“Learning Chinese will pave the way for better exchanges between Chinese and Mauritian people,” he said.The Chinese Center in Mauritius is the first of such Chinese ventures (or so the article claims; I hesitate to believe that wholeheartedly). There, eager members can learn Chinese martial arts, dance, and language. Chinese language has also become part of the curricular framework in Mauritius. Goodness: if that doesn't drive home the growing importance of China for Africa, then I don't know what does!
To be perfectly honest, I don't quite know what to think about such overt emphasis on Chinese culture in Africa. On the one hand, it most certainly is useful. Much of the reason that Chinese firms in Africa hire their fellow compatriots is precisely because of the language barrier with locals. Similarly, when they are hired, local workers generally remain confined to manual labor positions with little opportunity for upward mobility. If you can't speak the language then what's the point, right? Given that Chinese continue to stream into the continent at an astounding rate, a 'cultural exchange' of sort does seem like a logical enterprise.
Yet two things bother me. First, I haven't heard any African leaders calling for such cultural exchanges. I mean, really calling for them; not just doing so because the Chinese are. I could be wrong and there may well be some who do, but I'm personally not aware of any. For now, the stress on Chinese culture comes from - *gasp* - the Chinese! It wouldn't behoove them to learn about the various African cultures, I suppose? Secondly, is it just me or does all of this ring of colonialism? The imposition of socio-cultural, religious and linguistic structures on an indigenous people? It's all a bit too familiar.
So today's million dollar question: cultural exchanges - friend or foe?