A Chinese Journalist Reflects on Reporting the China-Africa Story

A China in Africa Podcast

How foreign journalists report on the China-Africa story is often determined by the national origin of their news organization. While there are no doubt exceptions, the U.S. news media frequently frame China as the neo-colonial aggressor and Africa as the persistent victim of foreign agendas. The French, for their part, often simply ignore the story. And the Chinese frame Sino-African ties in almost exclusively positive terms that echo official policy positions.

These so-called “embedded narratives” run deep, particularly among older journalists, but a new generation of young foreign correspondents in Africa is challenging some of these dated caricatures.

Zhang Zizhu is a special correspondent in Nairobi for the Hong Kong-based global TV news network Phoenix Info News Channel. She is in an unusual position as a Chinese journalist based in Africa who does not work for any of the official Chinese Communist Party-run media such as Xinhua or CCTV Africa. As an independent journalist reporting for a privately-owned TV channel, Zhang has much more flexibility in the stories she covers and how she frames her reports.

Zhang joins Eric and Cobus to reflect on the benefits of covering the Chinese in Africa with the benefit of being a Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese herself. However, Zhang adds, even with those advantages, she still faces many of the same obstacles that frustrate other foreign reporters assigned to report on China’s engagement in Africa.