Can a developing country colonize other developing countries? The Chinese would definitely call its presence in Africa friendship and cooperation rather than colonization, a word they are very sensitive about. Having been half-colonized by Western powers for a long time, the Chinese know very well not to impose their values on Africans and not to hurt African nations’ pride when they come to their countries. So we see this approach: “Buddies, let’s help each other and do business!”
African nations welcome aid from China and also clearly see China’s demand for energy and its strategic reasons for establishing business ties with Africa. Will African nations prefer to do business with China rather than with the West, or is China a bargain chip for African countries to make better business deals with the West? The Silk Road didn’t go to Africa. In Mao’s China, Africans were “their black proletarian buddies.” It will be interesting to see how things go between a market-economy China and a rising Africa.
Apart from the business end, China is also rising in the arena of international diplomacy, thanks to Hu Jintao. We must give him credit for handling North Korea, Taiwan and now Africa. The Africa Summit that took place in Beijing was a success. It’s China’s intention to reach out to the outside world and play a more active role in the international community.
Culturally, however, Africa and China need to be more familiar with each other. I remember I wrote a story called Proper Daughter about a beautiful Chinese female MBA graduate dating an African immigrant in New York but returning to China alone and hiding this romance from the rest of her family in order to maintain her image as the proper daughter. My Chinese readers in their twenties and thirties wrote to me, “Why a black man, not a white man? Why make him an African immigrant? It’s better to have an American black, somebody like Michael Jordan. I wouldn't marry a black man even if he was king!"
Many of them totally miss the point I try to make. After the open door policy in 1978, the Chinese have become more familiar with Westerners and Western commodities. It’s often admired when someone dates or marries an American or a European. But Africa is largely unknown, filled with stereotypes. The Africa Summit held in Beijing brought Africa to the attention of the young Chinese. This helps break stereotypes and promote cultural awareness. After all, all politics, business and diplomacy come down to one thing: interactions between people.
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