Lina Benabdallah, Ph.D.

Wake Forest University

Address: Kirby Hall 327

City: Winston-Salem, North Carolina - 27109

Country: United States

About Me:

I am Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. My research focuses on international relations theory, foreign policy, critical theories of power, and Chin'a rising power. My book, Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations, is coming out with the University of Michigan Press. It probes the type of power mechanisms that build, diffuse, and project China’s power in Africa. The crux of the argument is that it is necessary to take into account the processes of knowledge production, social capital formation, and skills transfers in Chinese foreign policy towards African states to fully understand China’s power building mechanisms. For more details, check out the Publications section or contact me!

Research Interests

Foreign Policy


African Politics


China's BR Initiative

International Relations Theory

Rising Powers

Emerging Powers


Journal Articles:

(2019) Contesting the international order by integrating it: the case of China’s Belt and Road initiative, Third World Quarterly

What does the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) tell us about China’s perceptions of the international order? This paper takes an inductive approach by examining the BRI for a two-pronged purpose: first, to understand China’s perception of the international order by examining Beijing’s official discourse around its intentions and vision for the initiative; and, second, to examine the mechanisms through which Chinese norms are diffused and normalised in Global South states. I find that Chinese policy navigates a dialectical interchange between upholding the existing international order while simultaneously promoting alternative norms and practices to reform parts of the order that are unsatisfactory to Chinese interests. To answer the second part of the puzzle, the paper finds that a central socialisation mechanism in China’s foreign policy for Global South states occurs through professionalisation training programmes. These programmes allow for Chinese expert knowledge and technical know-how to be shared with and mimicked by elites and civil servants across many Global South states.

(2017) Explaining attractiveness: knowledge production and power projection in China’s policy for Africa, Journal of International Relations and Development

How is Chinese foreign policy building a positive image of China in Africa? IR literature on soft power and attractiveness abounds. This study builds on the existing works, especially contributions by Janice Bially Mattern and Ty Solomon, to account for the role of expert knowledge production in attractiveness and image-building. While the existing literature focuses on China’s media cooperation from the perspective of establishing Chinese media outlets in Africa, this article identifies an understudied aspect of China’s strategy in Africa—that of investing in human resource development and professional training programmes for African journalists. The study constructs its analysis based on a series of in-depth interviews and official document analysis. The findings suggest that Chinese-sponsored professional development programmes for African journalists are an opportunity for African trainees to be socialised in Chinese values, norms, and expert knowledge. These trainings contribute to build a positive image of China in Africa and are far more successful than material approaches including establishing Chinese media outlets across Africa.

Books Written:

(2020) Shaping The Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations, University of Michigan Press

How do rising powers increase and exercise their influence in Africa? Looking at China’s foreign policy in Africa, one might be compelled to strictly think about China’s military base in Djibouti or Chinese investments in natural resources and infrastructure projects. However, I argue that there is a whole other side to China-Africa relations that is very important to understand yet often gets neglected. The Chinese government spends millions of dollars on professionalization trainings, elite visits, party-to-party relations, and cultural exchange with African partners. Chinese universities have become the top destination for thousands of Africans seeking higher education degrees. (For more please see my website or contact me).

Media Appearances:

Newspaper Quotes:

(2019) CNN

China and the United States face off in Djibouti as the world powers fight for influence in Africa

(2019) The Economist

Africa is attracting ever more interest from powers elsewhere

(2018) New York Times

Quoted in a piece related to China-Africa relations titled "With Blackface and Monkey Suit, Chinese Gala on Africa Causes Uproar"

(2018) Mail and Guardian

How much is China's $60-billion really worth?

(2018) The Diplomat

FOCAC 2018: Rebranding China in Africa

Blog Posts:

(2019) Foreign Policy

Spite won't beat China in Africa

(2018) Washington Post

Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion for Africa. Where will the money go?