The 6th Forum on China Africa Cooperation is coming at a crossroads in the China-Africa relationship. China’s shift from a manufacturing to a consumption economy means that it is importing fewer African commodities. On the African side, this shift has led to fears about repaying Chinese debt, and a general downsizing of African growth expectations. Coupled with a reported plunge in Chinese investment on the continent, the current situation seems to invoke warnings from the boom era, when figures as diverse as Lamido Sanusi and South African President Jacob Zuma called the relationship problematic and unsustainable.
However, being at a crossroads isn’t the same thing as being on a cliff. FOCAC 6 has the potential to move the China-Africa relationship to a more sustainable path. However, a more sustainable relationship will also require African governments to get out of their comfort zone.
Ivory: China was widely praised for announcing possible bans on the importing of ivory earlier this year. Since then, the world has waited impatiently for details and the enactment of actual policy. If Chinese leaders announce a comprehensive ivory ban at FOCAC 6, it will act as an acknowledgement that wildlife trade has become a central problem in China-Africa relations. Taking it seriously won’t only attack demand on the Chinese side, it could also force African governments to address their own lapses in governance that allowed poaching to flourish.
Investment: The 84% plunge in Chinese investment in Africa is indeed alarming. With it comes indications that the the fall pushed China back to its core investment strategy: African raw materials. Chinese investment in African minerals, metals and oil actually rose during the first half of 2015. That said, the shift towards domestic consumption has the potential to open up new forms of demand for African raw materials, which could fuel new investments. This is particularly true if Chinese customers embrace greener technologies that demand African rare earths and platinum. The challenge for African governments is finding a way to move beyond trading raw minerals.
Trade: While investment has plunged, Chinese trade with Africa is on the rise, despite its recent downturn. Trade is expected to hit $300 billion this year. While the influx of Chinese-made goods worry African producers, African consumers are gaining. This isn’t only good for African household budgets, it could be good for African societies generally. China exports cheap mobile phones and solar power generators. These two products alone can radically improve connectivity and power independence in societies wits faulty infrastructure. As China increasingly offshores production, this trade can lead to Chinese companies setting up manufacturing and assembly plants in Africa to serve African markets.
The head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, on Tuesday added to the growing alarm in Washington DC defense circles about the global reach of China’s military.
Speaking in front of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Aquilino said China is building capacity to seize Taiwan, and: “The PRC also seeks to establish a network of overseas military installations that would extend its reach, allowing support for an increasingly global People’s Liberation ...
By Hannah Ryder, Deputy Country Director for China, United Nations Development Program
A few days ago I arrived in Beijing to begin a new job as deputy country director for UNDP China. In this job, I’ll be heading a team that advises the Chinese government and other Chinese counterparts such as businesses how to cooperate effectively with other countries and further develop their international positions on issues such as climate change and what comes after the Millennium Development Goals.
It’s my first week so I’m obviously still learning a lot about what my job will entail, but one thing is crystal clear… It will involve defying stereotypes.
The mere mention of China tends to invoke a lot of stereotypes. For example, typical blogs by people who visit China for the first time, from America to Jamaica – are often about how different Chinese food and culture is. The stereotype of Kenyans coming to China – such as myself – is that we’re coming to do business. And the stereotype of people coming to China who have worked in OECD aid agencies – again like myself – is that we are here to tell Chinese counterparts how to deliver aid "properly".
But China is a country that defies stereotypes. For example, in July this year, the Chinese government released its second ever White Paper on Foreign Aid. This extended China’s first Paper (published in April 2011) by providing detailed information about Chinese assistance to poorer countries over the three years from 2010 to 2012. Since the publication of the White Paper, my new team here at UNDP has been reviewing it, and their analysis can be found here.
One of the key messages that comes through in my team’s analysis is that while the stereotypical understanding of Chinese aid is big infrastructure projects built by Chinese companies, China has actually diversified the kinds of projects it is undertaking to support development. China has also broadened its partnerships – especially regional organizations such as the African Development Bank – and these diverse programmes are delivering real impact – from reducing the incidence of malaria to creating jobs. China is defying stereotypes to save lives in poorer countries.
Similarly, my team also point out that China’s practical approach to supporting development often differs from stereotypical approaches used by OECD aid agencies, even if the underlying principles are very similar. For example, China mentions in the White Paper how reducing trade tariffs for imports by poorer countries to China has contributed to their development. My fellow Kenyans that do business with China would certainly share this view, and although OECD country governments would too, very few OECD aid agencies actively report on changes in trade policy as means of delivering development (NB: In 2014 the UK was an exception – see Chapter 5 of the Department For International Development's Annual Report here).
This defiance of stereotypes is why I’m excited about the next few years in this job. I'll be advising my Chinese counterparts, but I’ll also be learning a lot and helping to defy stereotypes all over the world by providing better information and more understanding. I’ll certainly try to avoid those stereotypical blogs about food and culture!
After investigating the Chinese connection with the ivory trade in Africa for the past three months, below is my own conclusion about how it is possible to break the Chinese-ivory link.
Experts have estimated that China is responsible for about 70% of world ivory market. Beyond statistics, I have witnessed it with my own eyes in Africa. In some countries the phenomena of Chinese buying/smuggling ivory is more prosperous, such as Mozambique; in some countries the level is very preliminary, such as Namibia. However, it is there without sign of weakening. The problem next is what could we do to stop it.
"You can't change them by moral appeal," a Chinese resident in Africa told me, those ‘blood-ivory campaigns’ are not going to work.
Somehow it is true. It is not accurate that Chinese people are all unconcerned about the disappearance of Africa’s elephants. However, when we consider Chinese education, it is those relatively affluent who have the most awareness on the issue while the vast majority of Chinese migrants in Africa are generally lower-class, less well educated. Given how difficult life is for many Chinese migrants in Africa, there’s now a widely-held perception that only the poor and desperate leave China and “if you have choices, you don’t come to Africa.”
There are basically two groups of Chinese people in Africa: the self-driven small businessmen --- most who do not speak English and possess only a primary-school level education. The second group often work for Chinese state owned enterprises (SOESs). This group tends to be much better educated than their working-class compatriots.
This composition of these two groups of Chinese migrants is the key to understanding the booming ivory trade in Africa. First, as not highly educated Chinese, this group has relatively low awareness about conservation; second, those Chinese who would come to Africa have their sole goal in minds: to make as much money in as short time as possible, therefore they are very active in seeking personal gains from the time in a place that many do not actually like.
So now that we recognize the problem, what can we do?
First, implement much stronger legal punishments and customs enforcement in both Africa and China. Most Chinese purchasing ivory in Africa are only buying a small amount, often thinking: "it is not difficult to get out of African customs (what’s the worse that can happen, pay a few bribes if I’m caught?), and in China, there is a very high chance that your contraband will not be found if you hide them well -- even if found, if the amount is less than one or two kilograms, just give them to the custom and you are fine." Therefore, in China, customs enforcement needs to become much stronger: the tolerance about ivory products should become "zero-tolerance" instead of "no punishment under the value of 10000 yuan" --- even if you just bring an ivory bangle, you should be fined heavily. Moreover, not only should the penalties should be raised, the intensity of searches should also be increased as well. On the African side, cracking down on widespread corruption among customs and government officials is what could help lead to major change --- although I think this will be more difficult to achieve than increasing the smuggling penalties on the Chinese side.
If both of the above are done, although there still would be a high level of smuggling by those who want to make a quick fortune, the huge number of small buyers' behavior would likely change significantly.
Second, the influx Chinese in Africa need to be better selected, registered and managed. From the host countries side, there should be certain thresholds of allowing Chinese to immigrate, especially to stay for long time. Such thresholds should be education, language skills, and a clean criminal background. There should also be a registration system of those Chinese so there is some record of illicit behavior. In China, there should be an immigration bureau (China does not actually have a formal immigration service as is common in many countries) to manage and register outbound Chinese. Moreover, Chinese embassies in Africa need to change their function from "service" to "management". For example, Chinese would have to register at their local embassy or else that embassy will not provide assistance or other services in the future. Therefore, Chinese in Africa could be managed by such a registration system managed by the Chinese government, which would ultimately improve the quality of the migrants that come to Africa by virtue of the higher-standards imposed.
Third, there should be programs to attract better-educated Chinese to Africa. In order to change the composition of Chinese in Africa, other than reducing the problematic ones, there should be ways to increase the number of skilled and educated migrants. Therefore, both African and Chinese governments should create incentives for highly-educated Chinese to come to Africa, perhaps by student exchange programs, salary bonuses or other kinds academic/professional fellowships.
Fourth, anti-poaching awareness campaigns should involve as well as target Chinese migrants living in Africa. Instead of broadcasting campaigns to Chinese back in China, campaign organizers need to engage the Chinese community on the continent and use them to influence others. Chinese in Africa often live in close-knit communities making it easier to reach a large number of people within that target demographic. In order to do so, NGOs should recruit some Chinese who already live in Africa to design and implement anti-ivory campaigns. Yes the market is in Mainland China, but without the Chinese in Africa, the transportation channel for that ivory would become much more complicated.
Over the past three months, I have seen a few of the Chinese who are better integrated into local communities, better connected with non-Chinese and who have generally assimilated themselves to the larger culture s--- and those people are much less likely to participate in ivory trade.
Finally, there should be more constructive cooperation of Chinese and African journalists. On one side, Chinese journalists are necessary for local media outlets to explore the "how" and "why" regarding the Chinese-ivory problems, like who are the players and what are they thinking, rather than simply exposing "what", like who has been caught smuggling how much contraband? On the other hand, African journalists could do more to help Chinese people understand what the consequences are of the ivory trade on all people, particularly Africans and Chinese. Even African journalists just feeding the Chinese media with more compelling elephant poaching stories would be helpful because it is rare that such stories make it into Chinese mass media.
Of course these things are always easier said than done, but after months of investigating this problem, including extensive on the ground interviews with both buyers and smugglers, I believe change can happen if some or all of these policy changes are implemented.
By Huang Hongxiang, Special to The China Global South Project
Rhino horn, ivory, shark fin, lion bone, abalone, pangolin, turtle, timber... You could make a really long list about the Chinese-related environmental problems in Africa. Why? Here's a primer on how to best understand the Chinese side of this increasingly important environmental problem:
First of all, we should look at the profit-risk balance of each specific product in question. Fundamentally, the root of the problem is that the profit far outweighs the risk for almost all of the products derived from African wildlife.
From my investigative experience, in order for an African natural product to become a Chinese-related environmental challenge, the bottom line is that there has to be enough demand from the Chinese side. Since China's market is so large, these controversial products can be used in any number of different ways ranging from food to medical to various commercial uses. Here's how it goes for Chinese consumers to determine the value of any of these wildlife-derived products:
- Is the demand big enough, which means enough Chinese people are willing to pay above market rates for the product in question?
- How dangerous it is to try to supply this demand, is it a worthwhile risk?
Depending on the answers of question 1 and 2, those challenges could be small scale or large, and Chinese could be active operators(ivory) or passive receivers (rhino horns). Indeed, Chinese are very risk-sensitive. Based on the nature of Chinese culture, it is easy for them to take advantages of loop-holes in the law, but not easy to become serious life-threatening criminals (which is why my undercover investigation among Chinese communities is not as dangerous as many non-Chinese think). Most of them would tell you: "cha bian qiu (in grey area of law) is ok, but we don't want to commit a crime."
Let's take rhino horn as the first example. There is demand for rhino horns in China. However, the demand is far less than in Vietnam and where it is mistakingly believed to be a life-saving treatment for cancer and other terminal illnesses. This fuels the demand for rhino horn among a few rich and desperate patients, which is ultimately a small but highly lucrative market. And the risks of involving in rhino horns are very high --- you could be easily put in jail. Therefore, today most Chinese have quitted rhino horn business and left the space for Vietnamese.
But ivory is different. Although the per kg value of ivory is far less than rhino horns, the demand from Chinese side is more about ornaments, souvenirs, art, rather than life-saving medical treatments, which means the market size is huge. Moreover, the risk of smuggling small scale ivory is extremely low: you may have some trouble with African customs and need to pay a bribe, your ivory may be confiscated both in Africa or in China. However, considering the potential value of ivory in China, the relatively low price of ivory in Africa, and the unlikely heavy law punishment, smuggling small scale ivory becomes an extremely profitable business.
Secondly, we need to understand what kind of Chinese people we are talking about. People easily think Chinese in Africa are one group of people, which is a vast oversimplification. Not all Chinese smuggle ivory regardless of the profit to risk ratio.
"If a Chinese has other ways to thrive, he would not have come to Africa," a Chinese businessman in Maputo explained to me. He used to have successful small business in a rural town of China. But he lost everything because of gambling. In order to make money and look for new personal development, after hearing stories about easy riches in places like Angola, he went there in what was his first ever trip abroad. He arrived without any foreign language skills in either English or Portuguese. Nonetheless, like thousands of other Chinese migrants, he started small and began to build his wealth, one project at a time. First he started as a helper for another Chinese businessman, where he lived in terrible conditions. Still, despite the hardships, he learned from his fellow migrants and pulled himself out of his once desperate conditions. Nowadays, he sells solar panels in Maputo, while at the same time managing a guesthouse business, crocodile belt business and a few other small enterprises that generate additional income.
This gentleman's profile is typical of the kind of Chinese migrant that often contributes to environmental problems in Africa: poorly educated, mostly from rural or a third tier city background, barely speaks a foreign language or understands foreign cultures. Ultimately, this individual solitary focus is about making money, often to send to his family back home. However that happens, it often doesn't matter to this kind of individual.
When we are talking about Chinese investment in Africa, actually we are talking about two kinds: large scale investment made by Chinese companies (mostly national) and private businesses (usually small scales but sometimes could be large as timber business and real estate). The former one usually concentrates more in energy, mining, construction; the latter one would be more related to seafood, timber, real estate, import & export.
And the Chinese businessman we mentioned above belongs to the latter one. As long as the profit is higher than the risk, this group of people is likely to engaged in illegal business, and issues like the environment is just not a priority. So in the ivory business, these are the kinds of individuals who often operate behind the scenes.
But even the first group, which consists of Chinese expatriate employees, environmental issues can also arise. Since an assignment in Africa is far from the first choice for most of employees of Chinese state owned enterprises operating in Africa, these companies are usually fail to attract the most educated or successful college graduates. Despite the fact that most of the managers of Chinese companies do have university degrees, and they are definitely more educated than those in the second group, they are still far from the most well educated. It would be very difficult to find any graduates of the prestigious Beijing University or US ivy-league universities among the Chinese management ranks operating in Africa.
And... as if often the case... an individual's economic, academic and cultural background frequently influences his/her worldview, values and behavior.
It is worthy to notice as well, in some cases some highly educated Chinese would come to Africa as the leaders of Chinese national companies, and today more and more highly educated young Chinese start to come to Africa. They are the ones who are going to change the Chinese-in-Africa situation. However, currently they can't change the group atmosphere of Chinese in Africa.
Thirdly, we need to understand what the Chinese experience in Africa.
Most Chinese in Africa would complain to you that local Africans are greedy, irresponsible and lazy.
Most Chinese in Africa would complain to you that the government is so corrupt and the police always make trouble in order to extract bribes.
Most Chinese in Africa would complain to you that the cities they stay (even capitals) are so underdeveloped and there is nothing to do here and it is too dangerous to go out.
Most Chinese in Africa come to Africa not because they like Africa, but because they want to make money. In such situation, how could you expect them to care about sustainable development of African countries? If you can't make them like Africa, you can't make them care about Africa.
Moreover, from their experience, most Chinese would think it is the local black people who are ruining their countries. Therefore, since the locals are ruining their countries anyway (such as cutting down all the trees to sell to Chinese timber companies), it is not their responsibility to correct such social problems. Instead, they are just making money out of a dying tree --- as everyone else is doing.
The nature of business, the nature of people, the nature of environment, those are the levels we need to understand China-related environmental challenges in Africa.
This investigation by the Oxpeckers Centre for Investigative Environmental Journalists was supported by the Forum for African Investigative Reporters and the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project
This post was edited for grammar and style by Eric Olander.
By Jinghao Lu and Cobus van Staden
Why is the Internet so important in the lives of Chinese migrants to Africa? Many scholars have pointed out that the Chinese employees of Chinese enterprises in many African countries are willing or encouraged to live an isolated lifestyle away from interaction with the local community. As compensation, the companies usually provide fast internet connection allowing the Chinese staff to download video and to stay in contact with their families at home.
If online communication becomes many Chinese workers’ only outlet outside of their work community in Africa, scholars should pay more attention to the role the internet and social media play in shaping the Chinese migration to Africa. However, the main barrier to conducting extensive research on this topic is language, as Mandarin is the major language used by the Chinese internet users, or so-called netizens.
Understanding the unique social media tools Chinese netizens use is also important. Due to the fact that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not available in China, a number of products were developed to specifically accommodate more than 500 million Chinese internet users. Tools such as Tencent QQ (including QQ instant message, QQ Groups), Sina Weibo, Renren, and many topic-oriented web forums are used by many Chinese workers in Africa.
In February, we (Jinghao Lu and Cobus van Staden) conducted initial research on how internet forums influence the decision made by many Chinese to travel to Africa. This research was published in the African East Asian Affairs, (Issue 1, March 2013), published by the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University. In our research, we try to categorize the general conversation topics on Chinese web forums used by the Chinese communities in Africa or related to Africa.
We revealed three broad themes in the Chinese netizens’ discussions about Africa.
- Business Information Exchange
The most popular use of social media by Chinese entrepreneurs in Africa is to produce, source or integrate business information relating to Africa. The huge business potential shown by many African economies has attracted hundreds of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to fill gaps in the market. Social media is playing a crucial role in creating links among Chinese traders in Africa. Tencent QQ and Alibaba (a leading e-commerce platform for small businesses around the world) are two of the most widely used web tools for manufacturers or wholesalers in China to look for, negotiate and partner with Chinese merchants overseas.
A list of some main themes of business-related conversations on those Chinese web forums includes:
Seeking Collaboration and Partnership: Chinese buyers and sellers use the web forums to seek partnership in the context of China-Africa trade and commerce. The products range from textiles to electronics and building materials. In most of the cases, conversations initiated on the web forums will continue through buyers and sellers exchanging their QQ numbers, which allows the negotiation to be conducted in private.
Introducing Business Models: Chinese web forums provide a platform for businesspeople to learn from each other through discussing business models and techniques, including handling customs, transferring money / remittances, avoiding fraud and dealing with local authorities. Even Chinese illegal miners in Ghana use Chinese web forums to share their experience, stories and ways to operate the small-scale illegal gold mines.
Hiring and Job-seeking: Chinese web forums have served as a de facto job portal for recruiters and job seekers to find each other.
African News: A number of Chinese web forums are dedicated to updating and translating news about African macroeconomic environment, investment opportunities, government policies and local sentiments towards the Chinese communities.
- 2. Perception Towards Africa and Africans
Due to cultural and language gaps and a lack of opportunities to socialize, life in Africa is typically not easy for recent Chinese migrants. Therefore sharing personal experiences and feelings online has become an important part of their social life. Some of the main topics shared on Web forums, QQ and Weibo are listed below:
Perception of Africans: On web forums, a number of Chinese have posted threads complaining about the living environment, security issues, difficulties they experience in managing African workers and other culture-related issues. These sentiments generally receive a lot of support from other Chinese, who chime in with similar experiences.
Interracial dating and marriage: In recent years, an increasing number of threads have started to reveal an important new phenomenon relating to the lives of the Chinese community in Africa – dating and marriage with Africans. Threads dedicated to such topics often attract a lot of discussion. Sometimes they develop into fierce arguments on whether a relationship with an African is reliable and long-lasting.
- Tourism related Information Share
To the majority of Chinese readers Africa is a continent of desert, forest, traditional civilization, poverty, disease, warfare and corruption. Web forums allow Chinese travelers and residents in Africa to upload photos and to share their travel stories with a wider readership that desires to read about the realities in Africa. These stories, from the beautiful scenery of South Africa to local women in Ethiopia and traditional African festivals, have encouraged more Chinese travelers to explore the continent. Some Chinese travelers also launch threads to seek travel companions. A number of Chinese tourist companies have started to utilize web forums to promote their travel packages to Africa. The role these forums play in stimulating travel to Africa presents many opportunities for future research.
PS 1: A list of Chinese internet forums we surveyed
- Baidu PostBar
Baidu is the largest Chinese-language search engine in the world. Baidu PostBar (or Baidu Tieba), allows its users to create a bar (forum) by typing a keyword. The largest bar related to Africa on Baidu is the “Africa Bar”, but country-related bars such as “Tanzania Bar” and “Ghana Bar”, also host a many threads and discussions.
- Tianya Club
Tianya Club is a popular Chinese web forum with one of the most vibrant online communities in China. By January 2013 there were more than 78,297,000 registered users on Tianya. Tianya has the reputation for hosting fierce debates on Chinese social issues and international relations. Its sub-forum “Africa” contained 3,040 threads with 53,758 posts by 6 February 2013.
- Chinese in Africa
"Chinese in Africa" is a web forum with more than 65,000 threads and more than 80,000 members by 2013. The forum was especially active in 2007-08, but since 2010 the volume of the threads and responses has declined. However, it contains records of a large number of conversations documenting the lives, feelings, experiences and business interaction among the Chinese in Africa. The forum is divided into different sub-forums dedicated to topics such as "Life in Africa", "Business Opportunities", "Job-seeking", "Touring in Africa", and contains region-specific forums such as "West Africa", "East Africa” and “Southern Africa”.
Qufeizhou is targeted to Chinese who intend to go to Africa, or has been living or working in Africa. Launched in 2011, the forum is relatively new, but offers an integrated platform containing news, country-specific information about Africa, business, entertainment and opportunities to make friends. By January 2013, there were more than 25,000 members in the community.
- Fob Business Forum – Africa Market
The Africa sub-forum of the Fob Business Forum has generated over 10,000 threads dedicated to information about trade and investment in many African countries. Topics frequently discussed include trade procedures, dealing with African merchants and companies and sharing personal stories.
Sohu’s Africa Circle mainly contains stories and pictures of unique culture and scenery in Africa.
- Country-specific forums
The relative size of the Chinese communities in particular African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa, has led to the development of country-specific web forums. These forums are not exclusive to those who live in these countries. For instance, the “Chinese in Nigeria” web forum has become an important online community for Chinese across West Africa to exchange information and opinions.
Former Kenyan Prime Minister and current MP Raila Odinga addressed a full house plus overflow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, June 18.
Odinga’s talk addressed many issues including Chinese involvement on the continent as well as Africa’s role in the world economy and the advancement of the African Union.
In regards to China’s trading presence in Africa, Odinga did not see it as threatening when Africa controls the operation. The Chinese, he said, are ready to help and Africans should be prepared to accept such help as long as it’s on Africa’s terms.
“I think governments in Africa should define the relationship with China,” he said, “because China is, of course, interested in a number of things in Africa.”
Odinga said petty trade or buying and selling of small (petty) goods should be reserved for Africans. The Chinese, he said, should not control what goes on in African markets.
“We’re not going to import retailers,” he said, “people who are coming here with textiles and so on to come and sell here because we also have got an abundant labor force in our country, which is able to do all this petty trade in our country.”
African raw materials, Odinga said, are of high interest to foreign investors, China included. However, these resources are of no use to Africa “unless they are exploited and used for development.”
In essence, Odinga wants to see Africa take charge, not just in its trade operation and relations with China, but in many areas. Odinga referred to himself as an “Afro-optimist.” According to Odinga, Chinese involvement is welcome, but Africa should be the party leading the conversation on the continent and not relegating itself to casual observer.
“Africa needs technology. Africa needs to develop its infrastructure,” he said. “China is ready to come [to Africa] and help develop infrastructure, but it must not be at China’s terms. It will be at Africa’s terms.”
Translated by Erik Myxter
On May 15th The 21st Century Business Herald out of Guangzhou published a thrilling article about Chinese illegal gold mining activity in Ghana. The following is a translation of that article.
21世纪经济报道 梁钟荣 南宁、深圳报道 2013-05-15 00:57:39
"Shanglin County Clique's" African Gold Rush: Get Rich or Die Trying
21st Century Business Herald Reporting from Nanning: Liang Zhongrong Shenzhen reported May 15, 2013
In the first picture a Chinese man is holding a big piece of gold, while his black bodyguard stands behind him holding an AK47; In the second picture a young Chinese man holds his black wife in his arms while joyfully laughing.
These two pictures were sent from Tan Xinhua. Mr. Tan introduces the photos, saying that the people in the picture all come from the same village in Shanglin County, Guangxi. They also are all investors in Ghanaian gold mines. Some people say that in Ghana there are about 50,000 people who come from Shanglin County. Often called "The Gold Coast", Ghana's small-to-medium sized gold panning mines are almost all run by people from Shanglin. They all mine nugget gold.
"There are restaurants where there are only Chinese people, if there is a place with gold, you will find people from Shanglin (county)." explains Tan Xinhua. Mr. Tan is part of the post-80's generation and like many young people from Shanglin County, he never finished high school before he left for Ghana. In Kumasi, Ghana, there are many independent panners of gold, Tan Xinhua is one of them and for three years he has never returned home. His only connection back home is through calling his parents. His three-year goal is to become a millionaire.
The Shanglin Clique of gold miners first arrived over eight years ago. The sweat and toiling of the miners, the instant riches, the armed fighting and the constant struggle which occurred in the American 18th century gold rush is now happening in Ghana. Some people who are responsible for the fighting are deported, some have lost their lives to gang violence, others have contracted terrible diseases and been buried in this foreign place.
Most of the people who go to Ghana come back home; Some people come back home with only a handful of gold to give to their loved ones; while others on their layover from Hong Kong to Guangxi, give a call to order their Nanning villa and a Ferrari. In the last eight years, more than three people from Shanglin have shown actual proof that their net worth has been valued at over 100,000,000 yuan ($16 million).
At the same time, there is a seemingly irreconcilable, love-hate relationship between the Ghanians and the people from Shanglin. From the view of a local, Shanglin businesses employ many workers, but at the same time they burn an excessive amount of fuel; they contribute greatly to local taxes, but they also pollute the rivers greatly and the machinery used in mining devastates the land. Moreover people from Shanglin have bought over 10,000 guns in Ghana, while at the same time they often get robbed.
From October 2012 to the beginning of this year, Ghana implemented an interdepartmental effort to deport many Chinese people. The Chinese government have participated in talks and negotiations regarding the matter. But in this tense and unsafe atmosphere, the workers from Shanglin have continued their gold mining non-stop.
A Special Eye For Gold
Tan Xinhua left China for Ghana for the first time in 2010 and for one year he worked at a gold mine run by a fellow Shanglinian. On November 2011 he started his own venture.
The Shanglin area has a tradition of gold mining. In the 90s there was a gold rush in Shanglin that brought peasants from all over China to Shanglin to mine gold.
Recalling that time Tan Xinhua explained, "The people from Shanglin, although small, have a strong group mentality, and a willingness to struggle against difficulties, that even makes the big and tall people from the north (of China) scared. At that time, some North-easterners got involved in violent incident at a gold mine with some Shanglin people. The local police didn't dare interfere, they had to bring in the Armed Police."
Starting in 2005, one story quickly spread across the citizens of Shanglin and it started a rush to Ghana. In this story one Shanglin man brought his entire savings of 5,000,000 yuan ($806,000) to Ghana and three years later was able to turn that into 100 million yuan ($16 million).
In Ghana, Shanglin people are concentrated in small gold mines located in Kumasi, Obuasi, Dakui city, and Jiaokui city. "The people who can come here, almost always also bring their relatives or friends along with them." says Tan Xinhua. These days, Mr. Tan has around 30 relatives, classmates and friends in Ghana. These people mostly come from three villages in Shanglin county; Mingliang, Dafeng, and Gangxian. In total, these villages have a population of 30,000-50,000.
Ghana has the nickname of "The Gold Coast", and gold panning in the area has over 100 years of history. Recently about 985 tons of gold has been discovered in Ghana, which makes it about 3% of all the world's gold resources. With this amount of gold, Ghana is behind South Africa as the Continent's second largest gold supplier.
The earliest Chinese people to come look for gold in Ghana came from the city of Hei Longjiang. It was then in the late 90's when the atmosphere changed, people from Shuzhou, Hunan started coming over but met little success. It was not until the people from Shanglin County came that Chinese people mined gold successfully. "Ghana-China's mining cooperative secretary Su Zhenyu explains, Shanglin gold mining groups only mine nugget gold, to wash this type of gold one cannot leave water, because of the business of mining nugget gold is concentrated in Oder or Tano River banks.
Ghana's Gold Coast has many large gold mines, the earliest being Newmont, Gold Fields, Anglogold and Ashanti that were run by British and American gold mining companies. This type of beach-side gold was not fitting to the large gold mine company's machinery, and the local Ghanian people's panning methods were inefficient and the output was small, working this way was no good.
Then in 2005, Shanglin people took their pumping skills and brought them in Ghana. This completely changed Ghana's gold extracting structure. The way Shanglin people use the nugget pump is only something people from Shanglin County understand, and they do not transfer their knowledge to outsiders. Because of this China gold workers exist in their own circles. Here, there is a popular saying, "People who are not from Shanglin cannot run the machines."
In Ghana, most of the Shanglin business people cooperate with the local tribal chief (landlord). In order to find a new place to mine and a place to live one must pay 20-30 thousand Ghanaian currency for an "entering the market fee". Tan Xinhua bought 25 acres of land for 25,000 Cidi ($12,500), this amounts to about 80,000 yuan. If the land is used for growing crops, one just pays the average yield price for the year multiplied by 20.
The laws in Ghana regarding large mines and small mines are different: Mines that are less than 25 acres are suppose to be limited to local Ghanaian people to open, but Shanglin people have found a way around this law.
"All one needs to do is be on good terms with the local tribal chief and you can start working." Tan Xinhua says. "Because all the land belongs to the tribal chief, thus the mining rights are also in his hands, we could say, this is the tribal chief's mine, we just help him extract (the gold)."
To strengthen the alliance with the local landlords, Shanglin people and the landlords sign a contract. Often the landlord holds anywhere between a 10-12% stake in the mine. Then everyday after mining, the landlord comes by to take his share and leaves. There are also some other methods used, for example, every month the miners will give 10,000 Ghana currency to the landlord, this way the miners do not have to give the landlord mining rights.
How can one be sure if they land they bought has gold? The man with only a middle school education, Tan Xinhua explains that the Shanglin people already have deep experience in finding gold, we can look at the land formation, wash a small bit of land and "In one casual look, know if there is gold here."
Tan Xinhua's mine employees five of his home village's people and two local Ghanians. The local people's salary are all set in stone; 1 day / 12 Cidi ($6) and have an average monthly salary of 280-300 Cidi ($140-$150) 3x times salary of the average Ghanian. Many of the people who come from Shanglin are of the Zhuang minority group in China, and have cooperated with the local people for a long time, so much so that some of the local people can speak a little of the Zhuang people's language.
This is in contrast to workers from Shanglin, who have a base salary of about 6000 yuan ($970) a month and on top of that they receive a commission of 2-3% on their findings. "In three years I have just been a laborer and have taken in about 300,000 yuan ($48,000) in income" says Tan Xinhua.
Ghanaian mining data shows that in 2011, the entire country of Ghana extracted 3.6 million ounces of gold, among this 30% came from small mines. Su Zhenyu estimates, Shanglin people control about 40% of all small gold mines in Ghana.
Because of this, Shanglin has become an important town. Many kinds of excavators, water guns and other machinery for excavating and sold and transported to Shanglin. It is there where the machines are equipped specifically for gold excavation and finally they are sent through Shenzhen ports to Ghana. This March has been the largest ever shipment from Shanglin to Ghana. This past March, Shanglin County has shipped over 100 cargo boxes full of equipment through Shenzhen's Yantian port to Ghana.
The Soaring Gun Trade
With the development of Shanglin gold panners in Ghana getting rich, there has been a coinciding increase in the amount of armed robberies against them. Last March, one person from Shanglin was robbed by the gunpoint of an AK47, in the end he was shot 27 times.
"In 2011, us gold workers in Kumasi used our guns twice." Shanglin gold worker Li Zengquan said. Both times they used them were in gun fights that happened during the day. All in all, two Chinese and two Ghanians were killed in the firefight.
"While living in a foreign place, the most important thing to consider is preserving your life, making money is secondary." says Shanglin gold collector Hu Xiongshi. Mr Hu's mining site often finds over 200 pieces of gold. "If a few dozen robbers come, holding a few dozen guns, of course we have no way of fighting back, if we can give them some gold and some money, and nobody is hurt, this is fine."
As for reporting crimes to the authorities, Shanglin business people have no hope. "What's the use? You really think they could solve the case?" Tan Xinhua remarked. If they report a crime, the police are more likely to come to the work site and extort them for money. Mr. Tan explained that before when the police would come they would give them a a little money and they'd leave, now they have to give hundreds of yuan.
In order to keep safe, the Shanglin gold panners in Ghana often have three to four project teams live together and when they go to sell their gold they will also do it as a group, with seven or eight body guards watching their backs. Many of the Shanglin gold panning teams have a few AK47's on hand. Where as gold miners often carry handguns and a few hunting rifles. Often one can hear news broadcasted about a gun fight between Shanglin business people and local gangs. It is estimated that there are over 10,000 guns in the hands of Shanglin gold workers and Chinese business people. Going along with the increased demand the local price for a hunting rifle has risen from 1800 Cidi to 3000 Cidi or about 10,000 yuan ($1500).
In the Ghanaian forests there are many alligators, types of birds, tigers, and snakes. All of these animals the local people do not eat, but the people from Shanglin have guns and often upon enter the mountainous or lake areas they will go hunting. Everyday they eat ant-eater meat, alligator soup, tiger soup; eating this food shocks the local people.
Shanglin gold panners also face another enemy in Ghana, the prevalence of diseases. Ghana's transmittable diseases are plenty and the mining areas are often in the deep forests, far away from the big city's hospitals, if a person gets sick there is no chance to heal them, they will just become an exotic corpse.
Lately another major problem are visas. Shanglin People in Ghana almost all use travel or non-work visas, both coming from the third world country of Ghana. These visas are not sufficient to work in Ghana, and often Ghanaian immigration bureau will deport workers.
In the past, when the immigration bureau authorities would come, you would just give them a few coolers of spring water, and a few hundred of the local currency and they would leave." Tan Xinhua complains,"Now they will lock you up, exhort you for bail money and then let you go, or even worse they will deport you." And if the Shanglin people go and hide in the deep forest, the immigration bureau can take away the work sites' machinery and equipment. With one machine being worth more than 1 million yuan ($161,000), that's a terrible loss to take.
Kumasi Becomes "Shanglin World"
It is said that with high risk comes high rewards. "In Ghana, only about 50-60% of gold miners end up making money." explains Hu Xiongshi.
Shanglin people's investments into Ghanaian gold projects total at over 1000. If one would guess that each project is around 3 million yuan, that means Shanglin business people have invested over 3 billion yuan in Ghana. These gold mining places most often have two excavators that in one day can find between 200-300 grams of gold. If one is having a lucky day they can find over 1k, of course there are also those who fall into bad luck, where one day they only find 30-50 grams, even worse sometimes they end up with nothing.
If on an average day, in an average gold site miners find 300 grams of gold, and the international price of gold is 280 yuan a gram, that means in one day's work they will make 100,000 yuan ($16,000), this of course does not factor in expenses. Although in one day a site can have tens of thousands of yuan in revenue, average yearly intake often does not amount to 10's of millions of yuan.
Once Shanglin people extract their gold, they often sell it to people from Hunan, Zhejiang and Fujian, there are also some Indian and local buyers of the gold. The buyers bring the gold to the international market to sell, where the price is set in accordance with that day's international gold prices. The end buyers earn the least amount of money from the transaction.
If it is people from Zhejiang or Fujian who buy for the international market, they rarely use local banks to remit their money, the majority of them transfer money by using their Chinese bank account to transfer money to a Shanglin person's Chinese bank account.
A source from the Industrial and Commercial bank of Guangxi revealed that in May-June of 2011 Shanglin county financed over 1 billion yuan ($162.2 million) in foreign deposits, this grabbed national attention as Shanglin county's 2012 fiscal reserves just surpassed 300 million yuan ($48.3 million).
To support the newly rich Shanglin people, cities like Kumasi are starting to resemble Chinese cities. In the city there are Chinese restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, hotels, and KTVs. Although the local Ghanian people do not eat Chinese vegetables, but some grow these vegetables in order to meet the new demand.
Tan Xinhua complains that most of the goods come from China and are the same products that you would find in any Chinese cities but the price is 3x that of in China. "Master Kang ramen noodles are 4 yuan ($.60) for on packet back home, but here they are 12 yuan ($2) each! Lettuce is also 20 yuan a jin (1.1 pounds / 1/2 kg)"
Even though the business people from Shanglin mostly use machinery and equipment from China, the major brands all have service stations in Ghana. "Parts for our machines are also 3x the price as back home, using Chinese products is a love-hate relationship"
Chinese doctors are also very welcome here, as here you can make over 20,000 yuan ($3225) a month, some make even more.
Other service enterprises have also came to the area. "There is a boss from Fujian who started a large restaurant here, he just got over 100 servers from China to come with him." says Tan Xinhua, "Of course, the servers monthly salary are all a few times more than what they could get in China, if they weren't, how could they get them to come here?"
In Ghana, the majority of people from Shanglin are male, some of them simply marry local women, and have mixed children together. There are even some Ghanaian wives who can speak fluently in the Zhuang people's language. As their children get older some people get a headache trying to decide whether or not they want to go back to China for their children to receive an education.
Shanglin's business people's gold money has also made the local casino's flourish. In Shanglin gold panners are concentrated in Dunkua city. Some professional casinos have set up gambling games for the gold workers. It is said that at least 20% of panners income enters into the casinos, some people have even lost their entire family fortune.
Tan Xinhua does not go to the casinos. He hopes that in three years time he can accumulate at least 10 million yuan ($1.6 million). With that money he could give his parents a big and safe place to spend their later years. At the same time he wishes to buy a nice house in Nanning for himself, where he can live with the beautiful wife he will find. Finally he hopes, "To open a tea house and sometimes talk to my customers about my experience panning for gold in Ghana."
*From their own requests, Tan Xinhua and Hu Xiongshi are not the interviewees real names.
更多衣锦还乡的传奇也在上演：有人回乡一出手就送亲戚一块金砖 ；有人在香港转机回广西途中，用电话下单订购了南宁的别墅和法拉利跑车. 不下三位上林商人证实，这8年，他们的圈子中产生了6到8个身家上亿者。
加纳以岩金为主的大型金矿，早先被Newmont、Gold Fields、AngloGold Ashanti等英、美大矿公司圈走。只有河滩边的砂金，不适宜大型采金设备，而加纳本地人对砂金采用挖坑、搬料、淘金等人力方式，效率低、产量少，一直做不好。
Chinese law magazine "Rule of Law Weekly" interviewed six Chinese people who are working in Africa. Each individual works in a different country and they all have a story to tell. The following is the sixth installment in the six-part series.
Rule of Law Weekly reporter Gao Yin Translation by Erik Myxter
"First I wanted to gain more knowledge and experience. Secondly I was young and thought that maybe in the future I will not have the chance to go to Africa, so why not go and have a look?" With this kind of a mindset in the end of the 2011 Liu Yu (pseudonym) went to the East African country of Kenya to work for the company Zoomlion.
Initially he came to this country famous for its top-class long-distance runners and was surprised to find out the country's weather was like a continuous spring with temperatures at 25 degrees Celsius a year. When he went to the local Chinese supermarket and was able to buy Wang Shou Yi (a famous Chinese brand) seasoning, his initial strangeness to the country was cut in half. With everything going in his favor, he adapted to live in the "Kenyan mode"
Liu Yu mainly works in sales, irrigation building and trade.
While speaking with customers, Liu Yu received much of his information about local laws, procedures and news.
"For example I learned about clearing customs, the products under law that are subject to taxes and information about duty and VAT. Another example of some news he learned was when the new president of Zambia took office he issued a decree that bound the customs and Inland revenue Department and now all data can be directly linked to customs in effort to prevent corruption." He said.
As for Kenya's law environment, Liu Yu thinks highly of it saying, "Kenya's law environment is loose, as long as you comply with the law and behave yourself, don't kill people, and don't start fires then no one gives you any trouble."
In a blink of an eye, Liu Yu found himself to have already been in Kenya for over a year. During this time he occasionally goes to Tanzania and Zambia. In these three countries the local people say Chinese enterprises are very good. "They will point at a road and say, 'This is a road Chinese people built, Very good!’"
During Liu Yu's time in Kenya there has been one man who has given him a deep impression.
"Before there was man who was a cleaner at a hotel I was staying at. He was very enthusiastic and brought me to many markets where I could buy things in Nairobi. He didn't take any money for his help and he didn't often say ‘we are friends’ in a fake manner. He was very caring and honest."
As for the future, Liu Yu is sure to consider himself as someone who likes to create the foundations for the benefit of future generations. "If I start getting close to 30 years old, and am still in Africa starting a business, this will be hard to accept for my personality."
Liu Yu feels that relative to Europe, America and Asia, Africa is a little child with a massive amount of space to grow in the future. "So in order to evaluate Africa, I think you must start by understanding the continent and to be inclusive to its development perspective."
“这个小伙子之前在我们酒店里打扫房间。他很热情，给我介绍内罗毕哪些地方可以买到好东西，还专门带我去看过市场。他也不收钱，也很少会有‘we are friends’这种大路话。他善良、正直。”
Chinese law magazine "Rule of Law Weekly" interviewed six Chinese people who are working in Africa. Each individual works in a different country and they all have a story to tell. The following is the fifth installment in the six-part series.
Rule of Law Reporter Ji Dongye Translation by Erik Myxter
Du Qing (pseudonym) is one of Beijing Construction Group's electrical engineers. Since the beginning of 2009 until the end of 2012 he was in West Africa's Angola. Because the project was completed, 32-year-old Du Qing came back from Angola to China. Because of his family he does not plan to come back to Angola again.
Du Qing's company's project was in a suburb of Angola's capital. After more than 27 years of civil war, the inequality between the rich and the poor has become a huge phenomenon. "Here there are many Chinese people. It is said that the local population (of Angola) is around 20 million people, where the population of Chinese people here is 260,000. But the foundation of the Chinese in Angola are people who come to work on a project, do business or are migrant workers, there aren't any people who are immigrating here to stay." He said, "There are many engineers and also some people who engage in foreign trade."
The rhythm of live in Angola is not particularly fast. Here the local people go to work at nine in the morning and get off of work at three in the afternoon. That being said, many of the Chinese people will work overtime.
Some Chinese people find it difficult to accept Angola's leisurely lifestyle. "At customs, the workers inspect baggage in a laid-back manner. This will make the Chinese people who are eager to go home very worried." Du Qing says.
Every time he goes to the supermarket checkout Du Qing must sort out his money and put it on the counter. "In the past some Chinese people did not head to this custom and they threw money at the worker, if you do that the (Angolan) people will be very angry."
Working in Angola is hard, but the salary is comparatively higher so there are many people who still come here. "Chinese people are very hard working, they especially can eat bitterness and worked tirelessly. Chinese people can easily take all of these jobs in Africa."
Before he went abroad, Du Qing's company gave him relatively good amount of training, but now there is less training available and it just mostly covers safety.
Xie Fei (pseudonym) and Du Qing worked for the same company doing office administrative work for almost two years. Xie Fei told Rule of Law reporters "before I left, the company would be united in giving anti-infectious disease vaccines."
"In that company and at China Iron and CITIC we usually could not go out alone. We don't have much contact with other projects Chinese people are doing. Most often we are focused on doing our work." Du Qing said.
Du Qing genuinely felt that Chinese people have made a large contribution over there. "For example we have constructed basic infrastructure, residential areas, roads and railways.”
"The economy is developing quickly over there, there are large supermarket chains and tons of infrastructure has been built up." Du Qing said.
In Angola, most of the local people are very friendly towards Chinese people. Xie Fei says: "Most of the people are very enthused about China's attitude. I have heard that some other Chinese company's host parties with their local African employees; everyone gets together and has a great time.
"Local traffic police enforcement is relatively strict, they can stop you to see if you have a fire extinguisher inside your car or if you brought your passport or if you broke one of the traffic rules.” Du Qing said. “But on the other hand, they are not as strict with the local population." Xie Fei said.
In Angola, personal safety is always Du Qing focal point. "You must rely on yourself to be safe." Du Qing told the reporter, "When you go outside you want to go with someone else, do not go out alone. Also before you go out you want to tell your company. Let your leaders know where you are going and if they need to how can they get in contact with you."
A normal day's work is very hard, Xie Fei and Du Qing both only had one day off a week. "The company's organization structure is like a small island, where the scenery was beautiful, and I could eat all the shrimp I wanted. I also had the chance to go to Moon Bay, which was naturally formed by crater landscape." Xie Fei said.
Chinese law magazine "Rule of Law Weekly" interviewed six Chinese people who are working in Africa. Each individual works in a different country and they all have a story to tell. The following is the first installment in the six-part series.
Chinese People in Africa: An Inside View into Their Daily Lives (Translation)
April 24th 2013 1:27am Source: Rule of Law Weekly Reporter: Gao Jin Translation by Erik Myxter
Although it acts as a major transportation hub for several continents, today the Dubai airport feels a bit like a Chinese airport. Look around and about 80% of who you will see are Chinese business men, company employees, government officials and workers. Their next stop: Africa.
On March of this year the newly appointed head of China, Xi Jinping arrived in Africa to make visits to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo. He also was one of the major leaders to attend the fifth ever BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa.
Although Africa's economy has a weak foundation and its infrastructure is in need of improvement, however the area is rapidly developing and the potential market is huge. With each passing day Chinese-African relations are becoming deeper, and more and more Chinese people are choosing this completely wild and hopeful land to work and live.
But for many people who have not been to Africa, Africa still is somewhat of a mystery.
Where in Africa are there Chinese people? What do they do for work? How do they live? What kind of "African Rules" have they encountered?
Rule of Law Weekly reporter Gao Jin
Five years ago, Zhou Yifeng (pseudonym) was sent to work for a company in Nigeria. Before this time he had already gone to Egypt, Kenya and a few other countries for short vacations, so when he was preparing to go to Nigeria, he wasn't very worried.
When he arrived, Zhou Yifeng still felt the same: "It has been a little better than I expected. I hadn’t had any culture shock."
More differences started to become apparent in his experiences with customers and his living environment.
As an employee of a major Chinese automotive parts company, Zhou Yifeng's work in Nigeria made him often have to deal with other local businesses. "The local people have respect for big Chinese companies”, he said.
Outside of his time at work, Zhou Yifeng likes to hang out or stay at his home. In his eyes, Africa is like a semi-virgin land. "If it is a country with a good environment, and has law and order, I can lead a long life here”, he said.
Chinese law magazine "Rule of Law Weekly" interviewed six Chinese people who are working in Africa. Each individual works in a different country and they all have a story to tell. The following is the fourth installment in the six-part series.
Rule of Law Reporter Yi Li Translation by Erik Myxter
May is just around the corner and Li Qiang (pseudonym) an employ at a large state owned company is busy packing her suitcase.
Her destination is Africa's Republic of Gabon. This country is located in the middle of Africa's east coast. On August 17, 1960, Gabon declared independence from France. On April 20th 1974 China and Gabon instated diplomatic relations.
Li Qiang's reason to go to such a distant land was because of work.
"We can choose to go to Africa, South America or the Middle East." Li Qiang said. Because he wanted a larger salary so he could prepare to buy a house on his returns home, he chose the cost-effective option of going to Africa.
In fact, Li Qiang is no longer a stranger to Gabon because last summer he spent a year's time in the rural areas of Gabon, doing the same type of work he is doing now.
In order to make sure of employees safety, the company employees a teacher who teaches close-combat skills, fortunately on his last trip to Africa he did not have to use these skills.
Gabon has two points that took this young Chinese man by surprise. "First although there are a few rich people, the local countryside is still relatively backwards. Secondly, people are very friendly towards Chinese people."
Li Qiang explains, in Gabon he has seen many houses, many of them are made of wood, he rarely sees buildings that have reinforced concrete.
Because Li Qiang works in a company with closed-end management techniques, he is not able to freely go on vacation in this tropical country. "Our passports are all with the company for safekeeping". Li Qiang said. The main reason behind doing is for the consideration of staff safety.
"Gabon's police enforcement is very strict." Li Qiang told our Rule of Law reporter. In his view, the local order was good.
When Li Qiang's company hired some local young people he saw, "The contract must be signed on a month-to-month basis, this showed me there is a strong local awareness of the protection of worker's rights. Also when you terminate a contract, not only does one must go through some troublesome procedures, but the company also has to compensate the local workers."
On a normal day, except for eating and sleeping, the company's Chinese and Gabonese staffs are always together and get along very harmoniously. After the two groups became harmonious, Li Qiang found Gabonese people's personalities have special characteristics. "They are very content with their lives, this is very unlike doing business with local Chinese people who are always working actively to make more money."
However, the content Gabonese people also can very easily smell a business opportunity when they see Chinese people.
Many street peddlers’ can speak a few words of Chinese. Li Qiang said; "On the one hand they are envious of China's ability to develop so quickly, but on the other hand they are very willing to work with Chinese people do to business.
In accordance with Gabonese's law, it is forbidden to trade Ivory. In 1981 the central African states wrote legislation forbidding the killing of elephants. However, today there are still many foreigners who take the risk because of the potential earnings they can make.
Li Qiang disclosed that Chinese firms have banned employees from buying ivory products, and his company has never had an individual try to buy ivory. This is related to how thorough Gabon's custom's inspection handles affairs where the consequences can range from "fines to not being able to re-enter the country."
One could easily sum up Li Qiang's life in Africa as being very relaxed. Outside of work he has a lot of free time. The other young workers are the same as him in often watching movies from their removable hard drives during their free time. "I rely on this (watching movies) to pass the time."
In rural Gabon, people mainly rely on collecting plants, fruits, roots and hunting to get food. Most of everyday living products are "made in China", but the availability of them is limited and the prices are high.
For example, the local villagers consider cameras, cell phones and other electronic goods luxury items.
"You can sell a feature phone in China from 200-300 Yuan, but in Gabon the price for a phone converted into RMB would equal more than 1000 Yuan. " Li Qiang said.
Outside of State Owned Enterprises, there are a good amount of Chinese businessmen who are in Gabon panning for gold. Some others run small convenience stores and some others come to Gabon to buy wood to export to China. The Gabonese people see the same thing as the Chinese people. Chinese people see this African country has much room for development and is "full of hope".
For his own reasons it has been a more practical option to come to Gabon to work in order to scrape together a down payment to buy a house in China. Li Qiang hopes that his time in Gabon won't last too long.