Against the backdrop of an ongoing debate concerning the ideological implications of a rising China, the project uses a constructivist framework to study the role of ideas in Sino-South African and Sino-Ethiopian relations. It argues that, while in many areas there indeed have been developments over the recent years which propose that individual African countries are learning from Chinese experiences, it would be misleading to conceptualize African states as passive victims of either Western or Chinese influence. Instead, the rise of China (as well as other emerging powers) has created new options for African actors, some of which regard Chinese concepts of development, governance or international cooperation as being more in line with their own perception of the challenges they and their respective countries are facing.
While China is doing its best to nurture the idea of a community of likeminded states that comes with these shared perceptions, and is very active in further developing the ideational common ground by providing training and exchange programs, so far there is little to suggest that this behavior is not primarily driven by African demands. Given the shared ideological space, which to no small degree is rooted in historical developments and narratives in which the developed world assumes the role of the Other, the relevance of seemingly outdated concepts such as South-South cooperation and Sino-African friendship needs to be reconsidered.