An exciting, hugely revealing account of China's burgeoning presence in Africa - a developing empire already shaping - and reshaping - the future of millions of people. A prizewinning foreign correspondent and former New York Times bureau chief in Shanghai and in West and Central Africa, Howard French is uniquely positioned to tell the story of China in Africa. Through meticulous on-the-ground reporting - conducted in Mandarin, French, and Portuguese, among other languages - French crafts a layered investigation of astonishing depth and breadth as he engages not only with policy-shaping moguls and diplomats, but also with the ordinary men and women navigating the street-level realities of cooperation, prejudice, corruption, and opportunity forged by this seismic geopolitical development. With incisiveness and empathy, French reveals the human face of China's economic, political, and human presence across the African continent - and in doing so reveals what is at stake for everyone involved. Part intrepid travelogue, part cultural census, part industrial and political exposé, 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.
©2014 Howard W. French (P)2014 Gildan Media LLC
"China's trade with Africa has grown dramatically...But China's investments...are less significant for this rapidly evolving relationship, according to this 15-country survey by veteran African correspondent French, than the significant flow of new Chinese immigrants-often pushed out by the pressure and oppression back home as much as lured by opportunity. In vivid first-person reportage, French explores this momentous phenomenon, while challenging assumptions about China and Chinese immigrants...The book will appeal to students of China and Africa, and anyone interested in the shifting contours of the global economy and its geopolitical consequences."-Publishers Weekly
The narrator, Don Hagan, murdered the pronunciation of a plethora of terms in English, French and Portuguese. I cannot attest for his ability to correctly pronounce Chinese phrases or places (which one other reviewer critiques) but to my surprise he managed a few Wolof terms more eloquently than many in his native tongue.
As for the book, its journalistic and largely narrative style resembled a series of New York Times long reads. French doesn't contribute much new analysis, or indeed provide any fresh data, but he does provide an intriguing snapshot of life among Chinese emigrants in Africa, and paints some vivid characters.
"Empire? Or global village?"
It's a great story about an important new trend in a less known part of the world, as the author takes us to Mozambique, Liberia, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ghana, and Namibia, among others. French, with his unique combination of American journalist and understanding of Chinese language, offered us a unparalleled and multifaceted view of Chinese immigrants in Africa. I liked every story in every chapter, until the epilogue, where he attempted to drive the point home about "empire-building" that all his stories have failed to convince readers. His comparison to early days of European colonialism is especially a self-defeating argument, as he failed to mention that, since the first contact of Iberian conquistadors with indigenous population, European colonization was characterized by bloodbaths with the intent to kill, as known from Cusco to Tenochtitlan. There's no doubt the million Chinese in Africa is going to make an impact on Africa and China's trade, but with little resemblance to the conquistadors, even during their "benign" early days as the author portrayed. If the million Chinese among a billion African is building an empire, then I'd be more concerned about Paris, New York City, Vancouver, and Sidney where integration in the global brought a lot more Chinese, with much higher socioeconomic status than the typically poor and undereducated Chinese in Africa.
Anyone African or American wishing to prepare for the new world order will want to read this. Very well done. Great narration. As devastating as it is inspiring. Should also be read by students of history and those fascinated by Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
"Boring Travel Book"
This book feels like nothing more than a travel book, I don't feel any wiser on Chinese involvement in Africa, the author spends an incredible amount of time on his personal life. I went here to get a coffee and met this person...... then I took a long bumpy ride to here and met with these people..... on and on and on. The author probably has insight into Chinese influence in the African continent, However it gets completely drowned out by his extremely irrelevant story.
"He knows Both Africa and China"
What caught me off guard from the beginning and kept me curious till the end was the way the author went straight to the people he was writing about, and he did so at a very personal level. Sitting with them (both africans and chinese living in Africa), interviewing them, travelling with them, eating with them, observing them, relating with chinese culture and places which he happens to know very well, not to mention the languages that he speaks, English French, Chinese, and who knows what else. I mean, Howard French is good.We africans like to complain about non-africans writing books about Africa, but Howard French has immersed himself in our politics and culture well enough to teach us a whole lot about ourselves.
Rather than one single scene, I was particularly moved ( and "moved" is probably not the right word here) by the fact that every single chinese that the author spoke with agreed on one general fact: "Africans are lazy and/or dishonest beyond normal ". This is not easy to digest, and every young african need to hear it.
"This is what our helpers think about us."
"Fantastic insight of Chinese influence in Africa"
Author traveled through Africa, interviewing Chinese ex-pats and the locals that interacted with them. Cogitating African development through the eyes of Chinese is a fascinating lenses of African development. Soft-power, construction, influence and employment practices are each articulated through several individuals stories. Great listen if you want to know more about the dynamics of African/ Chinese cooperation.
"Excellent book, very Informative"
Content was great, covered many different areas of the Chinese migration to Africa. The author definitely had a unique insight into this phenomenon as he spoke various languages and knew the continent pretty well.
"narrator butchered chinese words...even the basics"
The book itself was great, however the narrator could have taken an hour before reading to learn how to pronounce basic letters.
The book is extremely well written by Howard French. Being an African, I can relate to a lot of the facts in the book despite being from a country that isn't mentioned in the book. The book is very well read by Don Hagen. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to this book.
"Great work but author has liberal bias"
I learned a lot from the book, about connection of business, politics, and migratory dynamics. The author's views were screwed to a left leaning American bias and he had a tough time gauging many situations.
"Good topic, pretty poor narration "
I realize this is probably not a typical prospective, but the subject matter that was genuinely interesting and thought provoking was consistently undermined by the narrator's inability to pronounce the Chinese names or places with even the weakest attempts at accuracy. As a Chinese speaker, I was really distracted by this, so much to the extent that it kind of made me angry that if one's job is to be paid to read professionally, shouldn't he familiarize himself with the context or pronunciation of that subject matter? I'm not looking for UN caliber translation, but the mistakes that riddled this performance show not even an attempt at clarity. He managed to mispronounce pretty much every word written in a language other than English, and this led to a less than optimal telling and interpretation of an otherwise great book.
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