China in Angola: labor, capital, and development discourse

Authors: Jessie Yin*, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Development, China, Africa
Keywords: China, Angola, development, labor, dispossession, transnational capital
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within the last decade, the discourse on Chinese investment abroad has exploded. In the case of China in Africa, Africa is often spoken of as a monolith and China as either a benevolent partner in the Global South or the encroaching power in a new scramble for Africa. However, this sort of analysis is largely policy driven and based around aggregate economic indicators, which obscure the dynamics and mechanisms that reproduce them. A critical perspective that centers global economic history and the role of labor and capital can provide a more nuanced understanding. For this thesis, I apply a Marxist framework of accumulation and transnational capitalist class to understand the nature of Chinese state capital in the Angolan oil industry and its role in recolonization versus reconstruction. I use a case study of labor structures, process-tracing of the political and economic context of Angola, and a discourse analysis of development propaganda. How can an understanding of a transnational capitalist class and global capital accumulation help reveal the different levels of engagement that occur between China and Angola within context of the goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)? How does Chinese state capital differ from global private capital and how does this change the way Chinese investment looks on the ground? Which voices have been excluded in the larger debate on the benefits or costs of Chinese international development and to what extent is China recolonizing Angola?

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