Wang Hui Li came to work at Harare’s China Garden restaurant five years ago because a relative needed an extra pair of hands. “My mother’s mother is the boss’s sister,” she told me, sounding a little uncertain. Ni mamade mama shi laobande meimei? I repeated. She thought for a moment before repeating the sentence quizzically, and we said it back and forth a couple of times, knowing that something about the description sounded strange. Her mother’s mother is her grandmother – but she must have become accustomed to “mother’s mother” from explanations of how she’d come to this Chinese restaurant in Harare’s suburbs.
Five years is a long time to be away from home, I suggested. Had she adapted to life in Zimbabwe’s capital? Yes, she nodded, with a smile. “The air is good, the climate is good, and there’s no cold winter like in China.” Xi’an, the central Chinese city she calls home regularly sees snow in winter. She’d be going home next year she said. And would she return? I asked. “ I don’t know,” she said calmly, as if uncertainty were the most inevitable thing in the world.
“Wang Hui Li” she told me, when I asked for her full name. She drew the character for Wang in the air with four strokes of her index finger, patted my arm, and said goodbye with a smile.
December’s Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has been and gone, and the eagerly-awaited list of numbers has been released, digested, and analysed. China’s commitment of US$60 billion in financing for development across Africa is triple the amount pledged at the last summit three years ago, according to several mainstream media reports. Other calculations put this figure at closer to a 50% increase in financial commitment. And, while it is this magic number that has since hogged the limelight, China’s important second policy toward Africa was released too.
Wits‘ 12 November roundtable, Reporting FOCAC6 – A Turning Point for Africa-China Engagement, provided a variety of journalists, experts, and other attendees with plenty of food for thought on China-Africa relations, both at the diplomatic level and on the ground, with a focus on producing quality journalism around this expansive subject. CCTV Africa‘s short video report of the event forms the first of a series of posts I’ll be adding on the FOCAC summit and its implications for Sino-African relations.
The last few years have seen Alibaba, the Chinese tech and e-commerce juggernaut, go from being a shaky, unknown start-up to something of a household name from Detroit to Delhi. At some point along its path to success, the company has also become one of the world’s favourite success stories. It’s a rags-to-riches tale of sorts, and it doesn’t hurt that the lead character in the story, CEO Jack Ma, is widely considered “one of China’s most unlikely tech founders”. After all, everyone loves an underdog. Continue reading