Forget the Olympics: another barometer of China’s rise

I just came across this great post in Chris Blattman’s blog. Chris and I overlapped in graduate school, and he’s now a rogue Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale.

Apparently, across certain parts of Africa, the ubiquitous greeting of foreigners as “mzungu” (“white person”) have begun to be replaced by “mchina!” (“Chinese person”), regardless of the foreigner’s country or origin.

It is amazing to see the increased investment by China into Africa, which no doubt has both positive and negative effects. The flood of cheap goods is good for consumers but may be undermining the nascent manufacturing sector. This is significant since manufacturing has such significant job creation potential, and it is hard to move large numbers of people out of poverty without following the path from agriculture to manufacturing to services.

I could never get over, when I was in Indonesia, being called an “orang blanda” (Dutchman), which has stuck as the catch-all term for foreigners regardless of provenance (despite the Aussies in their midst), thanks to Indonesia’s colonial history. This also serves as a reminder that in many places in the world, globalization is still nascent, foreigners are still a novelty, and the divide between “us” and “them” is wide and clear.

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