Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Three links from The Diplomat on demographic issues in Asia

I discovered the Internet magazine The Diplomat, concerned with affairs in the Asia-Pacific region, via Robert Farley's posts at Lawyers, Guns and Money. Three recent posts at The Diplomat have dealt with demographic issues Demography Matters has looked at in brief.

Paul R. Burgman Jr.'s "China: Embracing Africa, But Not Africans" makes the argument that racism, and problems with integration of Africans and China and of Chinese in Africa, complicate Chinese-African relations.

Although Chinese involvement in financing infrastructure projects, debt forgiveness, and scholarships for African students to Chinese universities had given China a net positive image among various African countries in a 2013 Pew Research Global Attitudes Report, there remains room for improvement. While many African countries are very grateful for the economic partner that Beijing has shown it can be, allowing these countries to abandon or mitigate their sometimes rigid economic partnerships with the West, China must still convince Africans that its interest in their continent is authentic. By improving people-to-people relations, understanding, and mutual respect in a relationship that many Africans feel reeks of European colonial stereotypes, China and Africa can strengthen one of the 21st century’s most dynamic economic and strategic partnerships.

In a 2014 Al Jazeera report on African migrants in Guangzhou, journalist Jennifer Marsh highlighted the plight of African migrants trying to achieve their own Chinese dream in one of China’s most populated southern cities. Marsh writes “While the central government publicly welcomes the migrants, recent draconian visa legislation has sent a clear signal: Africans in China – even highly prosperous, educated economic contributors – are not welcome.” The Al Jazeera journalist’s story highlights the story of Cellou Toure, a Malian migrant whose small business suffered because of his inability to get a Chinese visa despite being married to a Chinese woman and having three Malian-Chinese children. Many Africans view situations like Toure’s as the hypocrisy of the Chinese government’s goodwill towards Africa, as African migrants witness firsthand the business success of Westerners who marry Chinese women and are allowed prosper legally in small and medium enterprises under the protection of the law.

All one has to do is scour the internet under the keywords, “Chinese prejudice against Africans in China” to discover a litany of blogs and articles on the experiences on young African migrants, students and travelers, many of whom are proficient in Mandarin, as they recount their experiences in China. In A Minority in the Middle Kingdom: My Experience Being Black in China former African-American expat, Marketus Presswood witnessed the racially charged atmosphere in his Chinese school and classroom, finding it increasingly difficult to hold on to his teaching jobs as an influx of white Westerners flooded the Chinese education market in the early 2000s. Presswood remembered overhearing one of his students remarking, “I don’t want to look at his black face all night.”

In "South Korea's Foreign Bride Problem", Philip Iglauer takes a look at the relatively high rates of domestic violence experienced by the country's many foreign-born wives.

Foreigners account for just 2.5 percent of the population in South Korea, but with a comparatively high number of deaths involving foreign women since 2012, experts from government and nongovernment organizations agree that migrant women here are particularly at risk to domestic violence.
They disagree on much else. According to a senior official at the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, language and cultural barriers are largely to blame for the domestic violence that caused the slew of disturbing killings.

“Think about it. Several decades ago, Korean women emigrated to Japan or America. They were poor. They didn’t even know who their husbands were. They didn’t speak English, so they couldn’t really often get out of the house. Their husbands started to ignore them. The wives didn’t work, they couldn’t cook American food,” said Choi Sung-ji, director of multicultural family policy at the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family, in explaining the domestic violence faced by migrant women in South Korea.

“The situation is similar in Korea now. Women from Southeast Asian countries come here for a better living without really knowing who they are getting married to. They didn’t get married out of love.”

“Rather, they met them but through marriage brokers,” she said, adding “If they don’t speak the Korean language and do not understand Korean culture, then they are at a disadvantage. There cannot be an equal relationship. “

Mark Fenn's "The Harsh Life of Thailand’s Migrant Workers", meanwhile, looks at the difficult situation of migrant workers in Thailand.

There are an estimated two to three millions migrants from neighboring countries in Thailand, most of them undocumented and more than 80 percent of them from Myanmar, according to the International Labour Organization. Many have fled ethnic conflict, oppression and poverty at home.

Migrants make up around 10 per cent of Thailand’s workforce and are employed in a variety of sectors, including construction, agriculture, manufacturing, fishing and domestic work. In some sectors, such as seafood processing, they represent around 90 percent of the workforce.

Yet despite the vital contribution they make to the Thai economy, migrant workers too often face exploitation, low pay, and abusive working conditions. Often they are placed in jobs by illegal brokers and then have to pay back hundreds of dollars or more, meaning they are trapped in a form of bonded labor.

Many earn considerably less than the 300 baht ($9 dollars) a day minimum wage, and are forced to work longer than the eight hours a day mandated by law. They rarely get the one day off a week they are entitled to, and many are lucky to get even one day off a month, according to labor rights activists.

Work on construction sites and fishing boats can be dirty, dangerous and exhausting, and migrant workers are often at the mercy of abusive employers. Threats and intimidation are common, and beatings, rapes and killings have been reported by rights groups. In the fishing industry, where many migrant men and boys are literally sold by brokers, murder is said to be “obscenely common.” According to a 2009 United Nations survey, nearly 60 percent of 49 Cambodian men and boys trafficked to work on Thai fishing boats said they had witnessed a murder by the boat captain.

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