Conflating Blackness and Rurality: Urban Politics and Social Control of Africans in Guangzhou, China

  • Published : 2020.12.31


In April, 2020, amid widespread fear of a second wave of infections of the novel coronavirus in China, local authorities in Guangzhou cracked down on the city's black population, resulting in mass evictions of Africans. The incident raises several questions about racism in China. How should we interpret this heavy-handed treatment of black people? Was this an isolated incident? What motivated such operations? In this article, I explain social control of Guangzhou's African communities as a problem of municipal politics. What underlies the government's heavy handed approach, I argue, are those communities' ties to rurality, which constitute a roadblock in the city's urban upgrade. Using Dengfeng Village, one of the best known African communities in China, as a case study, I show that efforts to upgrade the area by the local state and the real estate industry were frustrated by the community's status as an urban village. Africans, whom Chinese have historically associated with rurality, are seen as contributing to a space that has long been stigmatized as a spatial manifestation of rural people's lack of self-discipline. To better reveal the interconnection between social control and urban politics, I place official action in context of the history of the community's formation and the lived experience. This analysis of Dengfeng applies to various extents to other major African communities in Guangzhou.



I would like to first thank Professor Naoto Higuchi for guiding me through the writing process, and the two reviewers for giving me constructive criticisms. Also, I would like to thank Professor Carl Nightingale for editing the manuscript into a publishable form.


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