Alumnus, Foundation Trustee Co-authors Book on China-Africa Affairs

Jackson, MS – Dr. David Shinn, alumnus and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Board of Trustees, has co-authored a new book on China-Africa affairs.

Dr. David Shinn

Dr. David Shinn

Titled China and Africa: A Century of Engagement, the book is now available from the University of Pennsylvania Press, A 20% discount is available for online orders entering the code P4Q5.

The former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, Dr. Shinn now serves as an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. He was named Phi Theta Kappa’s Distinguished Alumnus in 1995 and has also co-authored The Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia.

Joshua Eisenman, who co-authored the most recent book with Dr. Shinn, is a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at UCLA, and teaches comparative politics at New York University. He is co-editor of China and the Developing World: Beijing’s Strategy for the Twenty-First Century.

Dr. Shinn said the initiative began when Eisenman, a graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington, was looking for an expert on African affairs to testify on the China-Africa relationship before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission where he was working at the time. He added that the book was primarily the idea of Eisenman, a Sinologist who speaks fluent Mandarin. “He had already edited a book on China in the developing world and wrote the chapter on China in Africa,” Dr. Shinn explained. “But he had never been to Africa and realized that he could not write a credible book on the subject any more than I could do a China-Africa book without extensive experience in China. We agreed to combine our China and Africa expertise and the result is China and Africa: A Century of Engagement.”

“We wrote the book as the first comprehensive, baseline study on the topic since the last one came out in 1974. The book also has four regional chapters that analyze China’s relations with each of the 54 countries in Africa,” Dr. Shinn said. “We believe the information will be especially useful for the government, business, and non-governmental organization communities. We also see the book as appealing to China scholars who specialize in China’s international relations.”

He said the book covers very current topics, including the impact of the “Arab Spring” on China’s relations. “We also spend considerable time addressing China’s “no strings attached” aid policy, its policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and how this impacts good governance and democratization in African countries in need of improvement,” Dr. Shinn added.

As an expert on Africa and diplomatic affairs, Dr. Shinn has testified before Congress frequently on Horn of Africa issues. In November 2011, he testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on “China’s Growing Role in Africa: Implications for U.S. Policy.” In March 2012, he testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on “Assessing China’s Role and Influence in Africa.” Later this month he will meet with a group of Senate chiefs of staff to discuss China in Africa.

While saying he equally enjoys the writing and research involved with producing a book, Dr. Shinn confessed that his least favorite part of the process is editing. “It is exciting when your research leads to conclusions that others seem not to have discovered,” he said, “This project allowed me to visit China four times in the last seven years and make visits to nine African countries beyond those where I served and visited during my 37 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.”

“There is a lot of history in this book,” he explained. “As a result, we relied heavily on documents and writings of others, but tried to “ground truth” and update this material with our visits to China and Africa.”

Dr. Shinn added that he feels the book addresses Phi Theta Kappa’s current Honors Study Topic, The Culture of Competition, and has implications for all Phi Theta Kappa members in the future. “It is an excellent Honors Study Topic and our book does relate to the issue, especially if you define competition as a continuum that fades into cooperation. This planet needs much more cooperation than it needs competition,” he said. “Competition is great in the market place and on the athletic field, but when it comes to international affairs history demonstrates that too much competition just gets all of us into a heap of trouble.”

So what’s the takeaway for today’s students? “Both China and the United States are in Africa for the long term. This is not a passing fad. Africa is essentially neutral territory for both the United States and China. It offers prospects for cooperation and competition with China. There will clearly be U.S.-China competition over the obtaining of commercial contracts and exporting goods to Africa. There could eventually be some competition over obtaining commodities from Africa such as oil,” Dr. Shinn said. “In my view, however, there is an even better prospect for collaboration with China for encouraging African development, reducing poverty, supporting UN peacekeeping missions, combating terrorism and piracy, and supporting stability on the continent. One area of major disagreement is the U.S. focus on encouraging good governance, democratization, a free press, and improved human rights. This is not part of China’s policy towards Africa.”

Dr. Shinn, who was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and graduated from Yakima Valley College (Washington State) in 1960, appreciates his community college background. However, he also admires the programs Phi Theta Kappa has in place today to help members achieve their goals – such as Competitive Edge,, and the Community College Completion Challenge. He noted that he is particularly fond of and the tools it provides for students who may not fully understand how to navigate the transfer process on their own. His parents were deceasedjust as he finished Yakima Valley College. “With the help of friends in Yakima, I transferred to George Washington University where I earned a B.A., M.A. and eventually a Ph.D.; the rest is history,” he said. “I wish these programs had existed in 1960. I think they are outstanding. While I realize that not everyone in community college intends to seek a B.A. degree, it certainly is the goal of many and I believe these tools will help them reach that goal.”

Dr. Shinn said he would encourage current members interested in a career in Foreign Service to read everything they can about the subject and make sure it is what they want to do. “There was a time when living in Washington offered an overwhelming advantage in pursuing a career in diplomacy,” he said. “While Washington still has big advantages, the Internet and instantaneous communications have leveled the playing field somewhat. If you work at it, you can do fine pursuing a diplomatic career from Dubuque or Tuscaloosa.”

“The Foreign Service is not for everyone. A good way to find out is to do a summer internship at an embassy overseas or perhaps a tour with the Peace Corps after college,” Dr. Shinn said. “Finally, once you are sure, be persistent. It is difficult to get through the examination process and most successful candidates do not succeed the first time. Just keep trying.”

Learn more about Dr. Shinn’s work by visiting his blog,

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, is the largest honor society in American higher education with 1,280 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Peru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than 2.5 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 135,000 students inducted annually.

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