A Limited Review of China’s Second Continent, by Howard W. French

How a Million Migrants are Building a Second Empire in Africa

From a few news accounts years ago, I was aware that China was far outstripping any US investment in the African continent. I first had an inkling of the extent when I read Phake, by Roger Bate, a country-specific account of counterfeit and substandard medications which pointed up Chinese sources for the same which American regulators have been mostly successful in keeping out of the US.

With that background I chose Mr. French’s book hoping to find more information about what seems to be mostly a retail trade in adulterated and fake medicines. I didn’t find anything medically related beyond the mention of a couple of clinics that were inaccessible to almost all Africans and one passing reference to retail traditional Chinese medicines sold in street market stalls.

The author dealt instead with extractive industries, agriculture, and construction, and did so in a readable manner. He openly declared a pox on both houses, and maintains this balance.

From the very outset, neither ardent defenders of China nor knee-jerk skeptics in the West have typically shown much interest in seriously weighing African points of view or even sampling the range of existing opinion. (chapter 8)

What the two books do have in common is a narrative about significant happenings in Africa that exceed the ability or the will of the Chinese government to control them. That is subject to change if the regime faces stresses such as food shortages for a growing population at home, or requires African mineral wealth beyond what is presently available to it. How the fact that the growing population of Chinese migrants in Africa is different than the mainland population will play into this will be of great interest.