15-minutes in to almost any conversation about the Chinese in Africa and the question about Chinese labor invariably comes up. “The Chinese are exporting convicts to work on construction sites,” according to one of the pervasive myths, or, “Chinese companies don’t hire as many locals as Western firms do and the Chinese don’t want to assimilate into the local culture.” These are powerful narratives that are extremely appealing to politicians and China’s critics despite the awkward reality that none of these myths are actually true.
Two of the leading scholars on this issues, Professor Barry Sautman of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Dr. Yan Hairong of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, have just completed an extensive new research project that aims to debunk these widely held misconceptions about the levels of Chinese enterprise localization in Africa.
Sautman and Yan’s report “Localizing Chinese Enterprises in Africa: From Myths to Policies” should be required reading for anyone interested in Sino-African relations as it clearly, concisely debunks a number of widely-held misconceptions.
Barry Sautman is a political scientist (PhD Columbia University) and lawyer (JD UCLA, LLM NYU) who primarily teaches international law, China/US relations, contemporary China, ethnicity and nationalism. One of his areas of research has been ethnic politics in China and comparative perspective, including ethnic policies, the political economic and legal aspects of the Tibet and Xinjiang issues. He has examined the global mystification by politicians and media of these questions, as well as the issue of dissent in China. His other area is China-Africa links, including political economy, labor rights, migration between China and Africa and interactions between Chinese and Africans, representations and perceptions of China and Chinese in Africa, and the supposed strategic rivalry between the US and China in Africa. He has published several monographs and numerous journal articles, as well as print media op-ed pieces and online contributions.
Yan Hairong is an anthropologist teaching in Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She received her PhD from the University of Washington and MA from University of California, Berkeley. Yan has published articles on not only China-Africa relations, but also Chinese proverbs, modernization in East Asia, and the discourse of development. She has been particularly active in discussion Chinese copper mining in Zambia. She has published a number of monographs and numerous journal articles, as well as op-eds and online contributions.
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