China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa (英語) ハードカバー – 2009/6/30
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Traveling from Beijing to Khartoum, Algiers to Brazzaville, the authors tell the story of China's economic ventures in Africa. What they find is tantamount to a geopolitical earthquake: The possibility that China will help Africa direct its own fate and finally bring light to the so-called dark continent,” making it a force to be reckoned with internationally.
“Through a witty narrative that at times becomes a first-person travelogue, the authors entertain while educating, revealing in the process the absurdities that come with reporting on the ground in Africa...[A]n admirable contribution to a story with broad geopolitical implications.”
“A significant book that insightfully examines China’s role in Africa, China Safari reveals not only the complexities of Chinese immigration to Africa, but also the political rivalries that result from it…Recommended for all interested readers.”
New York Times
“China Safari is a fascinating, provocative work of firsthand reporting that illuminates an important global economic story.”
“China Safari tackles an important and largely underreported topic with an engaging and lively verve…Mr. Michel and Mr. Beuret make an important contribution, without passing judgment, toward our understanding of China’s intentions in Africa.”
The Chinese are building infrastructure that could help unify the continent; the roads, pipelines, ports and airports that they construct could be the basis for tying together currently disparate and often hostile African nations. A major advantage they have is that successful businesses run by Africans risk being looted or taken over by political elites while Chinese businesses are a much tougher target. The Chinese approach differs from banks in the U.S and western Europe in that they have no interest in the imprimatur of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund--they don't insist on democratic elections (usually just window dressing to qualify for loans) or progress on human rights for their citizens.
Michel and Beuret found that Chinese in Africa have the same prejudices and racist assumptions as the former colonial masters, that Africans are "naturally" lazy compared with their ambitious, hardworking countrymen. In China, they claim, if farmers don't plant rice in the spring they will starve in the autumn while in Sub-Sahara Africa "you can just pick fruit from the trees all around you."
The social, economic and political outcomes of China's move into Africa continue to evolve. Zambian copper miners working for a Chinese company were fired upon by managers during labor unrest, but Zambian government and police the mine operators against the striking workers. In Angola low interest loans from the Ex-Im Bank of China and the China International Fund are spent on infrastructure with most of the work being done by workers from China which excludes Angolan workers from experience in construction work and management. The loans (over ten billion dollars over a few years) are repaid in oil.
No one but the Chinese would have built communication and electric power networks in southern and central Africa. While China is there in pursuit of its own interests, they have offered their African hosts a vision of the future that was inconceivable in the colonial and post-colonial past.
There are very few hard numbers or statistics offered in this book, not even in speculation. Because of this, it is very hard for the reader to get a clear picture on what is happening besides a few minor case studies that the authors stumble upon. There are a a few mentions of cases in which state companies bid on national projects. In these mentions, the authors describe how Chinese managers treat local employees rather poorly.
One important take away from this book is the notion that China is one of the only developed countries offering to help build physical infrastructure in Africa. Through their state companies, China is, at the very least, building roads, damns, and other projects throughout the continent on a quid-pro-quo basis, usually receiving concessions for natural resources in the exchange. As is discovered in other books (mentioned below), the quality of the Chinese projects is questionable, but they are at least engaging Africa on local terms.
Of the three books I have read on this subject (the other two being China's Second Continent and The Dragon's Gift), this is perhaps the most laborious. Since its publication five years after "China Safari," "China's Second Continent" has eclipsed "China Safari" in terms of interest and readability.