Africa in
Cyberspace

Here below is a list of links you might want to explore--links covering issues ranging from China's involvement in Africa to global media's coverage of the continent.

-China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

-China's Daily newspaper

-Global Times

-South Africa Broadcasting

-Ethiopian Review

-Dehai Eritrea

-East Afro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China Moves to Regulate its Citizens' behavior in Africa

Yinghong Cheng, Ph.D.

After two decades of rapid economic expansion in Africa which has brought hundreds and thousands of Chinese migrants to Africa, China has now initiated a new drive to repair its moral image in the continent damaged by those individual workers and merchants. Since August 2009, many Chinese embassies and consulates have summoned representatives of the Chinese who are working in Africa and the adjacent Arabs to listen to the message sent directly from Beijing: “Establish a Civil Image for Overseas Chinese Citizens”. The first of such Chinese diplomatic installations included the ones in Lesotho (August 5), Cairo (August 15), Dubai (August 27), and Malawi (September 6). 

The initiative follows the pattern of political campaigns the Chinese are used to. The central government sends out the message and calls for action; the subordinate ministries and provincial/local governments respond with meetings and rallies to get the message crossed and mobilize the masses. In this case, the Chinese Foreign Ministry is taking the lead. Over the summer the Ministry held a number of meetings attended by officials from all relevant ministries and organizations. The ministry also dispatched officials to attend the similar meetings in some cities and counties with large number of workers and merchants outside China.

According to the Qingtian county’s (Zhejiang Province) government webpage, when meeting with the local officials, the official from the Foreign Ministry listed a number of illegal and indecent conducts of Chinese working in foreign countries: “Violating the host country’s laws by buying and selling contrabands, fake or substandard products; evading taxes; bribing foreign government officials; etc; all of these have caused Chinese stores being searched, Chinese products being destroyed and Chinese personnel being arrested”. Other bad things include “being ignorant of local custom and code of behaviors and acting in confliction with local religious and customary taboos resulting in disputes and anti-Chinese sentiments among some local folks”. Put together, all of these conducts and behaviors “have threatened the interest and security of the Chinese overseas workers and enterprises, damaged the image of the Chinese state, caused unnecessary burdens to the Chinese diplomatic agencies and consumed China’s diplomatic resources.”[1]

As a matter of fact, this campaign involves the Chinese at the global level, since the bad conducts and behaviors listed above exist almost everywhere there are Chinese workers and merchants; and Chinese embassies and consulates in other continents have held meetings similar to ones held in Africa. But Africa seems particularly affected by all of these problems at an alarming level. The spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce once frankly admitted that while 60% goods China had imported from Africa were oil and raw materials, “a significant amount of Chinese merchandises sold in Africa are fake and inferior ones[2] .

For all sorts of reasons, the Chinese seem to have faced increasingly difficult situations in many parts of Africa. Serge Michel and Michel Beuret’s recent China’s Safari collected and analyzed many incidents of hostility against the Chinese in different African countries. Gregor Doubler’s “Chinese Shops and the Formation of A Chinese Expatriate Community in Namibia” (The China Quarterly’s most recent issue) focused more on local tensions between the Chinese and Namibians. In his speech to the representatives of the Chinese workers and merchants at the meeting of “Establish a Civil Image for Overseas Chinese Citizens”, the Chinese ambassador to Malawi first introduced the local media's series reports on 3 Chinese citizens' involvement in illegal activities, then demanded “Everyone should start from now” to stop “selfishness”, “utilitarianism”, “business adventurism”, “violation of law and regulations”, and “any behaviors that brining shame to China and the Chinese”.[3] Malawi just abandoned Taiwan and recognized China in 2007, therefore the ambassador’s remarks showed the seriousness of the problems. The most recent incident (August, 3, 2009) of hostility against the Chinese in Africa took place in Algiers, when a quarrel over a parking between a Chinese driver and a local shop owner escalated into a melee involving about 100 Chinese workers and hundreds of local people, resulted in many wounded on both sides.

Two factors will limit the effects of the Chinese government initiative or the campaign. First, the dark side of the Chinese economic engagement in Africa actually mirrors the prevalent business culture and ethics in China. As long as such practices and behaviors continue to exist in China, one can hardly expect they will stop at the board. Secondly, due to the lack of a tradition of autonomous business and commercial organizations, the government efforts will barely reach or honored by numerous individually based and privately operated businesses.      


Yinghong Cheng is a professor at Delaware State University


[1] http://www.qingtian.gov.cn/qtdt/bddt/200910/t20091013_19399.htm

[2] “The Ministry of Commerce: A significant amount of Chinese products exported to Africa are fake and inferior”, 21st Century Business Herald, October 9, 2009.

[3] China Africa Forum, http://www.focac.org/chn/zxxx/t585104.htm