Interview: "China model" tells win-win story in Africa: U.S. scholar

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 14, 2012
Adjust font size:

By Sun Hao

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- China is trying to tell a win-win story amidst its new wave of aid and investment in Africa, a U.S. scholar says.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Professor Deborah Brautigam of Johns Hopkins University said some African countries could learn from the "China Model" of the past 30 years' opening-up and make their own success in the next three decades.

Based on longtime research, Brautigam relates the less-told stories of China's engagement in Africa in her book "The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa."

The book tries to draw a broad and accurate picture and dispel much of the myths about China in Africa. The book, which aroused quite strong interest among readers after it was first published in 2009, is now also available in Chinese version.


Returning from summer trips to China and Africa, Brautigam is still moving into her new office as director of the International Development Program at the university's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

"The Dragon's Gift" is not Brautigam's first book about the Chinese story in Africa. She started her research on Chinese aid in Africa in 1983 and in 1998 published "Chinese Aid and African Development: Exporting Green Revolution."

"I have to say at that time nobody was quite interested in this topic," said Brautigam.

Things changed quickly in recent years, however, as China, an emerging economic power, began to expand aid, trade and investment across the African continent, which attracted the world's attention.

Since 2006, Brautigam has been receiving calls from people asking "what is China doing in Africa?"

As a scholar studying the topic for more than two decades, she decided to set the story straight. She went to 12 African countries, seeking interviews, visiting Chinese projects and factories, and talking to both Chinese and Africans before she could draw many conclusions contradictory to those usually based on "conventional wisdom."

Brautigam found that many of the allegations and accusations concerning China's role in Africa, including claims that China is "a neocolonialist," "a rogue donor," or an exploiter only out for natural resources, were either wrong or distorted.

"When people asked about whether they see China as a new colonial power, Africans told me, 'we know colonialism and these (questions) are insulting our intelligence," said Brautigam, noting that China is deepening its ties with Africa through economic partnership and strategic diplomacy.

She acknowledged that amid the natural process of globalization, local businesses are facing severe competition in some low-end sectors while enterprises in other sectors have been able to compete with Chinese imports.

"In general, the African manufacturing growth rate has been going up over the past six to eight years, and the data does not suggest that it is being crushed by the Chinese imports into Africa," Brautigam said.

She pointed out that Beijing, probably conscious of the competition issue, has encouraged Chinese companies with incentives to set up factories in Africa and to recruit local workers.


In 1980, Brautigam, then a graduate student in international development, traveled to China's mainland via Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese for a while.

An area filled with rice paddies and "almost nothing else" alongside the railroad turned out to be the southern city of Shenzhen, the first place to tell the successful stories of China's opening-up.

With its own experience and the can-do spirit, China has engaged in Africa differently from the common paths of United States and the European countries, she said.

Its focus on trade, investment and infrastructure construction could be key to the development of Africa, where many parts have been aid-dependent for decades, Brautigam said.

"I think China wants to have a win-win situation where both sides can benefit, the only way they think could be sustainable," said Brautigam, "and many Africans do appreciate being treated on a more equal level other than saying 'let me help you but you need to do these first because I believe it is best for you.'"

Brautigam also noted that China, the world's manufacturing powerhouse, is coming to the structural transformation point on its development trajectory. Its ascension on the value chain leaves opportunities for other countries to move into that space.

The professor believes that there are possibilities for some parts of Africa to achieve success in another 30 years "if they can grasp those opportunities and learn from how China has taken charge of their own development."


Africa is generally positive about its partners, whether they be the United States, Europe or the rising powers like China, Brautigam said, citing poll findings, including those done by Western media.

One's influence going up does not necessarily mean that another sees its influence decrease. Brautigam said different donors, investors or commercial partners do not have to play a zero-sum game in the vast land of both opportunities and challenges, "if you are both concerned about the development there and about understanding each other."

An important goal for Brautigam in her effort to set the story straight was to provide U.S. policy-makers with a more informed look at China, clearing off misleading assumptions in order to "engage more effectively."

"I really tried to show them that there is a lot more than the stereotype picture to look at," she said. "We can make better policy if we know what is really happening." Enditem

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from