The high-profile two-day China-Africa cooperation forum at the start of November was held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on the continent’s north-east corner, a spot as pleasant as it is distant from the ugly edge of the China’s growing business and diplomatic push into Africa. As this Bystander has noted before, there are approaching one million Chinese now working in Africa. From Algeria to Zambia relations have been fractious at times, turning violent on occasion, in a backlash against a tendency for expat workers to arrive along with the investment cash from China, taking low-wage manual jobs from locals in places where unemployment is often high.
We now see reports of some of the most systematic attacks yet on expat Chinese workers in Africa. In Angola, where there are tens of thousands of Chinese working on post-civil war reconstruction, Chinese are being beset upon in a series of violent robberies. In one, in the capital Luanda, where Shanghai Urban Construction Group is building a new football stadium or the 2010 African Cup of Nations, a Chinese man was killed in September as he resisted an attack. BBC quotes Xu Ning of the local Chinese Business Council as saying that many more attacks have gone unreported. Shanghai Urban’s head, Eddie Zhang, told the BBC that the growing number of attacks were planned “mafia-style”. What used to be something that happened perhaps once a month has become a daily occurrence, Xu is quoted as saying by Afrik.com. The Chinese embassy in the city has advised its citizens not to travel alone at night.
In Sharm el-Sheikh, prime minister Wen Jiabao pledged to give Africa $10 billion in concessional loans over the next three years, plenty more seed money for local discontent.