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Why does China run one of the world's largest short-term training programmes, with plans to bring 30,000 Africans to China between 2013 and 2015? Why does it give generous support to 31 Confucius Institutes teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture at many of Africa's top universities from the Cape to Cairo? Why is China one of the very few countries to increase the number of full scholarships for Africans to study in its universities, a total of 18,000 anticipated between 2013 and 2015? China claims to have been involved for 60 years in South-South cooperation of mutual benefit to China and Africa. While its dramatic economic and trade impact, particularly on Africa, has caught global attention, little focus has yet been given to its role as an education donor - and especially to the critical role of China's support for training and human resource development for Africans in China, and within Africa itself. It is vital that we understand what is going on, and why education is so important in China-Africa relations. Here is hard evidence from Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya of the dramatic growth of China's soft power and increasing impact in capacity-building, and of the implications of this for Africa, China and the world. Kenneth King is Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh, where he was Director of the Centre of African Studies for 20 years. Since 2007, he has been international advisor for China's largest Institute of African Studies.