Author: Adams Bodomo.
In this talk, I review a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) plan of action to increase the number of Africans studying in China with Chinese government support. This commitment from the Chinese government has led to a conspicuous presence of Africans in Chinese universities. I outline the issues and challenges that African students, especially newly-arrived ones, face – from problems in using Chinese as a language of instruction to cross-cultural challenges in cuisine and other aspects of the Chinese society. The data derive mainly from questionnaire surveys and interviews in Chongqing in 2009, where in that year alone over 50 Africans arrived to study science, engineering, and other courses in one of the universities in that city. The experi- ences of these students both strengthen and challenge a cross-cultural bridge theory that I have proposed to account for another study of African traders in Guangzhou. These experiences and those of other students in recent surveys and participant observations also challenge discourses about soft power and other aspects of cultural diplomacy. I suggest that both the African and Chinese governments should better facilitate the transition from Africa to China if these students are to serve as agents of soft power and as “bricks for building future bridges” for Africa-China relations.