When China Met Africa
Examines China's expanding footprint in Africa through the stories of three people in Zambia: a Chinese farmer, a Chinese multinational's road project manager and Zambia's trade minister.
Directed by Nick Francis and Marc Francis
Produced by Speak-It Productions & ZETA Productions
Executive Producer: Miriana Bojic Walter
Editor: Hugh Williams
Music: Florencia Di Concilio
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 75-minutes and 60-minutes.
"A rare, grass-roots view into one of the most important economic challenges of our age." The Times
A historic gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming.
In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company, is upgrading Zambia's longest road. Pressure to complete the road on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out.
Meanwhile Zambia's Trade Minister is en route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment.
Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare - pointing to a radically different future, not just for Africa, but also for the world.
From the filmmakers of BLACK GOLD.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2011
Copyright Date: 2010
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-823-6
"Remarkable. A compelling, unsentimental and very honest portrait of an encounter between two continents pulled together by profits and politics. The filmmakers had extraordinary access to their three central characters, and the trust they obviously built is never betrayed...Viewers will have no difficulty following these multi-layered dramas--at once ordinary and powerful...The film will work equally well for workshops or university classes addressing challenges of globalization, the clash of cultures, social justice, migration, poverty, or third world development. The format lends itself exceptionally well to discussions: viewers will find they each saw something different. Intimate, moving and very real."
Professor Deborah Bräutigam, School of International Service, American University, Author, The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in
"A gritty, vivid picture of the new Chinese presence in Africa, from the pompous officials negotiating deals, to the dedicated engineers trying to build roads, to the hardscrabble immigrant Chinese farmer struggling to tame the land and motivate and pay his local workers. It is a new relationship, full of both hope and suspicion, common interest and cultural friction. Driven by economic need, the two sides struggle to bridge the huge gaps between them."
Andrew J. Nathan, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, Author, The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress
"A fascinating account...An excellent and well-balanced production, highly recommended for all scholars and students of international business, development, relations and inter-cultural issues. Appropriate for the classroom as well as the boardroom. The video presents a unique picture of the benefits and challenges of doing business in a developing world, as well as the far reaching implications of Chinese business interests and the real promise of Africa."
Peter Koveos, Professor and Director, Kiebach Center for International Business Studies and Africa Business Program, Syracuse University
"This cogent film illustrates the complexities and challenges faced by those average Chinese and Africans tasked with carrying out the China-Africa relationship on the grassroots level."
Joshua Eisenman, Senior Fellow for China Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council
"This film documents an important movement in the era of globalization...Several thousands of Chinese workers have already moved to Africa to find new business opportunity and market...When China Met Africa is a great opening tool for the understanding of global economy of natural resources, construction, and migration."
Dr. Kyoung-Ho Shin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwest Missouri State University
"A timely film on the ongoing shift in the balance of global power and the scramble for remaining natural resources...Recommended."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
"In one hour, documentarians Mark and Nick Francis add human interest to the potentially impersonal topic of globalization...The film is accessible, yet nuanced and complex enough to be used to support either pro- or anti- globalization arguments...Pertains to a wide range of disciplines, including African studies, Asian studies, business, economics, international relations, labor relations, and sociology. When China Met Africa will present students with an engaging and very human portrait of foreign investment and globalization."
Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado, Educational Media Reviews Online
"China's expanding footprint in Africa is both a twenty-first century continuation of the European-model of colonialism as well as a modern revival of the imperial Chinese tributary system_be it the Han, Tang or Qing empire_as exemplified in its present-day international hunt for energy and natural resources...Highly recommended for area studies of Africa and Asia, international studies, globalization, colonialism, anthropology, economics and business."
Howard Y. F. Choy, Wittenberg University, Asian Educational Media Service
"An extraordinary picture of how commerce and trade has the potential to positively influence people's lives. Highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review
"Exposing the truth about the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit as the global socio-economic balance is about to shift, this is an important, compelling film."
"The story that is told in When China Met Africa...is one of the most fascinating and unique I've seen on this subject. In many ways, the film is minimalist in scope but ambitious in conveying the humanity in this complex and nuanced Asian-African courtship. That is precisely its strength...Indeed, the character's own voices effectively and effortlessly carry the film."
Damien Ma, The Atlantic
"A rare, grass-roots view into one of the most important economic challenges of our age."
"Allowed remarkable access, Marc and Nick Francis's astute film shows the extent of China's foray into Africa and in particular its road-building and farming projects in Zambia. Told via the Chinese community in Zambia, African workers and government ministers, the film tells us why this relationship has come about, but also suggests it's a far from easy marriage."
The Daily Telegraph
"Their stories unfold compellingly and intimately...Rather than issue a global judgment about a highly complex issue, they opted to simply train their lenses and microphones on how the China-Africa relationship plays out at the grassroots. To observe these complexities and nuances, they chose Zambia, the African country that has had the longest diplomatic relationship with China."
The Epoch Times
"An intriguing ground-level look at the effects of Chinese investment in one African country - Zambia."
"The channelling of Chinese investment into the world's poorest continent is explored in this leisurely but enlightening film."
"It is one of the biggest geo-strategic stories of our time, and one of the least scrutinised...This film takes the micro rather than macro approach, introducing us to some of the Chinese partaking in this modern scramble for Africa. These snippets of modern life in Zambia are hung together without commentary, leaving the viewer to consider the degree to which Africa has exchanged one coloniser for another."
"A brilliant piece of work...China, manumitted from the yoke of democracy, free of the shackles of communism and powered by an acquisitive gerontocracy, is on the ascendancy. Napoleon said 'China is a sleeping giant, when she wakes, she will shake the world.' Well it has been a rude awakening for the West."
Wanga Odongo, Daily Nation
"Real personal dramas...A rare opportunity to watch the future taking shape. As the West's influence falls into the shadow of an Eastern dawn, the Francis brothers offer us a unique insight into a hidden corner of the present and an insightful glimpse of an emerging world order."
Danny Scott, The Skinny
"No matter how many stories you read about the latest billion-dollar deal between China and an African country...you're still left wondering what the day-to-day dealings between the 750,000+ Chinese in Africa and the Africans they work with and live among are like. Enter When China Met Africa, the most revealing, and to date, only, full-length documentary about those very relations, and of the expanding footprint of China in Africa."
This Is Africa
"Even if you're aware of the vast increase of Chinese investment into the continent, the change can seem impersonally vast. This engaging documentary injects humanity...It succeeds in making you want to go and find out more."
"Raises big questions...This is a fascinating look at the effects - good or bad - that the émigré engineers, farmers and entrepreneurs from one cradle of civilization are having on another."
"Absorbing...Reveals just how fragile laborers' human rights are on a continent where a new economy is being born."
Includes two versions of the film, 75 and 60 minutes, SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The film's website
CNN Interview with filmmakers
The Economist interview with filmmakers
The film's trailer
Awards and Festivals
Best Filmmaker Award, Margaret Mead Film Festival
Winner, Arts & Culture category, Observer Ethical Awards
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
Munich International Film Festival
Goteborg International Film Festival
Rotterdam International Film Festival
Sheffield Doc/Fest International Film Festival
Society for Visual Anthropology Ethnographic Film Festival
Migration and Refugees
Race and Racism
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Farmers in Ethiopia have mastered dryland agriculture.
... more Reviews
"Intriguing...This film tells us much about how both sides behave with each other, one lot looking beady-eyed towards future influence and the other gratefully accepting present largesse."
This Is London
"The Francis brothers' film demonstrates the shift in global power from west to east, and questions the willingness or ability of western governments to understand the role that China is playing in Africa...It soon becomes apparent that China and Africa have one overriding mutual interest: they want development and they want it fast. While the west is dabbling in development projects, drowning in paper mountains and the principles of 'good governance,' the Chinese hands-on approach is leaving a permanent mark on the continent."
The New Statesman
"Fascinating...An unbiased and objective look at what the realities of such political agreements are...Who really wins and who really loses?"
"The Francis brothers have succeeded in creating a surprisingly significant contribution on the topic of China's striking momentum...An insightful view of cultural clashes and subtle exploitation hidden behind false laughter and apparently good intentions."