This CNN report documents that much as in Japan, there is apparently a sizable number of Africans engaged in international trade and retailing in shops in Guanghzhou and some other areas of China. The report attributes the increase to increased trade ties between China and nations like Nigeria.
For a more detailed look at the situation of Africans in China, take a look at this translated article from Southern Metropolis Daily entitled “‘Chocolate City’ – Africans seek their dreams in China”:
In distant Africa, nearly 50 countries exploding with demand have opened their arms wide, and are rapidly digesting all of these consumer products not produced locally. Based on Chinese official statistics, during this period of China-Africa trade fever that started in 2003, the number of Africans headed to Guangzhou has been growing at annual rates of 30-40%.
About five years ago, Chinese petrolem companies and businessmen poured into Africa. This led many locals to feel that China was grabbing their resources and rice bowls (jobs). And yet from tractors to toothpaste, everything was “Made in China”; this stimulated many of them into looking in China’s direction. Many of Clem’s friends encouraged him, “Go to China! Nigeria’s using petroleum to trade for foreign currency, and the Chinese are buying it to build heaven!”
In September of 2007, Clem’s father, working at a Nigerian embassy in Europe, was able to arrange a Chinese visa for him. His friends were envious. More and more Africans are patiently lining up in front of Chinese embassies in Africa, fighting for visas permitted under a limited quota. A guy who received his visa at the same time as Clem had paid a fee to a visa application service nine months ago. When he finally received the visa he had been waiting for, the guy who had been muttering and cursing under his breath finally calmed down; he fiercely kissed his passport.
Many taxi drivers aren’t willing to take on “chocolate” customers. They don’t like the nose-irritating perfume, nor the constant bargaining on every trip. Some drivers will use excuses that “you’re too big, the car won’t fit you”, or “I don’t understand your foreign language”; but some don’t care, “driving anybody is just business.”
Based on official statistics, since 2003, the number of Africans in Guangzhou has been growing at 30-40% annually. Based on a report in the Guangzhou Daily, there might already be 100,000 in the community. They come from Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali. Amongst these, Africa’s most populous country Nigeria claims first place.
They primarily live in village-districts in the city of Guangdong (like Dongpu, Dengfeng Jie, Yongping Jie). They do their business in a few large-scale China-Africa commerce malls.
The stalls in these commerce malls don’t have much in terms of decoration; at most, there will be a black plastic model at the front door. Samples are piled up the ground, and hung up on the walls and placed in display cases. In one building, the warehouse and sales offices are one and the same. Stall owners pile their blue jeans on the walk-way itself. When it gets busy, you have to step over the piles of pants.
These centers have accumulated basically all of the world’s top brands — Dolce and Gabbana blue jeans, Adidas shoes, Gucci high-heels, Louis Vuitton purses, Chanel purses, Armani underwear. Their prices are ridiculous: Dolce and Gabbana jeans are 20 RMB (3 USD), Gucci high-heels and purse together for 100 RMB (15 USD)…
While picking through clothes, Cote claimed that he had many Chinese friends here. To prove his point, he walked up, and pats the store-owner on his head. Or, he playfully kicks at the store-owner’s leg. He’ll loudly greet them, “Friend, how are you recently?” His “friends” don’t respond. Some pull out a cell phone and intentionally ignore him. Others impatiently wave at him, and say in a combination of Chinese and English: “if you’re not buying anything, then go… quickly GO!”
Guangzhou has the densest concentration of African businessmen in China. Areas and cities surrounding the area has thousands of factories that take tens of thousands of African orders, originating from Chocolate City, every day.
… On Yongping Street, many black illegal immigrants live together in homes that rent for 100-200 RMB per month. They come out only at night, either selling physical labor by offering to carry goods, or sell drugs and other illegal activities. According to police in the area, starting in November of 2007, they had searched out a group of Africans in the country illegally. They were sent to Yunnan and deported.
Africans in Tokyo
On the continental level, Africans make up the least significant group of foreigners in Japan, far outstripped by just about every other group that counts (Vietnam alone has more registered foreigners in Tokyo than the entire continent). According to a Mainichi article from 2006 Africans in the Tokyo area number in the “tens of thousands,” though this is far above the 2,987 registered foreigners of African nationality within Tokyo Prefecture (Excel). It is also far smaller than the “as many as 100,000” in Guangzhou – that would mean African residents make up 1.31% of Guanghzhou’s population vs. 0.16% of Tokyo’s (assuming that Mainichi is right and there are at least 20,000 African residents in the Tokyo area). I should also mention that they are apparently overwhelmingly male and in prime working years.
Many are apparently in the country under similar terms as in China – most come from Nigeria and Ghana, and they are in the country on work/business visa quotas, and sometimes as illegal overstayers. In addition, many are in the country on spouse visas, both genuine and fraudulent (or somewhere in between). Some teach English, while others operate or work for clothing stores, import shops, or restaurants. Their numbers extend beyond Tokyo – I have heard reports of African-run hip-hop clothing stores as far-flung as Shikoku.
While almost all of the African residents in both Japan and China surely make their livings legitimately, it is worth mentioning that Africans in Japan have been notably involved in counterfeiting, drug muling, money laundering, and other illicit activities, apparently in line with the situation in Guangzhou. These crimes may receive extra scrutiny because of how Africans stand out. Anecdotal reports indicate that the police generally view Africans with suspicion, and apparently when they are arrested they can expect little mercy from the Japanese justice system (though the reaction in Japan must certainly be tamer than the brazen racism seen in that piece on China).
One key difference between the Sino-African and Japanese-African relationships is that while the Japanese interests have centered around resource investment projects (in his youth, Prime Minister Aso helped run a diamond mining operation in Sierra Leone) and meeting diplomatic goals (UN Security Council reform, whaling), China under Mao developed ideological ties with leaders in Africa as it sought to support socialist revolution abroad. These efforts included a priority student visa program for African students to study at Chinese universities. On an only tangentially related not, this was the historical background of some pretty scary 1988 protests in Nanjing:
On December 24, 1988 two male African students were entering their campus at Hehai University in Nanjing with two Chinese women. The occasion was a Christmas Eve party. A quarrel about correct identification between one of the Africans and a Chinese security guard, who had ordered the Africans to register their guests, led to a brawl between the African and Chinese students on the campus which lasted till the morning, leaving 13 students injured. 300 Chinese students, spurred by false rumors that a Chinese man had been killed by the Africans, broke into and set about destroying the Africans’ dormitories, shouting slogans such as “Kill the black devils!” After the police had dispersed the Chinese students, many Africans fled to the railway station in order to gain safety at various African embassies in Beijing. The authorities prevented the Africans from boarding the trains so as to question those involved in the brawl. Soon their numbers increased to 140, as other African and non-African foreign students, fearing violence, arrived at the station asking to be allowed to go to Beijing.
By this time, Chinese students from Hehai University had joined up with students from other Nanjing universities to make up a 3000 strong demonstration which called on government officials to prosecute the African students and reform the system which gave foreigners more rights than the Chinese. On the evening of 26 December, the marchers converged on the railway station while holding banners calling for human rights and political reform. Chinese police managed to isolate the non-Chinese students from the marchers and moved them to a military guest house outside Nanjing. The demonstrations were declared illegal, and riot police were brought in from surrounding provinces to pacify the demonstrations which lasted several more days.
The African population depicted in the video is clearly of a much different character from these earlier students. Reflecting the increasing resource investment of China itself, this group of Africans in China are strictly business-oriented (many never even attended college), apparently hoping to cash in on the Chinese economic boom.