The Zambian Shootings in the Chinese Media

The African Boots blog translates an investigative piece in New Century Weekly about the shooting of Zambian miners at a Chinese-managed mine who had protested against poor working conditions:

The New Century Weekly article traces the origins of the shooting to long-standing problems in the management of the mine. At the centre of the story is the mine owner, Xu Jianxue, a Jiangxi native who first went to Zambia in the early 1990s as a translator for a Chinese company. He ended up staying after the project ended, establishing a construction company that went on to win a series of big infrastructure contracts from the Zambian government. Business was so successful that Xu invited his four brothers to join him in 2000. When Zambia began selling mineral rights in 2003, Xu secured a number of concessions near the southern town of Sinazongwe. Despite the difficulties investors have traditionally had in the area, he has apparently been able to turn over a healthy profit for his venture, Collum Coal Mining Industries.

Xu is described vividly in the article as a believer in “Mao Zedong thought” and as sporting a Mao-style haircut. He is cast as a throwback to an earlier China, reliant on guanxi and bribes to secure business and ignorant of modern management practices. Xu and his brothers are said to live very comfortably in Lusaka, leaving the day-to-day running of the mines in the hands of friends and relatives who have followed them to Zambia from Jiangxi. These men, the authors claim, are mostly uneducated labourers with no language skills, who find themselves suddenly thrust into senior positions on their arrival. They live in a gated compound and have little understanding of local culture. There are 70 Chinese managers working at the mine, who are responsible for around 600 local workers.

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