The latest on the Baoding Villages

August 6, 2009

Today at the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Daejeon there was a panel on “Exporting China’s Development.” Yan Hairong and Barry Sautman presented a paper on their fieldwork at the Chambishi copper mine in Zambia, which I had much anticipated. In response to a question, they told me that they thought the Baoding Villages were a total hoax. Yan Hairong has visited Baoding and interviewed Liu Jianjun (the self-styled founder), and he repeated his story, but refused to share any contacts in Africa. In the ten African countries Yan and Sautman visited, no one has heard about Baoding villages.

Li Guangyi, a PhD student at UCLA, came to the same conclusion in his presentation. But he affirmed that the East Africa Trade Development Zone does exist, and Ugandan officials gave a press conference in Peking about it. The 518 square kilometers and the 99-year lease seem to be right, although it is less clear whether the legislative rights, the Chinese policing and judiciary structures will exist, or indeed if the zone has any investors. Liu Jianjun and the other main investors were, apparently, adamant that residents and workers of the zone will have to obey its rules, giving the specific example that three (sic) prayers a day for Muslims will not be allowed as they disrupt production. A flag of the zone has been circulating on the Internet, very similar to Hong Kong, with five red stars at the centre.

Li also discussed the reactions to this on Tianya. According to him, some expressed suspicions that this too was a hoax. Others wrote that China should be more equitable and fair in its dealings with Africa and not repeat Western colonialism and brutality. But most expressed satisfaction about the Chinese “concession,” saying it demonstrated that Chinese civilization has stood up again.