Chinese and Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa: Motivations and Interactions

Convener: Dr. Yoon Jung Park (Howard University, Washington, DC, USA);

This subpanel will look at the two areas that sometimes get short shrift in Sino-Africa analysis: migration and cultural exchange. China-Africa discourse tends to focus on economic or diplomatic/political engagement, but there is growing body of research on ground-level interactions. These four papers form part of this much-needed focus on the grassroots and face- to-face encounters between Chinese and Africans. Tatiana Deych chronicles the history of several generations of Chinese migrants to Africa. She pays particular attention to issues of illegal immigration and African perceptions of Chinese migrants in relation to Chinese development. Mothusi Turner examines increasing Chinese migration to the “periphery”, away from major global flows of goods and capital. He examines in inflows of Fujianese merchants to the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Further, he explores both how they came to dominate the retail sector of the Lesotho highlands, an economic area that previously escaped serious foreign penetration, and whether those same Fujianese merchants feel they are in a ‘remote’ location. Anthonia Akhidenor examines the impacts and influence of Confucius centers in Nigeria, studying the demand for Chinese study amongst Nigerians, and how they perceive the “Chinese Dream’ and Mandarin’s role in that dream. In doing so, she argues that Chinese people’s lack of proficiency in English is the main impetus behind so many Nigerians learning Chinese, whether in Nigeria or in China. Finally, Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong investigate the racialization of labor at Chinese enterprises in African countries, with a focus on mines in Zambia, where Chinese investment in the continent has been most controversial. In doing so, they interrogate the meaning of race in Sino-African labor relations. This subpanel attempts to bring to light stories of Sino-African engagement that are often ignored in the macro analyses in this growing sub-field. As this engagement deepens, these sorts of stories will become crucial to understanding future patterns of Sino-African relations.