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Chinese Capitalism in Africa

leeOn October 24, 2011, the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University welcomed renowned sinologist Ching Kwan Lee to campus to deliver the 52nd Annual Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture. Lee is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles Her research focuses on the “grassroots state” and class politics in China, and Chinese investment and labor practices in Zambia’s copper mining and construction industries. During her lecture entitled “The ‘Labor Question’ of Chinese Capitalism in Africa,” Lee discussed the key elements of an emerging Chinese regime of production in Zambia, Africa’s leading copper producer, and the site of the first of five Chinese-owned special economic zones to be built on the African continent.

Drawing on comparative field data on Chinese and non-Chinese firms in construction and copper mining, two pivotal industries for Chinese and African developments, Professor Lee examined the strategies of accumulation and legitimation of Chinese capital, while also exploring the constraints imposed on them by Zambian society and political economy.

The lecture covered the issues of popular constructions of labor exploitation; how class politics have become state politics; and the importance of considering agency and power of the African state, workers, and the global economy when examining regimes of production and class relations. The presentation was followed by lively discussion with the audience, a reception, and dinner with Yale faculty.

This annual lecture in honor of Dr. Edward H. Hume (Y.C. 1897) is made possible by the generosity of his family and many friends.