Book Review: Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of Africa in China

Published date01 June 2013
Date01 June 2013
Subject MatterBook Reviews
134 Book Reviews
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 17, 1 (2013): 129–152
on how human security has been implemented in a number of issue areas
in East Asian countries.
Somdatta Banerjee
Assistant Professor, New Alipore College
Kolkata, India
Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of Africa in China.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 397. Rs 1478.
DOI: 10.1177/0973598414524124
The nature and intents which carve China’s engagement in various quarters,
especially the developing world has been a subject of popular as well as
critical interest amongst practitioners of International Relations. Spectacular
growth rates in consecutive years, a steady increase in the defense budget,
maintenance of a revisionist posture against the liberal democratic order
and the shroud of secrecy which the country holds on to dearly has resulted
in the creation and propagation of myths regarding her practices and pur-
poses. The gradual transformation of myths to conventional wisdom is just
a matter of time since perception regarding a country and the myth which
surrounds her shares a symbiotic relationship. This happens to be the very
context of Deborah Brautigam’s seminal work on China’s Africa engage-
ment entitled, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa.
Brautigam’s nuanced treatment of the subject offers the reader a holistic
view of China’s involvement in Africa leaving him/her questioning the
assumptions which have become staple for any discussion on the matter.
Deborah Brautigam in her prologue to the book asserts that myths
about China were rapidly being accepted as facts. That China is ‘rogue
donor’, that her aid was ‘toxic’ which ‘stifles real progress by hurting
ordinary citizens’ and ‘such Chinese aid was targeted to countries rich in
natural resource and questionable governance’ have become facts which
are actively shaping and sharpening perceptions. The author implodes
these in a two pronged manner in the book. First, Brautigam historicizes
China’s aid policy beginning from the 1950s till date. By positing China’s

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