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Non-Aligned Architecture: China’s Designs on and in Ghana and Guinea, 1955-92

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2016

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The current international attention devoted to contemporary Chinese-financed and constructed development in Africa has tended to obscure complex and multivalent histories of the relationships between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and numerous African nations; and many of these histories date back decades. The ideological origins behind socialist China’s engagement with Africa, and the geopolitical dynamics that continue to propel them forward, trace back to the time of Chairman Mao Zedong, who first coined the term ‘intermediate zone’ in 1946 to position the vast expanse of contested territories and undecided loyalties existing between the ideological poles of the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II. Nine years later (1955), at the first Non-Aligned Movement conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai declared that

ever since modern times most of the countries of Asia and Africa in varying degrees have been subjected to colonial plunder and oppression, and have thus been forced to remain in a stagnant state of poverty and backwardness […]. We need to develop our countries independently with no outside interference and in accordance with the will of the people.

Research Article
Copyright © Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. 2015



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24 For example, on September 15 1960, and just prior to the ceremony in which Huang Hua, China’s first ambassador to Ghana, was expected to present his credentials to President Nkrumah, Huang noticed that the flag of the Republic of Taiwan, rather than the People’s Republic of China, was hanging at the president’s compound. The Foreign Minister apologised, and the flag was replaced; see Hua, Huang, Xinli yu Jianwen:Huang Hua huiyi lu (Beijing, 2007), p. 117.Google Scholar

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72 Schwab, , Designing West Africa: Prelude to 21st-century Calamity, p. 100.Google Scholar Although an overreliance upon Communist bloc aid was given as the army’s rationale for taking action, many suspected CIA involvement in the plot. Nkrumah, who was en route to Beijing when the coup occurred, was eventually flown to Conakry via Moscow, where Touré named him co-president of the country. There, Nkrumah lamented his political fate, writing several books on his experience of leading Ghana and attempting to establish a freedom fighter headquarters in Guinea based upon a model he had seen in China when visiting Mao. He eventually died of prostate cancer in Romania in 1972. See Nkrumah, and Milne, , Kwame Nkrumah: The Conakry Years, p. 9.Google Scholar

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78 In a speech delivered on 10 April 1974 to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, Deng Xiaoping declared that ‘China belongs to the Third World […]. China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one. What is a superpower? A superpower is an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder and strives for world hegemony […]. If one day China should change her colour and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it’; see (accessed on 13 January 2015)

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88 Author’s interview with Cheng Taining, 1 June 2013.

89 COMPLANT is not an acronym as such but rather a distillation of the corporation’s full anglicised name: China National Complete Plant Import & Export Corporation (Zhongguo chengtao shebei jinchukou gongsi).

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99 Author’s interview with, Stella N. D. Arthiabah, 28 May 2014. When I visited the theatre in May 2014, the air conditioning no longer worked and the building’s maintenance office did not have the expertise or the money to repair it. They were anticipating a visit by Chinese engineers to make several improvements to the structure in the fall of 2014.

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