chapter  11
16 Pages

Kenyan agency in Kenya–China relations

Contestation, cooperation and passivity
WithMaddalena Procopio

Offering a critique of “first generation” research on China–Africa relations for paying disproportionate attention to the Chinese side, this chapter examines agency in Kenya–China relations. By shifting the focus to Kenya, and multiple scales of reference, it explores governance as the locus where different forms of agency are found and exercised. The Chinese role in Kenya is bound up in different types, and levels, of domestic politics. Treating agency as the negotiation of governance offers a better means to understand actual dynamics in Kenya–China relations. It unpacks governance processes by examining how Kenyan actors mobilise and negotiate interests and resources, and whether they do so according to existing norms of practice, thus fitting the Chinese into pre-existing frameworks, or whether they deviate from such procedural and normative standards, either for short-term self-interest or to renew obsolete systems of governance. Such an analysis of different Kenyan layers of engagement with China provides a lens through which to approach other African cases.