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China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

Howard W. French

Top 10 Best Quotes

“In families one can’t choose one’s siblings. Within regions one doesn’t choose one’s neighbors. And if you are one of the world’s leading producers of a critical industrial resource like copper, in the end you can’t really choose your customers. China and Zambia will just have to get along.”

“I sketched North America onto my crude and now crowded map, and Hao was astounded to learn that it was not a piece of Europe, as he had always assumed.”

“I didn’t want to argue with my hosts. I wanted them to talk. But I felt like reminding Li that perhaps forty million Chinese people had died of starvation a half century earlier because they followed their government’s orders. It was the largest famine in history. A snapshot taken then would have given a very different picture of the supposedly essential character of Chinese people, and it would have entirely missed the point. Governments matter. Markets matter. History matters. International circumstances matter.”

“Hao tried flagging down a couple of trucks that rumbled by. There was much cursing, and amid his frustration he ordered John to pursue one of the trucks with the pickup and cut it off. John simply sat there, nodding to the music that was playing loudly in the cab. He had either not understood the command or he had coolly decided to ignore it.”

“American diplomats had been slow to understand the scope of the change being driven by Chinese migration to Africa. The phenomenon had been flagged in State Department cables as early as 2005, with diplomats identifying the budding, large-scale movement of people from China to Africa as part of a campaign to expand Beijing’s political influence and simultaneously advance China’s business interests and overall clout. These early, classified warnings also spoke of the spread, via emigration, of Chinese organized crime, particularly in smuggling and human trafficking. For the most part, however, it seemed that American diplomats were still in search of the right voice, the right message. All too often, Washington struck a paternalistic tone that came across as: Listen up children, you must be careful about these tricky Chinese.”

“Africa occupied a relatively blank space in the minds of most Americans, and when they stopped to think about it, aided by old and deeply ingrained habits of press coverage, all they could imagine was volcano, occupation, disease, and horror.”

“You could see the future right away here,” Hu Renzhong, a pig and poultry producer, told me. “Food was expensive and people didn’t have enough meat to eat. They couldn’t afford it. The land was good, though, and back then it was still cheap.” Hu received me one morning at his mansion farmhouse on the outskirts of Lusaka, offering me a seat in the marble chill of his enormous living room, before taking me on a long walking tour of his acres and acres of hog-breeding pens and sprawling, temperature-controlled chicken hatcheries, all impressively modern and minutely organized. He had come to Zambia from China’s Jiangxi province in 1995 as a twenty-two-year-old simple laborer, but soon got into business for himself, raising chickens at first with another Chinese immigrant. It wasn’t long before the two had struck it rich, buying land and building ever-bigger houses. “Things had started developing really fast back home, and a lot of people tried to tell me I’d made a mistake,” he said. “But I’ve never really looked back.” I”

“When I first met Hao, I thought of him as unusual and discounted the possibility that the sorts of ideas he espoused and incarnated could be representative of much of anything beyond his own gruff and often cynical persona. But I would learn that his brand of free-spoken disaffection from the system back home was widespread among China’s new emigrants. To be sure, a desire for better economic opportunities was the biggest driver behind their exodus. Still, contributing to the decision for many to take a great leap into the unknown and move to Africa was a weariness with omnipresent official corruption back home, fear of the impact of a badly polluted environment on their health, and a variety of constraints on freedoms, including religion and speech. Many migrants also invoked a sheer lack of space.”

“The road north out of central Lusaka quickly transitions from a world of impressively broad avenues and fancy new commercial districts to a stop-and-start tour of desolate, overcrowded slums. There, half-dressed young men sit around glumly, seemingly lacking the motivation in the face of persistently high unemployment to even bother looking for work. When at last one reaches the highway that leads north to the Copper Belt it is the oncoming traffic that makes the strongest impression. It consists mostly of van after jam-packed van full of poor Zambians. They are overwhelmingly young and desperate to get off the land and they arrive in the capital with dreams of remaking their lives in the big city. When most people think about China’s relationship with Africa they reduce it to a single proposition: securing access to natural resources, of which Africa is the world’s greatest storehouse. As one of the top copper-producing nations, Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is doubtlessly a very big part of that story.”

“The phenomenon of laborers staying on at the end of their contracts with big public works companies is likely the biggest single source of Chinese migration to Africa. Workers would arrive from a given locality in China and discover there was good money to be made in some corner of an Africa they had never before imagined viable. Soon, they were sending word back home about the fortunes to be made there, or the hospitality of the locals, or the wonders of the environment, or the joys of a free and relatively pressureless life. In short order, others would follow. Li”

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Book Keywords:

racism, geography, china, africa, zambia, the-west, america, europe, media, natural-resources, race, wisdom, economics, united-states

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