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The American Dream: Made In China

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The American Dream: Made In China

Old 10-11-2007, 11:43 AM
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Default The American Dream: Made In China

Back in May 2007, I posted an article about how the American Dream was presumably slowing down. This is an article from the Washington Post about China's influence on the global economy such that some Africans at least have shifted their thinking as to which country is the new "Gold Mountain." Speaking as an immigrant, however, I am glad my parents made their way here, although New Zealand ranks right up there, too. It is interesting to observe these changes and perspectives. As far as the aviation world goes, I suppose I can see why airlines and Boeing partner up in China. They almost have to in order to survive and be taken seriously.

ABECHE, Chad — It was midmorning in one of the poorest countries on Earth, and the daily traffic of battered trucks, motorcycles and donkeys bounced along the lumpy sand streets of this hot desert town.

Behind the white archways of the old colonial market, Abdulkarim Mahamat, 24, was selling soap and batteries to the few customers who dropped by. Things were rather slow, and the young man explained how he often imagines himself elsewhere — flying off to a promising new land of cheap socks and smoothly paved roads.

"If I can go to China, life will be better than it is now," he said, adding that he has started saving up for his ticket. "I'll make a lot of money, and life will change. I can return to school, build a nice house and have a family. People say that China is a good place and everything is cheap."

As resource-hungry China cultivates relationships with countries across Africa — most recently here, for oil — African leaders are debating the merits of that growing influence. Skeptics are troubled, for instance, by China's role in enabling governments such as Sudan's, which is accused of carrying out a brutal campaign of violence in its western Darfur region.

But as that debate goes on, something less tangible is happening on the ground, even in this remote, conflict-ridden region where electricity and plumbing are still luxuries:

The idea of China as a symbol of potential prosperity is taking hold, seeping into the consciousness of ordinary Africans and occupying a place that the United States — and to some extent European countries — once claimed.

Around here, the American dream is something quaint and unrealistic, while a new kind of Chinese dream, more pragmatic and attainable, seems ascendant.

"The United States is a nice place to visit," said Ahmet Mohamet Ali, a trader who had just returned from his first trip to China. "China is a place to do business."

Besides massive road projects, oil contracts and other deals China has struck across the continent, there are smaller signs that the country is beginning to penetrate African societies.

On Fridays in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, for instance, a reliable line forms at the gates of the Chinese Embassy's visa section. In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, it is relatively easy to find university students heading off to China for business or language courses.

Rebels in Ethiopia's Ogaden region deemed China's influence significant enough to target a Chinese-run oil facility there this year.

Since last year, huge oil exploration projects have gotten under way in Chad, and Chinese money has flowed into government coffers, leaving some Chadians wondering whether they will benefit from the new wealth.

At the same time, a kind of excitement and curiosity about China has trickled down.

In the rundown capital of N'Djamena, where the French colonial past lingers in faded street signs such as Rue Charles de Gaulle, just about anything new is Chinese. There is a bright red Chinese restaurant that seems discordant amid the crumbling beige buildings, and a Chinese-run hotel.

Here and there, Chadians have been hired by Chinese companies, leading to their first, awkward encounters with a foreign culture.

"They eat dogs and snakes," said Mustafa Mohamed, who worked a two-way radio for a Chinese oil company, taking lunch orders. "They are strange people."

Mohamed eventually met some Chinese businesspeople, though, and is now pinning his hopes on exporting precious stones to China. He walks around with a notebook in which the words "Great Stones" are underlined on a page with potential prices listed.

Here in Abeche, there are no Chinese companies yet, no Chinese television channels or news broadcasts, as there are in larger African cities from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Accra, Ghana.

But shops are piled high with Chinese-made artificial flowers, baby clothes, pots and pans and the ubiquitous rubber sandals. And word about China has quickly spread as a few people who have traveled there return with stories like triumphant explorers.

"When you go there, they welcome you and help you with your hotel," said Mahamat, offering one well-honed story floating around the street.

"I hear it's a long journey — 17 hours and very risky," said his brother, Ali Mohamed Zarouk, who is hoping to go, too. "I've never seen China, but I know about life in China. I have many friends there, and I know that they give an open chance to African people."

Would-be businesspeople are now counting down the days until the new Chinese Embassy opens in N'Djamena and, presumably with it, the chance to obtain a coveted visa.

"It will be in seven months," said Ismail Ibrahim Adam, 39, who works as a food supplier for the Chadian army.

Adam and others said they do not dream anymore of heading to the United States or Europe, an idea that seems as remote these days as going to China once did.

"There is a problem with the U.S.," said Ali, the trader. "Everything is too expensive and complicated."

He was unloading cardboard boxes full of gold-rimmed goblets and teacups.

"I think I'd like to open an office in China," Ali mused, "spend one month there and come back to Chad. In China, I can make my life better. Everything there is easy."
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Old 10-22-2007, 08:15 AM
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Big article over the weekend in the Washington Post about this issue...Interesting reading.

There are a lot of ABCDs going back to India. Reverse immigration.

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