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October 19, 2023

Kenya’s Engagement with China: Discourse, Power, and Agency

Event Series: China and the Global South

Nairobi National Park and the Standard Gauge Railway. Kamweti Mutu/Flickr

In recent decades, Kenya has witnessed profound changes in its economic, cultural, and environmental landscapes resulting from its interactions with China. Kenya’s Engagement with China (2022) by Anita Plummer investigates the tension between official Kenyan and Chinese state narratives and individual Kenyans’ reactions to China’s presence to provide insight into how everyday Kenyans exercise their political agency. In this conversation, Plummer shared how she uncovered competing discourses in person, in the news, and online that reveal how Kenyans use China to question local power structures, demand policy change, and articulate different visions for their country’s future.

This event was co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Africa-China Initiative and Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, as well as Howard University's Center for African Studies.


Anita Plummer is an associate professor of African studies at Howard University and the associate director of research and faculty engagement at Howard University’s Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership.

Lina Benabdallah (discussant) is an associate professor in the Politics & International Affairs Department at Wake Forest University.

Ken Opalo (discussant) is an associate professor of African studies at Georgetown University.

Bob Wekesa (discussant) is deputy director at the African Centre for the Study of the United States at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), South Africa, and a visiting fellow at the University of Southern California Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.