China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

Howard W. French

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0307946657

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A New York Times Notable Book 

One of the Best Books of the Year at • The Economist  The Guardian • Foreign Affairs

Chinese immigrants of the recent past and unfolding twenty-first century are in search of the African dream. So explains indefatigable traveler Howard W. French, prize-winning investigative journalist and former New York Times bureau chief in Africa and China, in the definitive account of this seismic geopolitical development. China’s burgeoning presence in Africa is already shaping, and reshaping, the future of millions of people. From Liberia to Senegal to Mozambique, in creaky trucks and by back roads, French introduces us to the characters who make up China’s dogged emigrant population: entrepreneurs singlehandedly reshaping African infrastructure, and less-lucky migrants barely scraping by but still convinced of Africa’s opportunities. French’s acute observations offer illuminating insight into the most pressing unknowns of modern Sino-African relations: Why China is making these cultural and economic incursions into the continent; what Africa’s role is in this equation; and what the ramifications for both parties and their people—and the watching world—will be in the foreseeable future.













answers I would hear hundreds of times in the months to come as my own picture of the numbers of recent migrants from China to Africa began to fill out. “How’s business?” I asked her, bombarding her with questions in quick succession now, hoping to prevent her from breaking off the conversation. “Not so good.” “How did you end up in such a tiny place as this?” “They didn’t have any shopkeepers,” she said. “I only had enough money saved up to open a small shop. I couldn’t afford a bigger store

unguarded self-satisfaction, Beijing’s self-confident and affable ambassador to Zambia, Zhou Yuxiao, indirectly revealed the importance of this symbolic competition to China, saying that he saw his American counterpart around Lusaka from time to time, and couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him, because the man had so few projects that he could point to. “You employ local people and place them as observers at each and every polling station,” Zhou said with a little mocking laugh. “What

factory attached to the mine killed nearly fifty Zambian workers. It was the biggest industrial disaster in the country’s history. What is worse, Chinese managers were reportedly seen fleeing for cover moments before the blast, not having bothered to warn their Zambian employees or sound any alarm at the first signs of danger. As anger toward the Chinese swelled, the Zambian government promised to investigate the blast, but having done so much to attract Chinese investment, and to tout its

rich world sought new outlets for their surplus capital, as well as low-wage labor for their enterprises, allowing them to ply eager Western consumers with ever-cheaper goods. And for both of these purposes, China fit the bill better than anyplace else on earth. Modern globalization’s first great wave has now crested, and is being overtaken by a newer and potentially even more consequential tide. In this new phase, China has gone from being a vessel to becoming an increasingly transformative

appeared nearly completed. I’d been on enough of those tours over the years to know they usually were a waste of time. Gao, a wiry thirty-year-old of medium height, spoke very fast, constantly smiled, and seemed genial. He ushered me into one of the trailers, which turned out to be a construction company office. A male colleague of similar age sat at a desk smoking a cigarette and staring at his laptop. At another desk sat a Chinese woman in her mid-twenties who followed our conversation closely.

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