6.28.2011

On the 'Trend' of Chinese Workers Marrying African women

This started out as an edit to my previous post on Chinese netizens reacting to Blasian relationships formed on the African continent but it got lengthy so I've made it a standalone post. I wrote that article on Sunday, that is the 26th of June, and scheduled it to come up today, Tuesday the 28th of June, in case any other thing came up that I wanted to add. And, I woke up this morning to discover that the original ChinaSmack article is gaining popularity in parts of the English speaking interwebs. In barely two days, the original post has really travelled far.

I was mildly shocked that a link to Damien Ma's piece 'Chinese Workers in Africa who Marry Locals Face Puzzled Reaction Back home' popped up in my weekly China Africa news feed (which concerns mostly political news. One minute it was news on Namibia facing difficulties with Chinese influx, the next it was mixed race Chinese and African relationships). Then, I came across this Clutch piece on the 'new trend' of Chinese workers in Africa marrying local women.

I am not surprised that Western reactions have not changed much since Lou Jing's case last year, we are still being told that 'most Asian cultures hate black/African people'. Anyone with some knowledge of overseas Chinese will know something of intermarriage with locals. This sort of thing is not even limited to the Chinese, though I cannot speak for other people as most of my knowledge comes from university. I took a module on Chinese migrants in Southeast Asia, it was on the international political economy of East Asia and in one class, we discussed intermarriage with locals in places like Thailand and Malaysia. Though the conversation started out in terms of finance, things moved to personal territory when a Thai student brought some personal anecdotes to the discussion. What I'm trying to get at is that intermarriages between migrants and locals is not uncommon and it should not be treated as an anomaly when it involves Asian men and African women.

I don't understand why intermarriage with African women is a trend. When speaking of Blasian relationships historically, people mention the Caribbean and the United States but largely overlook the fact that these relationships are not so 'new' on the African continent either. Maybe it is due to my educational background, maybe it is because my Masters dissertation was (vaguely) on China in Africa, maybe it is because of what interests me and the kind of questions I ask. It is something that, I believe, has been mentioned on this site several times, relationships between Black women and Asian men is not a trend. We even don't have to look far back in history, in the 1960s and '70s there was a slight influx of Chinese migrants to parts of Africa. I don't have sufficient references at hand so I'll have to quote Wikipedia;
"The establishment of modern Sino-African relations dates back to the late 1950s when China signed the first official bilateral trade agreement with Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, Morocco and Sudan. Zhou Enlai made a ten-country tour to Africa between December 1963 and January 1964. Relations at that time were often reflective of China's foreign policy in general: China "began to cultivate ties and offer[...] economic, technical and military support to African countries and liberation movements in an effort to encourage wars of national liberation and revolution as part of an international united front against both superpower"." [Emphasis mine]
Sure things back then cannot be compared with the scale of Sino-African relations today.  Technical support involved sending Chinese experts to different African countries in order to train local people in different skills such as agriculture and technology. (At this point, I'd encourage everyone to read Deborah Brautigam's 'Chinese Aid and African Development: Exporting the Green Revolution', it is available for download at the link). Some of these Chinese experts went home, while others settled and, yes, married African women. In Dayo Forster's 'Reading the Ceiling', Ayodele's Chinese love interest is the son of Chinese immigrants to Gambia and it is suggested that they came as 'technical experts' in rice growing.

A few months ago, I tagged along with my cousin and her colleagues to a Chinese gala night at the Hilton in Abuja and as we were sipping drinks before the main event, they got talking on how they think Chinese people are more friendly than Koreans. 'Chinese men marry Nigerian women!' one of her male colleagues said out of the blue. 'I am telling you, they mix freely.' He continued explaining that in his hometown, where a few Chinese 'technical experts' settled in the '70s and married local women, it was not strange to see children of these unions ('You may see a girl walking on the street who says her name is Ming', he said). I remember a few days after this conversation, I came across an author of Nigerian and Chinese descent, I cannot remember her name now though.

Chinese railway workers flirt with a
local Angolan woman during lunch break.
(Source: Per-Anders Pettersson)
My point is that Chinese workers in Africa marrying African women is not new, 'strange', or a trend. I know I may be preaching to the choir here and I admit I got carried away, but some things need to be said. Stronger economic ties between China and the African continent will mean more immigration on both sides. More immigration will mean more intermarriages between cultures. This is something people will have to get used to.

Trying to delve into the 'reasons' behind the 'trend' is totally futile, saying that African women are poor and desperate for a ticket out of their countries reminds me of the mentality behind 'White Hunters'. I don't even know why I need to say this, regardless, while African women in relationships with foreign men are generally stereotyped as gold-diggers this is not always true. And while some Chinese migrants workers leave the African continent with their offspring behind, others do not. If an African woman marries a Chinese man and they settle in her home country, what/where is the so-called benefit (of moving to a more developed country because, you know, the whole of Africa is such a horrible place to live in)?  After all, for an example, Jean Ping's father had no problems moving to Gabon, in which he settled down and married a Gabonese woman.

I'd like to conclude with a comment below Damien Ma's piece in reply to another comment on how the Chinese want to colonise Africa (*rolls eyes*). All emphasis mine, this comment highlights why I am not always comfortable when Western media pick up 'news' from sites like ChinaSmack, and also why it is not so difficult for Chinese migrant workers to fall in love with, and marry, African women.
The problem with you Westerners is your intellectual arrogance. You think you know everything, you think you can accurately predict the future, but you don't know jack. I was listening to a podcast about the Chinese in Congo. The Chinese can speak Lingala, live among the Congolese and eat the same food as the Congolese, while workers at the American embassy could only speak French and barely ventured out of their air-conditioned enclosures.

Their only interaction with natives apart from their drivers, cooks and stewards are short planned in advance appointments with the locals.

Yet these same people living in a hermetically sealed bubble are the ones who produce so-called "detailed" reports on the situation in Africa, and you will swallow the BS they produce without blinking.

We who live in Africa know better. We can pick apart your BS in a second.
[Read more...]

16 comments:

  1. First of all, I had no idea I wasn't following the BN lol. Now I am officially so I can be more up to date on these things.

    SECONDLY, I about gave the author of that comment a standing ovation once I finished reading the whole thing. I honestly agree with him.

    Third, you're right; it's offensive to call it a "trend" like it's a "new and hip" thing. It's been going on for MUCH longer, and even then, I can imagine being a sister in Africa with her Chinese husband and having some ignorant person approach and say, "So, got in with the whole Black Trend, eh?" to my/her husband. It would be SO infuriating. It makes me sad to see that the Chinese men face so much scorn from their families that they would actually choose to LEAVE their child and wife behind.

    But in my OWN opinion, I think those men are cowards. I really do. Yes, family and social tension can really wear on a person, but in the bigger picture, why would you ever want to leave your own OFFSPRING behind just because a person feels like they wouldn't be accepted?

    It's a problem that needs to be corrected asap. First step: Not giving a damn what others think.

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  2. I agree with Kurosune-hime. Referring to Asian men marrying African/African-American women as a "trend" or the "new thing" is quite offensive, IMHO. It makes both Black women and Asian men are "hobbies" or "special interests." Like we're only here for dating "in the meantime." Yuck.

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  3. "Anyone with some knowledge of overseas Chinese will know something of intermarriage with locals."

    As someone who knows/is friends with more Blasians than I can shake a stick at, I can confirm this.

    And if Chinese/Black marriages are a 'trend', then it's been one of the longest running ones I've ever seen. I'm much more likely to see a Blasian couple than a WM/BW pair, which seems to get the Official Stamp where interracial relationships for BW are concerned.

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  4. @Kurosune-hime

    Thanks for following BN!

    It makes me sad to see that the Chinese men face so much scorn from their families that they would actually choose to LEAVE their child and wife behind.

    I don't know about Chinese men being forced to leave their families behind because of the scorn they may receive from their families. I believe those who leave families behind do so because they never wanted to settle and marry an African woman in the first place. So I don't know if this is cowardice or just simply those men doing what they want to do, these type of men never cared much in the first place and most likely only wanted companionship while in a foreign country. In other words, they don't care much about what their family back home thinks and they most likely never considered marriage to local women...and I am not talking about men like that in this piece.

    However, I do agree with you that men who want to marry or date Black women and then back out because of their family or parents are cowards. Yes they are, and I doubt they are going to change because I don't think they want to. I also think it is very suspicious when an Asian man brings up how he is scared of familial reactions without first bringing the Black woman he is 'dating' to his family. To me, such actions show that not only is he a coward but also just simply making excuses (for all we know the family may not even react negatively). I feel that if a man is really interested in a woman, he wouldn't care what people say.

    @Moonwalker723

    Like we're only here for dating "in the meantime." Yuck.

    Ugh. It is offensive and really stupid *headdesk*

    @Leoprincess

    And if Chinese/Black marriages are a 'trend', then it's been one of the longest running ones I've ever seen. I'm much more likely to see a Blasian couple than a WM/BW pair, which seems to get the Official Stamp where interracial relationships for BW are concerned.

    I focused on Chinese in this article and did not mention that Indian and Lebanese migrant workers have also been marrying African women for decades now. It has been going on too long for it to be a trend, honestly. It is very...I don't know, strange or telling that WM/BM pairing seems to get that Official Stamp.

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  5. I wonder if this "trend" idea has a lot more to do with the fact that people are just now realizing that interracial doesn't always mean black and white. When it doesn't revolve around white people it's something "new" and "fresh." I've been on some IR boards where they'll talk about their blacks will talk about their white lovers but when the topic of dating Asians come up there seems to be some bizarre fascination over the idea. It IS "a new trend" to them because they hardly ever considered it.

    Of course the media seems to also have a bizarre fascination over black women's dating habits given the disproportionate number of articles about single, lonely, sad, pitiful, churh-going black women in the past year. So them also pushing the idea that this is "trendy" wouldn't surprise me either.

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  6. @ Eccentric Yoruba

    Girl...you read my mind. If you hadn't done a post with the commenter about the Congolese and the Chinese, I would've done it myself. That is a damn powerful statement. That commenter just owned the whole discussion.

    To be honest, I didn't notice the word 'trend' until just now. I was too busy saying, "I told you so," but now I think about it, 'trend' is definitely a fucked-up term. In lay terms, it's haterade; it's bitterness over people moving on with their lives and doing their own thing, regardless of what others think.

    Another issue which annoys me is how people are making AMBW at the global level all about Chinese-African relations, rather than Asian-African relations. When this happens, the countless Koreans, Japanese, Arabs, East Indians, Indonesians, etc. who are also present in Africa - some for many centuries now - tend to go neglected, along with their legacies and accomplishments.

    If an African woman marries a Chinese man and they settle in her home country, what/where is the so-called benefit (of moving to a more developed country because, you know, the whole of Africa is such a horrible place to live in)?
    This comes as a huge slap to some people. One, while the West tends to whine about the evil immigrant hordes (who are actually diminishing), the truth is, it doesn't like it when people find an alternative place to relocate. Two, all other Asian countries which comforted themselves by claiming superiority over Africa are shocked that their citizens are leaving, resettling in Africa, and marrying Africans, and not all the traditional threats and pressures are stopping it.

    Which is why I tend to focus on the couples themselves, because everything else is just angry netizens resisting progress, and yes, I said progress, as in "getting better and moving forward."

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  7. I hate it when they say that AMBW pairings are
    "trends" because they aren't. It's a reality that the critics cannot accept.When other races of people do the same thing, they aren't branded with this label and it shouldn't be the same with them.

    I have problems with them saying this because they make it seem as if AMBW are incapable of loving each other, like they are in some kinds of sweepstakes or something. I was reading this article as well as some others from the past and still, you have those racist naysayers who just want to pretend that it doesn't happen. I could see some of them now."Oh, it he must have tons of moola...she was desperate to find anything off the streets... and so on, any ugly stereotype just to keep them from accepting reality.

    I'm glad that these Black women in these pictures are pretty because if it was the other way around, they would have been saying that there were so desperate for each other that the Asian men wanted scraps off the table( and it's hurting them knowing that these men were able to get them).What probably hurt the critics more than anything is that these Chinese men/African women is that they have always had married for love and is continuing to that in 2011.

    Asian men and Black women always have a lot in common with each other,but when it comes to Asian men/ African women, they have even more in common with each other. Initially, I didn't always get it until I read Kinship: A family's Journey In Africa And America by the late Phillipe Wamba. It helped me to better understand his experiences on both continents being African and AA how people can have a lot of things in common without being from the same backgrounds.Culturally, Chinese( and other Asian men for that matter)men and African women have far more in common than the critics want to believe. With that+the love, that is what frightens them more than anything. Tragedy, like in a lot of cases of history, didn't bring them together. To some, they want to say that Chinese men and African women are marrying each other is an anomaly ,but if they were to read this blog and the Wikipedia article , it would kill them.

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  8. I hate when people call it a trend (for obvious reasons) but most of those people are people who would never be in a blasian relationship either way, regardless if they're dating a black woman or an Asian man or vice verse. They tend to be more judgemental and just assume that the things they've seen on television or heard about are factual.

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  9. @Ankh

    Another issue which annoys me is how people are making AMBW at the global level all about Chinese-African relations, rather than Asian-African relations. When this happens, the countless Koreans, Japanese, Arabs, East Indians, Indonesians, etc. who are also present in Africa - some for many centuries now - tend to go neglected, along with their legacies and accomplishments.

    I personally feel that far too much attention is paid to China's activities on the African continent. This may be due to China's size or to the supposed threat they pose to the West. I don't know but other nationalities tend to be pushed aside. Speaking personally, I know more Nigerians, and West Africans generally speaking, with Arab (Lebanese) and Indian heritage.

    @M

    Culturally, Chinese( and other Asian men for that matter)men and African women have far more in common than the critics want to believe.

    This is the truth. I remember one essay I read on how an early delegation from China visited an an African country and we shocked to see that the people in the country they visited poured libation in honour of the ancestors. They thought it was something unique to China.

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  10. I really like your point on how Chinese immigrants are more integrated in African society than western counterparts. In this way, they may play a more constructive role as colonists than those that came before.

    On the other hand, I remain skeptical that the government of China will seek to continue the trend of global expansion of freedom and democracy.

    The best-case is that China and the "west" will provide developing countries choice and leverage in negotiations. The risk is that developing nations are corrupted by bribes and militarism resulting from increased strategic competition.

    I don't know what to think.

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  11. Anonymous, leave a name please.

    In this way, they may play a more constructive role as colonists than those that came before

    At the individual level, Chinese men moving to Africa, marrying and settling down with African women, learning African dialects and raising Blasian kids isn't "colonialism." That's just progress.

    When the Europeans were in Africa, they raped the lands and people, caused the deaths of millions, and crippled economies across the continent. They used the women as mistresses and barely acknowledged their own offspring. That's colonialism.

    I think people are so eager to attach neocolonialism to China's presence in Africa that they're not looking at the fundamental differences staring at them right in the face.

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  12. And I think the reason so many people are terrified - on both sides - is that inevitable is happening now: the world is getting smaller, more people are starting to mix, cultures are beginning change, and it's just going to keep happening on an increasing scale.

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  13. Thanks for that comment Ankh! I don't know if it is that people don't know exactly what colonialism is or if they think what the Chinese are doing in Africa can really be compared to European colonialism. It doesn't make the slightest sense. IMHO, those who are quick to brand Chinese activities in Africa as 'colonial' are insulting the intelligence of Africans as well. Like we would willingly let ourselves be colonised.

    I think people are so eager to attach neocolonialism to China's presence in Africa that they're not looking at the fundamental differences staring at them right in the face.

    And a lot of these people seem to have forgotten that there are still white people in different African countries walking around like they own the place. Just this week there was news that a white farmer is facing court action for being racist to Namibians in their own damn country. And I'm not even going to touch on the issue of how some white people act in Kenya.

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  14. It's just going back to the way it was in the beginning! One love!

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  15. Chinasmack is not a western site.
    A young Chinese woman owns that site.

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  16. Simply stated, China will have 10 million men without female counterparts by 2020. They need employment and stability. Africa is a continent that needs infrastructural development and technical expertise and China is the largest investor to date. So, naturally, yes there is going to be male-female relationshis formed. Will it last, is it real, only time will tell as with any relationship within any society. Wish them well in all endeavors....

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