenbosch Center for Chinese Studies
The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS), at Stellenbosch University, serves as the most prominent and high quality point of reference for the study of China and East Asia on the African continent.

Wits China-Africa Reporting Project
The Wits Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP), hosted within the Journalism Department of the University of Witwatersrand, aims to improve the quality of reporting on Africa-China issues. The Project aims to encourage balanced and considered reporting as Africa-China relations are further entrenched in the editorial narrative of both regions.

China - Africa Knowledge Project Research Network 
The Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) Research Network is the only independent and international China-Africa platform for real-time discussions, interactive debates, and insightful knowledge-sharing.

The Africa - China Project Podcast 
The China Africa Project is a multimedia resource dedicated to exploring every aspect of China’s growing engagement with Africa.  Through a combination of original content and curation of third-party material from across the Internet, the CAP’s objective is purely informational.

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