Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2011

The rising powers, China and the future of international development

Lecturer: Dr Giles Mohan
Development Policy and Practice Department
The Open University, United Kingdom

Main disciplines: Political Geography, Development Studies, Political Science

Dates: 1 - 5 August 2011
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants


The rise of China, along with a group of ‘Southern’ countries, has changed the nature of the international system and will continue to shape it for the next generation or more. Through their rapid growth and size they are changing the rules of the economic and political regime. The impacts are felt, for example, in the industrial core through the flight of jobs to low cost locations in China and indirectly through China’s effects on climate change. But less is known about how China impacts upon less developed countries. Much is made of what China terms ‘South-South’ cooperation but is this anything more than a resource grab and a new scramble for markets? Do the indiscriminate investment and aid packages prop up anti-democratic states? Or does China offer a welcome alternative to 200 years of western interventions that have helped produce underdevelopment across so many regions? And does China’s development model signal a change in the very ways we think about development and modernity?

This course will address these questions and situate them within wider debates and processes around the changing nature of the international system, the politics of development, and the social relations of ‘South-South’ globalisation. The course is interdisciplinary and stands at the intersection of political geography, development studies and international political economy.

The course begins by reviewing the state of international development and the theories used to explain it as a ‘benchmark’ against which to gauge the impacts of China and the other rising powers on the nature of development and the ways we conceptualise it. We then look in more detail at what characterises the rising powers (some call them ‘The BRICs’) as well as what differentiates them. From there we focus onto China and start by looking at changes in China’s own development path, its internationalisation strategies and the ways it engages with low income economies. After that we examine the impacts on various sectors and processes, especially resources, the environment, governance and migration. We finish the week by looking at the wider geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts and look at the trajectories and contradictions within these as a way of assessing the future of international development with China and the other rising powers as key players. We also look at what this means for the theories of development we have used thus far.

Key readings for preparation to the course

  • Alden, C, Oliveria, R.S., Large, D. (eds) (2008) China returns to Africa, a rising power and a continent embrace, Hurst and Company: London.
  • * Brautigam, D. (2009) The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Halper, S. (2010) The Beijing Consensus, Basic Books: New York
  • Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Jacques, M. (2009) When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World, Allen Lane: London
  • Kynge, J. (2006) China Shakes the World: The Rise of the Hungry Nation, Phoenix: London.
  • Leonard, M. (2008) What does China Think?, Fourth Estate: London

Note that this is a fast moving area so that events outstrip the analysis. However, useful sources of debate are available on the WWW. These are some of the best sources:

  • The Brookings Institution
  • The Council for Foreign Relations
  • Chatham House
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • Centre for Chinese Studies, Stellenbosch
  • South Africa Institute of International Affairs
  • The Asian Drivers Programme
  • Pambazuka
  • Xinhua News Agency
  • The Peoples Daily
  • China.org
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC


The course comprises 20 lectures, each of 45 minutes (4 lectures per day).

Monday 1st August: The rise of the rising powers

Lecture 1: Uneven development and dispossession

In order to set the scene for analysing China’s rise the lecture looks at some recent theorisation of international development, which argues that global capital is working in both similar and new ways that create ‘dispossession’. This form of accumulation is through more ‘enclaved’ investments which exclude local populations and exacerbate inequality at various scales. Analytically a case is made for ‘critical ethnographies’ of these networked political economies.

Syllabus reading:

  • Ferguson, J. (2005) ‘Seeing Like an Oil Company: Space, Security, and Global Capital in Neoliberal Africa’, American Anthropologist, 107, 3, 377–382.
  • Hart, G. (2006) ‘Denaturalizing Dispossession: Critical Ethnography in the Age of Resurgent Imperialism’, Antipode, 38, 5, 977-1004.
  • Harvey D. (2003) The New Imperialism (Oxford University Press, Oxford)
  • McMichael, P. (2009) ‘Contradictions in the global development project: geo-politics, global ecology and the ‘development climate', Third World Quarterly, 30, 1, 251-266
  • Murray Li, T. (2007) The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
  • Smith, N. (2008) Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space, The University of Georgia Press: Athens, Ga.

Lecture 2: The rise of the rising powers

In order to understand the rise of the rising powers we will look at structural changes in the international political economy around the New International Division of Labour, post-Fordist production and subcontracting/outsourcing and liberalisation. The lecture will also examine geopolitical questions of changing hegemony in the wake of 9/11 and new strategic priorities.

Syllabus reading:

  • Duffield, M. (2007) 'Development, Territories, and People: Consolidating the External Sovereign Frontier', Alternatives, 32, 2, 225-246
  • Gilbert, A. (2002) ‘The New International Division of Labour’ in Desai, V. et al (eds) The Companion to Development Studies, Arnold: London, pp186-191
  • Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Mohan G. (2009) ‘Structural Adjustment’, in Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N. (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 11. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 1–9.

Lecture 3: What makes a rising power?

The rising powers are often talked about as a single grouping and some in the business world talk about the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). They are large, from the ‘global South’, have high rates of growth and a determined development vision. They also share many features of previous ‘rising powers’ such as the NICs of S.E. Asia as well as older hegemonic powers of the 19th Century. The lecture looks at these similarities but also at the key differences which cautions against treating them as similar.

Syllabus reading:

  • Goldstein, A., Pinaud, N., Reisen, H. and Chen, X. (2006) The Rise of China and India: What’s in it for Africa?, OECD Development Centre, OECD, Paris.
  • Marr, J. and Reynard, C. (2010) Investing in Emerging Markets: The BRIC Economies and Beyond, Wiley: Chichester.
  • O’Neill, J. (2001) Building Better Global Economic BRICs, Goldman Sachs Global Economics Paper No: 66, 30th November. Available at http://wwwqa2.goldmansachs.com/ideas/brics/building-better-doc.pdf

Lecture 4: Questioning development

This lecture sets out the key agendas for the rest of the course by looking at the implications of the rising powers for analysing international development. It does so by considering the value of postcolonial theory and whether by ‘decentring the west’ these theories open up an analytical space for studying China’s rise.

Syllabus reading:

  • Andreasson, S (2005) ‘Orientalism and African Development Studies: the ‘reductive repetition’ motif in theories of African underdevelopment’, Third World Quarterly, 26, 6, 971-986.
  • Bilgin, P (2008) ‘Thinking past ‘Western’ IR’, Third World Quarterly, 29, 1, 5-23.
  • Mittelman, J. (2006) ‘Globalization and Development: Learning from Debates in China’, Globalizations, 3, 3, 377-391.
  • Robinson, J. (2003) ‘Postcolonialising Geography: tactics and pitfalls’, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 24, 3, 273-289


Tuesday 2nd August: China’s development visions

Syllabus reading:

  • Arrighi, G. (2007) Adam Smith in Beijing, London: Verso.
  • Crawford, D. (2000) ‘Chinese capitalism: cultures, the Southeast Asian region and economic globalization’, Third World Quarterly, 21, 1, 69-86.
  • Jacques, M. (2009) When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World, Allen Lane: London
  • Kynge, J. (2006) China Shakes the World: The Rise of the Hungry Nation, Phoenix: London.

Lecture 6: Neoliberal China?

This lecture looks at recent development models in China through a debate about the extent to which they can be viewed as ‘neoliberal’ or not. We will explore debates in critical economic geography about neoliberalisation as a process and interrogate whether China is neoliberal in a conventional sense and how far its ‘harmonious society’ thesis offers an alternative development vision.

Syllabus reading:

  • Geis, J. and Holt, B. (2009) ‘“Harmonious Society” Rise of the New China’, Strategic Studies Quarterly, Winter, 75-94
  • Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism Oxford: Oxford University Press (chapter 5, pp 120-151)
  • Huang, Y. (2008) Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Peck, J. and A. Tickell (2002) ‘Neoliberalizing space’, Antipode, 34, 3, 380-404.
  • Wang, H. (2003) China’s New Order: Society, Politics and Economy in Transition, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Lecture 7: The Beijing Consensus and foreign policy

China’s development trajectory has been increasingly globalised and so requires new discourses and strategies of foreign policy. In this lecture we critically examine these key debates around the idea of ‘The Beijing Consensus’, China’s ‘harmonious rise’ and its engagement as a ‘responsible power’, especially its emphasis on partnership and cooperation in international relations.

Syllabus reading:

  • Callahan, W. (2008) ‘Chinese Visions of World Order: Post-hegemonic or a New Hegemony?’, International Studies Review, 10, 749–761
  • Halper, S. (2010) The Beijing Consensus, Basic Books: New York
  • Kurlantzick, J. (2008) Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World, Yale University Press: New Haven, CT
  • Ramo, J. C. (2004). The Beijing Consensus: notes on the new physics of Chinese power. London: The Foreign Policy Centre. Available at http://fpc.org.uk/fsblob/244.pdf

Lecture 8: China’s foreign policy actors

The previous lecture explored the changing nature and discourses of Chinese foreign policy whereas this lecture examines the range of actors engaged in linking China internationally. This builds on a critique of the Beijing Consensus since there is little coordination of these multiple actors despite the idea of a centrally-determined ‘consensus’.

Syllabus reading:

  • Brautigam, D. (2009) The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Cheng, J. and Shi, H. (2009) ‘China’s Africa Policy in the Post-Cold War era’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 39, 1, 87-115.
  • Robinson, T. and Shambaugh, D. (eds) (2004) Chinese Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice, Clarendon: London.
  • Zhao, S. (2007) ‘China’s geostrategic thrust: patterns of engagement’, in G. Le Pere (ed) China in Africa: Mercantilist predator of partner in development?, Braamfontein: Institute for Global Dialogue and South African Institute for International Affairs. pp 33-53


 Wednesday 3rd August: China engages

Lecture 9: The channels of China’s engagement

This lecture will provide a conceptual overview of the ‘bundling’ of Chinese trade, FDI, and aid. Like other Asian economies China tends not to separate out ‘aid’ from other forms of engagement and also does not use the conventional terms of development such as ‘donor’.

Syllabus reading:

  • Kaplinsky, R. (2008) ‘What does the rise of China do for Industrialisation in Africa’, Review of African Political Economy, 115, 7-22.
  • Mohan, G. and M. Power (2008) ‘New African choices? The politics of Chinese involvement in Africa and the changing architecture of development’, Review of African Political Economy, 115, 23-42
  • Sautman, B. and Hairong, Y. (2007) ‘Friends and Interests: China's Distinctive Links with Africa’, African Studies Review, 50, 3, 75-114.
  • Yeung, H. and L. Weidong (2008) ‘Globalizing China: the rise of mainland Chinese firms in the global economy’, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 49, 1, 57-86. Available at http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/geoywc/publication/2008%20EGE%20Yeung&Liu%20Final.pdf

Lecture 10: Over a barrel – Chinese oil politics in Africa

Much of China’s engagement with low income economies, especially in Africa, is over resources such as oil. Oil politics is a major issue for international relations and this lecture will analyse China’s African oil ventures in the context of this wider political economy of oil.

Syllabus reading:

  • Ghazvinian, J. (2007) Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, Harcourt: Boston.
  • Downs, E. (2007) ‘The Fact and Fiction of Sino-African Energy Relations’, China Security, 3, 3, Summer, 42 – 68.
  • Klare, M. and Volman, D. (2006) ‘America, China and the Scramble for Africa's Oil’, Review of African Political Economy, 108, 297-309.
  • McCaskie, T. (2008) ‘The United States, Ghana and Oil: Global and Local Perspectives’, African Affairs, 107/428: 313–332.
  • Taylor, I. (2006) ‘China’s oil diplomacy in Africa’, International Affairs, 82, 5, 937-959.
  • Vines, A., Wong, L., Weimer, M. and Campos, I. (2009) Thirst for African oil: Asian national oil companies in Nigeria and Angola. London: Chatham House. Available at http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/14524_r0809_africanoil.pdf

Lecture 11: The allure of modernisation and the politics of infrastructure

Much of China’s non-resource engagement has been in infrastructure, something The Washington Consensus actively failed to invest in. Contrary to the post-development school this lecture will look at the ongoing investment in major infrastructure projects, like hydroelectric dams, and what it tells us about the enduring appeal of development as modernisation.

Syllabus reading:

  • Davies, M, Edinger, H, Tay, N and Naidu, S (2008) How China delivers development assistance to Africa, Stellenbosch: Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Stellenbosch. Available at http://www.ccs.org.za/downloads/DFID_FA_Final.pdf
  • Foster, V., Butterfield, W., Chuan, C. and Pushak, N. (2008) Building Bridges: China’s growing role as infrastructure financier for sub-Saharan Africa. Washington DC: World Bank. Available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTAFRICA/Resources/Building_Bridges_Master_Version_wo-Embg_with_cover.pdf
  • McFarlane, C. and Rutherford, J. (2008) ‘Political Infrastructures: Governing and Experiencing the Fabric of the City’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32, 2, 363-74.
  • Tan-Mullins, M., Mohan, G. and Power, M. (2010) ‘Redefining ‘Aid’ in the China-Africa Context’, Development and Change, 41, 5, 857–881.

Lecture 12: Rogue aid?

Much of the criticism of China has been over its untied aid and apparent lack of concern for the politics of the recipient countries; which some have branded ‘rogue aid’. In this lecture we examine these debates and the realities on the ground in terms of the types of activities that are funded and the wider impacts on development and governance.

Syllabus reading:

  • Brautigam, D. (2009) The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Moyo, D. (2009) Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. London: Allen Lane.
  • Naim, M. (2007) ‘Rogue aid’, Foreign Policy, March/April 2007, Number 159: 95-96.
  • Woods, N. (2008) ‘Whose aid? Whose influence? China, emerging donors and the silent revolution in development assistance’, International Affairs, 84, 6, 1205-1221.
  • Kragelund, P. (2008) ‘The return of non-DAC donors to Africa: new prospects for African development?’, Development Policy Review, 26, 5, 555-584.


Thursday 4th August: The social relations of ‘South-South’ globalisation

Lecture 13: Environmentally responsible?

China’s environmental record has become a major point of contestation in international politics, although much of the damage is created to produce exports to western markets. This lecture examines these debates and the impacts in other developing economies against a backdrop of debates about ‘responsibility’ in the context of global relations.

Syllabus reading:

  • Bosshard, P. (2008) China’s Environmental Footprint in Africa, SAIS Working Papers in African Studies, 01-08. School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University: Baltimore. Available at http://www.sais-jhu.edu/bin/i/f/BosshardWorkingPaper.pdf
  • Jahiel, A. (2006) ‘China, the WTO and implications for the environment’, Environmental Politics, 15, 2, 310-29.
  • Massey, D. (2004) ‘Geographies of responsibility’, Geografiska Annaler B, 86, 5–18.
  • Watts, J. (2009) When a billion Chinese Jump: How China will save mankind – or destroy it, Faber and Faber: London

Lecture 14: Chinese migration in global perspective

Much of the debate on China focuses on the ‘big’ actors like state institutions and major firms. But much of the engagement is through small scale enterprises and individual migrants. The next two lectures examine these flows in more detail, starting with a ‘global’ analysis of Chinese migration.

Syllabus reading:

  • Nyíri, P. and Saveliev, I. (eds) (2002) Globalizing Chinese Migration: Trends in Europe and Asia. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Ma, L. and Cartier, C. (eds) (2003) The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
  • Thuno, M (2001) ‘Reaching Out and Incorporating Chinese Overseas: The Trans-territorial Scope of the PRC by the End of the 20th Century’, The China Quarterly, 168, 910-929
  • Wheeler, N. (2004) ‘A civic trend within ethnic transnationalism? Some insights from classical social theory and the Chinese American experience’, Global Networks, 4, 4, 391-408

Lecture 15: The politics of the everyday – Chinese migrants in Africa

This lecture picks up from the previous one but focuses on Africa where Chinese migrants are entering in larger numbers in what is viewed as a frontier of opportunity.

Syllabus reading:

  • Haugen, H. and Carling, J. (2005) ‘On the Edge of the Chinese Diaspora: The Surge of Baihuo Business in an African City’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28, 4, 639–662.
  • Ho, C. (2008) ‘The “Doing” and “Undoing” of Community: Chinese Networks in Ghana’, China Aktuell, 3, 45-76
  • Hsu, E. (2007) ‘Zanzibar and its Chinese Communities’, Populations, Space and Place, 13, 113-24.
  • Mohan, G. and Tan-Mullins, M. (2009) ‘Chinese migrants in Africa as new agents of development? An analytical framework’, European Journal of Development Research, 21, 4, 588-605.
  • Mung, M. E (2008) ‘Chinese Migration and China’s Foreign Policy in Africa’, Journal of Overseas Chinese, 4, 91-109.

Lecture 16: Mobility, modernity and difference

This lecture examines the ways in which mobility and modernity are linked through ideas of cosmopolitanism as well as difference. We look at how the Chinese state has changed towards emigration and what migrants do to contribute to modernisation of China, as well as how this difference is politicised.

Syllabus reading:

  • Nyiri, P. (2006) ‘The Yellow Man’s Burden: Chinese Migrants on a Civilizing Mission’, The China Journal, 56, 83-106.
  • Park, Y (2008) ‘State, Myth, and Agency in the Construction of Chinese South African Identities, 1948–1994’, Journal of Overseas Chinese, 4, 1, 69-90.
  • Shen, S. (2009) ‘A constructed (un)reality on China’s re-entry into Africa: the Chinese online community perception of Africa (2006-2008)’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 47, 3, 425-448.
  • Dobler, G. (2008) ‘Solidarity, Xenophobia and the Regulation of Chinese Businesses in Namibia’, in C. Alden, D. Large, and R. Soares de Oliveira (eds) China Returns to Africa: A rising power and a continent embrace. London: Hurst, pp. 237-255.


 Friday 5th August: Development futures

Lecture 17: Chinese geopolitics and global governance

The final four lectures look to the future in a number of ways. The first is a geopolitical focus on how China’s growing power within the international system, alongside those of the other rising powers, is re-shaping global politics and what the likely fracture lines will be.

Syllabus reading:

  • Chin, G. and Thakur, R. (2010) ‘Will China Change the Rules of Global Order?’, The Washington Quarterly, 33, 4, 119-138
  • Palat, R. (2009) ‘Rise of the Global South and the Emerging Contours of a New World Order’, in: Pieterse, J. and Rehbein, B. (eds) Globalization and Emerging Societies: Development and Inequality, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Power, M. and Mohan, G. (2010) ‘Towards a critical geo-politics of China’s engagement with African development’, Geopolitics, 15, 3, 462-495.
  • Shaw, T., Cooper, A. and Chin G. (2009) ‘Emerging Powers and Africa: Implications For/From Global Governance’, Politikon, 36, 1, 27-44.

Lecture 18: China’s development contradictions

While China’s development trajectory, which was examined on day two, has been impressive it is not without problems and contradictions. Growing inequality, environmental degradation and overproduction are some of the key issues that could undermine China’s development and with it the fate of other developing countries.

Syllabus reading:

  • Shirk, S. (2007) China - Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise, OUP: Oxford.
  • Watts, J. (2009) When a billion Chinese Jump: How China will save mankind – or destroy it, Faber and Faber: London

Lecture 19: Making ‘South-South’ cooperation a reality

While China seems to have an international strategy, low income economies rarely have a China strategy. So, how might these countries respond? The lecture will look at the policy debates around engaging China in more ‘proactive’ ways and what this tells us about the shape of contemporary ‘South-South’ power relations.

Syllabus reading:

  • Manji, F. and Marks, S. (eds) (2007) African Perspectives on China in Africa, Fahamu/Pambazuka: Cape Town.
  • Tull, D. (2006) ‘China’s engagement in Africa: Scope, significance and consequences’. Journal of Modern African Studies, 44, 3, 459–479.

Lecture 20: China and critical development theory

We return in the final lecture to some questions raised in the very first one regarding the implications of China and the other rising powers for critical development theory and international political economy.

Syllabus reading:

  • Henderson, J. (2008) ‘China and global development: towards a Global Asian Era?’ Contemporary Politics, 14, 4, 375-92.
  • Mohan, G. and Power, M. (2009) ‘Africa, China and the ‘new’ economic geography of development’, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 30, 24-28.
  • Murray Li, T. (2010) ‘To make live or let die? Rural Dispossession and the Protection of Surplus Populations’, in Castree, N. et al (eds) The Point is to Change It: Geographies of hope and survival in an age of crisis, (Antipode Supplement), Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester. pp 66-93
  • Schmitz, H. (2007) 'The Rise of the East: What Does it Mean for Development Studies', IDS Bulletin 38, 2, 51-58


The lecturer
Dr Mohan is based at the Open University in the UK. His work addresses the ways in which power and decision-making operate within the global South in general and Africa in particular. His approach to the governance of development uses a spatial lens to analyse the connectedness of political arenas and scales. His recent work has focused on the political economy of aid in Africa, focusing particularly on Chinese involvement and the politics of structural adjustment. In 2007 Giles received an ESRC grant entitled The politics of Chinese engagement with African development: Case studies of Angola and Ghana. This was followed up by a new ESRC grant on Chinese migrants as agents of development and another as part of a network under the ESRC’s Rising Powers Programme. Giles has published in a number of development studies, geography and African studies journals, including Development and Change, Society and Space and the Review of African Political Economy. More information is available at http://dpp.open.ac.uk/people/mohan.htm

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Published Aug. 24, 2011 2:20 PM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2011 2:34 PM