Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Africa and China / Ian Taylor

The Round Table, 97: 399, December 2008

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Africa and China, Kweku Ampiah and Sanusha Naidu (eds)., Scottsville, University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2008, pp. 357, ISBN 978-1-86914-150-9.

...Kweku Ampiah's background is purely on Afro-Japanese relations and the edited book under consideration is the first expression of interest in the subject by him. Given this reality, a certain modesty might be expected. Sadly, not so. In the original concept paper that provided a basis for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?, Ampiah stated that the contributors to the volume will, with "appropriate tools of analysis", provide a "more nuanced assessment" than all previous work on the issue. This superior output will "draw on first-hand knowledge, primary sources, field research, interviews with key actors, and published secondary literature". Yet a careful analysis of the footnotes of all the chapters in the book reveal that apart from Sanusha Naidu's chapter on South Africa and Lucy Corkin's chapter on Angola, none of the other chapters are based on anything more than secondary literature. Not discounting 'first-hand knowledge', it is difficult to square the grand claims made by Ampiah with the finished product.

Chapters dealing with bilateral relations provide (very) short overviews of Chinese relations with various countries in Africa. Almost without exception, the contributors steadfastly adhere to the erroneous view that the PRC is a unitary actor resolutely pursuing some grand master plan on the continent. Furthermore, the contributors have seemingly only conducted a very cursory skimming of the secondary literature (never mind such boring tasks as fieldwork and original research, despite Ampiah's promises). Thus Mwesigu Baregu's chapter on Tanzania does not even reference the work of George T. Yu, a pioneer of Sino-African studies and someone who wrote considerably on Sino-Tanzanian relations. Lloyd Sachikonye's chapter on Zimbabwe does not reference Jeremy Youde's work on the subject; Muna Ndulo's chapter on Zambia overlooks Padraig Carmody's work. I could go on. Alaba Ogunsanwo wrote an interesting book on China-Africa relations in 1974, but judging from his chapter on Nigeria he has not been considering these issues since. In contrast, Adam Habib's chapter on Western hegemony and the "new scramble for Africa" is, fortunately, a chapter that exhibits some serious engagement with the broader issues and Habib rightfully cautions against naivety in approaching the issues at hand.

Ian Taylor
University of St Andrews

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