Column: In a complicated relationship

Hao Ge is not your typical Chinese pop star. Sure, he sings the same types of pop love songs so frequently played on the Chinese airwaves. However, he has a pretty different story from most pop stars in China.

Hao Ge is originally from Lagos, the largest city in the country of Nigeria. His real name is Emmanuel Uwechue and his journey to fame began a long time ago when he was just another Nigerian boy with a dream to sing for all the world to hear.

He told his family of his dreams, but they thought he should be more practical and become an engineer. He decided to listen to his parents’ advice until his Chinese friend Li Yayu invited him to visit him in China. Eventually, he got his big break at the Big Easy, a Beijing bar.

Since then, Hao Ge has skyrocketed to the height of fame across China. But what does Hao Ge’s stardom say about Chinese relations with Africa?

As the first African pop star in China, Hao Ge’s role is more than just singing pop songs. He has served as a symbol of African-Chinese unity. His popularity suggests that China is looking for something new.

But, the Chinese government has also used him as a political tool. This is most clearly illustrated in a skit where he was dressed up as a happy African oil rig worker.

These kinds of images attempt to project a perfect relationship between Africans from a variety of different countries and the Chinese. However, the reality of Chinese relations with Africa is far more complex than a simple song can say.

Hao Ge complicates the situation because he serves as a symbol of African success in China. Yet many Africans feel that they have been marginalized by the Chinese.
They feel that Chinese immigrants have taken away their jobs and are undermining their attempts at constructing new industry. Africans  question the intentions of Chinese aid in Africa.

However, other Africans are very supportive of China’s role in Africa and see it as distinctly “unique” in comparison to Western aid.

Regardless of how one views Chinese involvement in Africa, performers like Hao Ge illustrate the dynamic nature of this relationship and suggest that it should be a topic of further consideration.

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