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Chinese in Africa/Africans in China

The Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) International Research Working Group at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa (updated June 2011)

As Chinese engagement in Africa continues apace, media coverage and scholarly studies continue to focus primarily on the economic and political aspects of China-Africa relations. Despite more than a decade of renewed migration to the continent, little still has been published about the people-to-people encounters that occur in tandem with the high-level negotiations and large, private entrepreneurial transactions. With close to a million Chinese now living and working in Africa, little is known about them. What is written is often tinged with an anti-China bias and fears, singling out the Chinese for reproach.

Simultaneously, African traders and investors have been making their way to China in increasing numbers over the past decade. They are bypassing Chinese middlemen in Africa and going directly to wholesalers and manufacturers in China. Over the years, some of these Africans have settled in Guangdong and other coastal cities, and their numbers continue to grow. However, little is known about these transient and settler communities, and they, too, are facing growing state and local reactions affected by racialized fears.

The Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) International Research Working Group was established to address these misperceptions and gaps in the literature with empirical study grounded in field research. Our aim is to serve as a network for the growing body of scholars, students and journalists currently conducting research on various communities of Chinese in Africa as well as those examining newer migrations of Africans into China. Through our electronic “group”, we share information about relevant conferences and journals, recent publications, and other issues of common interest with our growing membership. Originally established in late 2007 at the Centre for Sociological Research at the University of Johannesburg, the CA/AC working group migrated to Rhodes University in August 2010, where we are now hosted by the Sociology Department.

In August 2009 we hosted a small multi-disciplinary conference, bringing together scholars who have been researching and writing about Chinese people in African countries as well as those focused on Africans in China. Conference papers examined Chinese migrants in Angola, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic Congo, Equatorial Guinea Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We also had papers focused on immigration to China, and specifically African migrants and asylum seekers in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. A selection of these papers was published in a special issue of African & Asian Studies Journal in 2010. We have organized panels for various international conferences and are currently planning a symposium in conjunction with the Confucius Institute at Rhodes University’s China Week in September 2011 and another CA/AC conference for August 2012.

For further information about the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) International Research Working Group, please contact Dr Yoon Jung Park, Coordinator/Convener, at yoon1@verizon.net or Dr Tu Huynh, South Africa Organizer, at T.Huynh@ru.ac.za or huynh.2.t@gmail.com.