China's global engagement has attracted media and scholarly attention in recent years. Debates have been ongoing concerning the exported developmental state model, the alleged neocolonial paradigm, and power dynamics. While a discrepancy has long been noted between grand narratives and quotidian practices, remaining underexamined is the Chinese presence in Africa at the local and grassroots levels.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, Miriam Driessen's book contributes to a growing body of scholarship on everyday African-Chinese encounters. By investigating power structures that have been contested and reshaped on and off the construction site, Tales of Hope, Tastes of Bitterness highlights the agency of African laborers and challenges the assumed sociopolitical asymmetry between China and African countries. The book unravels the myth of perceived “ingratitude” of Ethiopians from the Chinese perspective and reveals the contested nature of the Africa-China encounter. In the Ethiopian case, Driessen further discusses the sociocultural barriers to replicating the...

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