After reading China Safari, one realizes that imperialism comes in all kinds. China’s imperialistic journey into African countries is a new kind of imperialism – one unknown to the
West, at least. It contains some of the old elements of Western imperialism – racism and unfair/unequal pay for instance
- but it also adds some elements that are uniquely Chinese, i.e. the notion of imperialism as investment.
China is now Africa’s largest business partner, and those in the
West are largely unaware of Chinese expansion into Africa. Much of the resources of Africa have been stolen from them, managed badly, or been made unreachable by lack of infrastructure or by some other obstacle. For good or ill, the Chinese have succeeded in getting to these resources, spreading the wealth (in an unbalanced racist way, but spreading the wealth nevertheless) and repairing the infrastructure of many of the African countries they have infiltrated. Many of these new investors were mostly poor Chinese men from rural provinces who heeded the governmental call to help make China rich. Thus, they arrive in China with their own brand of racism, which nevertheless is unlike the irrational dislike of
Western imperialists: work beside and exploit their employees, restore African infrastructure, and grow rich if possible.
The journalists who wrote China Safari traveled through all parts of Africa to see firsthand the effects of Chinese investment. Because each African country has its own laws and cultures, the Chinese face different challenges:
religion, civil wars, infrastructure, resources. There are also cultural clashes and misunderstandings,
but always the Chinese commitment to hard work overcomes all. This is a kinder, gentler imperialism. Because it is so subtle at times, making certain governments and African leaders rich, it’s a process that is hard to judge.
Nevertheless, there might be dangers ahead. and the eyewitness accounts of both writers plus their thorough investigation and analysis is the beginning of a historical record. Already there are inklings that the Chinese have outstayed their welcome in certain countries. How things will end, only the Chinese and the Africans know. Whatever happens, the authors of China Safari are the first to show all the constructive seeds and destructive weeds currently working in the soil of this strange new union.