Soft Use of Power and the Impact of the Bui Dam on China – Ghana Relations

Authors: Kwame Adovor*, University of Illinois
Topics: Africa, Political Geography, China
Keywords: China, Ghana, Bui Dam, soft power, Chinese Water Machine, win-win partnership.
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


My talk will examine the Bui Dam’s impact on China-Ghana relations. The dam, completed in 2013, had been in planning since 1915. After several unsuccessful attempts to court investors, China and Ghana agreed in 2007 to construct the dam. Critics opposed the project, arguing it would wreck socio-economic and environmental havoc on hapless communities. Developers, however, celebrated China’s decision to finance the dam as it would ensure Ghana’s energy security. Since its completion, the Bui Dam has transformed China-Ghana relations from a “touch-and-go” to sustained engagements. Drawing on activities of the Chinese Water Machine (CWM) and the literature on soft use of power, I assert that China’s assistance with the dam was to cultivate soft power to bolster the market expansion of Chinese companies. The talk concludes that soft power facilitates firm entry, but future market expansion is driven by creativity, adaptation, and portfolio diversification.

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