The prevalence and pervasive nature of Chinese influence in Africa, and the rest of the world is increasingly becoming more nuanced and adopting various forms. One of the techniques used by China to gain as much influence as it can is through its books and cultural exchange programs.
One of the ways that culture is widely spread is through literature. Take for instance the education systems in Africa that stress high importance on studying English, American literature. The effect of this is to inculcate a sense that one is to believe what they read in the stories put in front of them. Often times, this is not done with the aim to promote an objective assessment of the many cultures in the world but to erode the stories authentic to the Africans. One gets to appreciate and acknowledge the dynamics of the Western world and their thinking, and also being indoctrinated with their cultural attitude towards various subjects and aspects in life. This is the same route being pursued by China. Language and literature are always effective tools for spreading certain cultures and beliefs.
Last month during the Nairobi International Book Fair in Kenya, Chinese publishing and media entities signed deals with other entities in Kenya to foster a deep cultural exchange program through books. China is running a global literature promotion campaign called "China Shelf" and the agreements between the University of Nairobi and Kenya National Library are part of this plan.
Hundreds of books showing the cultural achievements of China were exhibited as the book fair coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of modern China. "China Shelf" has effectively landed in Africa.
The acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, Isaac Mbeche expressed his enthusiasm at this initiative saying, "I am looking forward to the long-term cooperation between the University of Nairobi and Confucius Institute and Changjiang Media. I expect that more Chinese publishers and cultural products themed in China will appear in Africa to help create a closer relationship and deeper cultural exchanges."
Even the Kenya National Library Service is to set up a Chinese Book Area in the library that would be filled with children's books dedicated to Chinese literature.
China's imprint on Africa has grown to unprecedented scales, as its influence is now deeply entrenched in almost every facet of development in African countries. China has been financing many developmental projects in Africa, and in the process trapping African countries in enormous debt.
The Eastern giant has now turned to literature as a soft tool mechanism for gaining more and more control in Africa. The wide-spreading tentacles of Chinese culture and language will be soon spread across the whole continent, considering the wild ambition and zest that China possesses. For a country that has countless investments in the continent, there are now attempts to try and establish cultural connections between China and Africa. So much that even other Chinese people are correcting wrong stereotypes about Africa to Chinese people. These include Chinese vloggers such as Fyjo Molly and Huiling Rose Zhao who are traveling across Africa to give a correct sense about what Africa is all about to their people back home.
However, it is always to be noted that China is unrelenting in taking over Africa and that they have now realized the potent weapon of language and culture in achieving their rather masked objectives.
Header image credit - Quartz Africa