The Political Economy of State Business Relations in Chinese Development Cooperation in Africa
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The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement. The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes. The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.