Saturday, February 21, 2015

Three links on African immigration to China

1. I'd like to point people towards Africans in China, a blog maintained by researcher Roberto Castillo. This blog concentrates on the African immigrant community in Guangzhou, its development and its issues.

2. Yucheng Liang's study "The causal mechanism of migration behaviors of African immigrants in Guangzhou: from the perspective of cumulative causation theory", published in 2014 in The Journal of Chinese Sociology, draws on ethnographic interviews and statistical analyses to argue that African immigraiton to China can be expected to continue and that China should innovate accordingly to try to minimize potential problems.

This study tests international migration theory, especially cumulative causation theory, by looking into the causal mechanisms of international migration behavior among African immigrants in China by using the respondent-driven sampling method since African immigrants in China belong to a small hidden population. This method collected a representative sample (N = 648) from two locations in 2011. The paper reveals that the immigration behaviors of African immigrants in China from 2005 to 2011 have characteristics similar to international immigrants in initial stages - the cumulative causal effects of immigrants' social capital was continually strengthened during the reproduction of migration behavior in the sending countries. Consequently, given the sustainable economic growth and maintenance of a stable society in China, the scale of future transnational immigration (including illegal migration) will continue to expand. The paper proposes that at the present stage, existing policies should raise the entry threshold of African immigrants into China in order to mitigate the speed and scale of migrants' social class decline.

It's also quite interesting to note that, far from Guangzhou and the south of China, in the Zhejiang city of Yiwu in the lower Yangtze basin, another African immigrant community is starting to take form. I point readers specifically towards the 2010 article "From Guangzhou to Yiwu: Emerging facets of the African Diaspora in China" (PDF format), written by Adams B. Bodomo and Grace Ma and published in the International Journal of African Renaissance Studies - Multi-, Inter- and Transdisciplinarity. This article suggests that, owing to a variety of factors, Africans have better experiences here than in Guangzhou.

Yiwu Africans also experience constraints in their Chinese sojourn but these are not different from what any foreigner living in China would experience: linguistic misunderstandings, cultural differences, and even having to put up with socially unacceptable practices like spitting profusely. But Yiwu Africans, in most cases, are treated respectfully by Zhejiang law enforcement officers. Civil liberties are well respected. For instance, freedom of worship among these Africans seems to be one of the highest in China. There may be a number of reasons why this difference is there. One, it may be that Africans who number less than 30,000 in Yiwu can be contained easily. Two, most of the Africans in Yiwu are from the Magbreb region of Africa, while most Africans in Guangzhou are from Sub-Saharan Africa. My fellow West Africans in Guangzhou report that even the brutal Guangzhou police treat Arab Africans more respectfully than Black Africans. But, third, and more importantly, the difference, we propose here, is due to the differences in efficiency and fairness on the part of Yiwu law enforcement officers such as the police and immigration officials. We propose here that, partly as a result of these differences in treatment, and also if Yiwu gets more developed into an international trade centre, it may overtake Guangzhou as a model residential city for Africans and many foreign businessmen from developing parts of the world, such as West Asia and Latin America. In that sense then, Guangzhou is missing an early opportunity as a model multi-racial business city in China.

If in fact the majority of African migrants in Yiwu are from the Maghreb, this does suggest at least the potential for Yiwu to start attracting migrants from the wider Arab world. The role of Islam in binding together Chinese and non-Chinese Muslims, meanwhile, is also noteworthy.

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