Starting with the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit, China announced that it would build agricultural technology demonstration centers (ATDCs) in partner African countries. ATDCs have been constructed in over 20 countries so far, and Xu et al.’s 2016 piece in World Development offers us great ethnographic insight into the reality of China’s ATDCs.
Summary: The paper starts with a review of China’s science and technology regime, providing the background context in which to see how ATDCs are an extension of China’s own experience of modernizing agriculture and thus China’s attempt to share that experience. The authors observed daily life at four ATDCs and it is through profiles of the managers and workers at the centers that we come to see the inherent political and social realities that get in the way of the ATDCs intended purpose of ag-tech transfer. As Xu et al. put it, “negotiations must take place about the meanings and implications of agriculture and technology, demonstration and extension, as well as aid and development” (89).
Reflections: ATDCs have a dual purpose to both share and demonstrate Chinese agri-tech to African users and to promote Chinese agribusiness. The interviews and narratives from Chinese managers and their African counterparts in Xu et al.’s paper reflect this conflict. If you’re looking for an example of why ‘the China model’ may not be as easy to export as is hoped/feared, this paper is a good place to start.