Out of Africa and into China

The April 2009 street unrest in Guangzhou where dozens, possibly a hundred, African immigrants rioted through the streets to protest against the PSB’s more frequent visa checks brought to light the presence of the growing African community. That China even has an African immigrant community will likely come as a surprise to most.  It shouldn’t though given that China has a very long history of hosting overseas students from across Africa.  What is new though is the emergence of Guangzhou as the African emigre center. Until recently, Beijing was home to a majority of overseas Africans as former students found more promising job prospects in China than back home.  Guangzhou is now home to thousands of Africans whose population is largely made of up traders who have frequently overstayed their visa and now reside illegally in China.

Not surprising in China’s largely mono-cultural urban areas, the site of rioting Africans must have come as a shock.  Afterall, when was the last time foreigners rioted in China?  Secondly, that they were black also presented itself an uncomfortable reality for many Chinese who are still relatively unfamiliar with the concepts of ethnic and racial diversity.  It would be a real mistake though for Chinese residents to employ the same negative stereotypes of Africans and black people that are so often used in the West.  So while the protesting Nigerians in Guangzhou offer one image of Africans in China, Vimbayi Kajese presents another.

VimbayiThe Retuers news agency profiled Kajese in a piece that highlights her unique background and the increasingly diverse face that China seeks to present to the world with its international broadcast service. Educated in both the US and China, the Zimbabwean anchor represents a much more sophisticated, globally-minded portrait of how young African professionals are engaging China.  Now that China is Africa’s largest trading partner and Beijing involvement across the continent continues to deepen, expect cross-cultural ties personified by Kajese to expand as well.

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