China's Second Continent
How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire in AfricaBook - 2014
We meet a broad spectrum of China's dogged emigrant population, from those singlehandedly reshaping African infrastructure, commerce, and even environment (a self-made tycoon who harnessed Zambia's now-booming copper trade; a timber entrepreneur determined to harvest the entirety of Liberia's old-growth redwoods), to those just barely scraping by (a sibling pair running small businesses despite total illiteracy; a karaoke bar owner-cum-brothel madam), still convinced that Africa affords them better opportunities than their homeland. And we encounter an equally panoramic array of African responses- a citizens' backlash in Senegal against a oTrojan horseo Chinese construction project (a tower complex to be built over a beloved soccer field, which locals thought would lead to overbearing Chinese pressure on their economy); a Zambian political candidate who, having protested China's intrusiveness during the previous election and lost, now turns accommodating; the ascendant middle class of an industrial boomtown; African mine workers bitterly condemning their foreign employers, citing inadequate safety precautions and wages a fraction of their immigrant counterparts'.
French's nuanced portraits reveal the paradigms forming around this new world order, from the all-too-familiar echoes of colonial ambition-exploitation of resources and labor; cut-rate infrastructure projects; dubious treaties-to new frontiers of cultural and economic exchange, where dichotomies of suspicion and trust, assimilation and isolation, idealism and disillusionment are in dynamic flux.
Part intrepid travelogue, part cultural census, part industrial and political exposU, French's keenly observed account ultimately offers a fresh perspective on the most pressing unknowns of modern Sino-African relations- why China is making the incursions it is, just how extensive its cultural and economic inroads are, what Africa's role in the equation is, and just what the ramifications for both parties-and the watching world-will be in the foreseeable future.
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American diplomats had been slow to understand the scope of the change being driven by Chinese migration to Africa.
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