Paolo Woods

chinafrica

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"We have turned east, where the sun rises, and given our backs to the west, where the sun sets" Robert Mugabe speaking about the relationship between Africa, the West and China To quench its thirst for oil, its hunger for copper, uranium and wood, Beijing has sent out its state companies and its adventurous entrepreneurs to conquer Africa. For the 500.000 Chinese who have emigrated to the 'dark continent' there is the promise of a 21st century Wild West. Some have struck gold and run large conglomerates that span whole regions of Africa, others are still selling their cheap goods on the burning hot roadsides of the poorest countries in the world. For the Africans, the arrival of the Chinese is perhaps the most important event of the forty years of independence. The Chinese do not look like the former colonialists. They build roads, dams and hospitals and win over the people. They speak neither of democracy nor transparency and they win over the dictators. In 2007, Paolo Woods set out with journalist Serge Michel to meet the Chinese stirring up Africa. They accompanied them along the railroads of Angola, through the forests of the Congo and the karaoke bars of Nigeria. From the barren countryside of Central China to the leather armchairs of African ministries, the photographs capture the adventures of the Chinese who came to Africa to make their fortunes and who invested their lives and their money in a continent that the West has long considered fit only for hand outs. These are rare images: Beijing wants to keep a low profile for its conquest. But though it remains largely unexposed these photographs portray a phenomenon and a new dimension that is not just a product of globalization, but is its ultimate realization.
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