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Batsani-Ncube, Innocent (2022) 'Made by China': the politics and implications of Chinese government funded and constructed Parliament buildings in Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00037838

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Restricted to Repository staff only until 9 August 2025.

Abstract

This PhD thesis maps the political controversies in the making, using and contesting of three Parliament buildings in Africa that were financed and constructed by the People’s Republic of China. In the past two decades China has directly taken charge of the construction, refurbishment and maintenance of parliamentary built environments in fifteen African countries. The financing of African parliament buildings by China provides a solid event around which to frame questions about new developments in China-Africa relations, the evolution of African parliaments and policy relevant debates on contemporary representative politics in Africa. The main research question of this PhD thesis reads as follows: How and why is China donating parliaments to African countries and how do these buildings impact the symbolic and substantive things that parliaments do or ought to do? Drawing on eight months of mixed-methods fieldwork in Malawi, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, and leveraging Albena Yaneva’s mapping controversy in architecture as the analytic framework, I trace the interactions between the Chinese and African state ruling elites, the manifestation of the projects and citizen perceptions towards the parliament buildings. I also explore the layered agency of Chinese construction companies, African bureaucrats and local labour. Two key findings flow from my research. First, it is evident that the investment in parliament buildings fulfils one of China’s main foreign policy goals of sustaining long term political influence in Africa. This is because financing and maintaining the parliament buildings enables China to hedge political influence through continued direct access to dominant cross-party political elites in each receiving country. This research thus spotlights how China, as a rising global power, delivers its political aid and secures political influence in the domestic politics of beneficiary states. However, the story is also more nuanced and somewhat counterintuitive in its implications for those domestic polities, which brings me to my second finding: the way in which the construction of the parliament buildings has enhanced the profile of the institution of parliament in the respective countries, amplified its sociopolitical significance and entrenched the technology of participatory representative politics. This thesis thus contributes to broader debates on China-Africa relations and the ways these are impacting the development of domestic political institutions in Africa.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Julia Gallagher
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00037838
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2022 10:26
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/37838
Funders: European Union

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