French, Howard W.: China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (2014)
Discussion: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the houseboat of Liz Samuels, 3737 NE Marine Dr in Portland. Someone will be there to let people in the gate from 6:15 to 6:30. Park anywhere in the Rose City Yacht Club parking lot. At 6:30 we will walk together to the venue. Call 503-701-6218 if you arrive later. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Booklist: Although several recent books have discussed, in variously alarmist fashion, China’s recent incursions into Africa in pursuit of resources and profit, former New York Times journalist French (A Continent for the Taking, 2004) has the advantage of significant personal experience in both Africa and China. He also speaks Mandarin, so he can converse directly with some of the million or so members of the Chinese diaspora in Africa. They are a diverse lot—doctors, engineers, farmers, entrepreneurs, lobbyists, laborers, and prostitutes, among others—and accounts of their experience are often absent from analyses of Chinese-African relations, which typically focus on infrastructure building and resource grabbing. Interacting with Chinese and Africans in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and elsewhere, French capably illustrates that although the Chinese omnipresence in Africa may be a form of soft imperialism, it is also a result of the crushing pressures—lack of space, merciless business competition, pollution—of modern Chinese society. For many Chinese, he suggests, Africa means opportunity and relative freedom that cannot be had at home. If French is sympathetic to the plight of many Chinese immigrants, however, he remains critical of their casual racism and general callousness about their African hosts. And as he laments the seeming inevitability of corruption and environmental degradation, French’s disappointment in his cherished continent is palpable.