By Kehinde Augustine
“…man walked out of Africa 100,000 years ago. Africa is the cradle of modern civilization. Yet when the ‘evolved, civilized’ humans returned to this land, they brought along with them nothing but suffering, slavery, disease and war.”- Rachel Prescott Smith (Wolf Warrior II)
I finally decided to see Wolf Warrior II more than a year after it was originally released. Being more inclined to reading, I can never sit out a full movie alone. So it took me three days to see the end of it. Yes, three consecutive days!
Wolf Warrior II, a Chinese thriller about how one man risked his life to extricate Chinese and African factory workers trapped in a diseased, war ravaged unnamed African country, reverberates the old American ‘War films’ themes of extreme masochism, blood and heroism. Of course, this was a departure from the more sedate, romantic culture of China as espoused by timeless Lao Tzu, hallowed Confucius and upright Buddha, and which is a hallmark of China’s cultural outlook and worldview even today.
Thus, the movie is more than an expression of Chinese culture. It is a statement of intent; that with Americans and Europeans rapidly vacating the continent, China is more than able to fill their, well, exploitative shoes.
“All foreign navy ships have left when I arrived. As I watched them sail away from the port, among the countless departing masts, I saw one with the stars and stripes.”- Leng Feng (Wolf Warrior II)
China’s well-documented passion for and dedication to the African cause is intricately woven into the storyline of the flick and is littered across its entire length: from Leng Feng (the hero) befriending Africans and even godfathering an African boy to Dr. Chen giving his life to cure Africans stricken by a mysterious and lethal ‘Lamanla’ virus, the Chinese are making Africans feel loved and elevated.
This new respite Africa is enjoying, especially in relations with a foreign power is a flattering cushion against the subjugation, racism and stereotypes that long defined its interactions with Europe and America. The West as self-absorbed, overbearing colonialist had been the refrain of academic discourse on Western/African relationship. However, this tedious image is further given a gloss when juxtaposed with China’s warmth, grace and genuine commitment to a win-win relationship with Africa.
And Wolf Warrior II did more to prove that.
Newspapers cover pages, editorials, feature articles together with television and radio broadcasts are already sated with laudable Chinese exploits in the African continent. The ‘sick man of Asia’ is cutting through dense forests, unyielding mountains and cavernous rivers to connect African countries and cities by rail. Ambitious projects like the deepwater seaports in Kribi, Cameroun and Lagos, Nigeria are reshaping the face of Africa to look more modern and futuristic. Throw in that mix Chinese liberal loans, currency swap and investment in technology and infrastructures that are gradually offsetting the burdens of colonialism and neo-colonialism, and China’s commitment to Africa will unfurl before you.
Nevertheless, China’s growing infatuation with and seeming honest disposition towards Africa must still be viewed with suspicion. Africans and African leaders are already falling head over heel in love with all things China, and uniquely African experiences reveal that such gestures do not always bode well for Africa in the long term.
In the days of my fore-fathers, blue-eyed Caucasians came to the shores of our villages bearing mirrors, whiskey, guns and ‘God’. Quickly, our elders gave them land, listened to their sermons, adopted their educational system and gifted their children and the children of their kinsmen to them. The result of that intercourse remains with us till today.
China might be vastly different from the Europeans; nonetheless, there are reports of distasteful treatment of African workers by Chinese supervisors and managers. Workers from mines, factories and construction sites in Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and across Africa are detailing and reporting ugly events involving Chinese and African labourers.
While these are isolated incidences and do not necessarily expose the attitude of the Chinese government towards Africa; however, we must dance around these people with caution bearing in mind that while the Chinese navy may weep over the killings of Africans in Wolf Warrior II, they are nowhere near angels, and like the Europeans and Americans before them, their interests come first!
Kehinde Augustine is a Nigeria-based content developer, social activist and temporarily a lecturer with the Department of Mass Communication, Taraba State University, Jalingo.