From Gold Mine to Land Mine – The Chinese in Ghana

After the release of more than 160 Chinese nationals who were detained in Ghana for illegal gold mining, What’s on Weibo’s Manya Koetse identifies distorted expectations in Chinese–Ghanaian employment relations as an underlying cause of the violent backlash against Chinese miners in the country. The post includes extended, translated comments from a Chinese resident of Ghana who laments his peers’ “abusive and discriminatory” attitudes, and compares their treatment of local women with Japanese soldiers’ use of ‘comfort women’ during the Second World War.

The vulnerability of both Chinese employers and Ghanian employees is central to the problem. The Chinese are vulnerable because they are in a foreign and possibly hostile environment with a different language and culture, while there is a lot at stake for them in terms of financial investment. They expect honesty, proactivity and dedication from their workers in order for their mutual relation to be successful (Giese&Thiel 2012, 16). In exchange, they pay Ghanaians wages that often exceed the local average (2012, 6). The Ghanaians that work for the Chinese, on the other hand, are vulnerable because they are overall economically marginalized and uneducated young men. They come from a cultural background where one’s employer is also supposed to be one’s guardian and protector. Employment relationships are characterized by the employer taking care of his workers in terms of fees or gifts in order to build on long-term loyalty; the employment relation, in this way, somewhat resembles a family relationship. The Chinese employers do not get what they want from their Ghanaian workers (hard work and loyalty) because they do not give them what they want (symbolic gifts or extra fees) (Giese&Thiel 2012: 6,16). This results in structural dissatisfaction; a derailed relationship where discrimination and violence eventually emerges as the consequence of complete mutual misunderstanding. [Source]

See also Edward Bishop’s video China in Africa, which presents a range of perspectives on China’s changing role:

June 18, 2013 8:18 PM
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