Since the turn of the millennium, the landscape of development in Africa has undergone a dramatic shift. China has significantly expanded its foreign aid and investment in the region, decentering the West as Africa's main development partner. What is largely missing from China-Africa scholarship, however, is attention to how the new Chinese presence in Africa is both embedded in and altering everyday social relations. This article examines these issues in a rural setting in Uganda that is in the midst of a large-scale transformation into a China-funded industrial park. It reveals that the complex new politics of Chinese development assistance are intertwined with, and often exacerbate, existing social inequalities based in politics, class, ethnicity, and race. More conceptually, these dynamics demonstrate the need to rethink how we frame development as a transnational field of social practice. China is more than an outlier within the global field of development and instead should be viewed as pursuing its own form of development, what I call “developmental pragmatism.” As this case study illustrates, this developmental pragmatism often turns on synergies between the business-focused development approach of the Chinese and the priorities of more authoritarian governments—synergies that require much greater critical attention.

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