China’s Oldest African Student Association Releases 2021 Sino-Africa Relations Report.
For the first time, the 5000 Mile Report has been written five thousand miles away from Beijing.
Since September 2020, Wanjiru and I have pursued our Master’s Degrees in China Studies at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. Due to COVID-related restrictions, we’ve been unable to step foot in China in person. Instead, we’ve studied remotely. I’ve been based in Accra, while Wanjiru lives in Nairobi. Our lack of direct, in-person exposure to China has had a big impact on our studies of the country. Nevertheless, we’ve done our best to use our remote learning experience as a lens through which to study Africa-China relations firsthand.
At first, I expected our remote studies to only last a few months. It’s been over a year now, and while some of my colleagues in Europe, the US, and Japan have resumed in-person lectures, our classes are still broadcast via Zoom. As of December 2021, it seems unlikely that I’ll get a chance to physically attend Peking University before I graduate. Thousands of other African students are in similar situations, unable to start or continue their education in China itself due to COVID-19 protocols. A handful of international students have been able to navigate these protocols and enter the country — a testament to the complexity of China’s inner workings. Most of us, however, have had our plans on pause for two years.
The experience has not been entirely negative. Despite being 5000-Miles away from Beijing, Peking University has done its best to engage us and educate us through remote lectures, Mandarin lessons, virtual museum tours, and field trips. We got the privilege of studying China’s past, present, future, and growing influence in Africa from leading experts in China and beyond, including former diplomats, government officials, business people, development experts, and more.