Losing Hearts and Minds? Unpacking the Effects of Chinese Soft Power Initiatives in Africa

Sujin Cha, Yehzee Ryoo, Sung Eun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


China has embarked on various initiatives to win the hearts and minds of African citizens. Does this strategy contribute to China’s soft power in the region? To answer this question, we focus on two types of initiatives: cultural diplomacy and development finance. Using geolocation information on China’s aid projects and its Confucius Institutes, combined with a survey of more than 50,000 African citizens, we find that both types of soft power initiatives increase citizens’ awareness of Chinese influence in the region. Examining the effects of geographic proximity to project sites, we find that China’s development assistance does not increase Africans’ appreciation of China’s development model, but its cultural diplomacy does. Overall, we find that among individuals exposed to China’s development finance and cultural diplomacy, a greater awareness of China’s influence in the region does not translate into a positive assessment of this influence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalAsian Survey
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a Korea University Future Research Grant (no. K2007711). Sujin Cha and Yehzee Ryoo are co-first authors and conducted the research during their graduate study at Korea University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 byThe Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.


  • Africa
  • China
  • Confucius Institutes
  • development finance
  • soft power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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