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Outline of talk: Africa’s Chinese Enclaves October 10, 2008

Posted by jasonized in event.
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Ching Kwan Lee

Raw Encounters – Africa’s Chinese Enclaves

Below is an outline of the talk given 10/9/08, for your reading pleasure.

· Assumptions that we need to deal with

o China as a unified actor

§ Chinese capital considered to be more pernicious than other capital

§ Each Chinese individual assumed to have same motives

o Africa as a single place

o Rhetoric in press is of China as a new imperialist; photos corroborate it

· Precarious labor

o Casual, informal, non-standard, contingent

o Chinese informal economy is ~36%

o Africa informal economy is 40-70% and growing

§ Today, most African workers want stable jobs and can’t get them

· Cases

o Following structural adjustment, Chinese came to be private sector in many African nations

§ Intention was to casualize the workforce, making it more flexible

o Chambishi Mine in Zambia & Urafiki Textile Mill in Tanzania

§ Workers succeeded in fighting casualization in the first, but not in the second

§ Historical parallels

· African nations with the closest relationships to China; Chinese presence since 1964 independence

o Symbol of Third World cooperation

· Machinery imported from China, factories set up by Chinese

· Industries nationalized in the 1970s

· Collapse in the 1980s

· IMF-imposed structural adjustment in the 1990s

· Indians always alongside Chinese capital, but they don’t get as much attention

§ Primarily male workers in both, since formal sector

· Chinese enclaves

o Conflicts are not about language, although neither side speaks the language of the other

o Conflicts are about how socialism, and the exit from socialism, is experienced

§ Chinese managers in Africa have spent entire lives inside state-owned enterprises in China

· They have firm convictions about development based on the failure of socialism in China

· Mistrust of anything that resembles the state-owned enterprises—permanent employment, welfare, etc

· “Sacrifice” and evolution as driving ideas—a sense that development has to occur first before rights can be talked about

o Necessary suffering for workers before things can better

§ African workers developed sense of rights

· Nationalized industries provided these rights, and these standards are still kept in mind

· The collapse of those industries have not affected the sense of what is considered rights

§ (ME: Ultimately, conflicting responses to the experience of poverty)

o Conflicts are about race

§ Chinese managers have a sense of superior civilization, complaints about African indolence

§ African workers have a much more complicated view of race

· They have been managed by their own nationals, and Boers before them

· They have learned that it’s not a matter of the race; it’s a matter of class, since managers of all races exploit

§ At the same time, Chinese are considered to be very different, since they behave in ways that Boers and own nationals haven’t before (such as going down into the mine with workers)

o Degree of empathy

§ Africans see Chinese are there alone, without family

· Chambishi Mine and SEZ

o Chinese are not simply extracting copper from Zambia; they’re also creating manufacture in Zambia (copper smelters, etc)

o May 2008 strike

· Urafiki Textile Mills

o Chinese managers in Tanzania insulated from local community

§ Don’t have much local money to spend; transactions happen in bank accounts in China

§ Raise own livestock, garden—don’t eat food from markets when possible

· Chinese managers are LEARNING

· Major structural differences in the cases

o Long tradition of grassroots militancy among miners in Zambia, as opposed to textile workers in Tanzania

§ Wildcat strikes—go against union leadership

o Resource nationalism rising in Zambia, but not in Tanzania

§ Due to opposition candidate in Zambia stoking anti-Chinese sentiment

o Global hike in copper prices, but not in textiles

§ And copper prices are transparent, accessible—workers are aware of what’s happening

o Difference in Chinese capital (i.e. not a singular Chinese capital interest)

§ Ownership

· Chambishi: top China multinational owns it, under direct control of the State Council

o Represents Chinese state strategy in Africa

o More concerned about image; planning on being there for long-haul, developing a model economic zone of manufacturing

· Urafiki: provincial level share-holding company owns it

§ Sectoral structures

· Mining: monopoly; textile: competitive

§ Kinds of capital

· Mining: extractive; textile: manufacturing

§ Strategies

· Mining: thicker social investment, CSR; textile: thin social investment

· Further exploration

o Comparison of multinationals in the African copperbelt

o Comparison of sectors

§ Extractive, manufacturing, merchant, construction

o Comparison of one industry across African nations

o Ultimately, need to break out of the colonial assumptions of relationship of Chinese and Africans, China and Africa

§ Both are changing

· Zambia now putting in place a windfall tax on copper, realigning state and workers

· Chinese managers beginning to learn local languages bit by bit

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