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China in Africa: The Real Story

Who is San Mao, the romantic chronicler of China-Africa relations?

Deborah Brautigam

Not long ago, I received an email from Tom Devriendt, an editor of Africa is a Country, "a blog that engages with reporting on Africa". He asked me if I knew of San Mao (三毛):

I recently came across the name of Chinese/Taiwanese writer San Mao. To be honest, I had never heard of her before. She turns out to have been a prolific writer, and -- some claim -- her work remains important (for better or for worse) in shaping a popular image of Africa in China.
Some references I've found on the web include:
- a trailer for a documentary (which never seems to have been finished):

- and a couple of blog features:

Africa is a Country is interested in finding out more about San Mao, and so am I. Do any readers know more? Has anyone heard of her?

Update, February 18: We find, thanks to a tweet from Winslow Robertson @Winslow_R and another from Paul Farrelly @paul_farrelly a fascinating article about San Mao in the journal of East Asian History: "San Mao Makes History" and "San Mao Goes Shopping."  Wow. Twitter as a research tool?

Further update. I realized belatedly that San Mao was my favorite singer when I lived in Taiwan. I adored her song Olive Tree: "Do not ask me from where I have come, My home is far, far away. Why do you wander so far? Wander so far?"