HowardHoward French by Fantake via Flickr

Talk to somebody in Africa, and in their second sentence they will mention China and the Chinese, diving into the economic possibilities of what long has been seen as a lost country. Howard French, former foreign correspondent for the New York Times in both Africa and China, was sent by The Atlantic to investigate:

All across Africa, new tracks are being laid, highways built,ports deepened, commercial contracts signed—all on an unprecedented scale, and led by China, whose appetite for commodities seems insatiable. Do China’s grand designs promise the transformation,at last, of a star-crossed continent? Or merely its exploitation? The author travels deep into the heart of Africa, searching for answers.

Not surprisingly, the article ends with a question too:

Africans’ attitudes toward China’s recent initiatives on their continent are perhaps inevitably riddled with ambivalence. Many African intellectuals bridle at Western criticism of China’s African full-court press. The West, they say, has long patronized their continent, and since the end of the Cold War, has subjected it to outright neglect. And all of that is true. But the question remains: How does their continent overcome a pattern of extractive foreign engagement—beginning with its first contact with Europe, when gold or slaves were acquired in exchange for cloth and trinkets—that is still discernible today?

Much more in The Atlantic.

Howard French is also a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your conference? Do get in touch.

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