Depending on who you speak with, China’s engagement in Africa is often described in extreme terms as either the best thing to happen to the continent in the post-colonial era or just the latest foreign predator coming to pillage Africa of its resources. With China’s presence in Africa now stretching across nearly all 54 countries where an estimated one million Chinese immigrants now live and hundreds of billions of dollars in annual trade/investment, the relationship between these two regions is extremely complicated.

Beijing’s commitment to African infrastructure development is a central part of the government’s “win-win development” agenda, also a key message in its propaganda campaign that emphasizes China’s “peaceful rise” to superpower status.

So is China’s a partner or predator? The short answer, according to numerous leading Sino-African scholars, is that this vast complex relationship is not binary and cannot be reduced to either “good” or “bad.” It is the same in Africa as it is for China’s relations with other regions: “Both approaches offer oversimplified understandings of the complex interaction among the economic, geopolitical, and security dimensions of China’s relations with the rest of the world,” said Dr. Matt Ferchen from the Beijing-based Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in a new paper on the perception gaps surrounding China’s economic and military rise.

Matt joins Eric and Cobus to explain why he thinks views about the Chinese are so polarized in Africa and elsewhere and what impact the Trump revolution in the United States will have on China’s engagement in Africa.

This podcast was originally published by the China-Africa Project.