Impediments to Uncovering the Human Rights Dimension of Sino-African Engagement

Impediments to Uncovering the Human Rights Dimension of Sino-African Engagement
Stacey Links


Since China’s ‘Year of Africa’ in 2006, the world has closely watched and scrutinized Sino-African engagement in all its facets. Scholarship abounds on the political, economic, and social dimensions of these relations, however, does not seriously engage the question of human rights. Although the area of human rights is frequently implied in scholarship, commentary, and policy, it remains underexplored and undertheorized. This work puts forth decentred universality and holistic human rights as core fundaments of any contemporary analysis of human rights.

This dissertation critically engages the place and role of human rights in Sino-African relations through a critical discursive approach. It unpacks the dominant western discourse (from 2006 -2018) to identify and map problematic representations on the i) ‘nature of relations,’ ii) ‘human rights’; and the iii) ‘nature of actors.’ Borrowing from the instructive work of Jennifer Milliken on discourse analysis in International Relations, these representations are seen to make up the systems of signification through which human rights in Sino-African relations are understood. Through critical analysis it systematically investigates how these representations are reproduced through discourse productivity and the play of practice and uses a postcolonial lens to interrogate asymmetries, hierarchies, and exclusions within the discourse. Specifically, it looks at dominant representations found in academia, government, and civil society as producers of societal knowledge. Through this in-depth and critical analysis, it finds the very dominant representations within the discourse itself to be an impediment to uncovering the human rights dimension of Sino-African engagement. It reflects on how this finding has real-life implications both for international relations and international human rights in a changing global order.


Stacey Links

Defended in


PhD defended at

Universiteit Utrecht


Social Sciences


Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)


Human Rights