Thursday, March 11, 2010

China and interesting times. Part III

In my last post, I predicted that China will undergo the same kind of demographic transition that is occurring in other developed countries. This transition will be characterized by:

1. Fertility rates well below the replacement level.

2. A heavy influx of immigrants from poorer regions of the world with higher fertility, mainly sub-Saharan Africa but also parts of south and southeast Asia.

3. A process of population replacement that will be most apparent in the large conurbations of southern China. Many urban districts will become minority Chinese.

This scenario may seem hard to believe. After all, with a billion or so people, the Chinese have a long way to go before becoming strangers in their own land. Yet this scenario does seem plausible if one looks at its underlying causes:

Fertility decline

For thirty years now, China has had a fertility rate well below replacement level (1.6 children per woman for the whole country and significantly lower for non-Muslim Han). Although this low fertility is often attributed to the 1-child policy, fertility is equally low in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao—where this policy has never been applied.

There is no reason to believe that the fertility rate will rise in the near future and every reason to believe that it will fall further. Fertility has already fallen to the 1.0 mark in the urban areas of southern China, and these areas tend to be at the forefront of cultural changes that later spread to the rest of the country. In many ways, China is undergoing a ‘revolution of rising expectations’ similar to the one that swept through the Western World in the 1960s. Everyone wants a car, designer clothes, and other showy consumer goods. As in the West, the average Chinese couple will try to fulfil these expectations by having their children later, or by not having any at all.

Whatever the prospects for continuing fertility decline, China has already had thirty years of sub-replacement fertility and women now reaching childbearing age themselves come from 1-child families. There is no longer any momentum left in Chinese population growth. China, particularly southern China, thus seems poised for substantial population decline and this decline, combined with high economic growth, will open up room in the job market and in housing estates for migrants from elsewhere.

In the past, these migrants came from rural China. Will this internal migration continue? To some extent, yes, but it will probably not be enough to fill the looming labor shortages. With rising prices for food and other commodities, many rural people will choose to stay put. Furthermore, labour shortages will be most acute in those industries that offer the lowest wages and the poorest working conditions. The temptation will be strong to fill those jobs with workers from abroad. Similarly, housing vacancies will open up in old, substandard tenements that are disdained by upwardly mobile Chinese but not by immigrants.


And such immigrants will show up on their own. Since the year 2000, there has been a marked rise in immigration, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa. Guangzhou alone has an African community of over 100,000 people. This immigration is partly due to the wide gap in living standards between China and sub-Saharan Africa. But it is also due to the special relationship that has developed between these two world regions.

Since 1991, the Chinese foreign minister’s first visit abroad each year has always been to the African continent. When the Chinese leadership realised that increasing amounts of oil, gas and other minerals were needed to sustain the booming economy, resource-rich Africa again garnered much attention from China’s decision-makers. After China lost its long-cherished status of energy self-reliance in 1993, the pressure of supply diversification forced major Chinese national oil companies to scour the world for petroleum. […] China’s crude oil imports from Africa have increased at an astonishing rate of 23 per cent annually since 1993, reaching 53 million tons (mt) in 2007. As a result, Africa’s share of China’s crude imports rose sharply from 18.5 per cent in 1993 to 32.5 per cent in 2007. In most of 2006, Angola even surpassed Saudi Arabia, to become China’s largest overseas crude oil supplier. In 2007, China imported an unprecedented 25 mt of crude oil from Angola, a level only 5 per cent lower than the quantity coming from Saudi Arabia. (Tu, 2008)

There is increasing worry among Chinese policy-makers about the fragility of this special relationship, in particular its vulnerability to incidents of anti-black racism in China. According to Tu (2008):

The absence of open debate about such discrimination poses an important challenge to China’s interactions with African countries, especially at the societal level. Thus, to prevent unchecked spread of racism in China, a top-down paradigm shift of China’s decision makers is urgently needed, a bottom-up soul-searching process of Chinese civil society as a whole is also required.

Interestingly, although Tu refers to an “unchecked spread of racism”, he makes no direct reference to the rapid growth of the African community in China. There seems to be a tendency to frame the debate in terms of controlling ‘racism’ rather than controlling immigration. This tendency is all the more unusual because Bodomo (2009) found little evidence of anti-African discrimination in Guangzhou. In fact, local Chinese tended to excuse behavior in Africans that they would not accept in other Chinese. This came out in an interview with a shop assistant who mainly deals with Africans

Before working in this shop, Ms Li dealt with Chinese customers in a similar type of shop. When asked the difference between doing business with Chinese and Africans, she complains about the Africans. Firstly, she mentions that many of the African customers do not keep their promises. For example, they may request the company to supply them goods within a week but they do not come and collect their goods on time. Secondly, after producing goods for them, they may say they do not have the money in hand. According to her, some Africans, who believe in Christianity, sometimes handle things “in the name of God”. Besides, getting along with African customers is also hard for her. It is because to Ms Li, the Africans are too direct when meeting someone of the opposite sex. She recounted her experience of being asked by her African customers to give them her phone number and address even during their first meeting with her. Some even declare: ‘I love you’ to her even on their very first day of meeting, a behaviour she can hardly bear with as a Chinese.

Another factor is the emergence of Africans themselves as a lobby for further immigration. Bodomo (2009), himself an African established in China, makes this point in his survey of the Guangzhou African community:

As the Guinean leader pointedly indicated, “Chinese [leaders] think that Africans can do business in China without being in China and this is an error. 90 per cent of Africans in Guangzhou act as some kind of intermediary between the local businessmen in Africa and the Chinese factory, the Chinese businessmen there. Without Africans in China there is no business between Africa and China.” This was one of the clearest statements as evidence in support of our theoretical argument about Africans in Guangzhou acting as bridges for business connections between Africans and Chinese.

… Both the Chinese government, on the one hand, and the African governments, on the other, could harness these important roles played by the community, and address the challenges they are facing, such as unrealistic visa and residency restrictions (they are given only 6-month visas, for instance) and generally unclear paths to permanent residency and citizenship, to enhance the growing economic relations between Africa and China. The African trading community in Guangzhou serves as a salient emerging bridge between Africa and China that cannot continue to be ignored in efforts to effectively develop socio-economic relations between Africa and China.


Bodomo, A. (2009) The African Trading Community in Guangzhou (广州): An Emerging Bridge for Africa-China Relations, accepted (October 2009) for publication in China Quarterly.

Tu, J. (2008). Sino-African relations: Historical development and long-term challenges, China: An International Journal, 6(2), 330-343.


Mark said...

How "marked" is this rise in immigration to China since 2000? Are there actual estimates? I haven't been able to find any.

I can't imagine the massive numbers of Africans necessary for population replacement going to China.

On the other hand, Africa's booming population is going to emigrate somewhere. I know this sounds awful, but assuming they carry their dysfunctional culture/whatever with them, isn't it better for them to be spread about the globe as much as possible?

Mr_Zlu said...

Africa's booming population is only at the beginning of its emigration and we shall see the rest of the consequences in the world during our life time. The Western aid allowed them to breed massively, to the point of starvation.

Better for them to expand around the globe ? Sure. But it will be at our expense. In fact, it is simple : they are hungry, they want our places and they will come and get them.

The once quiet and ethnically homogeneous areas in Europe seem to be distant memory and Asia will be the next to undergone these changings. I have heard from a Korean student that South Korea is experiencing "human right protests" from Pakistanis and Filipinos. There have already been protests from Africans immigrants in China - and also statement of their criminal activities and "manly" prowesses that left numerous families in distress, as family value are still strong there.

Once again, the duty of adaptation to the foreigners falls to the native population. No question asked about it, as Africans seem to be some kind of Untouchable Übermenschen.

I think it will be like in Paris and its surroundings, where there are parts literally without any native French people. Needless to say that police won't go there anymore. The story about the murder of Justin Little was absolutely not surprising : it happened in the infamous "Département 93" and Justin was white. Bad color.

What I have written may seem exagerated. Maybe that is because I have live in the Paris mess for too long. But the same phenomenon is happening in the rest of France, and I cna see it whenever I go back to my parents' location or visit friends. And there is literally no political party that can curb this situation. I would be happy if the statu quo can be achieved for a few years, as I live in a rather privileged area in Paris (=white majority).

Incredible amount of energy will be spent on issues that won't make any advancement in the name of progress, as it will be spoilt in solving the multiracial problem - that won't involve any "peaceful" or "moderate" solution.

Yeah, "interesting times" indeed and all hail the future "chingger" underclass in China.

The Asian of Reason said...

I'm wondering what the socioeconomic makeup of Africans in China is. Are they mostly elites and businessmen, or are there poorer Africans there as well? As long as the Africans are being productive (conducting trade), I don't think it's unreasonable for them to stay. If the Africans turn into parasites (like many blacks in the US) then there could be BIG problem. You bring up the idea of labor shortages in the near future. Would Africans simply take up the work that the Chinese will not want, in a situation similar with Mexicans in the Southern US? The journey between Africa and China is still a difficult one, especially for poor people. One cannot just sneak across the border.

I've got a better solution. It's called North Korea.

The Asian of Reason said...

Have you found any data on interracial marriages between Chinese and Africans in Guangzhou? Is it common or rare?

Mr_Zlu said...

@The Asian of Reason

A friend of mine who has lived in Gabon told me this about Gabonese people and their relationship with their families. I don't know if it can be applied to other peoples.

Let's consider a Gabonese young man who plans to study abroad.

Prior to his departure, he will meet members of his family who will help him with the journey (by giving him a pair of shoes, some money, sorcerer's charms etc). This future student has just contracted a life-long debt towards these people.

He may never return to his homeland - and understandably. He may also help them, oftenly by bringing them to the new country, seeking their fortune.

So there will be more and more Africans in China and the government can't do much about it without using brutal methods. In this African masses, there will be parasites. And a lot of them.

And I think you make the common mistake to distinguish them between the "good" ones and the "bad" ones. It is simple, how on an administrative level can you distinguish them ? One can only judge them on an overall level and see the outcome.

In France, when one criticises Africans and Arabs, one will always says "there are good ones among them !"... But never when one criticizes the Chinese - if one ever does it. Strange, uh ?

I know a bunch of "good" Africans and appreciate their presence. But that does not prevent me to see them a nuisance to France in overall.

My attitude is to be insensible to their miseries or their aspiration. We are different and do not belong to the same world. Just like what the White people of the past used to think.

Anonymous said...

You know, in the good/bad old days the smarter folks would destroy their enemies and take their land/stuff/ women. Now it is the opposite. Maybe we aren't so smart.

Zippo said...

Government welfare and socialized medicine breed mutual racial resentment. As long as government programs like socialized medicine don't take root in China, there will be comparatively good race relations between the native Han and the African immigrants.

Mr_Zlu said...

@Anonymous (March 12, 2010 2:04:00 PM EST)

Yeah, in the good old days, when a country wants ressources that happen to be in a neighbor's territory, the former would just go and make the occupants of the latter dissapear.

Natural ressources don't belong to those who happen to sit on them. They belong to those who can make useful things out of it.

The Saudi Prince didn't get rich because of "their" oil, but thanks to OUR heat engine.


I think the Chinese will still excuse Africans' behavior and "give face" to them as long as they are perceived as foreigners who will eventually go home...

The facts tend to prove that the Chinese will be desillusionned... (eg. quite a number of them will be fathering with local women, life is always better out of Africa etc).

Tension can have a multitude of causes... And Africans always seem to carry a lot of them wherever they go.

Peter Frost said...


Africans started showing up in Guangzhou after 1998, but their numbers have taken off only in the past five years. Li et al (2007) provide some data on the number of foreign residents in Guangzhou, while saying there are no reliable statistics on the number of African residents. Entries of African 'tourists' to Guangzhou rose from 6,358 in 2000 to 31,766 in 2005. The Border Administration Office states there are 15,000 long-term foreign residents in Guangzhou and approximately 500,000 transitory foreign residents. The Public Security Bureau of Guangzhou reports 1,080 long-term African residents. Li et al. (2007) add, however, that many Africans never register with the Public Security Bureau, and there are also many more who overstay their visas.

Bodomo (2009) puts forward a total of over 100,000 Africans resident in Guangzhou. He also mentions sizeable African communities in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Part of the problem is that the Chinese authorities are not accustomed to large-scale immigration. Historically, China was a country of emigration, not immigration. Foreigners were generally students, diplomats, and Communist idealists. The major problem, however, is China’s special relationship with Africa. There seems to be a deliberate policy of avoiding incidents that could hurt this relationship.

Mr. Zlu,

I’m afraid you’re right. We are seeing only the beginning of a wave of emigration from sub-Saharan Africa. Even middle-income countries like Algeria are starting to feel the impact.

Asian of Reason,

95% of Guangzhou Africans describe themselves as ‘traders’ or ‘businessmen’. In West Africa, a ‘trader’ is someone who rents a stall in a marketplace. A trader who owns property, like a store or a warehouse, would probably use another term (like storeowner or proprietor). Li et al (2007) report that many African traders have only enough money to pay for the plane ticket:

‘…They don’t even have 100 dollars in their pockets, and could hardly pay for bills of hotels in the first few days when arrived in Guangzhou…’(Interviewee No. 22).
‘…Unlike those who have money for two-weeks in their pocket, we Africans start from nothing…In order to have the money for meals tomorrow, we have to work immediately when we arrived in Guangzhou…’ (Interviewee No. 25)

Li et al (2007) make no mention of intermarriage. They state: “as for the relations with local residents, the traders often leave the comments that although they can get along with local people, there is little interactions between them. In fact, most of the sample does not prefer to live with Chinese in the same community.” Bodomo (2009) mentions mixed marriages but provides no statistics.


You’re repeating standard rightwing discourse, i.e., ethnic conflict is due to government meddling, the welfare state, multiculti educators, and leftist troublemakers. Just get big government off our backs and everything will be just fine.

Well, ethnic conflict has been around for a very long time. It existed long before the welfare state and it will probably exist long after.


Bodomo, A. (2009) The African Trading Community in Guangzhou (广州): An Emerging Bridge for Africa-China Relations, accepted (October 2009) for publication in China Quarterly.

Li, Z., D. Xue, M. Lyons, & A. Brown. (2007). Ethnic Enclave of Transnational Migrants in Guangzhou: A Case Study of Xiaobei.

Jason Malloy said...

Unlike America, Chinese elites have explicit HBD beliefs which will likely affect large-scale immigration patterns.

In 1992, Hong Kong social scientist Barry Sautman surveyed Chinese beliefs about foreigners:

"The survey was carried out among 461 persons in 14 diverse sampling populations, primarily students and intellectuals, but also high school pupils, PLA recruits at a normal university, the staffs of two research institutes, a municipal planning office and a provincial foreign trade mission, and technical and managerial personnel employed in a factory. The first questionnaire asked that seven groups of foreigners (Western Europeans, Africans, Japanese, Americans, South-east Asians, Arabs and Indians) be rated for ten attributes: cultural level, intelligence, industriousness, behaviour, role as models from whom one can learn, attractiveness, interest in education, honesty, capacity to manage their own political affairs, and interest in economic development...

Africans were rated [last] for nine... of the ten attributes.

... All groups surveyed rated Africans last in culture and most placed their level between somewhat backward and very backward.

...Questions on intelligence gave choices of highly intelligent; fairly intelligent; average intelligence; below average intelligence, and unintelligent. All groups rated Africans last in terms of intelligence, with student groups tending to place them between average and below average and intellectuals usually rating Africans as below average to unintelligent. Western Europeans, Japanese, Americans and South-east Asians were rated highly as to intelligence

kurt9 said...

Both India and Bangladesh have declining fertility rates currently at 2.7. Peninsula South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, etc.) have fertility rates below replacement and Indonesia's is approaching replacement. Contrast this with Sub-Sahara Africa's fertility rate of around 4.5 and it is obvious that much of future immigration, not only to China, but to Europe and even the Americas will be overwhelmingly African.

The entire world outside of Sub-Sahara Africa will be below replacement fertility by 2030. What does this say about the world, say, 2050 or 2070?

Mark said...

Are there any countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are developing to the point that they might become a destination for African emigrants? I know South Africa is the most developed but I hear they have a pretty restrictive immigration policy.

Eugene said...

I don't think the fertility rate by itself tells you a whole lot. I mean, sure, you can have 10 kids, but if all of your children are born into poverty and malnutrition, what good does that do you as a parent? Most of them will die or get sick, and you won't be as successful reproductively.

Eugene said...

A video report on Africans in Guangzhou:

Peter Frost said...


China’s elites are hamstrung by their special relationship with sub-Saharan Africa and their desire for a favorable international image. I’ll discuss this point in my next post.


The next fifty years, at least, will probably see a massive demographic expansion out of sub-Saharan Africa. And it’s going to push not only into Western Europe but also into much of North Africa and Asia, anywhere that has a higher standard of living.


South Africa is one of the few poles of immigration within sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya has taken in some Somali immigrants, but that’s about it. Northern Sudan and Libya are also becoming immigrant destinations but both regions lie outside sub-Saharan Africa.


There are strong cultural and economic reasons why fertility is still high in most African societies. In many Asian and mid-Eastern countries, fertility has fallen because a prospective husband is supposed to provide his bride with an apartment as a condition for marriage. Many men cannot fulfil this condition until they’re close to 30. This is less of a constraint in sub-Saharan societies because most property (including land) is transmitted via the bride’s family. Even when the man is the property owner, he can share his apartment with more than one wife, thus lowering the cost of each wife.

Anonymous said...

Peter Frost says:

The next fifty years, at least, will probably see a massive demographic expansion out of sub-Saharan Africa. And it’s going to push not only into Western Europe but also into much of North Africa and Asia, anywhere that has a higher standard of living.

This all assumes that the climate remains much the same as it is now.

Also, there are still a lot of people in the country who could move into the cities as a pool of labor ...

ogunsiron said...

@ Mark :

Gabon and even more so the Ivory Coast have traditionally been countries of high intra-african immigration because they were performing economically much better than their neighbours.
This map shows ( in french) both as being the african countries with the highest % of foreign born people as of 2005 :

Mark said...

What about china's one-child policy? My understanding of it is that it applies to minority groups whose population exceeds a certain number, I believe ten million. This should seriously curtail African population growth in china past a certain point.

Mr_Zlu said...


This one-child policy is being less and less enforced. Chinese legislators are putting more and more pressure to remove it. As for the Africans, they are not known to be law-abiding foreigners.

There are officially 56 ethnicities in China. I don't know how they treat half-blooded children.

Anonymous said...

"In God's eyes there is no such thing as black or white." Let us be more 'God' like by following this 'example'. I am saddened & shocked by the 'racist/white' superiority comments I have read here. So, Mark says, Africans' have a 'dysfunctional' culture? I quote Vine Deloria Jr. (a Native American writer/activist) "white people (American/western civilization) don't have a culture -- it's a cancer." I don't have to reiterate the genecidal history the U.S.A. has had towards it's indigenous inhabitants. Plus, the majority of African-Americans are not 'parasites' of the welfare/unemployment system here or in any European culture! There are more white people on welfare, actually! Most blacks (not all)are law abiding, hard-working people. It is too bad the Chinese still equate (darkest)skin color with low-casteism, & a lack of intelligence. "We are all citizens of the world" -- 'varieties of melanin are environmental adaptations!' Let all humankind unite in world unity & peace. Stop judging eachother. The Bahai Faith religious writings are the inspiration of these positive, spiritual quotes. Surf the net for the Bahai's!

Anonymous said...

Why Africans? Indians would make much better immigrants than Africans, and this would do wonders to the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Dragon Horse said...

Peter: You may find the video on this site of interest. This talks about Chinese living in Africa, specifically Senegal.