On China Beat, Angilee Shah reviews The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa:
China is neither wholeheartedly supporting corrupt dictators, nor filled with ambitions of empire. The Dragon’s Gift, by her account, is no Trojan horse. Subtitled The Real Story of China in Africa, the book is the culmination of some 30 years of research and experience in both places.
At one point, Brautigam warns her readers, “The level of detail on the history of the [Chinese aid] system and its component parts may be more than you want to know, particularly over the next few pages.” Though she is referring to one chapter, this lesson is true for the entire work. As Brautigam moves us beyond assumptions of exploitation and control of natural resources, a more complex story emerges.
The truth is that China is itself a developing country that has successfully reduced its poverty from 53 to 8 percent over twenty years, while Africa’s poverty persists despite 60 years of aggressive foreign aid. Deng Xiaoping, the Communist Party leader who is credited with opening up China’s economy, once declared, “To get rich is glorious!”
Chinese policymakers believe in this not just for themselves, but for Africa.
Read another review of the book by Howard French.