International Conference on the Past, Present and Future of African-Asian Relations


In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the relations between Africa and Asia. This is mainly due to what is perceived as increasing Chinese influence and presence in Africa. Initially hardly noticed in Western Europe and Northern America, a key moment in this gradual process was the “Five Points Proposal” presented by then-President Jiang Zemin during his tour of Africa in 1996. What was termed a “new relationship with Africa” included catchwords such as non-intervention, reliable friendship and mutually beneficial development. Africa has become not only a supplier for China’s need for energy (especially oil), strategic minerals, and key foodstuffs, but also a new market for Chinese construction enterprises (infrastructure, housing) and low-value consumer goods. Finally, there is growing Chinese direct investment in Africa in land and businesses.​Chinese work in Africa-resize480x318.jpg

While unrivalled in its scope, the Chinese relations with Africa are only one example of growing ties between Asian and African countries. Among the other examples are Japan and India, not least with their joint Asia-Africa Growth Corridor efforts. Maritime Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia have also intensified their relationship with Africa in trade, investment and beyond. Additionally, various oil states in the Persian Gulf (Iran, UAE, Oman, Qatar) have turned their gaze to Africa.

Both Asian and African countries frequently describe their relations as being different to relations with European or North American countries. In the rapidly growing body of scientific literature on the topic, but also in media reports, the influence of China and other Asian countries is the source of controversial debates. Particularly China is seen as a rogue donor and neocolonial exploiter causing multi-dependency of African countries or as a (potential) new hegemon in the world economy.  


More benevolent perspectives on Asian relations with African countries see Asian countries as healthy economic competitors, as development partners that help African countries pave a pathway out of poverty or even as liberators that help end the postcolonial dependence of African countries. Taking a broader and more long-term view of the relationship between Asia and Africa, the current interaction may be seen as a shift of the center of the world economy to the East or as (cyclical) re-emergence of the centers of the early world economies. These early world economies did not originate in Europe, but in Asia, reaching, the Indian Ocean to the littoral southeast of Africa. In yet another perspective, not least taken by Chinese sources, the current developments are described as the advent of a multipolar world.

This conference encourages researchers to investigate sociological theories and conceptual tools for the analysis of the relationships between Asia and Africa and to reflect on questions of methods and data for analysis of these relationships. The conference deals with the past and the current developments in the social structure of the world society and is interested in the analysis on the economic, political and social changes triggered by African-Asian relationships, both on the African continent but also in China and other Asian countries, including the driving forces behind these developments.​

Contact Information



April 25-27, 2019


University of Neuchâtel

Institute of Sociology

Fbg de l'Hôpital 27

2000 Neuchâtel