Race and China by foarp
July 16, 2009, 1:07 am
Filed under: Africa, China


I don’t want to get into the general discussion on race in China, an old one on China blogs which has been done to death here, here, here, here, and here. However, this translation by Roland Soong of a story on today’s protests in Guangzhou following the death of an African trader trying to evade the police, perhaps the first instance of an anti-government protest by foreign immigrants in modern China, is certainly big news as far as I am concerned. The idea of foreigners in China, who make up only a very small number of mainly short-term residents who do their best in the main to avoid any trouble is quite extraordinary.

The fact that it involved the African population in Guangzhou, who from my experience are mainly small-time traders resident on short-term visas (i.e., working illegally), and who suffer all the disadvantages of being a foreigner in China without most of the advantages enjoyed by those obviously from rich countries do, is not surprising. The violent language used in the article to describe their protest is not supported by the photographs, but typical of many articles written about foreigners, especially black people. I will be especially interested to see how the people at the demonstration are treated by the authorities, because whilst this kind of thing has happened at least once in most countries with immigrant populations, race relations (rather than trying to subsume all races into a single Chinese race) is an entirely new thing in China which the authorities may be unprepared for. Some may be inclined to find proof of Chinese racism in this story, all I will say is that Emmanul Egisimba is just as dead as Amadou Diallo, Steven Lawrence, or Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, and it will be the response of the authorities which will show their true attitude, especially if they choose to simply deport those who protested.

7 Comments so far
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I guess your post is a noteworthy tribute to this man who died from injustice. But do you think that the Chinese officials would have treated a foreigner with white skin differently?
Maybe so, but by saying

“Emmanul Egisimba is just as dead as Amadou Diallo, Steven Lawrence, or Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré”

you indicate that if this was due to Chinese racism it could only be a perfect demonstration from the west.

Comment by Charlie P. in the P.R of China

I don’t know whether they might treat a white foreigner differently in the particular circumstances, what I am very sure of is that if a foreigner from a different community – a Chinese language student say – were to die whilst being pursued by the police, the protest from the outside might be greater (or maybe not) but there would not be the sight of an actual community of foreign residents coming out in protest. This case is extra-ordinary because of the support shown and foreign residents acting as a community more than anything else. The Africans in Guangzhou are united by their feelings of mistreatment and sense of injustice, much more so than any other foreigners in China.

Comment by foarp

Why do you really care about this? Is it that China needs to change to become part of Pax Americana?

Local policing is up to each individual country.

Comment by Frank

I care about this because until recently I was a foreigner resident in China. I guess I should also ask just what America has to do with any of this, and why you have to bring up America when writing to a British blogger who is writing on a Vietnam-oriented website about Africans in China? Knee-jerk at all? As for it being a ‘local matter’ it would seem that, at least according to Guangzhou’s Africans, local policing sucks, and the fact that they’ve organised in this fashion shows you how immigrant communities in China are developing. That, if you’d actually bothered to read the article, was my point.

Comment by foarp

1) How does local policing in China have anything to do with Vietnam?

2) This blog is owned by an American not a Brit.

3) What matters is if that policing you talk about ‘sucks’ for Chinese. It is their country not yours or mine. To imply otherwise means that all countries need to conform to “Western norms” of which the US is the driving force.

Comment by Frank

1) I’m writing about China.

2) I’m a Brit, Matt is on holiday.

3) What matters, surely, is whether the people who live in China like the service they receive from the police there and are able to express their concern. Surely you are aware that the vast majority of Chinese do not think a great deal of the police? Surely you are also aware that they have a difficult time making this opinion heard?

Comment by foarp

full support to my african brothers and sisters

Comment by samuel welsh

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