Nov 27, 2011

Books on China in Africa

I've been reading a couple of books about "China and Africa". The first one is China Safari, by two Geneva journalists who travelled to China and a bunch of African countries and tried to figured out what was going on with the Chinese in Africa. This book is full of horror stories. It portrays the Chinese as heartless, corrupt, with no respect for the environment, laws, decent wages, human rights, or human lives. Wherever they go they cause mayhem. They sell weapons. They have babies with African girls only to abandon them. They do not talk to journalists, and when they do, they are not direct. Chinese products are junk. All in all, a bleak picture hopefully not too representative of reality. The second book is more balanced. Deborah Bautigam, a professor at American Univeristy, digs up the little available data rather than lay out depressing anecdotes. She tries to put numbers on foreign aid and investment. She puts them in historical perspective and compares them with the West's. She even suggests the Chinese could propel African manufacturing, rather than destroy it, as is usually claimed. If you want to know more about China in Africa, read Bautigam. Both books do offer the same conclusion though. China has put Africa back on the map. African governments should grab this opportunity and try not to mess it up.

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