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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"Eating Everything and Leaving Nothing": Chinese Commerce in Postwar Angola

  • Author(s): Schmitz, Cheryl
  • Advisor(s): Liu, Xin
  • et al.
Abstract

Recovering from a decades-long civil war, the Angolan government agreed in the early 2000s to contract the majority of projects under its National Reconstruction Program to Chinese state-owned enterprises, in exchange for multiple billions of dollars in oil-backed loans. This partnership has facilitated migration and commerce between China to Angola on an unprecedented scale. While some have denounced Chinese investments in postwar Angola as a form of neo-imperialism, others have celebrated Chinese financing of Angolan reconstruction as a practical mode of cooperation, or even a non-hegemonic expression of South-South solidarity. Without engaging in a moralistic debate between two “sides,” this dissertation examines the contradictions of Chinese-Angolan relations through an ethnographic study of everyday life and work at a Chinese state-owned construction firm in Luanda. By attending to ordinary interactions among employees of this firm and their co-workers, business partners, competitors, and critics, it explores how ethical relations are forged and broken in a context of political instability and moral controversy.

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