Some Positivity

Jean Ping is a Gabonese politician who is currently the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union. He is the son of a Chinese man and a Gabonese woman. I find not only Jean Ping's life story is interesting but also, the first days of 2011 have presented me with alternate perspectives on Sino-African relations. It seems I've been focusing on the negatives and had somehow reached the conclusion that Chinese and Africans hate each other (of course I wouldn't accept this on a personal level).

Jean Ping was born on November 24th 1942 in the village of Omboué, south of Port-Gentil , to a Gabonese mother, the daughter of a local leader, and a Chinese father, Cheng Zhiping. Cheng Zhiping was from the port city of Wenzhou, China. Wenzhou’s eastern coast looks out to the East China Sea and the city boasts successful emigrant communities which made their fortunes in business in Europe and the United States. Wenzhou was one of the few ports that remained under Chinese control during the Second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937. Read more...

While this may or may not be due to his heritage, Jean Ping has been a key figure in encouraging Sino-African trade and relations helping to organize President Hu Jintao's visit to Gabon in 2004. Now things get more personal, in 1987 Jean Ping visited Wenzhou, his father's hometown.

When Jean Ping first returned his hometown, the people there welcomed him heatedly just like they were celebrating a festival. The most exciting was to see his ninety-four-years-old aunt. One of his cousin even excitedly said it was unimaginable to have such a black and great cousin. They were filled with the happiness of family reunion. Even though they could not understand what each other said, their hearts were together. Read more...
The above is from an article written by Wang Qin written for the Africa Magazine, a magazine for a Chinese audience with its aim to encourage Chinese readers to know and love Africa. That such a magazine exists is fascinating. More so, I recently learnt from a good source that most Chinese have a good impression of Africa and are proud of their government's good relationship with most African countries. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, one wouldn't expect this while reading on Sino-African relations from Western sources and I am not talking about the academic ones which tend to be less sensational and more cognitive.

It seems to me that a great amount of the (popular) news online on China and Africa are negative. Also articles on Africans or black people in China are also centred on racism and the general struggle. After reading such write-ups, it is so easy to leave with the feeling that Africans hate Chinese and vice versa. While reading Wang Qin's essay, it is really obvious to see that he is proud of Jean Ping.
Jean Ping is a household name not only in Gabon, Africa, but also in international diplomatic circles, and his Chinese identity is also an interesting topic. As his friend, colleague and as a Chinese, I feel proud. When working in Gabon, I understood him a lot, and now I still clearly remember his presence as a diplomatist, his wisdom as a politician, his humility and diligence inherited from the older generation.
It is quite telling that I did not come across Jean Ping on a major news outlet. Which leads me to another realisation, anytime I come across news articles on Africans leaving relatively good lives in China they are usually from Chinese sources. I don't know what this means but I know that I'm beginning to get tired (and bored) of reading on how tough the lives of Africans supposedly are.


  1. It seems to me that a great amount of the (popular) news online on China and Africa are negative.

    You're not alone. While I'm a cautious person by nature, I find it telling that almost every Western report I've seen/read/heard on China's interest in Africa is told with an underlying sentiment of suspicion.

    'Yellow Peril' - New Millennium Edition, perhaps?

  2. 'Yellow Peril' - New Millennium Edition, perhaps?

    Hmm, I'm inclined to agree with you on this one. Some so-called factual reports on Chinese interest in Africa are actually based on false statistics. Thank heavens for people like Deborah Brautigam who actually blogs on the topic (she's written, I believe, two books on China in Africa).

  3. Thanks for giving us that woman's name. I'll Google her and read more of what she has to say.

  4. Definitely better to here it from the source rather than biased Western media

  5. Thanks for introducing us to Jean Ping. His is a truly outstanding story.

    And thanks for Africa Magazine! I'm impressed!

  6. As usual, thank you for continuing my education. This is my first time ever hearing of Jean Ping. Thanks to you, it will not be my last.

    Africa + Negatively = white-centric wet dream/security.

    It's almost as if it's absolutely necessary that they believe we're (anyone with a drop of Black African heritage) drowning in the deepest cesspool of despair imaginable. Our happiness as well as our accomplishments are a genuine threat. The gods knows if they discover we're satisfied with anything or anybody, they'll risk life and limb to take it from us.

  7. @modest-goddess

    I fully agree.


    Yep Jean Ping is awesome! And the Africa Magazine does have a bunch of good articles even though they are badly translated. At times like these I wish I was fluent in Mandarin so I could peak at that version instead of the English version.


    Africa + Negatively = white-centric wet dream/security.

    It is just more disturbing and annoying when Black people including Africans themselves, buy into this mentality.

  8. Speaking of getting to know and falling in love with Africa...this is my village.

    Man...talk about some homesickness. *sigh*


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