Posted by: Snake Oil Baron | February 16, 2009

China to Africa and Back

Some time ago I linked to this story about the appearance of a Chinatown in Algiers. I was quite aware of Chinese communities in sub-Saharan and Eastern Africa due to China’s investment of funds, trained labour and technology into the region. But the development of these communities in North African nations was news to me.

And the Algerian government is not capitalizing on their presence as they could be. It seems that all foreigners are only allowed to stay for three months at a time meaning that these newly established entrepreneurs have to take a quick trip out of the country four times a year. I don’t know about the status of their children who are born in the country. I suspect there will be pressure to change laws like that to allow longer term visas and allow renewing from inside Algeria. But it just goes to demonstrate how many unnoticed immigration stories are playing out in the greater world.

By way of example, while Chinese communities are created in Africa, African ones can be found growing in China. Evan Osnos writes for a New Yorker slide show on a “Nigeriatown” in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (H/T Africa Unchained).

The traditional concerns about newcomers will no doubt arise about both the African Chinese and the Chinese Africans. In Canada, during the late 1980’s and the 1990’s I remember significant concerns being raised about Chinese immigrants to certain Canadian cities being too numerous. They were supposed to have such a high fertility rate and rate of immigration that there would be an unmanageably fast transition. It was said that they could not learn English fast enough because of their population density and they kept to themselves too much. Those who raised these concerns were labeled racists. Some were but for the most part this charge was grossly unfair. They were concerned about the cultural and linguistic strains that a rapid transition would put on their society. Now the Chinese population of the west coast of Canada is inter-marrying with the European and other racial and ethnic groups at an astonishing rate and Chinese parents enroll their kids in Chinese language classes to try to preserve some competency in Mandarin or Cantonese while Chinese immigration rates shrink and East Indian rates grow. Canada is not going to become China version 2.0 any more than Africa will become China or vice versa.

But with a growing global middle class, now over 50 percent of the Earth’s population, (a rising trend that has reduced in speed on occasion but never significantly reversed in the last hundred years) including the growing professional class in Nigeria’s capital and its financial center, the opportunities for trade links between China and Africa will likely increase the cultural contacts as well. If predictions being made that China could be the first major economy to emerge from the global recession (ironic given the amount of reforms its economy still needs but it has, apparently made some wise steps in regards to interest rates and such), African nations may become even more enamored with the East in the near to mid-term.



  1. Salut!
    “….any more than Africa will become China or vice versa.”
    Hmmm sad(vice verse will happen if no doomsday),not China but other east Asian country’s will become Africa(Islam),the same to Europa…..! If You have change go and look to ethnic East Asians and Europeans and they beautiful culture,while it exist.
    Sorry ,But You remind me -Neville Chamberlain ;)
    It’s only my pessimist point of view…… technologies and if fairly persons controls them,can make miracle.


  2. Hello Varjags.

    I would say that there is at least one difference between Neville Chamberlain and myself. N.C. felt that we should seek peace with the enemy; that both systems (Democracy and Fascism) could coexist. I feel that the enemy is not a significant threat and will be easily defeated with a little effort. I do not seek peace with Islam but rather engagement on a cultural front (as well as the occasional military front like Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia). I may be wrong – we shall see in time.

    I feel that most victories against Islam will be won by music videos, classical literature, science, Christian evangelists, porn and other factors that continue to erode Islamic dogma from the minds of the youth.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Salut!
    Yes it can happen and probably it will happen,only it ‘s matter of time! But then it need be a slow, steady progress, the course may also be faster, but than there probably follow wars and revolutions.
    I think it will be to late to European,east Asian and some other civilization(person) to experience. Of course You need civilization(person) from what take over and transform, what is necessary and acceptable, understandable to you or group…..if there is no different in view of course you assume that yours is the only correct :)
    I’m from old school A like different person,civilizations,(don’t think they all need be mixed up to get some thing better)but You need give breath so the others could also breathe…….

  4. I can see what you mean about different people not needing to mix into a single form. A completely uniform culture across the planet is not a wise goal. But I also see that during history there have been many periods of mixing and then separating. England and English descendant cultures like America and Canada resulted from a mixture of stone age people, Celtic immigrants, Germanic tribes, and Roman and French influences. Going back, the Romans were influenced by the Greeks and others. And the Greeks by the Egyptians and even enemies like the Persians.

    But Rome gave way to many nations and Latin became several languages. Nations like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have developed cultures that continue to change from each other and from Britain.

    Will the Christianity that Nigerians bring to China be different than that spreading there already? Will either that of the Nigerians or that of the Chinese merge with Buddhism or Taoism? Will one of those religions learn evangelistic techniques and start converting people in foreign lands to Buddhism or Taoism? Will any Nigerians adopt Buddhism or Taoism and introduce it to Nigeria? Will all of these things happen? It is a fascinating experiment. And while it occurs the economies of both nations could benefit and integrate.

    Maybe I am overly optimistic. Maybe I am wrong. But one way or another we will learn something about humanity as things play out.

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