China’s Controversial Trade in Africa’s Natural Resources

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
China often faces blistering criticism for its voracious appetite for Africa’s natural resources. Chinese companies are spread across the continent mining, logging, and fishing to feed both hungry factories and people back home. In most, if not all...

Chinese Dreams and the African Renaissance

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Leaders in both China and Africa have articulated new visions for their respective regions that project a strong sense of confidence, renewal, and a break from once-dominant Western ideologies. In both cases, argues East is Read blogger Mothusi...

This Little Bridge Connects Guangzhou and Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is home to China’s largest African migrant population, predominantly from Nigeria. In the city’s Little North Road neighborhood there is a small pedestrian bridge where immigrants from all over the world go to...

The Politics of Banning Ivory in China

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
In February 2015, China announced a one-year ban on ivory imports. While many conservation groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency denounced Beijing’s policy as “ineffective,” the San Francisco-based group WildAid said the ban is an...

A Chinese Perspective on the #RacistRestaurant Scandal in Kenya

Cobus van Staden & Huang Hongxiang
The Chinese restaurant in Nairobi that barred Africans after 5pm sparked a frenzied week of news coverage on both local and international media and, of course, on Twitter. The actions of this small, inconsequential restaurant seemingly took on much...

Who Knew? Madagascar Has Africa’s Third Largest Chinese Population

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The Chinese population on the east African island of Madagascar defies many of the poorly-informed, albeit widely-held, stereotypes about Chinese migrants on the rest of the continent. First, the community in Madagascar isn't small or isolated...

The Spy Cables: Chinese Espionage in Africa

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
Buried in the trove of secret intelligence documents known as “The Spy Cables” obtained by Al Jazeera and The Guardian is a passing reference to allegations Chinese spies broke into a South African nuclear facility in 2007. Interestingly, this was...

China’s BIG Gamble in the TINY Comoros Islands

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Comoros is a tiny archipelago nation off the east coast of Africa in the Indian ocean where a major Chinese experiment is underway. Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical have undertaken a radical experiment to test an unlicensed anti-malarial herbal...

Is Chinese Corporate Behavior Improving in Africa?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The list of grievances against Chinese companies operating in Africa is long and varied, from violations of labor rights to environmental destruction to widespread allegations of corruption. Although it is hard to tell how many companies are truly...

Chinese Studies at the University of Botswana

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
It’s long been said that while China may have an Africa policy, Africans do not have a China policy. In particular, too many Africans do not understand the language, culture, and politics of their new number one trading partner. The University of...

China’s Mystery Transportation Infrastructure Deal with the African Union

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
It’s not really news anymore when China announces yet another massive infrastructure construction deal in Africa. Typically these deals are done at the national level, so when Beijing and the African Union signed a major transport infrastructure MOU...

Flash of Anti-Chinese Xenophobia in the DR Congo

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Anti-government protestors filled the streets of the Democratic Republic of the Congo capital Kinshasa on January 19 and 20 to protest against a new election law making its way through the National Assembly. The new law calls for a national census...

We’re Not Building an Empire

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
There is a custom in Chinese diplomacy that the Foreign Minister’s first overseas trip of the year always begins in Africa. This year was no exception, as Wang Yi led a high-profile tour of five African states including Kenya, Sudan, the DR Congo,...

South Africa: China’s BFF in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
South Africa is emerging as one of China’s most important international partners as the relationship deepens across all levels. Economically, South Africa is the source of more Chinese investment than any other country on the continent. However,...

China’s Scramble for Africa

Richard Javad Heydarian
Al Jazeera
In a remarkable departure from its long history of low-profile foreign policy, especially since Deng Xiaoping took over China's leadership in the late 1970s, Beijing has recently committed up to 700 combat troops to South Sudan in the hopes of...

Religion Among African Immigrants in China

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
Nestled in apartments and offices throughout the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou are dozens of improvised churches that cater to the region’s Pentacostal Africans, largely from Nigeria. These churches not only serve the community’s religious...

One Among Many

The Economist
Economist
Across Africa, radio call-in programs are buzzing with tales of Africans, usually men, bemoaning the loss of their spouses and partners to rich Chinese men.

From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Made in Africa’

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
A growing number of Chinese companies are looking to outsource production overseas in a bid to lower costs and meet Beijing’s increasingly stringent environmental laws. Ethiopia and South Africa are among the beneficiaries of this new trend as...

China Strives to Be on African Minds, and TV Sets

Bree Feng
New York Times
While China imposes strict controls on foreign-produced entertainment at home, it is also eager to see its cultural products embraced abroad. And in Africa, Chinese television shows have become immensely popular — at least according to the Chinese...

Books

12.23.14

Top Five China Books of 2014

Laura Chang
As the editor of ChinaFile’s Books section, I have the privilege of meeting and interviewing some amazing writers covering China today—academics, journalists, scholars, activists. Based on these conversations, we create short videos of the...

Sinica Podcast

12.19.14

Cooperation or Exploitation

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Exactly how exploitative are Chinese development activities on the African continent? What exactly is motivating the various resources-for-development deals inked by African governments over the last decade, and what strategies are these governments...

Who Are the Chinese in Africa?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Some say the number of Chinese in Africa now exceeds one million people; some even go as high as two million. Although no one has a precise accounting of just how many Chinese migrants now live on the continent, there is no doubt their numbers are...

China Shocked by Fatal Riot in Madagascar

Didi Tang
Huffington Post
"We hope the Madagascar government will take necessary measures to properly handle the attack at the Morondava sugar plant and to erase the ill impact this incident has brought to the country's international image and its ability to...

Sinica Podcast

12.12.14

Band of Brothers: China and South Africa

Kaiser Kuo & Jeremy Goldkorn from Sinica Podcast
Pomp and ritual surrounded South African President Jacob Zuma's recent state visit to China, a trip that saw China roll out the red carpet in a very uncritical fashion, not often seen these days, with even Xinhua getting into the spirit of...

Chinese Corporations in Africa: Saints or Sinners?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
“The African way of life is under attack by Chinese corporations,” argues University of Technology, Sydney doctoral candidate Onjumi Okumu. The Kenya native contends that a combination of weak governance in African mixed with no legal restraints on...

The Dalai Lama Forces China to Overplay its Hand in South Africa

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
Pretoria’s apparent refusal to grant Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates has sparked outrage in South Africa. Critics allege the government is bowing to China, undermining South African...

China and ‘The Battle for Africa’

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Al Jazeera stands alone among the major international news channels in its regular coverage of the Chinese in Africa. In the network’s latest documentary released in September 2014, veteran Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura hosts “The Battle...

The Chinese Invade Africa

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In early May, China’s premier, Li Keqiang, made a trip to Africa that raised a central question about China’s rise: What effect will it have on the world’s poorer countries? As a big third-world country that has lifted hundreds of millions out of...

Ebola Crisis in West Africa: Fair to Compare U.S. and China Aid?

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
When the ebola crisis first struck West Africa, China was among the only major powers to not only keep its personnel in the affected countries but to also send tens of millions of dollars in badly needed aid. The U.S., by contrast, was visibly...

Sam Pa, China’s Mysterious Middleman in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Publicly, China's engagement in Africa is purportedly based on “mutual benefit” or, as Chinese officials like to phrase it “win win.” Behind the scenes, though, it's a little more complicated. Many of those multibillion-dollar natural...

Mugabe Critic: Zimbabwe’s ‘Old Friend’ China is Bleeding it Dry

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Harare-based economist and columnist Vince Musewe doesn’t mince words in his criticism of Zimbabwe’s growing financial dependence. Beijing is “bleeding Zimbabwe dry” through loans and Musewe says enough is enough. He is calling on Robert Mugabe’s...

South Africa to Dalai Lama: ‘You’re Not Welcome’ (Really)

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
For a third consecutive time, South Africa has made it clear to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama that he is not welcome to visit. Most recently, the Dalai Lama was informed he would not receive a visa, forcing the controversial religious...

Cameroon’s Illegal Timber Finds a Market in China

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Cameroon’s rain forests are rapidly vanishing due to widespread corruption, according to a new report from Greenpeace Africa. The environmental activist group alleges that much of the illegally-harvested timber from Cameroon ends up in China where...

China-Africa Trade May Be Booming, But Big Problems Loom

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Trade between China and Africa will break another new record this year as it’s expected to top $200 billion. As trade continues to grow, officials from both regions frequently point to these figures as evidence of steadily improving ties. However,...

Massive Chinese Mining Deal in DRC Back on Track

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The controversial Sino-Congolese mining deal Sicomines has been revived thanks to new financing from China's Exim Bank. This is one of Beijing's biggest natural resources-for-infrastructure deals in Africa. If successful, the deal would...

China Steps up in West Africa to Help Fight Ebola

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
China appears to be leveraging the Ebola crisis in West Africa to radically improve its controversial foreign aid record. In contrast to Western countries, many of whom have evacuated their medical personnel from the region, China has sent teams of...

China & the U.S.: “Complementary Rivals” in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
There is a persistent meme within the international media that China’s rise in Africa represents a “new scramble” for resources on the continent or a new form of colonialism. Beijing-based China-Africa analyst and attorney Kai Xue says, contrary to...

China’s Second Continent: The Howard French Interview

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China may be sincere in its belief that its engagement in Africa is not neo-colonial or imperial in nature but author Howard French argues that may be what ultimately happens if Beijing continues on its current path. In his provocative new book,...

Books

08.06.14

China’s Second Continent

Howard W. French
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—Howard 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.We meet a broad spectrum of China’s dogged emigrant population, from those singlehandedly reshaping African infrastructure, commerce, and even environment (a self-made tycoon who harnessed Zambia’s now-booming copper trade; a timber entrepreneur determined to harvest the entirety of Liberia’s old-growth redwoods), to those just barely scraping by (a sibling pair running small businesses despite total illiteracy; a karaoke bar owner–cum–brothel madam), still convinced that Africa affords them better opportunities than their homeland. And we encounter an equally panoramic array of African responses: a citizens’ backlash in Senegal against a “Trojan horse” Chinese construction project (a tower complex to be built over a beloved soccer field, which locals thought would lead to overbearing Chinese pressure on their economy); a Zambian political candidate who, having protested China’s intrusiveness during the previous election and lost, now turns accommodating; the ascendant middle class of an industrial boomtown; African mine workers bitterly condemning their foreign employers, citing inadequate safety precautions and wages a fraction of their immigrant counterparts’.French’s nuanced portraits reveal the paradigms forming around this new world order, from the all-too-familiar echoes of colonial ambition—exploitation of resources and labor; cut-rate infrastructure projects; dubious treaties—to new frontiers of cultural and economic exchange, where dichotomies of suspicion and trust, assimilation and isolation, idealism and disillusionment are in dynamic flux.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. —Knopf {chop}

The Chinese-African Honeymoon is Over

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
There is a growing sense among Africans and Chinese alike that their once heady romance is now entering a new, more pragmatic phase. Across Africa, people and politicians are becoming visibly more concerned about the surging trade deficits, massive...

China Touts $14.4 Billion in Foreign Aid, Half of Which Went to Africa

James T. Areddy
Wall Street Journal
Instead of focusing on support for pricey, high-profile infrastructure that is often a lightning rod for foreign critics who say it’s less necessary than basic on-the-ground needs, the report highlighted China’s spending on comparatively smaller-...

Billionaire South African Family Sells Wine to China Rich

Dylan Griffiths
Bloomberg
When 45 alumni of Tsinghua University, the alma mater of China’s last two leaders, stopped for lunch at La Motte vineyard in South Africa two years ago, they ordered 1.5 million rand ($141,000) of wine to take away.

China Tries To Establish Foothold In Zambia, Tanzania

Howard French, Renee Montagne, and...
NPR
Howard French, author of China's Second Continent, talks to Steve Inskeep about why some African countries are of particular interest to Chinese leaders...

Terrorism: U.S. and China’s Common Enemy in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
While U.S. and Chinese interests often have divergent interests in Africa, they do share at least one common enemy: terrorism. Chinese nationals have been kidnapped and held for ransom in a number of African countries, including South Sudan, Egypt,...

Sino-African Marriages in China: ‘Til Death Do Us Part’?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
A marriage boom of sorts is underway in China, where a growing number of African men are tying the knot with Chinese women. While these new families are breaking long-held cultural stereotypes, they are also confronting a whole set of new challenges...

After Tiananmen Square, New Lives On A New Continent

MICHEL MARTIN
NPR
After the democracy protests were crushed in 1989, many thought China would turn inward. Instead, a million Chinese citizens moved to Africa. Howard French discusses his book China's Second Continent...

China Swaps Gusto for Rigor as It Learns From Africa

Franz Wild
Bloomberg
Cowed by capricious commodity prices, political instability and a string of lost investments, Chinese financiers aren’t as gutsy as when state-owned giants whipped up business abroad 15 years ago.

Video

06.02.14

Cairo in Chinese

Alison Klayman
When Shen Yitong left her home in China to study French at Cairo University in 2008, she didn’t know that she would come to think of Egypt as a second home, or that she would see revolution come upon the country so suddenly. Her parents came from...

China’s New Diplomatic Strategy in Africa: Humility

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
Just a few weeks after Chinese premier Li Keqiang admitted that China was going through “growing pains” in its engagement with Africa, Beijing’s central bank chief, Zhou Xiaochuan, acknowledged some of the 2,500 PRC companies operating in Africa are...

China Inc. Moves Factory Floor to Africa

Peter Wonacott
Wall Street Journal
Faced with rising labor costs at home and negative perceptions about their employment practices in Africa, Chinese companies are setting up new factories on the continent and hiring more Africans.

China to Build Railway Linking East Africa

Agence France-Presse
Leaders agree $3.8bn project to link Kenya's port of Mombasa to neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan...

China Premier Arrives in Africa Eyeing Better Ties

Elias Meseret
Associated Press
China's Li Keqiang arrived Sunday in Ethiopia for a four-country tour of Africa, calling for deeper ties with his country and seeking to recast a relationship that has admittedly faced difficulties...

Malaria Eradication—Cure All?

Economist
A novel approach, using drugs from a South China company, instead of insecticides, may make it easier to eliminate malaria. But it is not without controversy.

Media

01.03.14

2013, According to the Chinese Communist Party

What did the year in foreign policy look like in Chinese official circles? Divining the thoughts and motives of China’s leadership is a famously abstruse exercise even for Chinese citizens, who are often left to parse bland quotes or keep their ears...

Kenya’s Kenyatta and China’s Xi Sign $5 Billion Deals

BBC
Kenya has signed deals worth $5 billion with China to build a railway line, an energy project and to improve wildlife protection, officials say. They were signed during Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's first visit to China since his...

Chad Pushes Back Against China’s National Oil Company

Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden
The Chadian government shut most or all oil operations run by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) over allegations of an oil spill, poor worker safety, and violations of other environmental regulations. CNPC, not surprisingly, denied the...

Africa Wants Jobs From China

Reuters
It is true China’s boom has brought many benefits to Africa. But in many countries, China’s demand for ore, timber and oil is forcing African states to specialise at the bottom of the value chain in areas with low productivity gains.&...

Media

07.17.13

A Minority in the Middle Kingdom: My Experience Being Black in China

In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder: “…there is no racism in China because there are no black people,” a Chinese woman was reported...

Features

06.06.13

Bad Medicine

Kathleen McLaughlin
In 1967, as the United States sank into war in the jungles of Vietnam and China descended into the cataclysm of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese soldiers secretly fighting alongside the North Vietnamese also battled swarms of malarial mosquitoes...

Africa’s Malaria Battle: Fake Drug Pipeline Undercuts Progress

Benoit Faucon, Colum Murphy, and Jeanne...
Wall Street Journal
A flourishing counterfeit drug trade is collateral damage from the fast-expanding ties that have turned China into Africa’s largest trading partner. The fakes’ place of origin is in Guangzhou, though the source is unknown.  &...