Little Africa in Downtown Guangzhou

This article is by Bruce Humes. He undertakes Chinese-to-English literary translation and China media research, and can be contacted at

Little Africa in Downtown Guangzhou

Cankao Xiaoxi Update by Bruce Humes

“Africa is life, is love” says an upbeat Senegalese trader in the lead to “Trade Rhythms,” published in Hong Kong’s English-language South China Morning Post (January 3, 2007). Brandon Zatt’s colorful piece zooms in on the African trading community in bustling Guangzhou, touching on everything from Arabic signage to prejudice and the travails of quality control in the World’s Factory.

Africa is hot in China right now, so the digest newspaper Cankao Xiaoxi’s decision to translate Zatt’s piece and spotlight China’s largest community of Africans comes as no surprise. As noted in two earlier updates on Cankao Xiaoxi (Tibet, Xinjiang), this daily newspaper is a respected Chinese-language digest of the world press with a long history. Strict standards are implemented: Virtually no English is used, no content is added to the main text and even politically sensitive terms such as the Republic of China are faithfully rendered. But the paper also does its own “re-packaging”, i.e., adding headlines, captions and deleting references deemed unbecoming to China’s image.

About one-half of Zatt’s piece has been translated and published by Cankao Xiaoxi, making it a fairly long one by the digest’s standards. So what has been cut, and how do such deletions shape the story for the China reader?

The following have been deleted from the Chinese digest:

References to negative aspects of Africa/Africans:

* One Chinese shop assistant working with Africans relates: “When I first arrived, I was so scared, ” she says. “I thought they were dirty. I couldn’t interact.”

* “[Sengabu], an ethnic Tutsi, whose entire family was killed in the Rwandan genocide.”

Quotes on the travails of doing business in the World’s Factory:

* Writer Zatt reports: “Festa Sengago [a Rwandan trader]…moved from Dubai two years to cut out the middlemen, but says being closer to his suppliers hasn’t made his life much easier. For one thing, Chinese businessmen have ventured into Rwanda. With links to factories on the mainland, many undersell him at every turn…”

* Says Sengago: “You must check everything, and then check it again…only then do you pay.”

Quotes by trader re: positive role played by Africans:

* “For many westerners in China, every day is a contest. They just want to get money and leave. But Africans want to give, too,” he [Seringe Bamba Fall, a Sengalese trader] says. “Westerners are quick to judge who is right or wrong. We’d rather work till we get it right. This is how you make peace; this is what changes the heart.”

* Says Fall: “Africa is good for China, good for the Chinese people.”

The Chinese version of Zatt’s reportage remains highly readable and informative for the typical Chinese reader who has never been to Guangzhou, and may well never have spoken with an African. But as a result of the deletions noted above, as well as others, the Chinese digest tends to highlight the image that African traders are numerous and prospering in Guangzhou, downplays problems they encounter in doing business there, and omits a motif that opens and closes the English original: African traders in Guangzhou are not the sole beneficiaries of this relationship—the Chinese benefit too.

There are currently 2 Comments for Little Africa in Downtown Guangzhou.

Comments on Little Africa in Downtown Guangzhou

More problems than Cankao would care to admit, I imagine. I wonder if local media will be able to find the name of the black man whose body was found bagged in pieces in a river here in Guangzhou last weekend.

It's about time now, that China reconsider their priority, lately the behavior of the Authority is so arrogant and disrespectful to the African businessmen, they should not forget that Chinese businessmen have ventured into every corner of Africa,and welcomed too, and unless they reconsider their attitudes the same plight maybe reserved to their countrymen everywhere, and that will not help the win-win situation, and the harmonious society they have been talking about in every Chinese leader speech in Africa.

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