Africa’s Chinese Diaspora: Under Pressure

While the controversies surrounding Beijing’s massive economic and soft-power investments in the African continent are frequently explored by the media, Andrew Bowman looks at an aspect of the China-Africa relationship much less in focus – Chinese migrants in Africa. In a piece for the Financial Times, Bowman describes tensions between the growing population of Chinese migrants in Africa, and their host populations and governments:

As well as angering local rivals, these newcomers also raise the heckles of African governments who prefer Chinese migrants to be large-scale investors creating new employment rather than direct competition for established local enterprises.

[...]The influx of Chinese traders has corresponded to deepening China-Africa economic ties. But while major investments are planned, the migration of small traders is not.

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The article also identifies the belief that, while many of the migrants are not part of Beijing’s official investment strategy, China may have found in Africa an opportunity to get rid of its less-desirable citizens:

Research carried out across five southern African countries by the Brendhurst Foundation, a South African think-tank, found that as “the poorest and least educated of the Chinese diaspora” Chinese small traders in Africa were “divorced” from Beijing’s Africa strategy.

Nonetheless, rumours circulate that China is using Africa as a means of getting rid of unwanted citizens. Indeed, Michael Sata, Zambia’s president, claimed while in opposition that Zambia was becoming a Chinese “dumping ground”.

To see video documentation of a Chinese migrant family in Zambia, see an Al Jazeera video from January, via CDT. For more on the controversial implications of China’s interactions with Africa, also see prior CDT coverage of the Chinese manager who was killed last weekend in a Zambian mine known for discordant ethnic relations, a recent documentary on China in Africa, a US secretary of state known for criticizing Beijing’s Africa strategy, or some voices approving China’s African campaigns.