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This CWIHP Working Paper was made possible through the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

CWIHP Working Paper 80

Showcasing the Chinese Version of Moderni-tea in Africa: Tea Plantations and PRC Economic Aid to Guinea and Mali during the 1960s

Gregg Brazinsky

July 2016


On 6 April 1962, a group of tea specialists departed Beijing for Guinea, a country in western Africa that had gained its independence from France just four years earlier. The group would spend 77 days in Macenta, a prefecture in the southeastern part of the country, surrounded by rain forests and known for its moist, humid climate. The region’s long rainy seasons lasted for up to ten months per year. Lizards, snakes, and army ants could readily be seen slithering and crawling across its dirt roads and through its surrounding forests. It was not the most hospitable environment for newcomers unfamiliar with the terrain, but it was an ideal venue for cultivating tea, a crop which requires warm temperatures and moist air. The ultimate goal of the Chinese visitors was to set up a sprawling new tea plantation and processing plant that would occupy 60 hectares (150 acres). Plans called for Chinese technicians to supervise the creation of this new facility and train Guineans in the skills needed to run it before returning home and turning the project over to the host country.[1] If successful, the enterprise would constitute a major step in moving Guinea toward self-sufficiency in tea production—a goal it never achieved under French colonialism. 

Through helping Guinea to produce its own tea, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was seeking not only to enable the country to achieve more genuine economic independence, but also to showcase the Chinese style of development projects. The establishment of a viable indigenous enterprise with Chinese help was intended to demonstrate the superiority of Beijing’s approach to aid in Africa.

This kind of showcasing was a common feature of economic aid programs carried out by both the United States and its rivals during the Cold War. Its purpose was most often to create a small enclave of progress that could inspire faith in the particular vision of development being espoused. The United States most often employed this kind of showcasing to illustrate how technological prowess, market reform, and capitalist modes of distribution and production could raise living standards and bring prosperity to the poorer nations of the globe.[2] If a showcase succeeded, then other peoples in newly independent, preindustrial countries would seek to emulate it thereby further expanding American influence.

Beijing’s version of showcasing was of a somewhat different tenor than Washington’s. The PRC could never compete with the United States when it came to showering African countries with financial largesse or introducing the most sophisticated technologies. It therefore tried to pedal an alternative version of modernity and development—one based on self-sufficiency and South-South cooperation. The Chinese argued that wealthier nations like the United States or the Soviet Union could never understand the needs of Africa the way another Afro-Asian country with its own history of anti-colonial struggle like the PRC could. They introduced aid projects that would yield immediate results and promote economic autonomy rather than dependence on Western technology. These projects sought to create a demonstration effect not through transferring expensive new equipment and spending large amounts of capital but through the comportment of Chinese technicians and aid workers who were expected to adapt to local living conditions and build sincere friendships with their colleagues in the host country. Ultimately this would insure that the newly independent African nations like Guinea forged stronger ties with China than with the United States or the Soviet Union.

This paper focuses on China’s development of two tea plantations in Guinea and Mali during the 1960s. Before 1968, Conakry and Bamako were the first and third largest recipients of Chinese economic assistance in Africa respectively and both played important roles in China’s program of aid to Afro-Asian countries.[3] Yet, with the exception of Jeremy Friedman’s recent work focusing on Sino-Soviet competition in the Third World, Chinese aid to these two countries has received little attention from scholars.[4] Although a small number of studies in English about Chinese assistance to Africa during the 1960s and 1970s have appeared in recent years, these have mostly focused on Chinese aid to Tanzania and East Africa.[5] Older studies of Sino-African relations sometimes provide the basic details of Chinese assistance, but they were written long before a significant number of archival materials became available in China and are therefore limited in their depth.[6] Several brief Chinese language articles on Beijing’s aid to Guinea and Mali have also appeared in the last few years but these provide fairly cursory summaries and do not use the new materials from the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive (PRC FMA) which this paper is largely based upon.[7]

This essay uses China’s tea plantation projects in Guinea and Mali to open a broader window on to the nature and objectives of Beijing’s assistance to these countries. It argues that the PRC managed all aspects of these projects to assure that they embodied the Chinese vision of Sino-African economic cooperation and conveyed the virtues of China’s approach to aid. Although these projects were small, the dreams that inspired them were grand. Analyzing their implementation sheds light on China’s understanding of its global role and its special relationship to other Afro-Asian peoples. It is also important to remember that the Cold War was waged not only through the actions of high-ranking statesmen and large-scale interventions but also through much smaller efforts to transform local conditions and everyday life. Looking at these relatively small-scale Chinese aid projects offers a revealing glimpse of how Cold War competition was localized in what many considered remote and distant parts of the periphery. And it reminds us that the Cold War in the Third World was not simply a bipolar struggle, but a complex multilateral one in which multiple paths to modernity were opened and explored.

Guinea, Mali, and Cold War Rivalries

The end of French colonialism in Guinea and Mali brought both celebration and anxiety. On the one hand, political independence had been achieved and new nationalist leaders— Sékou Touré in Guinea and Modibo Keïta in Mali—had the opportunity to break with the past and govern in accordance with their own principles. At the same time, both struggled with serious economic hardships after gaining independence. Touré had infuriated Guinea’s former colonial master when he encouraged his countrymen to reject a French offer to join in a new union under which Conakry would have ceded control over its foreign policy to Paris in exchange for substantial financial aid. A vengeful Charles de Gaulle had then swiftly withdrawn all French personnel from the country and begun pressuring France’s allies not to recognize or aid Guinea as a punishment for spurning his offer.[8] The situation in Mali was even more dismal. A country with a population of 4 million and a literacy rate of only three-percent, Mali had virtually no skilled manpower, infrastructure or natural resources. It’s major cash crop, peanuts, had to be transported over difficult terrain because the railroad that once connected landlocked Mali to the African coast via Senegal had fallen into disrepair.[9] Like Touré, the new Malian president Modibo Keïta placed a higher priority on achieving greater autonomy and independence than on maintaining good relations with the metropole. In 1960, he withdrew Mali from the French Community established by de Gaulle and, in 1962, he abandoned the Franc Zone, an arrangement in which former African colonies had used a common currency guaranteed by the French treasury. Yet Keïta’s policies discouraged foreign investment and within a short period of time, Mali’s foreign debt began to skyrocket and production stagnated.[10]

The first place that Guinea and Mali turned to for help was the Soviet Union. Both leaders espoused “African socialism,” by which they meant a new kind of socialism that drew on Africa’s communal traditions.[11] With France and many of its allies hostile toward their agenda, Touré and Keïta initially viewed Moscow as their most likely potential benefactor. Moscow initially succeeded at establishing a significant presence in both countries. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to send technicians and material support to Guinea in 1960 because he considered it a “duty” to help an African country struggling to consolidate its independence.[12] The Soviets felt a similar obligation toward Mali. In early 1962 Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan visited Bamako and signed an aid agreement designed to assist in the implementation of Mali’s recently developed five-year plan. After the visit, the Soviets were highly optimistic that Mali would successfully follow the socialist model of development.[13]

Moscow’s initial optimism about its prospects in West Africa proved unfounded. It did not take long before Touré and Keïta started to become disillusioned with the Soviets. Touré publicly announced his dissatisfaction with Moscow’s aid programs in August 1961 after several of his ministers accused the Soviets of supplying inferior equipment and evincing an air of superiority in their interactions with locals. Then, in December, Touré expelled the Russian ambassador, Daniel Solod, on charges that he had helped to incite an anti-government protest.[14] Moscow’s falling out with Bamako was not as damaging or abrupt, but Keïta nevertheless became highly critical of Soviet aid in a short period of time. Within a year of Mikoyan’s visit, the Malian president convened a meeting of socialist diplomats and complained about the high prices being asked for equipment.[15] Although Soviet efforts to gain influence in West Africa were hardly at an end, Moscow’s relative decline in the eyes of both Guineans and Malians created opportunities for other aid donors to step in and gain prestige through more successfully implementing their programs.

By the late 1950s, ideological and political relations between the PRC and the Soviet Union had begun to deteriorate and the two were already competing discreetly in Afro-Asian countries even if they did not always attack each other directly. Beijing kept close track of Soviet assistance to Guinea and Mali and was not disappointed that Moscow was having difficulty. Chinese officials viewed Moscow’s setbacks in Guinea and Mali as emblematic of the fact that the Soviets could not understand and sympathize with Afro-Asian peoples in the same way that the PRC could. One Chinese official believed these failures resulted from the Soviet Union’s “great power chauvinism, unscrupulousness, and double-faced saying without doing.” This, according to the official, “had left a bad impression on every group in Malian society.” President Keïta had complained openly that when Soviet technicians came to Mali they “want refrigerators, air conditioners and cars…you can see the vestiges of colonialism on them.” Because of this, “Soviet prestige had already begun to decline and the people’s faith in the Soviets had been shattered.”[16]

In the meantime, the PRC had worked assiduously to establish its own position in Guinea and Mali. In May 1959, before Beijing and Conakry had even established official relations, the Chinese government supplied Guinea with 5,000 tons of rice to help alleviate food shortages after Touré severed ties with France. In 1960, the Guinean ambassador to the PRC requested more food aid and Beijing responded by providing an additional 10 million tons of rice despite the fact that China itself faced serious food shortages due to the failures of the Great Leap Forward.[17] Touré offered strong public praise for China’s assistance, explaining that the French had tried to “starve us” but Beijing had provided rice. “In the future we don’t have to fear the French imperialists because we have China,” he explained.[18] When the Guinean president visited the PRC in September 1960, he became the first African head of state to do so and made his country the first in Africa to sign an agreement on technical assistance and cooperation in China.[19]

Beijing was equally efficient at strengthening its presence in Mali. The two countries established relations soon after Mali gained its independence in 1960 and their leaders showed a great deal of mutual sympathy. Mali’s delegation to the 1961 Non-Aligned Conference in Belgrade expressed views that were highly supportive of the PRC and Zhou Enlai later expressed his gratitude for this.[20] Beijing decided to make Mali one of the focal points of its assistance programs and signed an “Economic and Technical Cooperation Treaty” with Bamako in September 1961. Plans were drawn up to send Chinese specialists in irrigation and rice planting among other areas.[21]

While China’s anti-imperialism, revolutionary enthusiasm and status as an Afro-Asian nation enabled it to swiftly establish a rapport with Guinea and Mali, these advantages by no means eliminated competition. Washington began seeking to engage Conakry and Bamako at almost exactly the same time that Beijing was getting its aid programs in West Africa off the ground. Although the Eisenhower administration had initially been wary of African independence movements, it slowly changed its policy after 1958 and invited Touré to the White House in 1959.[22] The Kennedy administration was determined to expand significantly on these efforts. The new president was convinced that the United States could attract left leaning but formally neutral countries like Guinea and Mali if it showed sympathies for their aspirations. Kennedy’s strategy was to establish personal rapport with the new generation of African leaders and offer limited economic aid to build goodwill toward the United States. During his first year in office, the president held two meetings with high-ranking Malian officials, one with Minister of State Jean-Marie Kone in July 1961 and one with President Modibo Keïta in September.[23] In the course of these visits, Washington promised both leaders that economic aid and technical assistance programs would be forthcoming.[24] Once Touré made it clear that he was distancing himself from the Soviets, he too received an invitation to return to Washington and meet with Kennedy.[25]

Beijing saw America’s rejuvenated interest in West Africa as worrisome. Washington’s growing involvement made the PRC feel a greater urgency to differentiate itself from its rivals in Africa. The Foreign Ministry expressed some of these anxieties in a report on the Kennedy administration’s diplomacy toward Mali. American imperialists, it explained, “feigned benevolence but employed insidious two-faced methods that were crafty and covert.” Although U.S. aid commitments to Mali were not large Washington was “throwing out a long line to catch a big fish” or, in other words, adopting a patient long-term strategy with the hope that it would reap a big reward. Under its strategy of “awarding small favors” the United States was “giving a few commodities as gifts and using them as bribes to curry favor.” Unfortunately, the report continued, Malians “did not clearly recognize the danger” of American imperialism and “lacked vigilance.” Instead, they “looked forward to the United States and West Germany giving them more aid and their fantasy about American imperialism was especially great.” Yet Mali’s receptivity to receiving aid from China’s rivals by no means meant that the PRC should abandon its efforts. Quite to the contrary, Malians still needed China’s “unselfish aid” which would help Mali “to solve its difficulties and set up a model that the Malian government can show to the public as an example to follow.”[26] It would be up to the PRC to demonstrate that its aid truly was more unselfish and more likely to bring about the results that Africans sought.

The Chinese Approach to Aid

Seeking to distinguish itself from its Great Power rivals and demonstrate the distinctive virtues of Sino-African cooperation, Beijing laid out a blueprint for Chinese aid projects in Africa that would serve as a guide for the tea plantations it built in Guinea and Mali. Chinese officials did not advocate any overall approach to economic development or call for African states to emulate the Chinese experience. They wanted instead to showcase the PRC’s commitment to assisting newly independent countries and encourage autonomy. Rather than endorsing the socialist or capitalist route to modernity, China’s aid projects promoted their own set of values and ideals. These included: self-sufficiency, hard work, anti-imperialism, and mutual cooperation among Afro-Asian peoples. The Chinese narrative of global modernity emphasized improving people’s livelihoods through greater egalitarianism and the conquest of imperialism rather than technological advancement or the growth of markets.

Zhou Enlai later codified the Chinese approach when he made his famous tour of ten African countries in 1963-1964. During the premier’s stop in Ghana in January 1964, he announced his Eight Principles of Economic and Technical Aid, which were targeted primarily at African countries. The Eight Principles were also formally written into the joint communiqué that Zhou signed with Malian President Modibo Keïta several weeks later.[27] Taken as a whole, the principles created a model for Chinese aid that could have both a political and economic impact. Each of the principles specified different conditions and terms for Chinese economic assistance, stipulating that Beijing’s aid projects and the personnel involved in them would be different from those of its rivals.

Zhou’s first principle was that Chinese aid would be based on “equal and mutual benefits.” It should not be seen “simply as a one-sided grant but as something mutual.” Second, Zhou promised that in awarding aid, the PRC would “strictly respect the sovereignty of the receiving country and would not attach any conditions or request any special privileges.” The third principle stipulated that Chinese aid would be awarded in the form of interest free loans with a flexible time period for repayment. The purpose of such aid, the premier explained in the fourth principle, would not be to encourage dependence on China but rather to help recipient countries “embark on the road toward self-reliance and independent economic development.” After devoting the fifth, sixth and seventh principles to describing the nature and form that Chinese development programs would take, the premier pledged in the eighth principle that experts sent by the PRC to help administer aid projects would have the same living standards as those of the recipient country. They would not make any special requests or enjoy special privileges.[28]

These principles were also an argument in favor of greater Sino-African alignment. The premier’s insistence that aid should be mutually beneficial reminded Africans that China itself was not a rich country but a victim of Western colonialism with which they waged a shared struggle to overcome the economic legacy of imperialism. Zhou’s promise to respect the sovereignty of recipient countries was a veiled attack on the United States and the Soviet Union, whose aid programs, CCP officials always charged, were guided by self-interest. By stressing “self-reliance” and “independent economic development,” the Chinese premier not only touched on what was still a very raw nerve for African countries but also sought to promote a system of economic exchange that could exclude the Great Powers. Finally, by insisting that Chinese technical experts adapt to local living standards, PRC aid projects would aspire to create a highly visible symbol of China’s consanguinity with African nations.

Beijing believed this approach could best be implemented through aiding relatively small-scale projects that enabled recipient nations to become independent in the production of specific commodities. The PRC helped to build matchstick factories, textile mills, sugar refineries, and other basic manufacturing facilities in eight different Sub-Saharan African countries during the 1960s.[29] In doing so, it aspired not to introduce the most cutting edge new technologies but to help Africans to make modest improvements in their living standards. Through setting up these turn-key projects and, after a brief period of time, turning over their management to Africans, the PRC sought to establish an alternative model of economic aid that led to greater autonomy rather than—as Beijing claimed was the case with Soviet and American aid programs in Africa—greater dependence.

Tea plantations and processing plants figured prominently among the aid projects that the PRC offered. This may well have reflected China’s own unique relationship with both the plant and the beverage it was used to make. For centuries, China dominated global tea production. According to some accounts, the Chinese first began using tea for medicinal purposes almost five millennia ago. The tea plant itself was first discovered in China and the Chinese were the first to drink the beverage. It was also the Chinese who developed the techniques for hand manufacturing brick tea, which made trade and distribution possible. At the beginning nineteenth century, China still accounted for 96percent of global tea exports. It was only during the 1880s and 1890s that the Europeans were able to break up this near monopoly by introducing tea cultivation in their colonies.[30] Chinese tea production suffered setbacks during the early twentieth century as economic chaos that enveloped the country due to Japanese imperialism and civil war. But the CCP began seeking to revitalize tea production during the early 1960s and its efforts proved successful. By 1989, China had just about pulled even with India (which it would eventually surpass) to once again become the world’s leading tea producer.[31] As the PRC reestablished its position as a global tea producer, it naturally sought venues where it could underscore its successes in the area. Through setting up tea plantations in distant African countries, the PRC hoped to achieve recognition for both its longstanding expertise with the crop and its willingness to mentor other newly independent nations. These projects were therefore, from the outset, infused with a deep cultural and historical meaning that Chinese technicians aimed to reinforce when they arrived in Africa.

 Cultivating Moderni-tea in Guinea and Mali

Beijing first began to draw up concrete plans for setting up tea plantations in Guinea and Mali in 1962. The PRC had by then already agreed to fund these projects alongside others in the agricultural sector through providing interest free loans that could be used to buy equipment and pay for the salaries of Chinese specialists.[32] The documentary record of these projects is far from complete. Many of the details about the budgeting, implementation, and overall success of many Chinese ventures cannot be known from available sources. Nonetheless, several official reports written by the PRC embassies in Bamako and Conakry as well as narrative summaries written by the leaders of Chinese tea specialist groups were among the documents declassified in 2009 by the PRC Foreign Ministry. Even if some details are missing, these reports reveal much about how the new tea plantations fit into China’s overarching plans for African development and Sino-African economic cooperation. What becomes clear above all is that these tea plantations were about far more than simply helping Africans to produce a needed beverage. They were imbued with dreams of a new Africa whose people, leaders, and landscape were transformed to fit China’s vision of post-colonial modernity. It was a vision in which independence, mutual benefit, and Afro-Asian solidarity trumped the transfer of technology and capital. The Chinese strove to showcase this vision through paying careful attention to the planning, implementation, and potential impact of these aid projects.

These efforts began in April 1962 when a survey team comprised of several tea specialists arrived in Guinea to assess the possibilities for helping the country set up its own tea plantations. The team labored intensively not only to complete its work but also to make the underlying vision of Sino-African cooperation a reality. The specialists first surveyed Seredou, a sub-prefecture of Macenta where the French had cultivated a limited amount of tea during the colonial period. They spent roughly half of their time in Seredou, assessing whether this would be a good region for the construction of a tea processing plant and conducting a small-scale training program in tea cultivation for local farmers. The feasibility of growing tea on a wider scale in Seredou proved dubious because it was a mountainous area with shallow soils and few nearby villages to draw manpower from. The survey team managed to find a more suitable plot of land with richer soil, more reliable irrigation, and an electricity supply in close proximity to the town of Macenta (it was the name of both town and prefecture). Having found a more ideal location, the team’s leader drew up a preliminary plan that envisaged gradual increases in planting and production over a span of seven years as well as the construction of a new tea processing plant in 1965.[33] After the team briefed Guinea’s Minister of Rural Economy on its findings, the Chinese embassy in Conakry wrote the Foreign Ministry recommending that the proposed schedule be followed and suggesting that two tea specialists and one interpreter be dispatched from the PRC to Guinea in March 1963.[34]

Throughout their time in Guinea, members of the survey team paid close mind to their personal relations with Guineans. They seemed ever cognizant of the fact that they were part of a larger effort to showcase China’s uniqueness as an aid donor and sympathy for newly independent peoples. This was reflected in the hands on, locally rooted approach that informed the team’s work in training its Guineans counterparts. According to the report, techniques were imparted “in accordance with local circumstances.” In Seredou, the tea specialists set up a “skills learning group” with eight to ten members, the majority of whom were illiterate. To address this problem the specialists combined demonstration with lecturing while instructing the group in the techniques of seedling cultivation, tea growing, and tea production. With the introduction of Chinese techniques, the survival rate of cuttings (tea leaves that are replanted and grown into tress) increased from 18 percent to 70 percent. Members of the skills learning group also studied processing techniques that enabled them improve the quality of the tea they produced.[35]    

The process had not been without frustrations and the survey team warned that if more specialists were dispatched such frustrations would continue. Nonetheless, the team encouraged its successors to follow its model and “exercise patience and take the initiative.” According to the report, Guinean officials “tended to forget things and were quick to lose their tempers.” Moreover, when meetings were scheduled the Guineans had tended to arrive half and hour to an hour late. Nonetheless, Chinese officials were careful not to blame the Guineans for these problems, which they believed “arose under long-term imperial rule.” In order to build good relations between China and Guinea, the report emphasized, “We should maintain a friendly and forgiving attitude toward them [Guineans], be proactive and tolerant in our work and not be impatient.” [36] There was, of course, a somewhat ironic hint of condescension in how the report characterized Guineans; they were seen as immature and in need of China’s guidance. The Chinese were nonetheless sincere in their desire to embody the ideals of Afro-Asian solidarity and mutually beneficial aid in their daily activities.

While the survey team strove to be generous, it also made clear that aid to Guinea’s fledgling tea manufacturing enterprise was not only about Chinese helping Guineans but also about Guineans helping themselves. The Chinese emphasis on “self-help” here was, of course, not entirely dissimilar to that of their American rivals, who also stressed that aid recipients must actively contribute to the success of development programs. But while Washington’s definition of self-help generally entailed internal reform and financial restructuring measures that facilitated participation in a liberal economic regime, China’s definition of the term emphasized the development of autonomous capacities for production and management that could reduce dependence on former colonizers. The approach was flavored by a Maoist faith in man’s capacity to overcome adversity through hard work, self-reliance, and revolutionary zeal.

The survey team emphasized the importance of “self-help” during its discussions with officials in Conakry. Initially Guinea’s Minister of Rural Economy, Sory Barry, requested that the Chinese assume responsibility for nearly all aspects of establishing the new tea plantation and processing facilities. Citing his country’s lack of experience at growing tea on its own, he requested that China “single-handedly take charge of the whole process” of setting up the new tea plantation. The Chinese, however, insisted that Conakry “take responsibility for the organization and leadership of the project.”[37] Beijing would send technicians, tools, seeds, and other supplies but the Guinean government would have to invest in the labor needed to clear the land and build accommodations for employees.[38] Beijing hoped that through emphasizing shared responsibility, it would establish economic relations with Conakry that were starkly different than those imposed by French colonialists in earlier decades. Rather than becoming dependent on the metropole, Guineans would embrace a more self-reliant mentality and gain the capacity to organize the production of a key commodity for themselves. They would be able to exchange goods freely and equally with other Afro-Asian countries rather than skew their economic development toward the interests of the United States or its imperialist allies.

When the survey team finished its work in Guinea, it was convinced that Chinese aid in general and a tea plantation in particular could have a significant impact. It reported favorably on the prospects for setting up the project in Macenta because of the project’s potential demonstration effect both in Guinea and in other newly independent African countries. The team claimed that Guineans had an “urgent need to develop their tea industry” and that the project would be “low in cost but significant in influence at present.”[39] This was precisely the type of aid project the Chinese believed they needed to implement. It fulfilled what they considered a critical African need, could bear immediate fruits, and could be done at a fraction of the cost of the aid projects being carried out by China’s major rivals.

As plans were being finalized for the construction of a tea processing plant in Guinea, another team of Chinese aid technicians was already moving into Mali with similar objectives. Beijing had first agreed to dispatch a tea specialist to Mali as part of a team of seven agricultural experts when it signed the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement with Bamako in September 1961.[40] The specialists deemed Sikasso, a region located in Mali’s southernmost corner known for its hot climate and heavy summer rains, the most opportune site for cultivating and processing tea. Their first step was organizing a training course on tea cultivation techniques and field management for Malian personnel. In 1962, Mali’s Ministry of Rural Development recruited students from a range of areas and backgrounds for the course. They included agricultural technicians and educated rural youth with different knowledge and skill levels. While the initial plans were for six to eight week courses, the timeframe was eventually expanded to make sure that students received proper training regardless of their experience and education.[41]

Through launching this training course, Chinese specialists tried to steer Malians on the path toward self-sufficiency while showcasing the virtues of China’s unselfish aid. Instructional techniques bore significant resemblance to those used in Guinea, emphasizing a “combination of theory and practice” with students both attending lectures and doing “hands-on work.” The Chinese specialists saw “mixing lectures with practice and patiently helping” Malians as the best way to “cultivate their interest in learning, and their passionate interest in the profession.” In the process of instruction, the Chinese tried to adhere to “a consistent spirit of setting an example [as the best way] to motivate students.” The specialists made a deliberate show of laboring side-by-side in the fields with their trainees in order to serve as examples of the hard work that China sought to promote while fostering a sense of unity between Africans and Chinese.[42]

The specialists explicitly connected the success of small-scale projects to larger geopolitical objectives. They saw assisting Mali with its fledgling efforts to cultivate and process tea as an opportunity to implement some of the central directives of Chinese economic aid policy. The guidelines by which the specialists strove to conduct the training called for efforts to: “Strongly support the Government of Mali’s elimination of imperialist economic forces, support them [Malians in] developing their own technical skills, develop the agricultural economy, [and] promote friendship between China and Mali.”[43] As such, the training course fell in line with broader Chinese efforts to reduce foreign influence in Africa while deepening its own ties to the continent.

Before long the Chinese could boast that their training program was producing visible results. The specialists reported that by July 1963 there was already one trainee effectively managing a 70 hectare (173 acres) tea plantation and another who had succeeded at cutting and splicing over 12,000 seedlings. A group of trainees in Kita, a province in southwestern Mali, were even planning and designing a new tea plantation from scratch. Moreover, Malians seemed to be gaining greater confidence in their ability to cultivate tea independently. “Now we can cultivate tea on our own,” Mali’s Director of New Crops boasted upon seeing the work done by Chinese trainees in Kita.[44] After supporting the training program, Beijing aided in the construction of the Farako Tea Factory, which was named after a nearby river and opened officially in 1973.[45]

Chinese tea projects in Guinea and Mali were implemented on slightly different terrain but shared a similar purpose. Economically, they promoted self-reliance by enabling the two countries to produce a new commodity on their own and reduce their reliance on outside powers. At the same time, these projects aimed to showcase the virtues of the PRC’s approach to aid through demanding generosity and patience from Chinese technicians working on the ground in Africa. Their geostrategic purpose was to strengthen Sino-African friendship and encourage Afro-Asian resistance to Great Power hegemony. The key question that remained to be answered was to what extent these relatively modest aid projects could actually fulfill this ambitious agenda.

Reading the Tea Leaves

Beijing recognized that if it truly wanted to prevail in Africa, its aid programs needed to succeed at multiple levels. They needed to convey that China was not self-seeking like the other Great Powers and help Africans to thrive in areas where they were faltering. Chinese and American sources shed some light on both the relative popularity of these projects and their enduring impact. They make clear that the tea processing plants and other Chinese aid projects in Africa had their share of both triumphs and limitations.

When the tea specialists reported on their activities, they generally depicted Guineans and Malians as enthusiastic participants who eagerly embraced the Chinese agenda. Such reporting needs, of course, to be read with some measure of caution. The specialists had every reason to try to convince their superiors in the CCP that they had been highly successful in their tasks. At the same time, it is not unreasonable to assume that these reports contained some kernel of truth. Given the combination of poverty and anti-colonial sentiment that characterized these two countries it is easy to see why China’s approach might have given their peoples genuine encouragement.

In both Guinea and Mali, African trainees and officials drew explicit comparisons between the Chinese and the French colonialists that cast the PRC in a highly favorable light. “The white people only talked about some theories and never lifted a finger. They called us stupid when we did not understand what they said,” the specialists were reportedly told in Guinea. By contrast, “The Chinese experts showed [a] good attitude and they personally did the work and answered all the questions that we had, and we learned from them.”[46] In Mali, trainees voiced similarly enthusiastic sentiments about both China and the work done by the technicians. Two Malians who had studied with the Chinese technicians explained, “The Frenchmen did not give us skills but used us as unskilled laborers…In our current studies [with the] Chinese experts [our teachers] are patient [about explaining] the technology to us. After a few months we have learned a lot of things.” Other trainees expressed a new admiration for the PRC. Several praised the course claiming, “…from the study [period] we have gained a deeper understanding of China. [If] we have a chance we must go to China to study further.” The specialists believed that the expression of such sentiments marked “a step further in the development of friendship between China and Mali.”[47] In these statements, Chinese officials and technicians found confirmation that their patient, hands-on approach to development was paying political dividends and helping to promote Beijing’s international objectives.

What makes these Chinese reports more credible is that they are corroborated to some degree by American reports. For Washington, Africa represented an increasingly important theater for its trilateral competition with Moscow and Beijing and American officials kept a close watch on Chinese activities while trying to diminish their impact. What made the Chinese presence increasingly worrisome to many American diplomats on the ground in Africa is that the PRC’s aid projects were generally being received with a good measure of affection on the part of Africans. Moreover, Chinese projects seemed to be making having a more immediate impact than American ones. Although most American officials did not report on the tea plantations specifically, their descriptions of China’s general success in Guinea and Mali are fairly consistent with how the situation was represented in Chinese reports with the obvious exception that Americans were dismayed rather than please by warming Sino-African ties.

Cables from the US embassy in Conakry to the State Department reported on the favorable reactions that Chinese aid was eliciting. In November 1964, the embassy reported that Guinea’s attitude toward the Soviets and European communist countries were “correct but somewhat cool” while its relations with China appeared “increasingly friendly.” The Chinese, it continued, had “been successful in presenting themselves as a ‘revolutionary’ nation fighting for economic independence and development.” Partially as a result of Beijing’s aid programs, Conakry had come to endorse Communist China’s entry into the United Nations and Guineans “constantly praise[d] the working techniques of the Chicoms.”[48] During a field trip to Macenta in late 1964, one USAID official found Guineans full of praise for Chinese aid projects but less enthused by American ones. He was told by local officials that Guineans “have more respect for Chinese know-how than they do for American know-how.” This was attributable to the fact that “the Chinese live[d] in Macenta, whereas the Americans work[ed] from Conakry-which seems so far removed from everyday life.”[49]

American official descriptions of the success of Chinese aid projects in Mali were similar in tone and content. In February 1965, the CIA issued a report entitled “Mali—[Beijing]’s Leading African Booster,” which explained that the “major leaders of Mali’s Marxist-oriented regime view Chinese aid and example as particularly suited to their country’s needs.” These leaders had consequently become more supportive of Beijing in the arena of international politics. Seydou Kouyate, the Minister of Economic and Financial Coordination, was quoted as saying that “it is inconceivable to speak of Chinese neo-colonialism.” The CIA also reported that Bamako had “already become the continent’s most enthusiastic public backer of [Beijing], even hailing the Chinese nuclear weapons program, despite its own adherence to the test ban treaty.”[50]

While the tea cultivation projects may have achieved their intended political effects, however, their long-term economic impact was far more questionable. They could ultimately make only a small contribution to alleviating the economic distress suffered by Guinea and Mali. Moreover, despite its political savvy, the Chinese approach was often not farsighted enough. Chinese technicians generally set up factories or plants like the tea plantation and processing facility in Macenta but eventually turned them over to the host countries to manage. They therefore depended on the indigenous government gaining sufficient institutional capacity to arrange for the proper upkeep of the projects after the specialists left. But sometimes, this expectation was not completely realistic.

By the time China completed the Farako Tea Factory in 1973, Modibo Keïta had long been overthrown and replaced by a military government. Chinese technicians finally turned the factory over to Malian management in 1976 but over the next decade and a half conditions at the factory deteriorated under indigenous administration. When a new team of Chinese experts from Zhejiang province visited the tea factory during the early 1990s, they were dismayed to find that the modest compound that housed their predecessors was now nothing more than a few rundown looking huts that had been taken over by snakes, bats and other local wildlife. The factory itself had fallen deeply into debt and the quality of tea leaves that it produced had deteriorated. Although the Chinese agreed to send a new team of experts to help manage the enterprise, they had difficulty making it competitive in a globalizing economy. By the turn of the century the size of the plantation had shrunken by 12 hectares and the factory still had no lines for electricity. It cost the factory almost three times what it cost to produce a kilogram of tea in China.[51]

Of course, the long-term limitations of Chinese aid projects in Africa were by no means unique. Washington and Moscow were, for the most part, no more successful than Beijing in stimulating the “jet propulsion” to modernity that the respected Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah believed the continent so desperately needed.[52] Thus China’s failings did not engender anti-Chinese sentiment so much as they did a broader disillusionment with all visions of development, including those being pedaled by China. In both Guinea and Mali, the optimism and ambitions with which the two countries had greeted independence soon gave way to a sense of futility when it came to foreign aid and modernization. According a New York Times article from 1966, a joke about aid projects had become popular among Guineans: “West Germany will do the feasibility study. The Americans will furnish the equipment, the Russians will take payment in bananas, the Chinese will supply the labor. Touré will take the credit and the Guineans who take over will see to it that nothing works.”[53] Guinea’s failure to achieve greater economic independence was not China’s fault. It is, however difficult to dispute that Guinea never became the kind of effective economic showcase that could persuade others that Sino-African economic cooperation offered the best route to achieve this objective.

China’s dream of transforming the African continent through economic cooperation was not fulfilled during the Maoist era but it was never completely extinguished. During the last two decades, China has increased its influence and presence on the African continent far more forcefully and substantively than it did during the 1960s. Chinese aid to Africa has been far more diverse and complex than before; it now includes a combination of technical cooperation agreements, commodity-backed loans, humanitarian assistance, infrastructural capacity building, and foreign direct investment.[54] While the nature and scope of China’s assistance to Africa have changed dramatically, echoes of China’s Cold War era aid to Guinea and Mali can still be discerned. Agriculture remains an important component of China’s economic aid portfolio in Africa. According to a recent white paper on Chinese foreign aid programs, the PRC set up 49 agricultural demonstration centers and dispatched more than one thousand agricultural technicians abroad between 2010 and 2012 with a significant portion going to the African continent.[55] At the same time, the similarities extend beyond the forms of aid being offered; the general ethos and principles that guide Chinese aid in Africa today are not without resonance to those that Zhou Enlai articulated decades ago. Beijing continues to believe that its aid programs have a unique, unselfish quality that sets them apart from those of the West and makes them more appropriate for the African context. It argues that while Western aid programs attach strings and political conditions, Chinese loan offers respect the sovereignty and integrity of African governments. “The Western approach of imposing its values and political system on other countries is not acceptable to China. We focus on mutual development not promoting one country at the expense of the other,” one Chinese scholar claimed at the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Beijing.[56]

In the twenty-first century, China continues to face significant competition and resistance in its quest to deepen its influence in Africa. As Beijing, Washington, and others scramble to find opportunities and win loyalties on the continent, they remain attentive not only to the practical impact of their aid but also to the ideals and values that different aid projects convey. Aid projects continue to be arguments for specific (and competing) visions of African development. Indeed, what Americans fear most about Chinese aid to Africa is not its potential impact but what it represents. From Washington’s perspective, when Africans decide to accept Chinese aid, it connotes a decision in favor of South-South cooperation instead of neoliberal developmentalism. While Beijing might view things in slightly different terms, it too continues to recognize the representational power of development projects. Today, China continues to ramp up both its aid and investment in Africa with the hope that Africans and Chinese might embrace a shared vision of futurity—a vision that can be readily encapsulated in a new building, a paved road, or perhaps even a single tea leaf.

Gregg Brazinsky is an Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University. His previous book, Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans and the Making of a Democracy, appeared in 2007. His forthcoming book, tentatively entitled, Winning the Third World: Sino -American Rivalry during the Cold War, will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in the spring of 2017. He is also the author of numerous journal articles, book chapters, and op-ed pieces. Currently he is working on two new projects: one focuses on cultural and economic relations between China and North Korea from 1950 to the present and the other focuses on American nation building in Asia. He is the director of the George Washington University Cold War Group

Suggested Citation: Gregg Brazinsky, "Showcasing the Chinese Version of Moderni-tea in Africa: Tea Plantations and PRC Economic Aid to Guinea and Mali during the 1960s," Cold War International History Project Working Paper 80 (July 2016), accessible at

Document Appendix

Document No. 1

Cable from the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries to Vice Premier Li Fuchun, ‘Regarding Instructions for the Exchange of Notes on the Chinese Agricultural Experts Going to Mali,’ 24 January 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 2
Letter from the Ambassador Extraordinary of the PRC in the Republic of Mali to the Government of the Republic of Mali, 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 3
Record of the State Council's Answer to the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries’ Request for Instructions, 30 January 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 4
Cable from the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries to the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘Regarding Amendments to the Exchange of Notes,’ 30 August 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 5
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali to the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries, ‘Regarding the Various Issues Concerning the Experts Coming to Mali,’ 17 August 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 6
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Guinea, ‘Report on the Work Situation of the Tea Specialists Group in Guinea,’ 17 August 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00805-03, 19-21. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Caixia Lu. Accessible at]

Document No. 7
Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea, September 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00805-03, 24-30. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Caixia Lu. Accessible at]

Document No. 8
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali to the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries, ‘Regarding the Exchange of Notes for the Chinese Agricultural Experts Going to Mali,’ 28 April 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 9
Cable from the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries to the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘Regarding the Exchange of Notes on the Conditions of the Experts’ Work,’ 21 May 1962
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00800-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 10
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘The Duration of Employment for the Agricultural Experts Aiding Mali,’ 10 January 1963
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00889-04. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 11
Cable from the Chinese General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries et al, ‘Regarding the Question of the Experts' Rotation,’ 26 April 1963
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00889-04. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 12
Cable from the Commercial Attaché, Chinese Embassy in Mali, to the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries, 25 July 1963
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00888-04. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 13
Work Summary for Training Malinese Agricultural Technical Personnel related to Tea, July 1963
[Source: PRC FMA 108-00888-04. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 14
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘The Two Notes Given to China by Mali,’ 18 February 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 15
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘The Matter of Sending Experts,’ 14 May 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 16
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘Regarding the Matter of Sending Handicraft Teachers,’ 8 October 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 17
Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Mali, ‘Regarding the Matter of Sending a Carving Expert,’ 20 October 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 18
Cable from the Head Office of the All China Handicraft Cooperative, 8 December 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 19
Cable from the Foreign Cultural Liaison Committee, ‘Regarding the Issue of Sending Experts in Woodcarving and Ivory to Mali,’ 12 December 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

Document No. 20
Cable from the Foreign Cultural Liaison Committee, ‘Regarding the Matter of Sending Experts in Woodcarving and Ivory,’ 18 December 1964
[Source: PRC FMA 108-01057-03. Obtained by Gregg Brazinsky and translated by Marian Rosenberg. Accessible at]

[1] For a basic summary of this project see “Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” September 1962, PRC FMA 108-00805-03, accessible at

[2] On the role of this kind of showcasing in American development policy see Nick Cullather, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 161.

[3] “Intelligence Memorandum: Chinese Communist Aid to Sub-Saharan Africa,” September 1968, Declassified Documents Reference Service (hereafter DDRS).

[4] Jeremy Friedman, “Free at Last, Now What: The Soviet and Chinese Attempts to Offer a Road-map for the Post-Colonial World,” Modern China Studies 22, no. 1 (2015). Friedman looks at Sino-Soviet economic competition in the Third World broadly but also sees Guinea and Mali as important venues of competition. The article does not, however, devote a lot of attention to specific Chinese projects.

[5] Jamie Monson, Africa’s Freedom Railway: How a Chinese Development Project Changed Lives and Livelihoods in Tanzania (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009); Priya Lal, “Maoism in Tanzania: Material Connections and Shared Imaginaries,” in Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History, ed. Alexander C. Cook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

[6] See for instance Bruce D. Larkin, China and Africa, 1949-1970: The Foreign Policy of the People’s Republic of China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Alaba Ogunswano, China’s Policy in Africa 1958-1971 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, reprint edition).

[7] Li Hongxi, “20 shiji 60 niandaichu Zhongguo dui Fei yuanzhu shulun: yi Jineiya wei li” (“A Study of Chinese Aid to Africa during the early 1960s with Guinea as an Example”), Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi geren keti chengguoji (2013): 378-390; Hong Hui, “20 shiji liuqishi niandai Guangdong sheng dui Feizhou guojia de yuanzhu” (“Guangdong Province’s Aid to Africa during the 1960s and 1970s”), Dangdai Zhongguo shi yanjiu  20, no. 3 (March 2013): 95-103.

[8] Robert R. Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 18-19.

[9] National Intelligence Estimate Number 60-62, “Guinea and Mali as Exemplars of African Nationalism,” July 1962, DDRS.

[10] The literature on this is a bit dated but still contains accurate basic information. See David Leith Crum, “Mali and the U.M.O.A.: A Case Study of Economic Integration,” The Journal of Modern African Studies 22, no. 3, (September 1984): 469-486 (see especially 472-473); John N. Hazard, “Marxian Socialism in Africa: The Case of Mali,” Comparative Politics 2, no. 1 (October, 1969): 1-15.

[11] Patrick Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1890-1995 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 152-53.

[12] Sergei Khrushchev ed., The Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, Vol. 3: Statesman (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007), 877-78.

[13] Friedman, “Free at Last, Now What,” 284.

[14] On Soviet policy toward the region and its limitations see Sergey Mazov, A Distant Front in the Cold War: The USSR in West Africa and the Congo, 1956-1964 (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 183-190, 220-226; Friedman, “Free at Last, Now What,” 283.

[15] Friedman, “Free at Last, Now What,” 284.

[16] “1962 nian Mali jingji xingshi” (“Mali’s Economic Situation in 1962”), PRC FMA 108-00366-01.

[17] Li, “20 shiji 60 niandaichu Zhongguo dui Fei yuanzhu shulun: yi Jineiya wei li,” 382.

[18] Cited in Li, “20 shiji 60 niandaichu Zhongguo dui Fei yuanzhu shulun: yi Jineiya wei li,” 383.

[19] Li, “20 shiji 60 niandaichu Zhongguo dui Fei yuanzhu shulun: yi Jineiya wei li,” 382.

[20] Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi ed., Zhou Enlai nianpu, 1949-1976 (Chronology of Zhou Enlai], vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1997), 433.

[21] Meng Qingtao, “Zhongguo yuanzhu Feizhou yiwang” (“Recollections of Chinese Aid to Africa”), Dangan chunqiu (January 2012): 8-9.

[22] Fore a record of Touré’s meeting with Eisenhower see “Memorandum of Conversation,” 27 October 1959, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Africa, Volume XIV (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1992), 698-702.

[23] For the meeting with Kone see “Call by Jean Marie Kone, Minister of State of the Republic of Mali, on the President,” 12 July 1961, DDRS; “Briefing Memorandum on Mali” enclosed in “Memorandum for McGeorge Bundy,” 7 July 1961, DDRS.

[24] “Call by Jean Marie Kone, Minister of State of the Republic of Mali, on the President,” 12 July 1961, DDRS; “Briefing Memorandum on Mali” enclosed in “Memorandum for McGeorge Bundy,” 7 July 1961, DDRS.

[25] On Touré’s visit and Kennedy’s efforts to court Guinea more generally see Philip E. Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 67-69.

[26] “1962nian Mali jingji xingshi” (“Mali’s Economic Situation in 1962”), PRC FMA 108-00366-01 .

[27] Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi ed., Zhou Enlai waijiao wenxuan (Selected Works of Zhou Enlai on Diplomacy) (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2000), 388-389, accessible at

[28] Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi ed., Zhou Enlai nianpu, 1949-1976, vol. 2, 611-612.

[29] “Intelligence Memorandum: The New Look in Chinese Communist Aid to Sub-Saharan Africa,” September, 1968, DDRS.

[30] Dan M. Etherington and Keith Foster, Green Gold: The Political Economy of China’s Post-1949 Tea Industry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 22-25.

[31] Etherington and Foster, Green Gold, 230-32.

[32] CIA, “Chinese Communist Activities in Africa,” 30 April 1965, DDRS.

[33]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[34] Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Guinea, “Report on the Work Situation of the Tea Specialists Group in Guinea,” 17 August 1962, PRC FMA 108-00805-03, accessible at

[35]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[36]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[37]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03. The quotation is from the ambassador’s summary.

[38]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[39]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[40] Cable from the General Bureau for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries to Vice Premier Li Fuchun, “Regarding Instructions for the Exchange of Notes on the Chinese Agricultural Experts Going to Mali,” 24 January 1962, PRC FMA108-00800-03, accessible at

[41] “Work Summary for Training Malian Agricultural Personnel related to Tea,” July 1963, PRC FMA 108-00888-04, accessible at

[42]“Work Summary for Training Malian Agricultural Personnel related to Tea,” PRC FMA 108-00888-04.

[43]“Work Summary for Training Malian Agricultural Personnel related to Tea,” PRC FMA 108-00888-04.

[44]“Work Summary for Training Malian Agricultural Personnel related to Tea,” PRC FMA 108-00888-04.

[45] Deborah Brautigam, Will Africa Feed China? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 38.

[46]“Work Report of the Tea Specialist Group Aiding Guinea,” PRC FMA 108-00805-03.

[47]“Work Summary for Training Malian Agricultural Personnel related to Tea,” PRC FMA 108-00888-04.

[48] American Embassy, Conakry to Department of State, 13 November 1964, Record Group (hereafter RG) 59, Subject Numeric Files 1964-1966, Box 2018, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park Maryland (hereafter NARA).

[49] Roy A Harrell Jr., “Report on Field Trip, 25 November – 5 December, 1964,” 8 January 1965, RG 286, USAID Mission to Guinea, Executive Office, Entry# P645: Classified Central Subject Files, 1962-1970, Container 3, NARA.

[50] Mali—[Beijing’s] Leading African Booster,” 12 February 1965, National Security Files Box 94, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, Texas.

[51] Brautigam, Will Africa Feed China?, 52.

[52] Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 91.

[53] The New York Times, 10 November 1966.

[54] There is now a substantial literature on this. See for instance, Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (New York: Oxford, 2009); Howard French, China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (New York: Vintage, 2014).

[55] “Shouquan fabu: Zhongguo duiwai yuanzhu” (“Authorized Release: China’s Foreign Aid”) (2014),

[56] Quoted in New York Times, 2 November 2006.


About the Author

Gregg Brazinsky

Gregg Brazinsky

Former Fellow;
Professor of History and International Affairs, The George Washington University
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