chapter  6
26 Pages

Cultural Exchange and Friendship

It was through this exchange of artists between Tanzania and the People’s Republic of China that acrobatics 1 was brought into the repertoire of national culture, and as Masimbi recounts, it was initiated as a present. As Mauss ( 1967 ) reminds us, a gift is not simply a voluntary act of generosity, but a transaction that involves complex social obligations between the giver and the receiver. Like debt, the gift has the power of founding either dependence or solidarity (Bourdieu 1977 , 192). The gift of acrobatics served to solidify social relations between the giver, Chou Enlai/China, and the receiver, Julius Nyerere/Tanzania,

in the domains of culture, economy, and politics. In postsocialist Tanzania, these social relations have been reinvigorated in the age of digitally mediated globalization. A Chinese company has been contracted to construct the national Internet backbone in Tanzania, and Chinese suppliers are entering the lucrative mobile phone market, not least through cheap models of smart phones. These business investments are greatly facilitated by historical ties, with China presenting itself as a “neutral, non-imperialist, value-free outsider that wants simple relationships of trade and friendship with African governments” (Dowden 2009 , 495), following the principles of guanxi capitalism (Smart 1999 ).