Saturday, September 17, 2011


You can feel the Chinese presence everywhere. From Luanda shopping centers to a roadside construction site in the middle of no where, the Chinese are in every corner of Angola.

A worker eats his lunch with chopsticks on a Chinese construction site.

The Chinese and Angolans have an uneasy relationship, navigated between racial, linguistic and cultural barriers.

Luanda has three distinct architectural styles: Colonial Portuguese with tiled roofing and plaster walls, Novo Estado apartment buildings built during the pre-Independence population boom, and post-war Chinese-made high rises.

The Chinese have been welcomed by the government to assist in post-war reconstruction. Luanda´s skyline is filled with cranes erecting tall, modern buildings. Some are being built by the Portuguese and Brazilians. But many new buildings are being constructed by Chinese companies with Chinese laborers. Chinese construction projects and imported products are not known for their high quality.

A poorly photo-shopped sign for a Chinese road project.

The Chinese are not the only Asians to immigrate to Angola. Here, a group from Vietnam at the airport, in Uige, an entire hotel is staffed with Filipinos. But the Chinese are the biggest group, and the most visible. Angolans are not very good at distinguishing the groups, so they are all called "chinêses". A little girl in Uíge once pointed at me and cried "chinesa, chinesa." It is possible that until then, all foreigners she had ever seen had been Chinese.

Please read The New Imperialism: China in Angola. This article explains the situation much better than I could on this blog.

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