What is China really doing in the Global South?

Foreign Affairs

Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden kick off their new network show, the China-Global South Podcast, by talking about where the show is going, and common misconceptions about China's often misunderstood role in the Global South.

Illustration for The China Project by Derek Zheng

Below is a complete transcript of the Sinica Podcast with Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden.


Kaiser Kuo: Welcome to the Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion of current affairs in China, produced in partnership with The China Project. Subscribe to Access from The China Project to get, well, access. Access to, not only our great daily newsletter, but all the original writing on our website at thechinaproject.com. We’ve got reported stories, essays, and editorials, great explainers and trackers, regular columns, and of course, a growing library of podcasts that’s especially relevant today. We cover everything from China’s fraught foreign relations to its ingenious entrepreneurs, from the ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim peoples in China’s Xinjiang region, to Beijing’s ambitious plans to shift the Chinese economy onto a post-carbon footing. It’s a feast of business, political, and cultural news about a nation that is reshaping the world. We cover China with neither fear nor favor.

I’m Kaiser Kuo, coming to you from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Today, I am delighted to introduce the latest show on the Sinica Network, the China Global South Podcast, and to chat with the creators and co-hosts, our good friends, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden, who are, of course, the co-founders of The China-Global South Project. So, we’ve got a joint podcast for you today, a crossover a show you might say, to introduce The China-Global South Podcast. And guys, welcome. And congratulations, first off, on the new show. We are very, very excited to go to launch.

Eric Olander: Thank you so much, Kaiser. Awesome to be back on the show with you, and just honored that you are with us to help introduce this new exciting project.

Cobus van Staden: Thanks so much.

Kaiser: Yeah, lots and lots to talk about. First of all, I guess the obvious question is, hey, they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Your show, The China in Africa Podcast, which has been running as long as Sinica, 12, 13 years of getting on, it does really impressive traffic, if I may just sort of boast for a second here. Consistently, one of the top performers in the network. Really, just in easy number two. I see the stats every week. So, people are definitely tuning into The China in Africa Podcast twice a week. Why did you guys decide to split it into two then?

Eric: We’re super proud of The China in Africa Podcast and grateful to the amazing support that we’ve gotten, for more than a decade now, from you, and from the listeners, and just from everybody around the world who writes us, and even the haters, by the way. I mean, I always like getting the hate mail because people take effort and initiative to write criticisms and to say how much they don’t like it, which I love, by the way, because it means you’re engaged. The worst thing is when people don’t care, do you know what I mean?

Kaiser: Right.

Eric: The fact that people are engaged is what we really love most. But the world’s changed now. And when we started this podcast back in 2010, Cobus and I, we had this idea that we were interested in this topic and we weren’t sure if anybody else was. So, we figured, why don’t we just talk about it just for us to pass time talking about these things? And we thought, okay, after three or four months, maybe five months tops, we’re going to run out of things to talk about. Well, we certainly didn’t run out of things to talk about because 2010 was the, if you look back at the trajectory of China’s engagement in the Global South, in Africa, part of the going out, all of this, this was the precursor and the run up to The Belt and Road, things were just ramping up big time.

But what we’ve seen over the past couple of years, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic, but trends that have been underway since 2017, 2018 is that China’s been changing its strategies. And we started running out of content, literally running out of content focused exclusively on Africa, in part, because China was now expanding far beyond Africa into the Middle East, into South America, into Central Asia. What we saw was that it was counterproductive to just look at Africa in isolation of what was happening in the other regions. And so much of what the Chinese are doing in Africa is transnational in nature, BRI, Huawei COVID, debt, you name it.

Just looking at one piece of the puzzle, we felt, misses a lot. We sat back and we said, “Well, there’s been this disengagement from Africa, to some extent, by the Chinese because of the need now to expand their presence in other parts of the world. So, we had to do it out of necessity. And then we thought, this is where the story is evolving and this is where there’s a massive, gaping, giant hole in the discourse, looking at what the Global South is and its importance to China.

Kaiser: Yeah. We’ll look at why that hole is there and what efforts there have been to try to fill it. Cobus, you guys have really grown, even in just the last couple of years since joining our network of new sources of funding. You’ve got new staff. I understand you’ve got what? Nine or 10 people now on staff.

Cobus: Nine people, yes.

Kaiser: But also, the expanded mission, which we’ve just talked about, but also programming in Arabic and in French. Along with us, you’ve got a new name. You went from The China-Africa Project to The China-Global South Project. Also, we like the word project as well. Cobus, tell our listeners about The China-Global South Project. And maybe you can introduce some of your team members who we’ll be hearing from in the newsletter, your excellent, excellent newsletter. By the way, you guys should be subscribing to that newsletter. It’s just fantastic. We’ve actually taken a page from it that… I mean, sometimes literally, but I love the design of the thing. I love the flow of it. It’s a fantastic newsletter. Tell us about what’s new from The China-Global South Project.

Cobus: Yes. So, our newsletter is speeding ahead. And we expanded its focus to look at China’s engagement to the whole Global South with Africa at its center. Our work is always going to be Africa-centric, and Africa is, to our mind, the heart of the Global South. But we increasingly take a comparative perspective between what’s happening in Africa and elsewhere and connecting dots between them, showing similar trends popping up in many places around the Global South. We got funding to expand our work into French and Arabic, which is really exciting for us, particularly in African space. So, we are putting out French and Arabic newsletters, edited by our colleagues, Géraud Neema and Nesrine Kamal. And we’re also now moving into French and Arabic language podcasting.

They’re coming out with slightly bigger gaps between them, but we are really excited to move into this French and Arabic podcasting space because, to a large extent, it’s very fresh. There’s very little kind of action there. We are also very excited to provide all of this, particularly kind of Global South wide input in these languages because the discourse in these languages are so dominated by government media, and in the case of French, by Paris-based media. This is really an exciting and somewhat scary move for us into uncharted territory.

Kaiser: I have to thank you guys also for not jokingly saying, as one, well, might that while you guys are running The China-Global South Podcast, Kaiser, you are running the China-Global North podcast. I would probably deserve it. I would probably deserve it. But hey, division of labor, right?

Eric: If we can motivate, again, all of the coverage of China, to take more into account and look at it more broadly, that would be something fantastic. Because again, when you have these conversations in places like Washington, London, Brussels, the conversations that we all have with various stakeholders, it’s always just shocking to me how, again, their focus is China, China, China, U.S., China, Europe, and that’s it. Or they’ll look at data from Pew, for example, that looks at all the advanced economies, and that’s their framing of the world.

Kaiser: Well, that’s the international community, right?

Eric: That’s the international community. What makes us different from everybody else out there in the China watching community, as far as I can see, and something that I’m extraordinarily proud of, we all live in the Global South. We all live in developing countries. I’m in Vietnam. Cobus is in South Africa. We have staff in Egypt, in Kenya, in Mauritius, and in China. That is really trying to give a different alternative view to some of these issues than what some of the prevailing narratives are. Your show is essential reading and listening too, I mean, the Access newsletter that Jeremy puts together and the show that you have. We want to be essential listening and reading for the compliment to what you guys are doing, which is the rest of the world. And you put those two together and you get the complexity of the picture. That’s what we’re aspiring to.

Kaiser: Well, Jeremy and I do both live in the American South. I mean, that helps.

Eric: That’s right, also a developing country. Yes.

Kaiser: Right. It certainly feels that way sometimes. When we talk about the Global South, besides obviously Sub-Saharan Africa, most people will think of Latin America, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East to North Africa. But there are also some geographies that don’t come immediately to mind. I’m thinking of Oceania, for example, the South Pacific. What about Central Asia? Does that also fall under your belly? And of course, this I’m asking on the day that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meets in Summer Con.

Cobus: Yeah, it does. We keep trying to maintain a balance between covering all of these issues that show up in all of these different places at once and showing commonalities while also being sensitive to certain regions, long historical relationships living very close to China.

Kaiser: Oh, okay, good.

Cobus: Of course, that’s true for Central Asia and it’s also true for parts of Southeast Asia. The experience of being right next to China as a developing country is, of course, different from being far away from China as a developing country. so, we try to reflect those nuances while also showing the commonalities between all of them, particularly as a way that they weave together by The Belt and Road.

Eric: Yeah. So, the filters that we use to guide our coverage are basically, if it’s pure G-7 and China, that’s not our story. We’ll leave that to Sinocism, we’ll leave that to The China Project. There’s many places that are covering what the U.S. and China are doing. However, Australia’s an interesting story, and they complicate the narrative a little bit because Australia is a very active player in the mining sector. Australia is very active in the South Pacific. Australia is increasingly active here in Southeast Asia. So, Australia gets kind of sucked into it. The filter for us is really the G-77. We look at again, the broader view of the Global South, so Central America, South America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Indian Ocean basin. Then Western Pacific, but again, Taiwan is not our story.

Lots of places are covering the Taiwan story, but Taiwan and Eswatini is our story. Taiwan and Central America’s our story. There was a meeting in Washington where the Taiwan representative office gathered together diplomats from Asia, Africa, all of their friendly countries around the world. That becomes our story in that sense too. Again, there’s no hard-and-fast line, but what we try and do is that if there’s a story that’s going to be covered by the China Project, by the New York Times, or by what Bill Bishop is doing over at Sinocism, then that’s not our thing. We really want to try and focus on the areas that are undercover, under voiced. Again, we’ve got these great team of editors like Cobus, and Géraud, and Nesrine, who bring a different point of view than people living in the U.S. and in Europe. And that is really, really important in terms of understanding the sensitivities to it. That’s kind of how we approach our daily coverage in our podcast.

Kaiser: Cobus mentioned just now that there are all sorts of commonalities between, well, I think between, not only what China is doing in the rest of the Global South and what it’s been doing in Africa, and also what the West has been doing in both-

Eric: Or not doing.

Kaiser: Or not doing. And responding the way that it’s responded to China. There’s a lot of the same dynamics in play. I’m hearing quite a bit that echoes Africa and discourse on Africa, same sorts of issues. But surely, neither China nor the nations of the global north are just cutting and pasting their approaches, to say Oceania or Southeast Asia. Obviously, the geographies themselves dictate different approaches. So, as we go through, I mean, what I want to ask you about are what some of the tropes are, what sort of the characteristics of this discourse has been, but let’s think also about where each geography stands out is quite different. But let’s talk about this. I’ve been an avid listener, and I’ve been for a very long time. Let me start with this. Eric, you spent a good part of your summer in Washington, D.C. Not a place you necessarily want to be in the summer, I should add.

Eric: It wasn’t too bad, actually. It wasn’t too bad.

Kaiser: Well, you’re used to Ho Chi Minh City, so I suppose-

Eric: That’s right. The humidity is not too bad.

Kaiser: You made the rounds of a lot of think tanks, talk to congressional staffers to people at universities. What did you find in terms of their interest in, their awareness of the issues that you cover in your newsletter that you’re going to be covering on the new show? What’s the level of knowledge and interest?

Eric: First of all, the interest is off the charts. I’ve been going to D.C. every summer now for many years, and never has my schedule been this packed. People are just so keen to talk about it. China is the hot issue, obviously today. I mean, Russia, Ukraine’s another hot issue, but China is right up there as the hot issue. I just loved having the chance to go and to talk to everybody who was on the Hill. I was in the executive branch. I went to the think tanks. I went to several of the universities, students, scholars, you name it. Every day packed with meetings. The big takeaway, and I felt a little bit like Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in the Netflix movie, Don’t Look Up, where the asteroid is coming, and you’re the guy just standing. Everyone’s talking about Britney Spears, and you’re like, “The asteroid is coming.”

And it was just fun where people are like, “Well, China’s a rising power.” And you’re like, “No, no.” China just passed the United States in Central America as the largest trading partner. China’s the largest Navy in the world today. China’s the number one trading partner in South America. It has the number one trading partner in Southeast Asia. Stop saying it’s a rising power. It’s here. And that mindset that is China is a main threat for the United States, but in the Global South and in the developing world, we still have time. My message was no. I mean, yes, the game still may be on, but if the score is 82 to 2 in the fourth quarter, with three minutes to play, you don’t have a lot of time. My sense more and more is that in many parts of the world, including here in Southeast Asia, it may even be too late for the United States and Europe to catch up.

There are many important things that the United States and Europe are doing here. I don’t want to be this kind of person who’s saying everything that the Chinese are doing in these parts of the world is great, and it’s the 10-foot-tall monster, and they’re so competent, and they’re executing beautifully. No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that when your trade volumes are orders of magnitude larger, when your building infrastructure, when your private companies are engaged and on the ground, and when things are happening at a pace and speed that they’re happening, okay? And this is what we track every day in our daily brief that goes out to thousands.

That’s what we’re trying to do is to index all the little things that are happening every day. The volume gets to a point where it’s difficult to catch up. And we’re not, we, as Americans, are not coming to the fight with our best tools. We’re trying to match them one for one. So, the Chinese are building roads. Well, we’re going to build roads. Well, we suck at building roads. We’re not good at building roads. The roads in Washington are freaking terrible. I don’t know what gets into people’s minds that they think they can build a road in Nigeria when we can’t build roads in our own country. More importantly, we don’t have a system that is optimized to compete with the Chinese on speed.

So, the Chinese will execute in a place like the Congo from the first negotiation to a shovel in the ground in 12 months. We can’t do that. We’re just not set up for that. I felt like there was a lot of interest. Everybody was saying China’s a problem. Everybody was in agreement that China’s a problem. We have to do something about China. Nobody, nobody had any consensus on what to do. That, to me, was the most important revelation. That from the Hill to the executive branch, to the think tanks to, you name it, corporates, defense contractors, everybody had a different idea, no consensus. There was no organizing principle, like what we had during the cold war with the Kennan documents that everybody could agree on and rally around.

Time is running out to get this figured out. The Americans still think that they have the luxury of time. And the kind of the point that I was trying to make is that where I live and where I see it, you don’t.

Kaiser: Yeah. So, what was their ask of you? What were they hoping that you would be able to bring to them then through this meeting? I mean, were they suddenly signing up for your newsletter in droves?

Eric: Well, I mean, I was literally like Willy Loman in the selling insurance and trying to get people to sign up for our little humble news service in our website. It was interesting because so many people were so kind. “Eric, you guys are filling a void. You’re doing God’s work. It’s amazing.” So many people were so kind. Then they don’t turn around and sign up, and you’re like, yeah. That was surprising to me given the fact that there’s nobody else doing what we do in this space with the intensity with which we’re doing it. And given the levels of interest, I’m just constantly, Cobus has to hear me complain almost every day of like, why aren’t people signing up for this thing? Again, I’m so proud of the work that we do, but it’s just… And Cobus, you can speak to this.

Let me just put it bluntly, I mean, at the end of the day, people don’t give a poop. They don’t care. They don’t think it’s that important. And they’re going to wake up, and this is what we’re seeing in the D.R.C. right now. We just did a show a couple of weeks ago on this. And we basically said the U.S. is blocked out of the D.R.C. in the mining sector, in part, because of neglect, a lack of engagement, and a lack of understanding on the issues. This is what the consequences of not understanding what the Chinese are doing looks like in reality. Cobus, why don’t you kind of speak a little bit to those issues that we talk about every day?

Kaiser: Yeah. Cobus, I mean, I wanted to ask you specifically, what do you think is driving this abject ignorance? I mean, why is there such a poor grasp of this in Washington? I mean, and really, not just Washington, it’s all over.

Eric: And it’s not just Washington, to be fair.

Kaiser: No, it’s Brussels. Yeah, it’s all-

Eric: One point just before we get to Cobus is that one of the points that I’m also very disappointed now, looking back on the 12, 13 years that we’ve been doing this is that Africans aren’t taking this seriously either, by the way. Their knowledge, their China literacy has not improved dramatically in more than a decade, and it’s hurting them too. I mean, the Ugandan finance minister, last year, in front of a parliamentary oversight committee said, “We didn’t understand the contract over the Entebbe Airport expansion.” That is shocking to me in 2021. A decade or more into China’s engagement in Africa, they’re not staffing their ministries with China knowledge and China experts either. So, it’s not uniquely a Washington thing too, by the way.

Kaiser: So, Cobus, over to you.

Cobus: Yeah. I think there’s different dynamics that play in the African problems that Eric raised now, and in the global north. In the Africa case, I think one of the big problems is that African governments tend to be quite old. Even though Africa has the world’s youngest population, with many African countries, the average age is 19, 17, like this is a continent of teenagers, but they have the world’s oldest leaders. Frequently, the hiring practices at the hiring pipelines in Africa, particularly into government ministries are really messed up. That’s one of the big problems that you have the talent on the ground.

You have a lot of African students who’ve studied in China. You have a lot of African students who speak Mandarin. And they frequently can’t get jobs, and they particularly can’t get government jobs. That’s a problem in terms of job pipelines and political culture in Africa. In terms of the global north, I think the problem is that I think they just got used to things being a certain way. I think they just got used to the Global South occupying its position. And working with these Global South countries in particular ways that they’ve now set up whole architectures to do. Those are aid, particularly, and with many aid agencies working with governments, and providing really important services. So, it’s not to dis, for example, something like PEPFAR.

Kaiser: I’m sorry, something like what?

Cobus: Oh, sorry. PEPFAR is the Presidential Emergency, what is the second P for?

Eric: Presidential Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

Cobus: Yes. So, it was a real game changer that came in under the Bush administration.

Kaiser: Bush 43. Yeah. Right.

Cobus: Yes. And that really changed the kind of HIV scene in Sub-Saharan Africa. It really did a lot. So, there are these, kind of, legacy projects, and this legacy way of thinking about the Global South. But there’s a lack of interest or a lack of mental energy, I think, in terms of reconceptualizing how the Global South is viewed. This is particularly true, I think, in the corporate space in the global north. I’ve had very interesting conversations with American diplomats who are working so hard to try and get American companies into the mining, back into the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo because the Chinese really occupy most of that space now. For people who don’t follow this issue, the Congo has the largest repository of strategic minerals that are used for rechargeable batteries.

Kaiser: Well, there’s cobalt and there’s coltan.

Cobus: Yeah, cobalt, and lithium, tantalum, and so on. 80% of the world’s cobalt is now refined in China. And all of these American companies like Tesla, like Ford, and so on, are making deals, these massive deals with Chinese battery makers in order to buy their batteries and source them from China. All of these American diplomats are working so hard to try and get American companies into the D.R.C., but the American companies are not interested. It’s a difficult place to do business. They worry about getting involved in corruption scandals. So, they’re just not playing ball. With that comes an unwillingness to imagine a different way of dealing with the Global South, which is happening at a moment when China is completely upending how it does business with the whole of the Global South.

One of the things that was very interesting about Ukraine crisis was the surprise in Washington when a whole bunch of almost half of African countries abstained from the vote condemning Russia’s invasion. Suddenly, there was all of these conversations with diplomats being like, “But why?” What lies behind this thinking? Why aren’t they just simply falling into formation with us when we are so clearly right? So, that kind of thinking.

Kaiser: Let me ask you about that specifically then, why are they? I mean, I think this is a theme that I’ve picked up on over the years, listening to you guys’ show and reading your newsletters, it seems like you’ve put your finger on something important, which is that Westerners seem, time and again, to be surprised by the intensity of the resentment by the unresolved issues left over from colonialism, which was not very long ago. I mean, this seems particularly odd given that the Global South itself can practically be defined as that part of the world that experienced the pointy end of colonialism itself. But is that what you would chalk this up to? I mean, yet another instance of, wait, wait, why are they not falling in line behind us here? I mean, it couldn’t possibly be that they resent the history of Western imperialism, could it?

Cobus: I think, for a lot of these people in the West, for them, colonialism feels very long ago. And, of course, there’s also a real deficit of information about what happened immediately after colonialism. Like, in the process of colonialism, of decolonization, and then the new Imperial projects that happened during the cold war. Because there’s relatively little discussion about, for example, like U.S. and Belgium intervention in the Congo, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there’s quite low levels of knowledge about that, I think, among many Americans and Europeans. So, it just, for them, feels a long time ago, and people should have gotten over it. But in reality, the daily life in these countries are still fundamentally shaped by that experience, among others, because of systemic underdevelopment that was a part of the colonial project.

That still means that it takes you 10 hours to travel 300 kilometers from one city to another in your, choose your Global South country. Those things are still a reality. For example, like the U.S. in… I’m old, I’m 48. But I remember as a child, my uncle being sent to Angola as part of a new Imperial initiative that was funded by the U.S., and where funds were channeled via apartheid in South Africa, into anti-communist containment in Angola. These were white South African soldiers, apartheid soldiers, looking at Luanda across the hill, and then getting messages from both Pretoria and Washington about how they should proceed.

These are living memories. They’re much more starkly living for many other people. For example, the fight that’s still going on at the moment between the D.R.C. and Belgium to try and get the tooth from Patrice Lumumba, the liberation leader that was assassinated by CIA and Belgium forces, to get that tooth repatriated from Belgium back to the D.R.C. They’re just this really gross and weird, little lawsuit that’s going on between the D.R.C. and Belgium around these issues. It’s just this symbol of this kind of thing reverberates across the world, and in many, many different ways. And we saw it now with the Twitter reaction to Queen Elizabeth II’s death, with Britains being appalled by people in the Caribbean, for example, cheering at her passing.

It’s still a living memory and still a living reality for people in the Global South. And it’s been completely whipped in the global north, and particularly, the global north interactions with the Global South frequently don’t reflect that reality.

Kaiser: Eric, maybe you could talk a little bit about how China benefits from it, as far as it does, whether China might, if it isn’t careful, also maybe end up activating some of that same resentment.

Eric: So, China is activating some of that same resentment, but let’s start with one side of this. Again, and everything that we talk about when we talk about China and Africa, and China and the Global South, and this is again, true for China, writ large is it’s always confusing. If you walk away with thinking that you understand it, I mean, Kaiser, you and I have been doing China affairs, and looking, and committing ourselves to this country, now going on four decades, three or four decades, and I still feel like I don’t know what’s going on. Again, the contradictions live side by side one another. Let’s start with the positive side, and in terms of how the Chinese benefit from this.

I was just having a conversation today with the Kenyan scholar who asked me, legitimately says, “Do the Americans lecture the Saudi Arabians on LGBT issues the same way they’d lecture the Kenyans?” That was a legitimate question because he was perplexed that this is constantly an issue when secretaries of state go to Africa, and go to East Africa in particular, and LGBT issues become paramount. Now, all of us agree that LGBT rights and LGBT safety and inequality are critical issues. What people see, though, is an inconsistency that makes it to the point of unbelievable. Interests are subject to circumstance, or principles are subject to circumstance is the rule of the day here.

That is, when Antony Blinken goes to Algeria two weeks after, or three weeks after the invasion, and once shows up saying, “We’re not going to talk about just transition. We’re not going to talk about green energy. My white friends in Germany now need natural gas.” Remember that, up until now, they’ve been talking about all these things about carbon neutrality, how Africa needs to transition away from fossil fuels. But all of a sudden, when the white people in Germany and Europe face going cold, African fossil fuels become very attractive. The debate in Congress this past week over billions of dollars in aid for Egypt, even though Egypt is a non-democratic country, does not fit any of the requirements that the Americans have for their pro-democracy clubs, human rights, governance, democracy, participation, you name it, there are so many things that Egypt comes up wrong. They still get the checks. Okay?

The Saudis being another example of this. That inconsistency is so jarring. But let me just point this out. In January, when Wáng Yì 王毅 went to Kenya, former President Uhuru Kenyatta, it’s weird to say that, he’s just now only a couple days former president, he literally, to the camera, said, “We don’t need lectures.” Now, here’s the problem. Former President Kenyatta’s comments were never picked up by the AP, or by Reuters, or by CNN, or by BBC. It’s never covered. Okay? When Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister was here in Vietnam, the main talking point out of the state media was we are embracing Russia because they’re the only member of the P-5 that has not invaded Vietnam. That was their line. I was like, that’s pretty interesting.

To Cobus’s point, these resentments are raw and near the surface. And Americans and Europeans, because of our ignorance of the histories, in our lifetimes, gentlemen, our lifetimes, okay? Colonialism was alive in the ‘70s. I mean, this is not something that is ancient history only in black and white movies. It’s in our lifetimes. And yet, we pretend as if it’s this long ago. And when the King of Belgium went to the Congo earlier this year, couldn’t apologize, because he knows if he apologizes, it opens up massive litigation for compensation, okay? And listen, Cobus, we’re having the same problem in the United States about our own history with slavery. It’s no different. But the resentments are there and are deep. When we don’t acknowledge those, the Chinese come in and say, “Guess what? We were colonized, we were exploited, we had the century of humiliation by the same jerks who did this to you.” And that is a very, very important point of bonding.

The Chinese will also say, and we’ve interviewed a number of Chinese diplomats on the show, “We’ve never invaded another country. We’ve never launched foreign wars.” Again, sitting here in Vietnam, that’s an awkward fact for them.

Kaiser: It’s very rich, yeah.

Eric: Because in fact, the last war that the Chinese did, it actually was an unprovoked invasion of Vietnam in 1979. And when we spoke with Ambassador Huang Ping about that, he got uncomfortably quiet.

Kaiser: Yeah. I remember that.

Eric: The funny thing is the Chinese are as naive and ignorant about their history as we are about ours because they’ve completely scrubbed their history clean of all the inconvenient truths as well. Let’s talk about the negative side now. So, the Chinese are profiting from the fact that they do have this shared history of colonialism and subjugation at the hands of the West, and well, the Japanese as well. Now, the negative side is we’re starting to see the same kind of arrogance from the Chinese in places like Africa, where it is very much a top-down relationship. The Chinese have never had to make any concessions to satisfy Africa. Not one that I can think of. Cobus, can you think of any concession to a Chinese interest that the Chinese have ever had to make for Africa? They won’t relent on the debt. They’re not relenting on anything. There’s never a concession or a compromise that’s made from the Chinese side.

Kaiser: Never any debt restructuring, nothing? Not…

Eric: Well, they restructure, but they never cancel. Do you know what I mean?

Kaiser: Right.

Eric: Just now, the cancellations, the zero-interest loans, we just got a report that came out this week from Boston University, a lot has been made about that, those zero-interest loans account for 1%. And those are grants. That’s not the commercial and concessional loans. They’re just about to face some reality in Zambia, but they still haven’t done it yet. There’s an arrogance in some of the Chinese rhetoric. We’re starting to see Chinese mass media replicate some of the most horrific caricatures and stereotypes of black people and of Africans. And not just once but multiple times.

Kaiser: Sure, sure, sure.

Eric: You hear this didactic approach to the Chinese that says, “We know better. We’re going to tell you what you should do.” They come and say we’re equals and we’re brothers, but at the same time, they will say, “Well, replicate our special economic zone model, replicate our party model, replicate so many of our things,” which really don’t translate well outside of China. Those are unique to the Chinese system. So, we’re seeing, again, some of these patterns start to repeat themselves. And the Chinese certainly are going to be vulnerable. And one of the things that we heard from Joseph Asunka, who is the CEO of Afrobarometer, is that a lot of Chinese popularity in Africa and favorable public opinion comes from the fact that people see the infrastructure that they’re building.

But the Chinese now are, more or less, pulling out of the large-scale infrastructure space. So, they’re going to have to compete more now on ideas and soft power and public diplomacy, which is not their strong suit by any measure.

Kaiser: This idea of infantilization has been a big theme. I know that when I’ve had Anzetse Were on the show that it’s something she highlights this tendency to deny agency or accountability to the nations of the Global South on the part of the West. Yeah, I mean, of course, as you say, China is not entirely innocent of that either. But just now, you talked about the Entebbe Airport deal, and how Ugandans had failed to sort of understand the terms of it. Do you feel like, this is a difficult question to ask, do you feel like the infantilization sometimes is not entirely undeserved?

Eric: No. Cobus, you go ahead. I mean, I’ve got a lot to say on that, but you go ahead.

Cobus: I think what it frequently is, is that, in some ways, I think, African governments are just as used to the kind of current system as European and American governments are. I think a lot of their choices in terms of who to hire and who to appoint in particular positions have to do with experience or capacity in dealing with a very set up system, which includes, particularly dealing with the World Bank dealing with aid, aid architectures, and so on. Africa has a lot of capacity gaps, and this then happens to be one of them. But also, what comes with that is that the Chinese really come to the table prepared. One of those forms of preparation is that they frequently come to large-scale loan negotiations with Western law firms. And frequently, they come with people who are very versed at using like Western legal precedent and Western legal language to structure deals very aggressively for transnational clients.

Kaiser: You guys just shared with me a really great piece by Ma Tianjie in his newsletter slash website, Panda Paw and Dragon Claw. And that’s all about exactly what you’re talking about, the sort of this institutes of China’s expanding global presence. That newsletter is great. He had that piece that was… It provided a first-person account of an Exim banker experience in negotiating a loan for the new Chinese-built airport in Nepal. And he was really impressed with the aggressiveness and the savvy of the Nepali negotiators that were across the table from him. Is that an example of what you’re talking about?

Cobus: Yes. It’s when these governments get it together to really be strategic and be very hard-nosed. And you don’t have ministries fighting amongst each other, you don’t have people undermining each other in order to get ahead. They really have a comprehensive strategy. For example, Folashadé Soulé was a researcher at Oxford, has shown that the government of Benin has been very successful in doing this kind of thing, where they really pull together all of their resources, throw all of their technocrats at the Chinese, and be willing to not be held to a timetable. They’re willing to stretch it out, those negotiations, out as long as it needs to take, which is what the Nepalis also did.

When you have the government’s acting in this way, then they do gain a lot of agency. They drive a much tougher bargain. The problem is, I think, that in a lot of cases, and you see this in intra-African dynamics as well, is that there’s a lot of turf protecting happening within government agencies, well, between government agencies, between different individual bureaucrats. And frequently, corruption plays a role there too. So, it’s not necessarily that there isn’t capacity. It’s that the capacity isn’t being wielded because it’s being undercut. That kind of adds to the problem. And you see that, by the way, you see that across the Global South. It’s not only in Africa. Very similar kind of problems in Latin America, in the Caribbean, and so on.

So, it is frequently a situation where Global South countries end up being their own worst enemy. And then outside actors step in and things are made very convenient for them, much, much too convenient for them.

Kaiser: Eric, maybe you have something to add to this. It would be equally preposterous to assume sort of an inherent wisdom and total sort of maturity and savvy on the part of all state actors of the Global South. It would be as foolish as it would be to deny it altogether, right? Well, it’s a very complicated picture. What do you have to add to that?

Eric: That’s right. It’s inconsistent at best. And by the way, the misreading of the Chinese by many people in Africa and governments in South America mirrors the misreading that we, in the U.S., have made for decades. You’ve talked about, on your show, about Jim Mann and The China Fantasy. That book, what, came out 10 years ago? We have a rich think tank culture, academic culture, China analyst culture, all, I mean, thousands of people who have way more knowledge on this than we do as a society, feeding up ideas into the policy making, and we still struggle with it. I think it’s very important to put that this is not unique to developing countries. However, the picture in developing countries is very, very mixed.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s bad to say Africa, it’s bad to say South America, it’s bad to say the Global South, because as Folashadé Soulé points out, as Anzetse Were point out, a number of great scholars point out, there are some fantastic examples of agency that are being exacted and being used, and negotiating great deals, and pushing the Chinese really hard. Okay? Avoid these kind of broad-brush characterizations and generalizations. I will say something here, though, that Director General Wú Péng 吴鹏 told us, he’s the top diplomat for Africa and the Chinese foreign ministry.

Nobody is putting a gun to anybody’s head to take these deals. Okay? And this is where the infantilization comes in. And Cobus makes this point over and over again that oftentimes, when we hear the criticisms of Chinese lending by Western stakeholders, the equation that they have is not take a better deal from the European or from the Americans. It’s either Huawei or nothing. It’s either the China Exim Bank or nothing. And when you are staring down the double barrel shotgun of demographics that African countries are, all African countries, the fastest growing continent, median age, 19.4 years old, you don’t have the luxury of time. So, the Americans come waltzing along and saying, “Don’t take this deal.” And if you’re country leader X, Y, or Z, you say, “What am I supposed to do? Where does the money come from?”

Now, in the case of Kenya, and this is a great example here, okay? This is where all of the frustration of civil society, and Cobus has spoken to this many, many times about the gap between the ruler and the ruled in many African countries. And that the accountability just isn’t there. Kenya has a procurement law that requires that all contracts be made public. The High Court of Mombasa, in May of this year, ordered that the Standard Gauge Railway contract be released and made public. Civil society activists took the government to court and said, “We’re going to sue you for, to be able to see this Chinese contract.” Still haven’t seen it.

Kaiser: And what about the port? I mean, is that contract now being made-?

Eric: That’s all part of the Standard Gauge Railway contract. Okay?

Kaiser: Oh, it’s all… Okay, the port of Mombasa is part of that.

Eric: We haven’t seen it. The High Court of Mombasa ordered its release. Still not released. Shame on the Kenya government for that. The Kenyan people have a right to be angry about this. This is this accountability so the governance question in Africa deserves accountability. And this is where agency swings both ways. By only focusing on the Chinese, the West… I mean, I’ve never heard the State Department criticize African governments for not doing their part in these Chinese deals. It’s always the Chinese are predatory lenders. Lord, if I hear Linda Thomas-Greenfield talk about predatory lending one more time, I’m going to blow my head. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. This is the infantilization. We have an obligation to make sure that we hold the Chinese to account for what they’re doing that is irresponsible, but also, at the same time, the Kenyan government has things to answer for as well.

Kaiser: Cobus, you wanted to add something?

Cobus: Just as a little bit of context, the Chinese were particularly in the, now I’m speaking about the infrastructure development field particularly, the Chinese were late comers to this field, right? By the time that they arrived, it was really deep into a 15 year, 10, 15 years into a unipolar like consensus on Western leadership. Where essentially Western lenders, Western development partners were the only game in town except for the Japanese. And they were very much on board with that kind of thinking. Which means that these countries development decisions were completely dependent on fashions of thinking within these institutions. The World Bank-funded infrastructure for a few decades, and then there was a turn, like an anti-infrastructure turn within the World Bank, and a shift towards ideas of, for example, funding civil society. And the need, like different conceptions of the role of infrastructure in development.

Countries just had no choice but to fall in line with whatever the kind of fashion was at that moment in Western institutions because there were no other options. Once the Chinese arrived, that suddenly opened up these other options, problematic as they are. A lot of these African countries ended up going with some problematic deals because they felt that they had no choice. You could spend five years applying for a World Bank that would then not come through. Then your whole political legacy has been staked on that project. A lot of them bit the bullet and went with the Chinese because that was their only option, and then inherited a bunch of problems because they didn’t develop the capacity to do that kind of hard negotiation that they needed to do because the only capacity they had was in negotiating with the World Bank.

That kind of unipolar Western like power model ended up replicating itself all over the world. China ended up disrupting that model, but disrupting it in very chaotic ways that ended up being quite costly in many ways across the Global South.

Kaiser: I think the two of you have really established pretty well that you are not unalloyed cheerleaders for China’s every initiative.

Eric: No.

Kaiser: There’s plenty of criticism of China coming up, but, as we all know, China and Chinese companies, they can be, well, ignorant and ethnocentric, and terribly, terribly bigoted. But one thing that I do want to talk about is the way that they can also be very cavalier about the impact of projects on indigenous peoples or, of course, on the biodiversity of the different ecologies in which they operate in. do you want to talk a little bit about, I mean, will your show on the Global South be looking at a lot of environmental impact?

Eric: In fact, we’re hiring a dedicated full-time reporter to look at China climate in the Global South starting this fall.

Kaiser: Oh, fantastic. Yeah.

Eric: Just to dedicate exclusively to these issues of… Again, and the reporter is… We’re only going to hire a woman to do this job because women suffer disproportionately effects of climate change and women’s voices, and girls’ voices are not represented in this discourse anywhere near enough. Again, and the Chinese have this stock excuse that they use whenever they are involved in a project that is environmentally destructive. They say, “Well, we’re just doing what the host government wanted to do. We don’t intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. If the host government wants to put a giant hydroelectric dam right in the middle of an indigenous community, in a protected rainforest, well, that’s what they want to do.”

That is not a responsible stakeholder. And China wants to have it both ways. They want to have this global leadership role in the sustainability discourse and, at the same time, then they basically say, “Well, we don’t interfere in internal affairs and decisions of other countries. That’s number one. That contradiction needs to be addressed. There is a sense among Chinese scholars, stakeholders, think tanks, and even political actors that that’s not sustainable anymore. And they’re placing a higher priority now in their feasibility process on environmental considerations. So, that’ll be interesting to see the team at Boston University Global Development Policy Center, they have this fantastic interactive database that looks at the impact of Chinese finance on indigenous communities around the world.

I highly recommend that people go and check that out. We are going to leverage a lot of that data in our coverage of China and climate issues. The other part that we focus more and more now is on the climate crisis in China itself and the impact that it’s having on the Global South. I’ve been writing about this just for the past couple of weeks, but we’ve seen now the fact that the wheat crisis and the drought in China, I didn’t realize that China was the largest wheat producer in the world. China also has the largest stockpiles of wheat in the world.

Kaiser: Wow.

Eric: When China starts running low on food, they’re going to buy as much food as they need to satisfy their people, regardless of the impact that it has on poor developing countries who are now struggling to get food. Given the size of China, it has ramifications that extend right throughout the world. Number one is we have to watch on food. Number two, water is going to be critical because the Chinese have built up hydroelectric systems to power many of their largest cities, Chengdu, Chongqing, pick your city, is all based on hydroelectric a lot of it.

Kaiser: Which is just literally dried up. Yeah.

Eric: It’s literally just gone. What are they going to do? I don’t think it’s politically tolerant for Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 right now, given the political sensitivities that he’s facing right now, to have people cold this winter. So, they’re going to start smoking whole bunches of coal, and that’s going to, given the scale that they’re operating at, that’s going to have an impact on the Global South. Number one, it’s going to force the price of fossil fuels up. They’re going to start buying oil up. So, fuel and food are already a crisis in many poor countries. And when the Chinese go out into the markets and start gobbling up so much more, that’s going to make the costs even higher for poor countries. And then, at the same time, we’re going to start seeing really big winners. So, in Brazil, right now, they’re starting to export large quantities of corn. They’re going to export large quantities of soybeans.

Again, the Chinese want to offset some of their food insecurities that they’ve had. We know the history of food insecurity in China. This is not something that Xi Jinping wants to face right now. The impact on that is also very important because there… We just saw a report today out of Indonesia and South America about the amount of rainforest and protected forest that have been cleared for agriculture. A lot of that is export bound agriculture. Oftentimes that goes to China. So, the impacts are felt all over the world. That’s what we’re trying to look at is when something happens in China, what is the impact in Africa, Asia, Latin, America and elsewhere? Water, again, for me, here in Vietnam, living on the Mekong River is also another big concern because they’ve dammed up quite a bit.

Kaiser: The head waters of which are yeah.

Eric: Of that. Again, the ramifications can be, felt all over the place and that’s going to be a big part of our coverage, and is a big part of our coverage.

Cobus: I mean, I have to admit, I sometimes, I take all of these points, but I also have hesitations about the kind of villainization, of monsterization of Chinese consumption. It’s something that is always fascinating for me. How frequently people who write about this tends to put these… It’s China’s appetite for coal, it’s China’s ravenous for coal. This kind of scare narrative about…

Eric: It’s the scale.

Cobus: It’s the scale, but per capita, Chinese consumption is still a lot lower than many parts of the global north. But the reality of China is that China’s so big as a market that whatever decision, whatever trend or fashion runs through the Chinese market, it has these global ramifications. For example, there is this traditional Chinese medicine that’s kind of a gelatin that’s made from boiling down donkey skins. Small, like it’s used as a tonic by a small, a fraction of the Chinese traditional medicine market in China. But that fraction was enough to wipe out donkey populations around the world, you know?

One, it’s the scale. B, it’s the impact of China’s own history. Because, I mean, China’s incredible development history is… It’s essentially the idiom, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, root of the largest scale, you can imagine. It’s like the world’s biggest omelet with many, many broken eggs around it,. That logic, the people who are providing these services around the world, who are building these dams around the world are people who came up through that system. That is what they know. I recently did several projects, research projects focused on ESG implementation on Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa, and then comparatively, between Africa and Southeast Asia.

And one of the things that became very clear there is that, like many multinationals, they want to save money and they want to avoid complications, and they want to stay close to the letter of the law in the recipient countries. Problem is, in many of these countries, the letter of the law is pretty weak. So, you see these interesting moments where, for example, there’s a Chinese company that did two projects in very similar countries, one that was financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and one that was not. This is the same company that… Almost similar, almost identical projects, but the AIIB financed one because AIIB is quite hardcore in terms of putting out standards, were at much higher standards than the one that was not funded by AIIB, and that was simply according to the letter of the local recipient country law, which was quite weak.

In that sense, what one sees a lot in all of these problems is the weakness in capacity in recipient governments, and the kind of craziness in decision-making, the selling out of local communities by some middle manager, a lot of those kinds of problems. And these countries have very low capacity in guarding against those malpractices. And Chinese companies frequently, either don’t care, or they frequently legitimately don’t know, or don’t have any real power to change it anyway because the project is being managed by some kind of special purpose company, joint venture company. It becomes very complicated to assign blame.

Eric: I tend to think that the Chinese tend to adjust their level of compliance with ESG and corruption, depending on the level of governance in the country they’re operating in. for example, we don’t hear about these problems in Sweden and Singapore. Even in the United States, you don’t hear it that much. But you hear about it in the DRC, in Gambia, in Gabon, in other places with low governance and weak governance. So, they’re highly flexible. There is not a, again, a one size fits all. And even one company like Sinohydro, for example, pick any of the big state-owned enterprises, will operate in one country, say Singapore one way, and in the Republic of Congo in a totally different way. And they’re highly dynamic that way. Again, it’s very complex in terms of understanding of it.

Kaiser: Speaking of things that are determined largely by the robustness of governance, I’ve often wondered, from the point of view of smaller nations in the Global South, it must be tempting to try to extract concessions from competing powers, but at the same time, just to try to avoid becoming a mere pawn in a great power struggle, where you really do lose agency. What are some examples, you guys can both chime in here, of countries that have navigated this tension well, and maybe others that have maybe done less well in this regard?

Eric: Well, I’m laughing, only because, if you are a small developing country and you don’t feel that you’re getting sufficient attention from the United States, either in form of ambassadors, money, you name it, my advice, and this is free advice, is just say, “That we’re thinking of hosting a Chinese military base in our country.” And holy crap, money will start raining down from heaven on you . It’s incredible. So, Cambodia, Solomon Islands, Equatorial Guinea, the attention that those countries have been able to get just by saying, “Well, maybe the Chinese might be here with the military base.” That being said, countries that have done it really, really well, Kenya, in particular, has played the game exceptionally well.

Kaiser: I was going to say, yeah.

Eric: They, at the same time, have very strong relationships with the United States, negotiating a free trade agreement, strong military ties. They’ve really been able to foster that. They also do some of this, “Well, we’re going to turn to our Chinese friends if you don’t play nice with us.” They do that very well. They’ve also engaged Europe very well. Kenya avocados and Kenya agriculture go into Europe very strongly. And then, it’s one of China’s most important countries in all of Africa. And they’ve played that relationship so crucially. Kenya, in many ways, I think, is one of the best African countries for doing it. South Africa, where Cobus is, also does a very good job on this. Here, in Asia, Vietnam is particularly skilled at playing this game, at hedging. This is what Ryan Haas talked about in his book about how developing countries are constantly hedging, blocking and things like that, and that whole dynamic.

I think Vietnam is really… I think that they’ve done very well. And it just goes back to your first question about Ukraine. Again, when the musical chairs stop, and the music always stops, they don’t want to be left standing up. If they pick aside, for example, in Ukraine, they abandon the Russians and take the Americans, they’re going to get screwed when the music stops. If they take the Russians and abandon the Americans, they’re going to get screwed when the music stops. So, it’s in their strategic interest to be able to hedge. That’s what we’re seeing more and more. Again, this is the game in the South Pacific right now. This is what’s in motion. Penny Wong, the foreign minister of Australia is making trip after trip after trip now. And they’re playing this game exceptionally well, I think, in many countries.

And as a group, they’re actually behaving as a block. This is where Africa is also different than many other parts of the world. They tend to vote as blocks, maybe not as an entire continent, but as large blocks at the UN at multilateral organizations. And if they can start to coordinate more, and this is the Pan-Africanism that we’ve been dreaming about for decades, but if they can start to really come together now on more cohesive regional policies, they can have some real leverage against the Americans, Europeans, Russians, Chinese, and the emerging powers.

Cobus: The problem is, is that the… In the first place, it’s a simple thing, or it sounds simple, but in order to do that effectively, you have to have a very clear vision of what you want, right?

Eric: It’s hard.

Kaiser: Right.

Cobus: In a lot of detail. And frequently, governments don’t necessarily have that. They have certain ideas of what would be nice to have or what would be convenient, but they don’t necessarily have very, very clear ideas about, if you can only choose one out of five pieces of infrastructure, which one is going to really boost your development? For example. That kind of hard-nosed-ness is they frequently don’t necessarily have.

Eric: And Nigeria’s priorities and Malawi’s priorities are radically different in that sense too. They’re not aligned either.

Kaiser: Sure.

Cobus: Well, there’s your other problem is that in order to get anything real done for these countries, you need a regional or perspective, not a country perspective. This is particularly true for issues like climate change mitigation, and the massive infrastructure is going to be needed to help Global South countries that deal with climate change is they need to work together on a level they’ve never have. They need to put aside differences between them that frequently are a lot more alive and salient to them than their relationships with these great powers. They also need to then extract more money from the global north, and the global north has ever imagined giving anyone in order to get them over the hump of actually surviving climate change. It’s a kind of unprecedented challenge, I think, for a lot of them, that would take a level of coordination that even the European union will find difficult to manage.

Kaiser: Well, Cobus van Staden, Eric Olander, it’s just been a fantastic hour talking to you guys. And congratulations on the new show. We’re very, very eager to get it launched. And please, if you’re listening to this show, please subscribe to The China-Global South Podcast. You can find it on all the major platforms that you listen to a podcast on. So, subscribe to that. You will not regret it. While you’re at it, sign up for their fantastic newsletter. It’s really, really, really good. Of course, I’m of obliged to plug our own, just remind everybody that, before we go to recommendations, if you do like the work that we do with the Sinica Podcast, and of course, all the other shows in the Sinica Network, including the venerable China in Africa Podcast and the new China-Global South Podcast. Then the best way that you can help us is to become an Access member.

That gets you all the good stuff behind our paywall and, of course, the daily Access newsletter, which is really, truly worth the price of admission. So, help us to keep the lights on so I can continue to interview thoughtful people like Cobus and Eric, and they can continue to do the work that they’re doing, and to bring you all the rest of our great network shows. All right, guys, I hope you’ve got a good recommendation handy because I have to scramble and think of something because I’ve been doing so many shows recently, and I’ve sort of tapped out all my recommendations, but I’ll come up with something. What do you guys have for us? Eric, why don’t you jump in first.

Eric: I’m not going to recommend a single article or book as you normally do at the end of the show, I’m going to recommend some people to follow who are the kinds of voices that need to be heard. And we’ll put these in the show notes for you, so don’t think you have to…

Kaiser: Oh, great. Great.

Eric: First, I want to talk about Gyude Moore, who’s the former librarian infrastructure public works minister, who’s at the Center for Global Development. He’s critical on your Twitter list.

Kaiser: Spell his name.

Eric: Gyude, G-Y-U-D-E_M-O-O-R-E is his Twitter handle. He’s absolutely essential in understanding a very pro-African, and this is a guy who sat on the other side of the table from the Chinese and negotiating, and just has such a great perspective in all of it. I’m also going to recommend Hannah Ryder, the CEO of Development Reimagined. She writes quite a bit. One of her staff members is by the name of Ovigwe Eguegu. These are some fantastic voices. And then the last person, I’m going to be a little bit self-serving here, is our own Géraud Neema, and you can find him @christiangeraud. We’ll put again, a link to that in the show notes as well, and he also edits our fantastic AfrikChine, both podcast, Twitter feed, and newsletter as well. But these are some fantastic African voices that speak regularly on China’s engagement on the continent, and I think just bring a fresh perspective that we don’t hear enough of.

Kaiser: Good recommendations. All people that I already follow and am always learning something from. Cobus, what do you have for us?

Cobus: I recommend the work of a scholar, and I’m sure other people you’ve interviewed have also cited her work, is C. K. Lee, and she wrote a book called The Specter of Global China, which is based on this amazing field work that she did in the mining sector in Zambia. She managed to make friends with someone who then became a high-level political leader in Zambia, and then managed to wangle her way into the copper mining sector and did this full ethnography of the copper mining sector in Zambia, particularly as it relates to Chinese multinationals. So, she recently started also work on a contemporary project called “The People’s Map of China.” “People’s Map of Global China,” I think.

She is, and just really interesting… I think she comes from a Marxist perspective, and she really does very, very interesting work on Chinese capital. She essentially looks at how capital flows from China into the rest of the world, and the kind of effects they have particularly on the kind of national economies of resource-dependent countries like Zambia. Now that Zambia is going through this very kind of contentious and difficult debt restructuring process, so reading that book, The Specter of Global China, I think came out in 2017, it’s incredibly prescient, incredibly interesting to read. She’s one of these ethnographers who you can’t imagine how they do their work. It’s just year, after year, after year of hanging out with mining executives and writing down everything they say. And so, it’s highly recommended. Very, very interesting.

Kaiser: Oh, that sounds wonderful. I will definitely pick up a copy of that. Thanks very much. Excellent recommendation. I’m going to go completely off topic here for mine. I don’t know if… Some of you might be aware. I have gotten sort of obsessive about Asian traditional archery just in the last year or so. I mean, I’ve been doing it for a while, but I’ve gotten sort of off the deep end. I’ve shot a lot of different bows and there’s one bow maker, they’re based in China, they’re called AF, letters A-F, Archery, and they make just affordable and amazing equipment. And if you’re interested in getting into it, for a little over a hundred bucks, you can pick up a lovely traditional style Turkish or other central Asian style bow. They have the Tatar bows and different Mongolian bows.

You either go to the website or they have them on Amazon. In fact, I just bought, for my son, another. I think it’ll be my fourth AF bow that is just a 35-pound Turkish style bow. It’s very, very light, feather light. I got it in like 35-pound draw weight. I can’t believe they can make something this good, this beautiful that shoots so well, and so reliably for so little money now. I’m going broke, of course, spending all my money on arrows and all the other stuff for shooting.

Eric: And 35 pounds is light. Is that what you’re saying?

Kaiser: 35 pounds is the draw weight.

Eric: Wow.

Kaiser: And that’s relatively light. I mean, I think my 16-year-old son should be able to draw that. I usually shoot like a 45-pound bow. I mean, it takes effort. I have a 250-pound bows. Those definitely take some effort. I over optimistically bought one in 90 pounds thinking I’d be able… I can’t pull it more than a couple of inches. I’m not nearly good enough yet, but I’m working up to it.

Cobus: Yeah. It’s very cool.

Eric: That’s incredible.

Kaiser: Check it out, I mean, if you’re into it. It’s amazing. There’s a whole world of traditional Asian style archery now. A lot of the manufacturers are actually in Malaysia and Indonesia, where they have access to a lot of high-quality wood and, of course, bamboo, all the different things that are… And some of them are making them with horn as well, with water buffalo horn. And they’re beautiful. They’re real works of art in addition to just being fun. Very centering. It’s like meditative, but athletic at the same time. And it’s just, oh, so satisfying to see, to sort of mark your progress. Okay. And one more archery related thing. Pick up a book called The Way of Archery. It was written, it’s actually like a 17th century Ming Dynasty text on archery by a guy named Gao Ying. It was translated by Jie Tian, I guess is probably… I’m guessing his name is Tian Jie. And I’ll actually be meeting him pretty soon, and Justin Ma. Fantastic book, really bound nicely, great illustrations and photography in it, and nice modern, refreshing translation, where certain expressions are translated like, oh man. It’s very funny.

I have to say, it’s a little, maybe more vernacular in translation than maybe is warranted, but I’ve learned a ton from it. It’s totally, 400 years later, it’s completely practical. So, check it out. All right. Enough gassing on about my, our tree obsession. Thank you guys. That was a lot of fun.

Eric: Thank you. It’s always amazing to be back on the show. We really appreciate it. We’re a group of super passionate people about this issue, so we hope that folks will come and check out what we’re doing and the great work that the team is doing.

Kaiser: I think they will. I think they will. Well, congrats one more time, and we’ll see you around.

Eric: Thanks so much.

Cobus: Yeah. Thank you. It’s great to speak with you.

Kaiser: The Sinica Podcast is powered by The China Project and is a proud part of the Sinica Network. Our show is produced and edited by me, Kaiser Kuo. We would be delighted if you would drop us an email at sinica@thechinaproject.com, or just give us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts as this really does help people discover the show. Meanwhile, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook at @thechinaproj, and be sure to check out all the shows in the Sinica Network. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week. Take care.