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Ten years ago, the African elite sent their children to study at universities in America or Europe to ensure their success and financial futures. Now, the target is slowly shifting from the West to the East. “My father’s colleague told him if I studied in China I would always have a job,” said Pitshou Ngoma, 29, whose father is an agricultural minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “So he sent me to Beijing.”
Africa’s wealth of oil and other mineral resources has long been of interest to China. China-Africa trade has increased by an average 30 percent a year this decade, reaching nearly $107 billion in 2008, according to The New York Times. In order to solidify China’s hold in the developing economies, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao went on a much publicized African tour early this year, visiting eight pivotal countries. As government ties deepen – bringing Chinese companies to rural Africa to install roads, excavate minerals and construct schools, many African students are seeking to ride the Chinese tide to prosperity in their home countries.
When Celestin, 39, traveled from his native Rwanda to Beijing China on a scholarship to study economics in 1998, his Chinese classmates didn’t know what to make of him.
“They didn’t think I could be very intelligent,” Celestin said, who preferred that only his first name be used in this story to protect his privacy.
When he shared the top score on a citywide economics exam with a Chinese student, they had to revise their opinion. This isn’t the only change he’s seen in his adopted home of Beijing.
In the past ten years, Celestin traded economics for computer science, developing a successful embassy IT-support business as well as exporting electronics to Rwanda.
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The early morning scene in a Chinese public park is part Lollapalooza, part Jazzercise convention and part Karate Kid, with just a tinge of One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest. While youth might rave or hip-hop the Shanghai night away, it’s the seniors who rule the dawn.
On a typical early morning in Zhongshan Park, no fewer than 17 activities share the walkways and grassy enclosures. From badminton, ballroom dancing and tai chi to table tennis, Chinese elders have taken the government’s physical fitness call-to-arms to heart. . . .
Flautist Carole Bean didn’t anticipate anything out of the ordinary when she learned that she would be traveling to Xi’an, China to perform with the American National Symphony Orchestra. But soon after the concert on June 14, she realized that the Washington DC-based symphony’s role in bringing classical music to the Chinese people had made her and her colleagues cultural ambassadors.
“I think it’s good that it was the NSO that came,” said Bean. “We represent the nation’s capital, and it opens up [Sino-U.S.] relations more.”
The choice of Xi’an as a venue was also important. An ancient capital that is now a modern city, Xi’an values its relics and monuments and with a reason. The city received a big boost in 1974 after local farmers discovered numerous terracotta statues. . . .
Before I left for Beijing a friend recommended that I visit Beijing’s Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. He said it housed some of the most anti-American rhetoric in China, so I thought I’d have a look. While what I saw fell far short of my expectations for anti-American propaganda, I found it an eye-opening experience nonetheless.
For starters, there’s the grand scale of the place. A massive spire capped with the symbol of the People’s Liberation Army jutted from the top of the building. . . .
China’s economy has been growing by leaps and bound in recent years, and Western fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s have made some impressive strides of their own. The first McDonald’s appeared in Shenzhen in 1990, while the first KFC opened its doors in Beijing in 1987. Today, there are 960 McDonald’s across the country and nearly 2,600 KFC’s.
How did American fast food get so popular so fast? Do Chinese people really relish the taste all that much? Is it a matter of convenience in an increasingly fast-paced society? Or is downing such fare as American burgers and fries seen by Chinese as status symbol in a country now aggressively linking its fate with the global economy?
The answers to these questions vary a lot depending on to whom you happen to be talking. . . .
“This H1N1 virus isn’t really a big threat,” said Yang Li Na, a young Beijing mother. Compared to neighboring Japan and Taiwan, where many residents wear facemasks in public and school trips have been cancelled, the Chinese public reaction to the H1N1 epidemic is decidedly relaxed. The Chinese government has been criticized internationally for an over-zealous quarantine-and-shame response to the H1N1 epidemic, yet Yang has been comforted by officials’ much-publicized efforts to contain the spread. . . .
There’s usually a fine line between the real and the fake when it comes to purchasing designer goods, but in the Sanlitun neighborhood of Beijing it’s a narrow road – quite literally. Sanlitun Village, one of Beijing’s trendiest shopping malls, boasts glistening new Versace, Lacoste and Esprit stores and, in so doing, embodies the image of the up-market Beijing, as advertised in American TV promos for the 2008 Summer Olympics, that many foreigners now hold dear.
Yet roughly 50 feet away, across that narrow street, sits the squat, four-story Yashow Market. . . .