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Flash of Anti-Chinese Xenophobia in the DR Congo

Anti-government protestors filled the streets of the DRC capital Kinshasa on January 19 and 20 to protest against a new election law making its way through the National Assembly. The new law calls for a national census before another presidential election is held which could lead to an unconstitutional extension in office by incumbent president Joseph Kabila. Rioters turned their anger against Chinese merchants in the capital, razing stores and attacking migrants. At least three Chinese migrants were injured and 180 were ushered to safety by the PRC embassy. It is not clear exactly why the protestors focused their anger on the Chinese community in particular.

Many of the Chinese who were most affected by this recent upheaval are small business owners who live among the Kinois throughout Kinshasa’s sprawling neighborhoods. In 2010, when Eric lived in the Congolese capital, he spent quite a bit of time with these Chinese merchants to learn more about their personal stories and what prompted them to settle so far home. In one blog entry from that period, Eric profile “Mr. Chen” who owned a small shop far away from the city center and may still today reflect the profile of the shop owners who were forced to abandon their business as they retreated to the protection of the Chinese embassy.

Leading Sino-Congolese scholar Johanna Malm joins Eric and Cobus to discuss what may have prompted this xenophobic outburst.

About Johanna Malm:

downloadJohanna Malm has been conducting empirically grounded research on the Chinese presence in African countries since she completed her studies in 2008 (MA Peace and Conflict Studies, Umeå University, Sweden; BA Political Science, Stellenbosch University, South Africa). Between 2007 and 2009, she was a researcher  at the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. During this period she conducted field work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Uganda and completed shorter research visits to China and Cameroon. During her time at the Centre for Chinese Studies she authored and edited a variety of publications on the Chinese presence in Africa and gave numerous talks on the subject.

In 2010, she started her doctoral research as a PhD candidate in International Development Studies at Roskilde University in Denmark. Her PhD thesis draws on constructivist approaches to sovereignty to explore how the Sicomines agreement, a significant Chinese development finance offer, impacted on the relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the International Monetary Fund between 2007 and 2012. She completed her thesis in 2014 and will defend her research in 2015. She has completed a total of five months of field research for the thesis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa and Lubumbashi) conducting around 160 interviews with Chinese, Congolese and Western stakeholders.

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