I've recently been working on a chapter which is to be included in a great forthcoming book edited by Emma Mawdsley and Gerard McCann on contemporary Indian-African relations. The chapter examines in a comparative perspective Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs in the East African economies, ultimately arguing that the competitive advantages enjoyed by the Chinese enable them to out-compete their Indian-origin and African counterparts.
In conducting research for the piece, I stumbled across a fascinating source on Sino-African relations which - finally and thankfully - puts a lid on any claims of novelty surrounding present bilateral relations, tracing interactions between Chinese and African merchants back in time across the centuries. The source is the Yu-yang-tsa-tu written by Tuan Ch'eng-shih during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D). The Yu-yang-tsa-tu is a compendium of general knowledge written about the land of 'Po-pa-li,' i.e. present day Somalia, and it describes from a Chinese perspective daily life in Po-pa-li and, perhaps most curiously, the blood oaths taken between Chinese and Somali traders prior to engaging in the barter of goods. Those were the days.
Excerpts from the book may be found in Robert Collin's East African History v. 2 (African History in Documents), snippets of which are available through Google books. The work is, above all else, a fascinating insight into not only (very) early-day Somalia, but also early Chinese perceptions of Africa - some of which remain unaltered today.