When Howard French arrived in the 1980s arrived as a foreign correspondent in Ivory Coast it was doing much better than China, he reports in The Atlantic. Now the former Shanghai-correspondent goes back to a depressing country.
My frustrations, though, went back even further. I had moved to the country in December 1979, when Ivory Coast was still well ahead of China in per capita wealth, its main city, Abidjan, reflected both a polish and ambition seldom associated with the continent, and Cote d’Ivoire, as its leaders insist on calling the country, was the sub-region’s surest engine, drawing economic migrants from far and wide.
That country, a place with a seeming bright future, began to come unraveled before my eyes after I returned there for The New York Times after a nearly decade-long absence, in 1994.
And on China and Ivory Coast now, Howard French reports:
An interesting footnote here is a notably quiet China, which has famously claimed non-interference as the basis for its foreign policy; a point it drives home in its relations with African countries. In the real world, where situations like that of Ivory Coast proliferate, with a stance like this, can China be the friend of African peoples and not just of governments?
Increasingly, with China’s profile fast rising on the continent, the answer, like the open question of how the United States engages the continent, will make an enormous difference in the lives of millions.
Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need him at your meeting or conference, do get in touch.