The International Politics of the Internet: China in Africa

PCMLP is currently engaged in research examining and analyzing the fragmentation of the internet, a process that gives greater power to states to regulate and monitor it and develop national internets. Our approach is to focus on Africa as a space where competing tendencies are encouraging this fragmentation, including the securitisation of development proomoted by the US and the rising role of China in the media and telecommunications sector.

The first phase of the project started in January 2010, initially with funding from the ESRC.  It has subsequently been supported by the British Academy, the Internet Policy Observatory at Annenberg’s Centre for Global Communication Studies, and most recently, the Leverhulme Trust. The project will continue until January 2018.

In addition to academic outputs, it also aims to promote public debate on the increasing role China is playing on the media in Africa and globally and to create a terrain where different conceptions of the media can be shared, beyond ideological divides. As part this effort, several international conferences have been organised including on New Trends in African Media: The Growing Role of China which offered an unprecedented opportunity for Chinese, African and Western media actors operating on the continent, such as CCTV, Xinhua, and the BBC, to confront views on the role and functions of the media and of media assistance in Africa.  This followed on the ESRC workshop that brought together academics from China, Africa and Europe to reflect on China’s increasing influence on the media in Africa and on the implications this has for traditional approaches to media assistance and media development on the continent and beyond.  See the Workshop Programme.  The report from the workshop, China in Africa: A New Approach to Media Development, has been published.

This research has received extensive media coverage on popular platforms such as The Huffington Post, CNN, and Al Jazeera English.