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THE STAR RAFT : China's Encounters With Africa by Philip Snow (Cornell University Press: $9.95)

July 02, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Snow traces the evolution of Chinese foreign policy in Africa and attitudes toward Africans, from the first contacts between the cultures in Roman times through the present.

Unlike their European counterparts, the Chinese explorers and traders who visited East Africa during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries showed no interest in conquest or colonization. Secure in the belief that their culture represented the acme of civilization, the Chinese regarded Africa (and much of the rest of the world) with a curious mixture of superiority, missionary zeal and xenophobia. This pattern was repeated after World War II, when the Chinese aided revolutionary movements and provided massive amounts of foreign aid, but declined to mingle socially with Africans.

Snow's argute study offers insights into the beliefs that underlie not only the recent racial conflicts between Chinese and African students but all Chinese foreign policy. A valuable book for anyone interested in understanding the current crisis in China and its possible repercussions in international affairs.

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