Follow CAP on Social Media

Listen to the CAP Podcast

Anti-Black Cyber Racism in China

By China House Student Fellows Xinjian Lyu, Chenxing Ji, Yuncheng Chi, Shizhen Gu

Guangzhou, one of the most developed cities in China, has become a popular place among foreign immigrants. The majority of immigrants here in Guangzhou are Africans who seek better business opportunities.

According to the data on we-medias, Guangzhou possesses more than 500 thousand Africans 2016. However, the demographic consensus by the Chinese commercial research center suggests that there are actually approximately 100-120 thousand African citizens living in Guangzhou in 2016.

Rumors and Cyber Racism

Due to COVID-19, the underlying discrimination amplified the growing life difficulties among foreigners, especially African communities, and unauthentic information and news had played a significant role in it.

” I admit that I am a little bit like white girls. I am not a racist, but I believe having an African girlfriend is intolerable for me.” “There are so many Africans who are illegal residents in China. They just arrive here with their tourist visa and tear the visa apart so that our government could never send them back to where they originally come from.”

With such rumors against Africans being posted by noxious-intended publishers on leading social media platforms and some news sites like Tencent news and Weibo, etc., independent publishers deceived the public by claiming that African citizens can’t behave themselves. “Thunder exploded in the black area of Guangzhou,” “300 thousand black people piled up in Yue Xiu district”. Believing in these unsubstantiated words, plenty of civilians turned their backs on African immigrants.

It’s known that the fake news was primarily influential to the younger generations, who were the mainstream of advocates on the internet and were susceptible to the formation of stereotypes. By highlighting the distinction between real cases and social-media-published news, we’ll provide the relatively objective and real scene, inspiring the audiences to ponder the purposes behind these words and how they can discern the truths and rumors.

Veracity Against Rumors

Survey results show that the reality is a lot more complicated than the public’s perception.

From the perspective of African citizens, most locals show no aggression against them. It takes a little experience for foreigners to know that Chinese people are friendly general, especially African immigrants who study, teach, or do business here.

“I have been in China for over ten years; if it were not for COVID, Guangzhou people normally treated me as if I were one of them,” said Terry, a South African businessman. “Almost every Chinese businessman that I do business with invite me to dinner and take pictures with me, so I know that most Chinese are nice people. I do not care what people on the Internet say, and they don’t even know us.”

People who are antagonists will always be in the world regardless of their race, gender, or social status; people always overgeneralize specific detriments.

Despite the aforementioned reports, the attitudes of local Guangzhou people towards African citizens are quite different. Based on the interview results, only one bubble tea shop owner out of fifteen civilians hold passive aggressive thoughts on African citizens, other fourteen interviewees all consider African citizens as equal.

One restaurant owner said that in such a secure city, Guangzhou, African citizens would hardly behave disorderly; another grocery store owner told us that Guangzhou is an open city and everyone who comes to Guangzhou is the friend of other citizens. It seems that the pride of the city positively affected the opinions of the local citizens towards Africans.

What Does the Research Say?

Now everything comes to an important question: why would these stereotypes exist? What leaves some Chinese netizens who publish their negative attitudes towards Africans on we medias an unfriendly impression?

Liang Chen, a researcher from Zhongshan University, suggests that the answer to the first question cannot be apart from a term called “graft.” This is a common situation in China; Chinese people typically prefer imported goods than domestic goods regardless of their quality and price. This phenomenon obliquely indicates that some Chinese people value opinions from other nations whether they’d like to admit it or not.

“According to my research, the origin of Chinese netizens’ ideas towards Africans is closely related to the opinions from other countries. It is a fact that several countries have put an unfriendly label towards Africans, which eventually contribute to the growth of racism in China.”

Recently, one of an unofficial media site reported that nearly thirty thousand people in Yuexiu tested positive for the coronavirus in Guangzhou, which caused panic among people. This report did not state the origin of these data, which makes it unconvincing.

Indeed, lots of people have already trusted and spread the rumors to a broader scale. Sharing exaggerated stories is common online; these actions need to end.

After the research, the government found that the most fundamental reason is the resource of this news: The Xinhua News Agency. It is hard to believe that this statement comes from the Xinhua News Agency, and no one may find it.

However, to some part of the people, this kind of information just like the final word, which gives citizens the confidence to believe in and publicize this kind of news.

Much independent and social media purchase publishing rights from major social sites to publish information for them, since doing so can increase views. People should have to go to official websites to double-check so that they know what information is trustworthy.

 Suggestions on Potential Actions to Take

As mentioned before, Chinese culture is now well-accustomed to the immigrant experience, so people tend to oppose such cultural shock as the influx of Africans.

“They thought one black man’s misdemeanor represents the entire race. Also, it’s likely been acknowledged implicitly that everyone with dark skin was from African where was usually discussed as a whole. Nonetheless, Africa is a continent that includes 54 countries, and there’re many different kinds of black people such as native African, African American, African French, etc.,” said Diane.

The issue is imminent; now, the focus should shift to composing solutions.

After reading materials from at SANYUANLI, an organization that focused on reinforcing the bond between Chinese and Africans, perhaps the primary cause is the difficulty of communication.

Without mastering Mandarin, African citizens won’t comprehend people’s expectation, or vice versa. The wrong expression of intentions leads to misinterpretation, which results in confusion and unnecessary intensity.

“I was supposed to transfer from Chengdu to Guangzhou, but the staff probably thought that I couldn’t understand the instruction, so they simply forced me to stay there and commence quarantine,” as discussed by Diane. She took two 14-days quarantines to arrive at his destiny.

Based on field interviews, African’s unwillingness to learn Chinese is partially responsible for our people’s negative attitude toward them, which can be effectively solved by presenting the public with objective, truthful information. Youths can start this “correction” by discerning the truth and false, objective and subjective, righteous cause and selfish cause. As logical judgments spreading widely, the atmosphere of Cyber racism will disappear.

Let’s Take a Step Back

Guangzhou’s unique geographical advantage has attracted many foreigners to Guangzhou for trade and economic exchanges, so do some Africans. It is true that specific amounts of the news online are accurate that gives some examples of black citizens’ illegal actions.

Adverse reports about African citizens have existed in social media long before the coronavirus. In July 2016, a video of a man in Guangzhou slapped by an African had gone viral. Also, according to Darren, when he first got into China, certain people attempted to take pictures of him as if he is an animal.

Being submerged by the overwhelming deceitful news, the locals (people living in Guangzhou) had significantly been affected in terms of their attitudes toward African citizens, which in turn deteriorating the living conditions for Africa immigrants.

“They’re all savage-like people with low intelligence and violent nature; we should never have led them. They’ll be threats to our society.”, argued by a taxi driver who has lived in Guangzhou for six years.

“We have very reasons to believe that black people are especially susceptible to coronavirus because their country has poor health care and low-growing economy.” “I’ll never rent my house to Africans ever again!” These were the real comments that we interviewed from a dozen local people who were influenced by the statements with racial prejudice on the internet. 

In another way, Africans regard Guangzhou residents “without polite and have problems in the brain.”, when we interviewed black citizens in the trade market. Both of them suggest that social media contacts are significant resources they know between local people and Africans in Guangzhou.

The media can easily influence people’s subjective emotions to this society. It is imperative to change the fake, exaggerate network environment into a more authentic and reliable place.

Racism exists everywhere, it is indestructible. Just a few days ago, our group visited alleys of Guangzhou for street visits, about the relationship and impressions of black citizens and Guangzhou people.

It is not difficult to conclude they are nearly separate from each other, having an independent living environment and groups.

A Significant Percentage of Cyber Racism Is Based on Faulty Perception

It is unfair to label all Africans as “dangerous” just because few engage in faulty behaviors; this will cultivate a counterfactual stereotype toward the entire African community.

As mentioned above, the proportion of local citizens who don’t appreciate African citizens and the citizens who have nothing against African citizens is one to fourteen. The truth is most local citizens interviewed display no hostility to these “chocolate citizens.” We can conclude that a significant percentage of cyber racism is based on faulty perception.

To make Guangzhou locals have a deeper understanding of African citizens, constructing a more comprehensive perspective, and finding means to be involved in fighting discrimination is the most in need of change.

China House is a social enterprise that brings young Chinese to the global south for research, conservation activities and development projects.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Connect with leading professionals on the China- Africa Experts Network.

You've reached your free monthly article limit.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Africa Project?


The CAP is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Africa stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalist and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Africa discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.