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Tales of Hope, Tastes of BitternessChinese Road Builders in Ethiopia$
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Miriam Driessen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528042

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528042.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Tales of Hope, Tastes of Bitterness

Miriam Driessen

Hong Kong University Press

Exploring the everyday encounters between Chinese managers and Ethiopian laborers on the construction site in Tigray, this chapter challenges depictions of Chinese engagement with Africa as a model imposed on a practice. Chinese workers’ initial expectations of life and work in Ethiopia stand in contrast to the difficulties they face on the ground. Puzzled by the apparent ingratitude of Ethiopians, their lack of cooperation, and, worse, their repeated attempts to sabotage the building work, Chinese road builders are left disenchanted. Firm hopes of helping Ethiopians develop are offset by the bitter taste they experience in the face of repeated pushbacks, not only on the building site but also in the courtroom. Unraveling the intricacies of Chinese-led development in Ethiopia, this chapter discusses internal divisions in the Chinese community, road builders’ vain efforts to fashion Ethiopian laborers, and Chinese narratives of bitterness that address their own perceived lack of agency.

Keywords:   China, Ethiopia, development, agency, hope, bitterness

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