Thursday, October 11, 2007

China Is the New America


Andy Valvur forwards "Struggling Chadians Dream of a Better Life--in China," wherein Chadians who have never been to the U.S., and frequently have never been outside Chad, nonetheless see the PRC as their bright, shiny, 21st-century place to do business:

Behind the white archways of the old colonial market [in N'Djamena, Chad's capital], Abdulkarim Mahamat, 24, was selling soap and batteries to the few customers who dropped by. Things were rather slow, and the young man explained how he often imagines himself elsewhere -- flying off to a promising new land of cheap socks and smoothly paved roads.

"If I can go to China, life will be better than it is now," he said, adding that he has started saving up for his ticket. "I'll make a lot of money, and life will change. I can return to school, build a nice house and have a family. People say that China is a good place and everything is cheap."


The idea of China as a symbol of potential prosperity is taking hold, seeping into the consciousness of ordinary Africans and occupying a place that the United States, and to some extent European countries, once claimed.

Around here, the American dream is something quaint and unrealistic, while a new kind of Chinese dream, more pragmatic and attainable, seems ascendant.

"The United States is a nice place to visit," said Ahmet Mohamet Ali, a trader who had just returned from his first trip to China. "China is a place to do business."

I used to laugh at the idea that anyone might prefer China's relative poverty and political repressiveness to U.S. affluence and freedoms. But Africans have been sufficiently poor and closed out of economic opportunity, and the PRC is becoming less oppressive over time, so maybe the stars are aligning for an African-Chinese alliance that runs deeper than simple economics.

Of course, these dewy-eyed Chadians probably haven't heard much about this little episode.

1 comment:

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