Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Africans in China: Guangzhou and Beyond-Issues and Reviews

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Africans in China: Guangzhou and Beyond-Issues and Reviews

Article excerpt

This special issue of The Journal of Pan African Studies is dedicated to research on the African Diaspora in China.

Africa-China relations have increasingly constituted a prominent research topic in many humanities and social sciences disciplines since the turn of the Millennium. An important aspect of this research theme is dedicated to issues of migration between Africa and China and the formation of Diaspora communities in these two parts of the world. We often hear of research on Africans in China and Chinese in Africa. There is however a tendency to conflate the two quite distinct phenomena into "Chinese in Africa/Africans in China" and special issues of various journals are then published about these two different and rather disparate migratory and Diaspora phenomena.

This special issue aims to be uniquely focused and is dedicated solely to exploring the African presence in China and the formation of Diaspora African communities in various cities including Guangzhou, Yiwu, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, and many other prominent locations within Greater China.

There is already a significant body of about 50-odd research journal articles and a book that have enabled us to have fairly good answers to empirical questions like why Africans go to China, the major cities Africans live in and visit, what they do there, and how they are received by the Chinese state and the Chinese people.

In this introductory article to the volume, I first review the issues involved in the rise of a new African Diaspora in China. Then I outline the various places in China where the African presence is most prominent. Finally, I introduce the papers featured in the volume.


With China's entry into the WTO in December 2001, there was a dramatic increase in the number of Africans coming to China to buy goods for sale back in Africa. This has created a visible presence of Africans in Guangzhou, which has been receiving, in many cases, a lot of negative coverage in newspapers and magazines on issues of immigration irregularities.

However, behind all these negative reports in the newspapers, there are many more positive stories about the presence and impact of Africans in China. In particular, their substantial contributions to the development of Africa-China relations are rarely recognized.

It has been necessary to do in-depth on-site studies beyond the occasional one-day journalistic or fly-by academic coverage to come to a deeper understanding of Africans in China. Despite the negative news coming out of Guangzhou, there are a substantial number of Africans who are employed and engaged in both the formal and informal economies of China in major cities such as Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Yiwu, Shanghai, and, of course, Beijing. What are these Africans doing in China? How are they received? And how does their presence contribute to an understanding of larger issues about Africa-in-China and China-in-Africa?

The papers in this volume address issues relative to many aspects of Africans in China: issues of history, society, culture, language, and Africa-China relations, among others. How are these Africans being influenced by their Chinese hosts and how do they in turn influence their hosts? How does their presence in China affect trade between Africa and China and how do these Africans contribute to the economies of the countries they originate from? Is this new and emerging African Diaspora different from other African Diasporas? What theoretical and methodological insights does the study of these African migrants in China have on theories of migration and Diaspora studies? These questions are tackled directly or indirectly by all the six papers in this volume.

Snapshots from Guangzhou, Yiwu, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macau

In this part of the introduction, I outline the main parts and cities in China where the African presence is more prominent. …

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