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Africans in Guangzhou: Opportunities & Discrimination

A Guangzhou police officer talking to an African.

Africans in Guangzhou, China.

From NetEase, QQ, & ifeng:

In Guangzhou, there are about 200,000 Africans, increasing 30-40% every year. The locals believe their language skills are very poor, but they have very nimble business minds; Locals believe they are undisciplined and unorganized, but their religion and groups are extremely cohesive; They, in Guangzhou, have built the largest African community in Asia.[click to enlarge]

Africans in Guangzhou, China, entering the Canaan Clothing Market.

As Chinese companies have entered Africa to find resources, African businessmen have also come to China, “the world’s factory”. Businessmen ship cheap goods to Africa, where 50 far-away African countries quickly consume these daily consumables that can’t be produced in their own countries. At the end of the 90s in the 20th century, the first batch of Africans came to Guangzhou, their first stop being Canaan clothing market [Clothes Trading Center]. Now, however, with Canaan clothing market as the center, many goods for export markets have sprung up in the surrounding one kilometer area. The people of Guangzhou have gradually come to call this area “Chocolate City”.

Black Africans in Guangzhou, China.

Most Africans don’t actually live long-term in China, only often traveling between Africa and China, as little as once or twice a year, or as much as once a month. The majority of people operate a shop in their country, but personally come to Guangzhou to select goods to ship back. Photo is of several African businessmen and a Chinese businessman negotiating prices.

Chinese women wiping the nose of an African infant.

Scant funds, don’t care about brands, loves to bargain, likes low-end products are characteristics of the large groups of African businessmen. Over time, these characteristics have led to Chinese businessmen to discriminate and become impatient with them. “[They’re] the most practical in doing business the most practical, whereas you can see those European and Americans and Arabs are just different,” a Chinese seller said. Nevertheless, the trade market’s business is very flourishing every day, and the African demand for cheap goods have allowed the processing factories around the outskirts of Guangzhou to prosper. Photo is of a Chinese seller wiping the nose of an African buyer’s infant; using “friendliness” to get business.

Africans and Chinese at a street-side food stall.

In Xiaobei, not far from the trading market, is Guangzhou’s largest African neighborhood. Many Africans coming to China for the first time will stay here, living with several or even over a dozen people in a room, beginning their “gold rush” here. Why have they collectively chosen Xiaobei? One long-term researcher of Africans in Guangzhou says: “This place has Guangzhou’s first proper Muslim restaurant.” And in Africa, those who believe in Islam are the majority. Photo is of an African youth eating at a food stall.

Africans on the streets of Guangzhou, China.

As it is understood, there are 20,000 Africans who have stayed over 6 months. However, if those who illegally overstay and those who frequently come and go are added together, “the real number” should be around 200,000. This is equivalent to 2% of Guangzhou’s registered population. The expansion of the African’s export business has also spawned African restaurants, African logistics, African intermediaries and other supporting businesses. African businessmen have also brought African laborers and African service staff. Photo is of locals who are no longer unused to seeing Africans.

Africans seated at the tables of a street side food stall.

The people of “Chocolate City” start their day of work at noon; At night, people began their nightlife. Even if they are the lowest level of black laborers, they too will come out to spend their meager salaries. In practice, the main reason they like to come out at night is to avoid police inspections. Affected by visa “tightening”, quite a number of the African laborers here do not have legal residence permits, while many visas and passports are also expired. Photo is of Africans drinking beer at a food stall.

Africans at mass in a Catholic Church in Guangzhou, China.

Guangzhou’s other African gathering spot is Shishi Catholic Church. Every Sunday afternoon, Shishi Church’s English Mass feels like one is in Africa. Not only is 80% of the congregation for mass “black faces”, even the service staff are all African youths. Sometimes, there are over 1000 Africans attending mass.

Nelson, a Nigerian in Guangzhou, looks at some motorcycle parts.

When Nelson, a Nigerian, arrived in Guangzhou, he lived a typical “luggage bag” life—-carrying several tens of thousand of yuan here to purchase goods and then afterward stuffing them all in a few large luggage bags to fly back with him to Africa. “If I’m lucky, I can get on the plane without it being overweight and having to ship it.” Nelson says that the money for the his airplane ticket and for the goods to be purchased was pooled together by his entire family, that he must earn money, otherwise he will be looked down upon when he returns to Africa. Photo is of Nelson at a motorcycle parts store selecting goods.

An African on the streets of Guangzhou giving some money to a child beggar.

Nelson finishing a day’s work, giving a little girl begging on the streets some spare change.

Nelson, a Nigerian, ordering food at a restaurant.

For a first-timer like Nelson, language is the biggest barrier. On this day, Nelson has just discovered that the batch of goods he just purchased is short a few shirts. He doesn’t know if the Chinese seller forgot and wants to call to ask but isn’t able to. Language barriers and major cultural differences often bring a lot of trouble, and this makes him very depressed. Photo is of Nelson ordering food at an African restaurant.

Nelson, a Nigerian, at a photo booth in Guangzhou, China.

Even though some say only 15% of Africans have obtained success in Guangzhou, Nelson believes that simply having his own business in China can be considered good fortune. There are also African compatriots who have come here to work for a living but end up being unable to save enough to go back, and must even avoid the 500 yuan fine for each day overstaying on an expired visa. Photo is of Nelson at a printing shop developing photographs to mail to his family in Nigeria.

Emma, the head of the Nigerian Association in Guangzhou.

Ojukwu Emma, a Nigerian, in comparison to those Africans living in the villages-within-the-city [ghettos], is of the minority that has their own office. At the same time, Emma is also the “head” of the Nigerian Association. Photo is of Emma and his Chinese employee in his office, with the Hong Kong SAR flag, Nigerian flag, and Chinese national flag in the back.

Emma, counting RMB cash notes.

Authorized by the Nigerian Embassy and because the number of Nigerians in Guangzhou are many, the association helps them take care of certain things more easily, such as collecting money for medical care for compatriots who are sick and helping newcomers with living arrangements. Emma says the association not only helps its own countrymen, it also helps Chinese and people of other countries in disputes with Africans. Photo is of a Chinese businessman who with Emma’s help was able to recover money that had been conned. Emma says: “It isn’t easy being the association’s leader, as one gives much more than one receives.”

African businessmen in Guangzhou, China.

The vast majority of Africans doing business in Guangzhou organize themselves by country, each having their own associations and leaders. Their titles are different, with some called “Chairman”, while others called “Leader”. Most of them are older, more highly educated, and their businesses more successful.

An African in China wearing a watch with the Chinese flag.

The leading reason for these African businessmen’s success is because they are known for “being trust-worthy/honest, and handle business according to Chinese norms”. Photo is of a meeting of the Nigerian Association where a businessman’s watch has a Chinese “five star” flag on it.

An African's Chinese wife.

There are even some African bosses who through their ability and economic foundations have married and had children in Guangzhou, laying down roots in China. Photo is of an African businessman and his Chinese wife.

Africans and Chinese eating on the street.

However, most African still live in their own circles, them believing that Chinese people are very difficult to engage, and thus difficult to become friends with. One African businessman says: “My family has asked me what I have seen in China, and I say I have only seen jeans and black people.” According to Arnold, an Associated Press journalist previously based in Africa, China doesn’t actually have racial discrimination against Africans, “the so-called discrimination is instead similar to how urban residents discriminate against people from the rural countryside who have no money nor know the rules.” Photo is of Chinese and Africans at a food stall.

A Guangzhou police officer talking to an African.

A Chinese person who is familiar with Africans says: Africans are afraid of the police, so they do their best to avoid contact with the police. According to regulations, they are supposed to register at the foreigner service center within 24 hours of entering Guangzhou, but they have this fear, so they don’t go register but this actually creates problems for themselves. Photo is of a police officer checking the identification of an African personal.

Africans protesting in the streets of Guangzhou.

In 2009 July, a black person attempting to hide from the Guangzhou police inspection/check accidentally fell from an 18 meter building to his death. This incident incited hundreds of blacks to gather in front of the police station the next day in a confrontation with the police.

An African in Guangzhou, China showing the middle finger.

At that moment, Guangzhou’s Africans begin expressing their own voice. Photo is of an African using the middle finger during the confrontation.

Photos of Africans in China.

Posted on a street-side photography stall are several souvenir photographs of Africans. Even though the visa to enter China is difficult to obtain; even though in China they still get looks, the number of Africans going to Guangzhou still increases by 30-40% every year. Reports show that more and more Africans through Guangzhou are gradually spreading to Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities.

Comments from NetEase:

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谬悠 [网易福建省福州市网友]:

If you can understand Fujian people leaving their hometowns, going all over the world to find a living,
then you can understand these Africans.
Of course this has nothing to do with the law.

drinkspring [网易江苏省无锡市网友]:

Guangdong should limit the number of Africans.

溜溜乡王保长 [网易重庆市网友]:

Chinese people will pay the price for their kindness, and the Chinese government’s lack of supervision will become a factor in Guangzhou’s future unrest/turmoil. Next, Guangdong’s Africans will strive for political rights and the support of the international community.

网易上海市网友:

I think children who come from the rural countryside are even more capable of understanding and empathizing with the situation for Africans in Guangzhou, because both of them are people who live at the lowest level of society, forced to expend N times more effort in order to climb up.

崖柳 [网易山东省烟台市网友]:

What can Africans bring us besides AIDS?????!!!!
I am a customs officer who monitors infectious diseases, just look at how many people checked that are AIDS sufferers from Africa and you’ll know we should keep such garbage far away.

hugejob [网易美国网友]:

To be honest, I don’t have any confidence/trust towards Africans.

网易浙江省金华市义乌市网友:

Poverty breeds violence and crime, while wealth breeds greed and slaughter.

路漫漫兮要修理矣 [网易浙江省温州市网友]:

On one side is family planning and on the other side is a loose immigration policy. I won’t see a black person become Chairman in my lifetime.

网易广东省广州市网友:

Chinese people know their place and are orderly wherever they are, an active and motivated people… As for black people, they are lazy and carefree wherever they are, and like to cause trouble, not diligent in learning, nor in work. One day, Guangzhou too will have riots, beating, smashing, and looting and then they’ll recognize their mistake, and be paralyzed. While Han people are limited form having children and these black people have so many, what will we do when they come? Paralyzed. Go to Xiaobei, it’s all black people, I don’t even know if I am in Guangzhou or Africa.

网易河南省洛阳市网友 [桜木様]:

I’m been to Guangzhou and I must say this place has almost become Africa… Strongly demand that black illegal immigrants in Guangzhou be investigated. You guys should stop posturing and go to Guangzhou yourself and take a look and you’ll see, so sad.

网易广西桂林市网友 [没毛的狮子]:

Blacks are simply a low-level race—– This comment is something I heard elsewhere.
Think about it and you know it is true. When white people ruled South Africa and social resources were in the white people’s hands, all various aspects of South Africa achieved great development! But after Mandela overthrew white rule, South Africa, it can’t be said that South Africa hasn’t had development, but the development has all been focused on modern technology to increase social improvement, but there’s almost no social control development and the violence rate has increased daily!!
Then look at all the back people in the world. Those who are successful are all obviously concentrated in the sports, obviously becoming rich overnight, basically all unable to control their own J8, repeatedly dividing their own assets in divorces until they are bankrupt. Or those who can control their own J8 all squander their wealth, while those black people who can considered at the top of any field are rarer than rare, and can essentially be considered non-existent.
In reality, black people are gluttonous and lazy, unrealistic, and those who can work hard are rarer than rare, wanting in their bones to do little but still get a lot. They don’t seek to improve themselves!!

网易山西省手机网友:

I haven’t interacted with black people so I don’t know, but them relying on their own labors can’t be wrong, right? At least it is much better than those who rely on their parents.

网易湖北省网友:

The inevitable product of opening up and reform. Right now, the only to do is put an end to discrimination.

zxr584520 [网易四川省成都市网友]:

I look down on two kinds of people the most: One is racists and the other is black people!

xmair [网易福建省厦门市网友]:

The majority of blacks are representatives of promiscuity, violence, and AIDS.

What do you think?

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

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