Chinese Apparently Lack Subtlety In Their Attitudes To Blacks

Shame Chinese lack nuance on blacks. They don’t understand white privilege.

The poor chinese don’t understand how oppressed they are.

They’ll never amount to anything with these backwards attititudes.

They’re just hurting themselves. A growing number of black people – in particular, traders from African countries — are indeed moving into China. Guangzhou, a massive city in the country’s south, houses Asia’s largest African population. According to local officials in Guangzhou, 16,000 Africans legally resided in the city in 2014. Experts estimate the total number of Africans living in Guangzhou – legally and illegally – lies somewhere between 20,000 and 200,000. Debate is fierce about just how many Africans live there — and no one knows how many Africans live in China overall — but few dispute that the steady influx of African immigrants into Guangzhou since the late 1990s has led to growing tension between local and African communities. Africans are routinely characterized as illegal workers responsible for a rise in robbery, drug dealing, gang activity, and general disturbances of the peace, and are subject to random visa inspections by local police. The African community has taken to the streets to demonstrate against unfair treatment — in 2009 following the death of a Nigerian man who jumped from a window trying to escape a police raid, then again in 2012 when an African man died mysteriously in police custody.

Many comments on articles about the Baltimore protests mentioned these African immigrants, drawing an implicit connection between one and the other. Commenters called them “out of control,” and a “hidden danger to the future public safety of our country.” Another warned, “Black people love to make trouble.” There were far worse comments, not fit for print. Many were written out of a professed concern for Guangzhou. Although there are no available statistics for African crime in Guangzhou, crimes committed by foreigners tend to attract disproportionate media attention.

Some commenters pushed back. One wrote, “Black people are willing to go out on the street and protest and die for their compatriots. What about us?” (Protesting and civil organizing in China is often harshly punished.) Another reminded readers, “Your ancestors also came from Africa.” Yet even these relatively enlightened users did not point out the fundamental disconnect between a protest on the streets of Baltimore, and a larger discussion of Africans from Africa – which, of course, is a mind-bogglingly diverse continent with 54 countries, over 1 billion people, and, according to the African Language Program at Harvard University, “anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 languages.”

My work research work suggests that this diversity is lost on Chinese observers. Domestic media coverage of Baltimore and the resulting xenophobic outpouring in China’s online community has simply surfaced pre-existing and deep-seated racial attitudes that belie burgeoning Sino-African political and economic ties, which include extensive Chinese-funded infrastructure projects all over Africa and the establishment of the “China-Africa New Strategic Partnership” in 2006.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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