Topics: Economic Development, Energy and Oil, Globalization
Countries: Angola, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria
China's attitude towards Africa was apparent in a slogan at a summit on Africa in Beijing. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenrwalli/295101176/">stephenrwalli (flickr)</a>
China's attitude towards Africa was apparent in a slogan at a summit on Africa in Beijing. Photo: stephenrwalli (flickr)
Deborah Brautigan doesn't argue with critics who call China's interest in Africa self-serving. But she may be one of the first American academics to declare that China's deeds will be good for Africa, too.
It's an argument she expands in The Dragon's Gift, a new book analyzing the development of China's Africa policies over the last few decades.

Brautigan asserts that China's investments are integrating African countries into the global economy more quickly because, unlike Western countries, the nation invests in an array of industries. In Angola, for example, China has built roads, schools, hospitals, and irrigation systems in the country's interior — even though its oil wealth is far offshore. Brautigan also cites a telling remark by a Nigerian diplomat: "The Chinese are trying to get involved in every sector of our economy. If you look at the West, it's oil, oil, oil and nothing else."
And on a continent rife with corruption, China's style of development actually leaves less room for embezzlement than does the World Bank model, points out a book review in The Morning Star. Rather than funneling money through potentially corrupt government officials, China pays Chinese companies to head up infrastructure projects.
Brautigan acknowledges that China's behavior in Africa is sometimes far from saintly. Some have complained that Chinese companies do not respect local labor laws, as happened at a mine in Congo, and others worry that Chinese companies will have a negative environmental impact on the continent.
While not negligible, Brautigan sees these violations as small in comparison to what China's investments could mean for Africa, and in comparison to the failed promise of other foreign aid there. As an AidWatchers review noted, this "book seeks to compare Chinese aid to Western aid as it really is, not as we wish it were."
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