Monday, January 21, 2013

Are Relationships Between Individual Chinese and Africans Worsening?

Camilla Carabini, a journalist at FIRSTonline who studies Chinese investments in Africa, retweeted one my updates and changed the language in a way that I found interesting:  

"RT:@Winslow_R Interesting video on #ChinaAfrica - Relationship at individual level btw Chinese & natives are worsening"

The funny thing is that, after watching the video, I thought that relations were set to improve.
In some of my recent postings, I have been struck by how Chinese people on the ground have the self-awareness to realize that some of their dealings with Africans may not be ideal. That, to me, is a good thing. I do not foresee Chinese managers halting their beatings of African employees anytime soon, but as different generations of Chinese investors, entrepreneurs, and small-business people come to Africa, I envision the horror stories will subside. That is progress.

Still, Ji Qi's quote from the video is telling:
"I think only two kinds of people are suitable to do business in Africa. One group is those who are really brave and smart, and who can bear hardships; and the other group is state-owned companies, which have powerful background and abundant capital."
Africa is still seen as a place of hardship for many Chinese. It is not a place to immigrate to, it is a place to go, to make money, and to depart from. So long as individual Chinese attitudes and behaviors towards Africans do not affect them commercially, those attitudes and behaviors will not change.

What I have been hearing from scholars and friends is that the more experienced Chinese people are in living and working in Africa, the more relaxed they get in their dealings with Africans. In the John Gachari piece I wrote about, he describes the
"... cordial relationship between [Paul, a quality surveyor in Kenya] and the senior [Chinese] managers who were more traveled and exposed. But it was not the same for the lower cadre staff."
Has anyone heard stories of Chinese Africa hands who got worse the more they dealt with African peoples?

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