Partner, prototype or persuader? China’s renewed media engagement with Ghana
Posted on: 05-Feb-2013
This article provides an empirically grounded assessment of China’s increasing role in the African mediasphere. It examines the strategic importance of Chinese media assistance to Ghana along three dimensions: the potential appeal of the Chinese approach to information regulation for countries struggling to balance development and risks to political stability; the direct intervention of Chinese companies in the media and telecommunication sectors through the provision of loans, equipment and technical expertise; and the stepping up of China’s public diplomacy strategy through the expansion of international broadcasters and the increase of exchange and training programs targeting African citizens.
The study is based on fieldwork conducted by the authors in Ghana, and on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with Ghanaian journalists, policymakers, journalism educators, civil society players and Chinese journalists and media entrepreneurs in Ghana. Problematising the alarmist scholarship that suggests a strategic Chinese invasion of Africa and the potential reversal of media freedoms, the study indicates that the Chinese presence in Ghana seems to be grounded in a more pragmatic and less uniform approach anchored on mutual interests. It concludes by suggesting the need for a shift in the debate that tends to be polarised by images of China as either a neo-colonialist power or as a benevolent partner. To understand whether the Chinese approach to the media could have resonance beyond China, greater attention must be paid to how the ideology and political culture characterising individual African countries, as well as the elites who establish partnerships with Chinese political leaders and companies, resonate with the Chinese approach to governance and the media.
Published in Communication, Politics & Culture Vol. 45 (2012)