Professor at Johns Hopkins University Deborah Brautigam answered questions about what China had done in Africa in her book, “The Dragon’s Gift – The Real Story of China in Africa.” On the occasion of its Chinese version being sold in China, the reporter of People’s Daily sat down for an exclusive interview with professor Brautigam.
Reporter: How do you see “The Dragon’s Gift?”
Brautigam: The China-Africa relationship has become hot news discussed by many media outlets in the world. For example, many Chinese living in Australia urgently want to know the real situation of China in Africa when they saw the local news coverage. They knew that China had built the famous Tanzania-Zambia Railway in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s and they want to know more about the news since then, the relations of China with Africa, the influence of China on Africa and the help China provided to Arica. As I wanted to tell the real story of China in Africa, I began a study of China in Africa.
Reporter: You also wrote another book about Chinese activity in Africa – Chinese Aid and African Development: Exporting Green Revolution. Why are you so interested in the story of China in Africa?
Brautigam: I met two African students who were granted Chinese government scholarships on a Guangdong-to-Shanghai train during my tourist trip in the Chinese mainland in 1980. I had my first understanding of China-Africa relations during this trip. At the time, I was researching international development, including Chinese and African development. With many questions in my head, I traveled to Africa, and began researching Chinese aid to Africa.
Reporter: How long did you stay in Africa for the sake of writing the two books? How many Chinese companies and people did you interview?
Brautigam: I made my first visit to Africa in 1983, and started paying attention to the trade relations between China and Africa in 1995. I began writing The Dragon’s Gift in 2007. I visited more than 10 African countries, and interviewed more than 100 Chinese people working and living in Africa, including Chinese businesspeople in Liberian and Zambian marketplaces, Chinese doctors in medical aid teams to Tanzania, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, Chinese factory owners in Mauritius and Nigeria, managers of many Chinese construction companies, and certain Chinese ambassadors to African countries.
Reporter: What do you think is Chinese companies’ biggest contribution to the lives of the African people?
Brautigam: Chinese companies have helped the African people the most in the infrastructure sector. Africa is extremely backward in infrastructure, and Chinese companies have carried out various infrastructure projects on the continent in a rapid and low-cost manner. We all know that road conditions in African countries are terrible. The ring roads Chinese companies built in certain Ethiopian and Kenyan cities have effectively eased their traffic congestion. Manufacturing is a new point of interest for Chinese companies.
Reporter: Certain Westerners believe Chinese companies are plundering Africa of its resources. Is that really the case?
Brautigam: China is putting Africa’s resources to good use, and helping the continent develop. The African people hope their countries can get investment and new technologies. They like Chinese products, and use the roads built by Chinese companies. At the same time, many Africans feel anxious and nervous due to the increasing presence of Chinese companies. Most African companies are unable to compete with their Chinese counterparts in the era of globalization. The skills training programs launched by the Chinese government in Africa are extremely popular among locals because they have realized that they need better skills.