In just a few years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has become the most aggressive investor-nation in Africa. This commercial invasion is without question the most important development in the sub-Sahara since the end of the Cold War — an epic, almost primal propulsion that is redrawing the global economic map. One former U.S. assistant secretary of state has called it a “tsunami.” Some are even calling the region “ChinAfrica.”
There are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons during the height of the empire. From state-owned and state-linked corporations to small entrepreneurs, the Chinese are cutting a swath across the continent. As many as 1 million Chinese citizens are circulating here. Each megaproject announced by China’s government creates collateral economies and population monuments, like the ripples of a stone skimmed across a lake.
Beijing declared 2006 the “Year of Africa,” and China’s leaders have made one Bono-like tour after another. No other major power has shown the same interest or muscle, or the sheer ability to cozy up to African leaders. And unlike America’s faltering effort in Iraq, the Chinese ain’t spreading democracy, folks. They’re there to get what they need to feed the machine. The phenomenon even has a name on the ground in the sub-Sahara: the Great Chinese Takeout.
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