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Thomas, Michael W. and Berry, Chris (2021) 'The New Americans? The Sino-African Relationship on Chinese and Ethiopian Screens.' Open Screens, 4 (1).

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China has forged substantial political and economic relations across Africa since the turn of the new millennium. This essay scrutinises the cultural representations of these relations from the perspectives of popular, locally produced cinemas in both the Chinese and Ethiopian contexts. We argue that cultural readings of the power relations between China and Africa help to nuance the often-over-simplified narratives that posit China as the new America. While Chinese action films set in indistinct African locations can be seen to replace the Hollywood ‘white saviour’ with a ‘Chinese saviour’, American characters and/or institutions are commonly portrayed as morally corrupt in both Amharic and Chinese cinema. We explore how representations of ‘Chinese saviours’ are imagined in opposition to American antagonists and how emerging African commercial cinemas, such as in Ethiopia, portray local characters reclaiming their own agency. The analysis of Ethiopian films identifies that suspicion and caution are overriding emotions when Ethiopian characters deal with outsiders, with action heroes/heroines far less ‘gung ho’ than their interventionist Chinese or American counterparts. It is these African representations of African characters as heroes and not victims, and who play foreign actors at their own game, that reveal more complex interpretations of Sino-African relations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Chinese cinema, Ethiopian cinema, African-Chinese screen representations, representations of otherness, popular culture in China, popular culture in Ethiopia
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts
ISSN: 25162888
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2021 10:41
Funders: European Union

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