China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

by Howard W. French
Reviewed by Nicolas van de Walle

 Howard French, Associate Professor, Columbia Journaliam School. French is an award winning journalist

with decades of experience in Africa. French's second book on Africa, "China's Second Continent," was cited

as one of the best books of 2014 by the Economist, The Guardian and Foreign Affairs Magazine. 

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Over one million Chinese citizens have moved to Africa in the last two decades, where they have established a wide array of businesses, from small farms to large construction companies. In this perceptive account, backed by numerous and often insightful interviews with people in a dozen African countries, French makes clear that the Chinese presence in Africa is not solely the result of Chinese government policies. A surprising number of his subjects reveal that they left China because they found life in Africa more attractive and do not intend to return home. Although many of them rely on networks of fellow Chinese immigrants for capital and know-how, they often complain to the author about their countrymen, particularly those who hail from different parts of China. Still, French concedes that this substantial wave of emigration cannot be completely disassociated from China’s strategic and commercial ambitions in the region. Although French declines to render a simplistic positive or negative verdict on the effect of the Chinese presence on the region, he does argue that it expresses China’s quasi-imperial approach to promoting its global influence and power.

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