China's relations with African states have undergone significant changes in recent years. China has projected its relationship with Africa as one of equality and ‘mutual help’. Such perceptions of foreign policy stem from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the shared experience of imperialist domination and economic underdevelopment. Moreover, various public statements by China's elites suggest that China is expected to play a much more prominent, even exceptional role in Africa. This purportedly entails moving beyond the hegemonic West's interventionist aid or security policies, and is also implicitly designed to highlight the West's shortcomings in promoting African economic growth or peace. Yet where does this perception of exceptionalism come from? Why does Beijing feel that it has to play a leading role in Africa's development? How can Beijing distinguish itself from the nations of the West, who are regularly criticised for being paternalistic?
South African Journal of Internationa Affairs, 2013, Vol 20, Issue 1, p. 99-115