Africans in China Research

Visualising Africa in Chinese Propaganda Posters 1950–1980

By Ignatius G. D. Suglo for Journal of Asian and African Studies

This paper examines depictions of Africans in China during the period when China moved to establish diplomatic relations across the African continent – the foundation of what would become Africa–China relations today. Chinese posters were early forms of mass visual interaction with (the image of) foreign nationals. They reflect how Chinese society viewed itself in relation to others as it developed a global awareness through domestic mobilization. This study investigates how Africa and Africans are depicted in Chinese posters and how they shaped and/or reflected discourses of the period. It also examines motivations behind the inclusion of Africans in Chinese posters, arguing that this largely had a domestic rationale. By historicizing the meaning-making process of the image of Africa in 20th-century Chinese posters, this paper demonstrates that Chinese posters informed public opinion by defining friend and foe, focused more on China and her Cold War entanglements than on Africa, and simultaneously challenged and reinforced some widely held stereotypes about the continent.

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