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The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa Paperback – June 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199606293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199606290
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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

"Deborah Brautigam's superb book The Dragon's Gift offers a window into how China's foray into Africa is playing out on the ground. Rich in vivid anecdotes and informed by the author's three decades of academic work on both China and Africa, the book does many things, and does them all well. It describes how Chinese engagement in Africa has evolved, identifies its drivers, and assays its emerging impact on both economics and governance in nearly two dozen African states. It also looks behind the noble-minded rhetoric to the realities of aid-giving--Western as well as Chinese. The result is a fresh and compelling assessment of China in Africa..." --The American Interest

"The Dragon's Gift's strength is its extensive and varied array of interviews with Chinese government officials in Africa, Chinese factory managers, and other Chinese, African, and third-country participants and observers. Through these interviews, she conveys a rich sense of Chinese perceptions of how their own experience could benefit African countries." --Finance & Development

"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

"Stands as the key booklength analysis on the subject. ...The Dragons Gift will be for a long time be the lodestone of informed discussion of how China and Chinese interact with Africa and Africans." --China Journal

"The best book so far on the developmental implications of China's engagement with Africa. Brautigam has done an excellent job in bringing together existing work on the topic and also first-class field research. As a result, the volume offers a more nuanced understanding of Beijings policies than many other previous books on the subject.... Anyone interested in Sino-African ties needs to read this book." --Perspectives on Politics

"The book tells a sweeping tale of Chinas engagement in Africa since the early 1950s, providing an important reminder that the recent trends in Sino-African relations have not turned up out of the blue (as alarmist media reports often portray) but rather have a significant history....particularly strong in addressing the question of what the Chinese are doing in their new wave of aid and economic cooperation across Africa....a superbly written and exquisitely researched book on a hotly debated topic." --Economic Record

"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 needed 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?

"For China's cash-rich and nimbly opportunistic corporate sector, in particular, what Africa represents can be summed up quite neatly: the future. Deborah Brautigam, the author of The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, understands all of this far better than most who have written on this subject. Her richly detailed book has many technical merits, but its greatest strength may in fact be her understanding of this psychological dynamic.... The universe of third-party experts who are deeply familiar with both China and Africa is vanishingly small, and Brautigam is easily one of the best qualified members of this select tribe." --Howard French, The National

"The Dragon's Gift is a welcome addition for general readers on why some fears are overblown and others are exaggerations of inaccuracies... This book offers many new insights into what Africa may truly want or need and how China sees itself... [and it] is an outstanding addition to resources easily readable by the general public; with a wide-range of cross application whether the reader is interested in China, economics, Africa or the humanitarian aspects of aid." --International Public Management Review

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.

Customer Reviews

Well done Deborah!
J. Mello
In general, I'd recommend this as very useful reading for anyone interested in either African development or China's foreign policy.
It is an informative and fun read, dense with informations as well as with illustrative anecdotes and interviews.
Hala Hanna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Graham on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ewaffle on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on June 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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More About the Author

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.

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