The Chinese in South Africa

Five centuries, five trajectories

Authored by: Karen L. Harris

Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415600569
eBook ISBN: 9780203100387
Adobe ISBN: 9781136230967


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Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the increasing presence of China and the Chinese on the African continent has received unprecedented media attention, followed by intense academic scrutiny and heated debate (Ampiah and Naidu 2008: 5; Taylor 2009: 1). While popular journalism portrayed the West as concerned, if not wary, about the “new imperialists” in the region (Anon. 2006: 53; Van Rensburg 2007: 128), the academic deliberation has ranged between presenting China as an exploiter on the one hand and a partner on the other (Alden 2007: 5). It has been argued that after the West’s twentieth-century post-colonial tangential concern for aid for third world development in Africa, there is now a return in the twenty-first century to the nineteenth century era of an aggressive colonial scramble for natural resources and potential markets in Africa (Lee 2006: 303–4). This scramble apparently intensified when China entered the fray as a new major player. Lee argues that this scramble is not unlike its nineteenth-century predecessor as it too has “two faces” – the one of “Saving Africa” and the other of “Naked Imperialism” (2006: 303–4). The debate over China as “partner, competitor or colonizer” (Alden 2007: 5) rages on as the competition between the world powers persists.

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