Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Introduction: China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African "Migrants" in China

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Introduction: China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African "Migrants" in China

Article excerpt

This is a special issue of the African Studies Quarterly, and the second issue of this publication devoted entirely to China-Africa relations. The first issue examined China and Africa's political and economic relationships and media strategies. Ten invited scholars examined the major issues in this relationship, at multiple levels, from medium and small businesses to petty traders. The themes examined included the role of African agency in China-Africa discourse; micro-practices embedded in China's foreign policy towards Africa; the capacity and challenges faced by African states in their efforts to moderate that relationship; and how African states have shaped this engagement. The issue (Vol. 16, Issue 3-4, December 2016) was titled: "China-Africa Relations: Political and Economic Engagement and Media Strategies." (1)

As Chinese investments continue to grow in all sectors in many African countries they bring with them increased numbers of Chinese citizens on the continent. The number of Chinese people in Africa was estimated at one million by 2014. (2) The Annual Report on Overseas Chinese found that the number of Chinese immigrants in Africa had risen sevenfold over the last two decades and was estimated at 1.1 million in 2012. (3) At the 2015 Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Johannesburg, China promised to triple its investment in Africa from twenty billion dollars in 2012 to sixty billion in 2015. (4)

This increased investment has led to a higher Chinese presence in Africa and also fueled travel by more Africans to China. The contributors to this issue focus on the African presence in China from both pragmatic and theoretical perspectives. The writers are a diverse group, selected based on their disciplinary specialization and national background. They include a Ghanaian scholar, Adams Bodomo, who has conducted extensive research on Africans in China; a Norwegian scholar, Heidi Ostbo Haugen, who has studied the history of African traders in China; and two Chinese scholars, Li Anshan and Dong Niu, who have studied the history of Africans in China and theorized about the future of their presence in that country. Together, the set of articles broadly examine the situation of Africans in China, from students to African traders and brokers in the commercial hub of Guangzhou in south China. Each of the authors has conducted extensive research on Africans in China, and they contribute the unique theoretical perspectives of their disciplines.

Their articles address the following questions: What is the driving factor behind the flow of Africans to China? What have been the complexities of their experiences there? How are they dealing with the challenges of living and working there? What is the appropriate classification of the Africans in China?

Africans as Students

Li Anshan provides a thorough history of African students who form the second largest African diaspora community in China. He argues that while there may be some debate as to whether the students may be classified as immigrants, their existence and interaction with Chinese people has expanded China-Africa relations and the Chinese people's understanding of Africa. While much scholarship has focused on African traders in China, very little scholarship has been conducted on African students there.

Li Anshan is one of the first to provide a historical overview, from the 1960s to the present, including the political context, how African students have been perceived, and their impact on the Chinese political and cultural landscape. Li's study shows how African students have impacted cooperation between Africa and China and contributed to the cultural exchange and internationalization of China's universities. The article articulates the social issues that African students have endured, including racial attitudes and prejudice, and discusses their social adaptation and the evolution of China's international policies towards Africa and Africans. …

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