Working group 12: Putting the win-win narrative to test: Vulnerabilities and power relations in China’s engagement in the global south (Mariasole Pepa & Usman Ashraf)

Mariasole Pepa, PhD Candidate University of Padua,
Usman Ashraf, PhD Candidate University of Helsinki,


Putting the win-win narrative to test: vulnerabilities and power relations in China’s  engagement in the global South  

In the last two decades, the Chinese footprint in the global South in terms of developing infrastructure and new technologies has tremendously increased. China plays a prominent role both as an economic partner, and in global development under the frameworks of bilateral agreements, South-South cooperation, and Belt and Road Initiative. These large-scale investments are heavily focused on the creation and distribution of infrastructure and technologies. The socio-economic, ecological, territorial, and political impacts of these investments represent the central topic of discussion of this working group, indeed, Chinese control over infrastructure and technologies have wider implications on the creation of vulnerabilities and exacerbation of unequal power relations. 

This working group seeks to scrutinize China’s engagement in the global South through the lens  of infrastructure and technologies as central and critical aspects in and for development. The aim  is to problematize the simplistic win-win narratives of Chinese development programmes. We  are particularly interested in contributions that unravel power relations embedded in Chinese  infrastructure and technologies investments and critically reflect on the agency of the ‘host’  countries/communities in negotiating, resisting and challenging Chinese engagement. This  working group is interested in contributions that explore China’s infrastructure and technologies  in the global South from a multidisciplinary and critical perspective. The possible themes  include, but are not limited to, agriculture and land, environment and climate costs, labour  relations and work, trade, gender, and ethnic relations.  

The final aim of this working group is to provide an open space for academics, activists, artists,  and actors representing civil society for a critical discussion of China’s engagement in the global  South, and its implications.


1st Session – Parallel sessions III: Fri 18 Feb 11:00–12:30

Urban Africa and its Culture of Re-appropriation
Justin Hui (Independent)

Living and working in a Chinese enclave in Cameroon: The workers of a “major structuring projects for emergence”
Gérard Amougo (University of Yaoundé)
Antoine Kernen (University of Lausanne)

Between ‘win-win’ co-operation and neo- colonialism: a comparative study of labour relations at Chinese construction projects in sub-Saharan Africa
John Vivian (Loughborough University)

Problematizing the Discourse of Mutuality in Chinese Agricultural Investment in Uganda
Muinga David (Makerere University)

2nd Session – Parallel sessions IV: Fri 18 Feb 14:00–15:30

Local Thwarted of the “Win-Win” Credo: An Analysis based on the Case of the Nanga Eboko CATAC Project in Cameroon
Auxence Augustin Koa (Fondation Paul Ango Ela)
Jean-Marie Oppliger (University of Lausanne)

Resistance to a win-win deal? Analysis on popular protests against Chinese infrastructure projects
Erica Yunyi Huang (Johns Hopkins University)

South-South Cooperation and the BRI: Alternate development or neoliberal continuity – Evidence from the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Dr Muhammad Tayyab Safdar (University of Virginia)

China’s political and infrastructure engagement in Ecuador and Bolivia: between ‘developmentalist illusion’ and capitalist expansion
Ximena Zapata (German Institute for Global and Area Studies)
Daniele Benzi (Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales)