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"The Dragon's Gift looks behind [the] media hype. It offers surprising insights and challenges us to take a new look at Africa's development.... thoughtful and well-researched... the basis for a well-informed, interesting dialogue with Chinese actors. " --The Huffington Post
"Brautigam's lively and thoroughly documented account buck[s] the conventional wisdom."--Foreign Affairs
"Now comes a timely book by American academic Deborah Brautigam, an observer of Africa and Asia for three decades, which uses personal experiences combined with powerful research to puncture myths and fears that cloud understanding of one of the most important geopolitical shifts since the fall of the Berlin Wall."--The Independent
"If you want to know what China is really doing in Africa, this is the one book to read. The Dragon's Gift corrects the misinformation of both critics and defenders of Chinas role on the continent. Beijing has a long-term, well-planned strategy that goes way beyond a drive to claim minerals and oil. Yet Africans are benefiting from Chinas mixture of aid and investment; Western aid officials could learn from it. I was surprised by new facts on almost every page. Brautigam has given us a compelling, objective, and very readable account enlivened by her personal experiences and interviews."--Susan Shirk, author of China: Fragile Superpower
"The Dragon's Gift is a path-breaking book, one that was urgently neede and one which deserves to be widely noticed and read. It not only provides an in-depth analysis of contemporary relations of China with Africa, located within their proper historical context, but meticulously presents, critiques and successfully challenges the array of myths, fears, and misinformation which abound in both press reports and some academic studies of China in Africa."--Roger C. Riddell, author of Does Foreign Aid Really Work?
About the Author
Deborah Brautigam is the author of Chinese Aid and African Development (1998), Aid Dependence and Governance (2000), and coeditor of Taxation and State-Building in Developing Countries (2008). A long-time observer of Asia and Africa, she has lived in China, West Africa and Southern Africa, and traveled extensively across both regions as a Fulbright researcher and consultant for the World Bank, the UN, and other development agencies. She is a professor in the International Development Program at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC.
Deborah Brautigam's interest in China, Africa, and international development began when she spent four years working and backpacking across Asia in the 1970s and several years researching Chinese aid in Africa in the 1980s. Thirty years and several books later, she returned to the topic of China, with The Dragon's Gift. Professor and Director of the International Development Program (IDEV) at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, she still travels frequently, but no longer with a backpack.
China is often taciturn about the real size and scope of its projects in Africa, so this topic has suffered from much confusion and often from inflated (or guessed) numbers. Prof. Brautigam aims to describe and analyze the real Chinese aid picture, using both anecdotal data obtained from many personal visits to Chinese development projects in Africa and also statistical data obtained through carefully digging into the real numbers behind the headlines.
Although she notes some concerns, Brautigam is on balance fairly positive on China's role, especially in its emphasis on practicalities. I learned many things, including:
* China explicitly declares that its programs are aiming for "mutual benefits" and "win-win" rather than simply dispensing charity. For example, projects may be directly profitable, or they may foster Chinese trade. Interestingly, this peer-peer style is often popular with recipients.
* The main Chinese focus is on fostering economic development (in infrastructure, agriculture, or industry) as the path to a better future, rather than on relieving today's symptoms.
* China is consciously reusing strategies that seemed to work in developing China itself. For example, in the 1950s Japan provided China with development loans and technology tied to specific projects, and was repaid with the products of the resulting Chinese factory or mine. China perceives this as a key "win-win" strategy for development.
* China emphasizes "no strings" and non-interference in countries internal affairs. However a key goal, especially in earlier years, was building up support for the PRC against Taiwan. Aid would only be given to those countries that recognized Beijing as the sole government of China.Read more ›
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The People's Republic of China do a lot right in their dealing with the developing states of Africa. When investing in a country or granting aid the Chinese don't make political demands; they don't insist the recipient nation reform its economy to better pay bondholders; they stay for as long is necessary to get a project running and hand it over to the Africans, always ready to return if necessary. The Chinese build what African nations want--a railroad, a stadium, an office building for the Foreign Ministry--these are they types of "wasteful" projects that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank won't even consider. And commercial banks won't fund a project without the imprimatur of those transnational financial giants.
Technicians and executives from China work alongside their African counterparts. They live simply and frugally, often in barracks that they construct upon arrival. Managers and workers from the global North generally live in separate compounds, luxurious by African (or Chinese) standards and tend to supervise from afar--or at least as far as possible.
The Chinese are trusted because they aren't a former colonial power--indeed they can claim to be "post-colonial" themselves. They listen to what Africans want, even if those they are listening to are autocratic dictators. The Chinese drive hard bargains but do so in a businesslike fashion.
The future of Africa may well be in the East--the efforts of the United States and Western Europe have done little even after pouring billions of dollars in aid, debt cancellation and low interest loans into the same area.
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The Dragon's Gift is an insightful, deeply researched and keenly argued look at China's growing economic involvement in Africa. The author, a professor at American University, made numerous visits to China and Africa in the course of writing this book, conducting interviews with key officials and businessmen. The result is a book that runs circles around other books on the subject. The level of sophistication and analysis here is vastly superior to China's Africa Safari and other more sensational works looking at China's economic relationship with the African continent.
Brautigam does an excellent job of demonstrating both the truths and fictions underlying Chinese aid in Africa. She generally argues that while Western countries have raised some legitimate questions about Beijing's policies, they have, for the most part, exaggerated the negative consequences of the PRC's growing presence on the continent. In fact, many of the strategies that China uses to promote trade and investment in Africa were first practiced in China by Japan and the West. Moreover, she finds high levels of hypocrisy in the complaints lodged against China by the World Bank and other institutions that have invested in the same countries that they criticize China for supporting.
The first two chapters of the Dragon's Gift cover the history of Chinese involvement in Africa, examining some of the early aid programs that the PRC launched on the African continent during the 1960s and 1970s. The author then looks at the various kinds of assistance that China has offered and the impact that these forms of assistance are having on the ground.
The only reason that I have docked this book one star is that it at times is slightly inaccessible to general readers.Read more ›
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