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How One Young Chinese Scholar Wants to Change Outdated Perceptions of Africa


Leo Li is a Phd candidate in African politics at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. Before he returned to Beijing to continue his academic work, Leo spent years reporting from Africa for the China Daily newspaper and later as a TV reporter for the Chinese international TV news network CGTN.

Leo represents a new generation of young Chinese scholars, journalists and activists in the China-Africa space who are now beginning to emerge on the scene and who, for the most part, have a more much more cosmopolitan perspective than their predecessors.

Leo joined Eric & Cobus to talk about how Chinese society’s perceptions of Africa are rapidly changing, often drawing on offensive, outdated caricatures borrowed from the West. Frustrated by the messaging about Africa that appears on social media and in Chinese popular culture, Leo sees it as part of his mission to help educate Chinese scholars and journalists about a more nuanced view of Africa and African politics.

Show notes: see below for a recent academic paper featured in the journals African Studies Quarterly on the image of Africa in China through the lens of social media:

About Leo Li:

Leo Li started learning Hausa language when he was an undergraduate student at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2004. His first trip to Africa was in 2008 when he worked for a year as an intern at a private construction company in Ghana. Then he went to Oxford and Cambridge to finish his master’s degrees in African Studies and International Relations respectively. After graduation Leo became an international news reporter at China Daily in 2010, reporting from conflict zones and developing regions around the world. In 2012, he relocated to Africa to work as the paper’s first full-time staff reporter on the continent. Following three years covering Africa in print, Leo made the jump to TV in 2015 when he joined China Global Television Network (formerly CCTV News). He is currently a Phd student at the prestigious Tsinghua university in Beijing where he is focusing his research on China-Nigeria relations.

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