Tag Archives: China

[Being Black in China]: Why you will NEVER be Chinese (citizen)?


[Media Reports] Chinese-African couple become live-streaming hit in China

Chinese husband says many followers are watching because they are curious about how the couple deals with any cultural differences, newspaper reports

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By Yujing Liu for South China Morning Post

A Chinese and African couple have become a hit online in China, live-streaming parts of their daily life to thousands of followers, according to a newspaper report.

Zou Qianshun, 43, and his wife Sandra, 27, from Cameroon, live in a village near Dandong in northern Liaoning province, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Zou works on fishing boats and met his partner in the coastal African nation three years ago when she was running a hair salon.

The couple fell in love and after marrying in March last year in Cameroon they returned to live in China. They now have a four-month-old baby boy, Daniel.

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As their cross-cultural marriage has attracted much attention from curious villagers, Zou had the idea of live-streaming parts of their daily life.

They have now attracted more than 20,000 followers in just a month since they started broadcasting, according to the report.

“Viewers have so many questions and are even curious about our most private life, which is a bit too much, but we try to satisfy their requests if they are related to cooking, recreation or work,” Zou was quoted as saying.

During the live broadcasts, the couple answer all kinds of questions from internet users, such as whether they are truly in love and how they handle their age and cultural differences.

Zou communicates with Sandra in French and she has adapted to village life, picking up some of the Liaoning dialect.

She has also learned to fuel the stove using corn stalks in the traditional rural Chinese manner, the report said.

Before Sandra left for China, her family worried if she would be treated well by Zou’s family and whether she would get used to living in China.

But Zou’s mother is full of praise for her daughter-in-law, praising her as “smart, pretty, loving and capable”, according to the article.

Zou only plans to live-stream for a short period, thinking people will soon lose interest once their initial curiosity is satisfied.

[Opinion] Of ‘blackfaces’ and SinoAfrican modernities

Screen shot from The Break Up Guru (China 2014)

You could compile a long list of blackfaces’ in East Asian media over the last decade see here, here and here. However, the latest iteration of this Euro-American racist archetype in Chinese media is by far the most controversial.
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a well-known Chinese actress performed in blackface’ during a skit on CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala. Lou Naiming (with exaggerated buttocks, a fruit platter, and a black man dressed as a monkey) played the role of a traditional and somewhat confused African mother in a skit about love, tradition, and China’s historical role in Africa.
The Gala is not just another Chinese TV show. It is a well-rehearsed and perfectly curated 4-hour-long representation of Chinese culture, tradition, everyday life, and nationalism.

Spring Festival Gala with Chinese actress in blackface (left).

CCTV Spring Festival Gala’s blackface’ adds to the increasing list of racist’ incidents in China (concerning black people) that have gone viral see here and here. Most big Western media conglomerates carried the story and, as of the time of writing, no formal apology has been issued.
Africa as China’s damsel in distress’
Beyond the blackface’, the skit’s story is rather simple but problematic. Carrie, an 18-year-old Kenyan stewardess trainee, asks her Chinese teacher to pass as her boyfriend to avoid a blind date organised by her mother. Carrie does not want to marry yet. She wants to work and then go to China to study.
In the skit’s resolution, Carrie confesses to her mother and explains her desire to go to China. It becomes clear that Carrie sees China as a way to escape tradition (and her mother’s traditional views on marriage). All of a sudden, Carrie’s mother praises China’s role (past and present) in Africa and agrees to Carrie’s plans, shouting I love the Chinese! I love China!’
The skit intended to highlight the positive aspects of China-Africa relations. It does this, however, by presenting a narrative in which China is seen as a solution to Africa’s backwardness’.
As I was watching the skit, I was reminded of a piece of analysis I wrote some years back about the representation of Africans on the highly popular dating TV show If You Are the One (feicheng wurao).
Similar to the Gala’s skit, the production of If You Are the One’ portrayed Xiao De (a participant from Guinea Bissau) as a free-spirited girl, trapped by tradition. Xiao De saw going to China as a way to escape her fate (an arranged marriage), study, and become independent.
In the dating show, Xiao De is strictly looking to marry a Chinese man. Moving to China and marrying a Chinese was for Xiao De, as it is for Carrie, a way to escape tradition and enter modernity a Chinese version of modernity perhaps.
The blackface’ skit reproduced a narrative line that is representative of China’s general approach to Africa. Both official and popular Chinese narratives about Africa consistently try to construct an image of the continent as China’s damsel in distress’.

Paolo Uccello’s depiction of Saint George and the dragon, c. 1470, a classic image of a damsel in distress.

The age-old trope of the damsel in distress’ in film, literature and video games depicts a young and beautiful woman who needs to be saved from a monster by a male hero. In the end, the woman usually marries her rescuer. On both the skit and the dating show, this gendered narrative portrays China as the (modern) male hero and Africa and the princess in jeopardy (or a dire predicament caused by tradition).

Xiao De in her last appearance on If You Are the One

This trope has multiple iterations in China-Africa relations and is linked to the Chinese white saviour complex, as seen in the box office hit Wolf Warrior 2.
In short, behind the Gala’s blackface’ lies a consistent top-down, ego-boosting effort to see and represent China as a way for Africa to enter modernity. An effort that casts China-Africa relations along the lines of the binary of Africa as the past and China as the future’.
Beyond the blackface’: Africa as the past’ and China as the future’
The Spring Festival Gala is a program full of skits. While the skits are normally comedic, they generally intend to inform and educate the audience about a particular topic (from military affairs and everyday life to, controversially, other cultures).
The blackface’ skit the first in the Gala’s history to portray China-Africa relations succeeds in informing its Chinese audience about China’s historical role in Africa. However, it fails to educate’ viewers as to the complexities and realities of contemporary sub-Saharan life.
The proof is in the pudding. The skit’s story is supposedly set in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, but all you can see in the background is a savannah. This stereotypical African landscape is about to be crossed by a Chinese-built railway hailed as part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Actual Nairobi

CCTV’s imagined Nairobi

Representing Africa as the past’ means associating ideas about Africa strictly with nature and tradition. Stereotypical views on Africa are not only part of the top-down’ approach as seen on CCTV’s skit they pervade everyday life in China. This is something that many African students who have lived in contemporary China understand.
Often, when African youngsters want to make a quick buck in China, they take on entertainment jobs that essentialise their Africanness. This happens to other foreigners in China as well. But in the case of Africans, they often end up donning traditional attire and then drumming or dancing, even if they have no idea about either.
For many ordinary Chinese people, there is no space for modern Africa. By reproducing age-old stereotypes about the continent and its people, the CCTV skit catered to this.
When asked about this, young and educated Chinese often claim that people who produce negative stereotypes about Africa (and blackness) are not aware they are doing it. Naivety and ignorance are the common justifications. Ordinary Chinese, they say, ignore African and global histories and only reproduce what is offered to them by Hollywood.
This is to some extent true. However, there is evidence from museum exhibitions (pairing Africans to fauna) to film festivals (solely focusing on films about indigenous Africa, for example, Namibia’s Himba people or the Maasai) that point in another direction. Even ‘educated’ people in positions of power in China seem to hold these views. Blaming Hollywood seems a poor defence.
In a future post, I will propose an alternative route through which negative cinematic representations have entered Chinese imagination. Stay tuned!
*An edited version of this post was published by The Conversation Africa as ‘What ‘blackface’ tells us about China’s patronising attitude towards Africa’  

[vlogs] Being Black in China: ‘We Are Africa… in China’


[blogs] South Africa Week Beijing: Media Appreciation and Launch

By Wadeisor Rukato for From Africa to China

On the afternoon of Friday 9 September 2016, Ms Tebogo Lefifi addressed a room full of journalists and media practitioners as she opened the official launch of South Africa Week at the South African Embassy in Beijing. Hosted collaboratively by the South African Embassy, Brand South Africa and South African Tourism, the inaugural South Africa Week event series ran over four days from the 9th to the 13th of September. It brought together South African companies in China, importers and distributors of South African products in China and other friends of South Africa together to showcase the country. The event series was dedicated to unpacking South Africa’s complex relationship with China, and showcasing South African culture through food, wine, teas and dance. From Africa to China was fortunate enough to receive a media invite to South Africa Week and to cover some of its events. In a three-post series, we will share what we heard, learned and saw, with the purpose of explaining what South Africa Week 2016 was and why it is important!

South Africa Week Beijing: Day 1


I arrived at the South African Embassy in Beijing on the afternoon of Friday the 9th of September to cover the Media Appreciation and official launch of South Africa Week 2016. Organised by the South African Embassy,Brand South Africa, South African Tourism and South African Airways, the event was specifically dedicated to honouring the media and the positive role it has played in facilitating and showcasing South Africa-China relations.

Once everyone was seated, Ms Tebogo Lefifi took to the podium. “Until the lion tells his own story, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” she began. The invocation of this well-known African proverb was incredibly fitting. It reflected the importance of honest and balanced reporting by journalists who cover South Africa-China relations, as well as the need for South Africans and Africans to be at the forefront of reporting on how South Africa interacts with China. The guests in attendance spanned a wide range of different publications, most of them from China. The Beijing Review and China Business News were among the many media publications that had reporters and staff at the Media Appreciation that afternoon.

Ms Tebogo Lefifi opens the inaugural South Africa Week Media Appreciation event. Image by Uchenna Onyishi.
From right to left: HE Dr D. Msimang, (South African Ambassador to China); Ms R. Mashaba (Minister Plenipotentiary); Ms Tebogo Lefifi (Brand South Africa China Country Manager). Image by Uchenna Onyishi.

In her address, Her Excellency Ambassador Dolana Msimang began by emphasising how the relationship between South Africa and the Chinese media is a “two-way street”. She was specifically referring to the mutual reliance between the two parties, with the South African Embassy and Brand South Africa providing access to content for the purpose of balanced and accurate reporting, and media practitioners  using this content to write stories and disseminate information. HE Ambassador Msimang made it clear that the South African Embassy in Beijing remained open to cultivating a strong relationship with the media and that its doors were “always open”.


Representatives from the media in Beijing take notes as HE Dr D. Msimang delivers her briefing. Image by Uchenna Onyishi.

In order to bolster the ability of the reporters in attendance to write thoroughly on the event, HE Ambassador Msimang provided a concise overview of both the state of affairs in South Africa and the state of South Africa’s relations with China. She also made sure to mention why, for many reasons, 2016 is an auspicious year for South Africa. For example, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing into law of the South African constitution. It is also the 20th anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the 40th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising in 1976. 2016 also marks the 60-year commemoration of the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria during Apartheid. The Ambassador’s highlighting of these historical landmarks for South Africa underpinned the spirit in which South Africa week was launched that afternoon. [KEEP READING HERE]


[Entertainment] West Africans & their budding ‘China-made’ entertainment industry

“Rolling with NAK is a new tv talk show hosted by China-based Sierra Leone’s Neneh Ada Yang. Ada is an artiste, fashion designer, host, painter, collector and mum. Ada also has a foundation in China, Sierra leone, US and some other countries which supports the less privileged. The talk show is produced by her and hopes to have top dignitaries and celebrities based in China and those that are on tour in the country.”


[Reporting Grants] Women and Africa-China Relations: Themed Reporting Grants 2016

The existing discourse on Africa-China relations lacks substantial coverage of the role of women both as the subjects and actors/decision-makers/agents. So the China-Africa Reporting Project (the Project) and From Africa to China are jointly commissioning a series of Themed Grants aimed at reviewing how women are effecting and affected by China-Africa relations. The grants are open to female journalists from Africa and China. 

The Project will publish the resulting articles in a series of briefings and may also invite contributors to participate in discussion activities. From Africa to China will publish each article and document the process of producing the articles in collaboration with the journalists. All selected journalists will be free to submit their work for publishing independently.

To apply see the section below “How to apply”.

Reporting themes

The Action Plan for 2016-2018 released after the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Johannesburg in 2015 highlights three commitments directly related to women and women & children: Gender equality; employment and self-development; and poverty reduction.

For each of these commitments outlined in the Action Plan, China has committed to work together with African states for the empowerment of women. Yet there is insignificant reporting on Africa-China relations in the context of women, and a lack of female voices telling stories about Africa-China relations.

Via these Themed Grants, the Project and From Africa to China seeks to commission female journalists to produce investigative features and articles exploring one of the following themes:

  • Employment and self-development for women:
    • Vocational and technical training facilities
    • Training of 200,000 local African vocational and technical personnel and providing Africa with 40,000 training opportunities in China
  • Resource mobilisation and poverty reduction:
    • To what extent have African states and China mobilized resources (including non-governmental organizations) to implement 200 “Happy Life” projects in Africa?
    • How successfully have poverty reduction programmes focusing on women and children been implemented by African states and China?
  • Exchanges on gender equality and practical cooperation on women and gender affairs:
    • Dialogues between female leaders, seminars, skills training, human capacity development and cultural exchanges
  • Other broader thematic areas:
    • The role of women as actors who are influencing Africa-China relations at both state/leadership and grassroots levels
    • The effects of Africa-China relations on women at both state/leadership and grassroots levels
    • The roles of female practitioners (academics, scholars, politicians, business leaders, journalists) in reporting Africa-China relations

How to apply

Female Chinese and African journalists interested in applying for this Themed Grants series should send a proposal containing all the items listed below to fromafricatochina@gmail.com by no later than September 25.

Applications must contain:

  • Draft title of the feature to be produced, including clear indication of which theme listed above to be pursued and relevance to the role of women in Africa-China relations
  • Brief proposal of the topic and methodology and further supporting information
  • Budget in US dollars (or rands if in South Africa) with clear itemized expenditure, within the total falling within the range US$350 to US$1,500
  • Indication of where applicant intends to publish the article
  • Applicant CV and list of previous China-Africa publications (if any)

Applicants are also encouraged to review the Project’s reporting grant guidelines and adhere to them as much as possible. 

About From Africa to China

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 2.18.53 pm.pngFrom Africa to China is an online platform run by four women from Africa who experienced Beijing while pursuing MA degrees in China studies at Peking University. The purpose of the platform is to unpack Africa-China relations through a mixture of research-based content and reflections on daily life in China from the perspective of a young African woman. Beyond advancing storytelling on Africa-China relations from the perspective of young Africans, From Africa to China specifically aims to contribute a considerably lacking female voice to the discourse on Africa-China relations.