In recent years China has made sweeping forays into parts of the world where economic and diplomatic opportunities abound, not least the African continent. Meanwhile, China has long attracted African migrants seeking to make their fortune, with the port city of Guangzhou a particularly compelling destination for people hoping to run lucrative businesses.
But now the long-term future of Guangzhou’s ‘Little Africa’ looks shaky amid an ongoing immigration crackdown focusing heavily on those from Africa. Visa requirements for people from African nations are more stringent than for those from other parts of the world, and often confusingly applied – leaving many in legal limbo.
Many Africans say xenophobia is at the root of the immigration clampdown and that it is another facet of the everyday racism they face in China. The racial abuse that black people in China face runs the gamut – from being merely tolerated by disgruntled local people, through being actively marginalised or seen as ‘exotic’, to the extremes of being called ‘dirty’ and ‘diseased’.
Black people from countries beyond Africa have also faced discrimination in major tourist destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai. Unwelcome stares, being pointed at, demands for photographs are a common experience. In some instances, black people have been prodded and touched without being asked, as if a curiosity. Meanwhile, the representation of black people within Chinese media remains problematic. Racist caricature within advertisements, television programming and art exhibitions has arrested attempts to foster inclusivity.
How can China make the experience of black visitors and residents more positive? We’ll ask that question in The Stream.
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