Monday, December 17, 2012

Well, at Least They Changed the Name to 'Darlie'

Today I read this piece, courtesy of Wendy, that tied China Daily's African edition with China's sometimes fraught relationship with dark-skinned peoples. This quote, by Isaac Stone Fish, sums things up nicely:
While there's plenty of anecdotal evidence out there, it's hard to generalize about what Chinese think about Africans without being hypocritical, so I'll just quote what a Chinese English teaching recruiter once told me in Beijing: "We try not to hire black people. They tend to scare the children."
There is a lot of good scholarship out there on Chinese conceptions of race (though I get the feeling Dikotter maybe overreaching, but considering that I know nothing about the subject I hope I can find someone more knowledgable than on the subject historical trajectory of racial categorization in China to give me their take on his research). There is also scholarship out there that I am not familiar with but would like to engage with if I get the chance. In any case, it is a credit to the Chinese that, despite their sometimes unkind attitudes (to put it mildly) towards those of darker hue, they still want to work and prosper in Africa, though obviously how much they want to be of "Africa" (however defined) remains to be seen.

Still, will these sorts of attitudes serve as a barrier to Sino-African relations? The trade numbers sound great, the MOUs and the loans are frankly eye-popping, but do these sorts of interactions mean anything in the long run? The Soviets treated Africans pretty poorly, but that did not stop the exchange of people, goods, weapons, and ideology. I wonder what the future will bring.

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