The Newsletter 71 Summer 2015

Two views about China's spreading influence

Julia Read

Reviewed titles:
Cardenal, J.P. & H. Araújo. 2014. (translated by Catherine Mansfield; first published in Spanish as La sclenciosa conquista China, 2011) China’s Silent Army: The Pioneers, Traders, Fixers and Workers Who Are Remaking the World in Beijing’s Image, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 9780241957530

French, H.W. 2014. China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 9780307056989

The two books under discussion here were written by investigative journalists, and it is clear that the authors endured many discomforts and dangers in their pursuit of information in parts of the world where travel is difficult and even dangerous. Cardenal and Araújo claim to have undertaken eighty flights pursuing investigations for their book, conducting more than 500 interviews. French provides a map showing his routes through twelve African countries. All three speak several languages, e.g., English, French, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish, which clearly helped their research. Both books deal with China’s expanding influence around the world; specifically in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Asia. The main theme is China’s struggle to secure supplies of natural resources, open new markets for its products and create strong alliances. There is a sense throughout that this is an existential struggle for the Chinese as individuals and as a nation. Chinese emigrants have consistently displayed the ability to make great sacrifices, work extremely hard, and take audacious risks. Chinese people also have a traditional system of lending money to each other and an ethic of repaying it. This gives them great economic power.