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 Rethinking	  the	  Peripheral:	  	   A	  Study	  of	  Chinese	  Migrants	  in	  Lesotho	  对‘边缘’ 的再思考——中国人在莱索托	  Naa	  boh...
Statement                      	                                                           	         This	  is	  my	  own	...
Contents	  	  	  List	  of	  Figures.........................................................................................
List	  of	  Figures	                       	          	         	          	          	         	          	          	  	...
Preface	              The	  reforms	  initiated	  in	  China	  in	  1978	  have	  had	  a	  monumental	  impact	  on	  the...
fact	  that	  in	  the	  past	  decade,	  more	  than	  a	  million	  Chinese	  people,	  from	  chefs	  to	  engineers,	 ...
and	  practices	  that	  allow	  them	  to	  turn	  the	  periphery	  into	  a	  productive	  space.	  In	  carrying	  out...
Chapter	  1.	  Introduction	  	  1.1 Rethinking	  the	  Periphery	       	             The	  notion	  of	  ‘periphery’	  p...
relationship	  of	  dependence	  with	  the	  core.	  Instead,	  structuralist	  studies	  have	  suggested	  that	  migra...
circulation	  of	  powers	  is	  an	  unavoidable	  outcome	  of	  the	  system.	  In	  other	  words,	  a	  semi-­‐periph...
Notions	  of	  dependency	  and	  reliance	  have	  laid	  the	  foundation	  for	  popular	  understandings	  of	  nation...
this	  subject	  by	  Western	  scholars	  (ibid.).	  	  This	  is	  because	  the	  enduring	  influence	  of	  the	  cen...
 Figure	  1:	  Map	  of	  Lesotho	                                                                                        ...
intermediate	  causes	  of	  poverty	  in	  Lesotho.	  These	  are	  unemployment	  ‘linked	  to	  the	  heavy	  retrenchm...
international	  level,	  with	  little	  attention	  being	  given	  to	  Lesotho	  by	  the	  international	  media.	  	 ...
competitors.	  Given	  the	  small	  numbers	  of	  buyers	  in	  remote	  areas,	  Fujianese	  traders	  are	  reliant	  ...
Chapter	  2.	  A	  Review	  of	  Literature	  on	  China’s	  Engagement	  with	  Africa	  	              There	  has,	  in...
opportunistic	  and	  instead	  propounds	  a	  discourse	  of	  ‘ongoing	  partnership’	  with	  the	  African	  peoples,...
        The	  latest	  surge	  in	  scholarship	  on	  ‘China	  and	  Africa’	  has	  been	  in	  response	  to	  the	  st...
case,	  these	  characteristics	  are	  the	  result	  of	  a	  decided	  preference	  for	  top-­‐down	  appraisals	  of	...
West’.	  This	  trend	  manifests	  itself	  most	  frequently	  in	  accounts	  that	  lump	  African	  countries	  toget...
within	  a	  binary	  scenario	  of	  exploitation	  by	  major	  economic	  powers.	  	  In	  the	  following	  passage	 ...
China’s	  presence	  is	  also	  considered	  to	  be	  detrimental	  to	  the	  pursuit	  of	  developmental	  sustainabi...
criticism	  of	  British	  journalism	  on	  Sino-­‐African	  relations,	  the	  intensity	  of	  this	  focus	  on	  Chin...
‘Chinese’	  activity	  in	  Africa	  and	  the	  many	  faces	  of	  China’s	  ‘presence’	  on	  the	  continent.	  	     ...
warn	  that	  China	  appeals	  to	  African	  leaders	  through	  its	  discourses	  of	  ‘respect’	  and	  ‘mutual	  ben...
In	  summary;	  accounts,	  such	  as	  these,	  which	  frame	  discussions	  of	  China’s	  economic	  impact	  in	  Afr...
and	  ‘Africa’	  in	  which	  much	  academic	  writing	  on	  Sino-­‐African	  relations	  is	  situated.	  For	  instanc...
Chapter	  3.	  Methodology	  	  3.1	  The	  Ethnographic	  Approach	  	                  The	  essence	  of	  qualitative	...
Speaking	  from	  experience,	  Pieke	  et	  al.	  point	  out	  that	  official	  figures	  and	  statistics	  on	  Fujia...
In	  total,	  I	  spent	  17	  days	  in	  Maseru,	  from	  the	  3rd	  to	  the	  20th	  of	  December	  2010,	  conducti...
advice	  and	  ‘draw	  upon	  any	  relationship	  one	  might	  have	  with	  any	  person	  willing	  to	  be	  of	  hel...
Fujianese	  expressions	  or	  to	  translate	  from	  the	  Fujianese	  dialect	  into	  Mandarin.	  	  This,	  he	  did	...
taken	  during	  all	  the	  interviews	  and	  I	  typed	  up	  a	  daily	  report	  of	  my	  research	  findings	  for	...
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho
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Transcript of "Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho"

  1. 1.  Rethinking  the  Peripheral:     A  Study  of  Chinese  Migrants  in  Lesotho  对‘边缘’ 的再思考——中国人在莱索托  Naa  bohole  bo  etsa  phapang?:    Balakolako  ba  kojoana  li  mahetleng  ba  Machaena  matsoatlareng  a  Lesotho.         1  
  2. 2. Statement     This  is  my  own  unaided  work  and  does  not  exceed  20,000  words.         Acknowledgements       I  am  grateful  to  Wolfson  College  for  their  financial  contribution  to   my  research  costs.         I  would  like  to  thank  Mr.  Lin  for  his  invaluable  assistance  during     my  fieldwork  and  for  helping  me  to  overcome  many  of  the   practical  difficulties  involved  in  my  research.       A  final  thanks  to  Dr.  Xiang  Biao  for  his  input  and  warm     encouragement  at  all  stages  of  the  development  of  this  thesis.                         Cover  Image:  A  Chinese-­‐owned  food  wholesaler  in  Maseru.   Source:  Author’s  Own,  2010.     2  
  3. 3. Contents      List  of  Figures.....................................................................................................................4    Clarification  of  Terms  and  Acronyms..................................................................................4    Preface ..............................................................................................................................5    Chapter  1.  Introduction......................................................................................................8   1.1  Rethinking  the  Peripheral...........................................................................................8   1.2  The  Research  Site ....................................................................................................12    Chapter  2.  A  Review  of  Literature  on  China’s  Engagement  with  Africa..............................17    Chapter  3.  Methodology ..................................................................................................29   3.1  The  Ethnographic  Approach .....................................................................................29   3.2  The  Fieldwork..........................................................................................................30   3.3  Gaining  Access.........................................................................................................31   3.4  The  Interviews.........................................................................................................33    Chapter  4.  Findings  and  Discussion...................................................................................38   4.1  Lesotho’s  Established  Chinese  Communities.............................................................38   4.2  From  Fujian  to  Lesotho:  Periphery-­‐to-­‐Periphery  Migration .......................................47   4.3  Understanding  Fujianese  Modes  of  Mobility.............................................................54   4.4  Making  the  Periphery  Profitable...............................................................................57   4.5  Sino-­‐African  Relations  at  the  Periphery ....................................................................66   4.6  New  Directions? ......................................................................................................70    Chapter  5.  Conclusions.....................................................................................................73    Bibliography.....................................................................................................................79     3  
  4. 4. List  of  Figures                                    Figure  1:  Map  of  Lesotho ....................................................................................................... 13    Clarification  of  terms  and  acronyms    Basotho   Plural  demonym  for  the  South  Sotho  people  (sing.  Mosotho).  The   Basotho  live  chiefly  in  Lesotho.      ALAFA     Apparel  Lesotho  Alliance  to  Fight  AIDS    BCP     Basutoland  Congress  Party          EDF     European  Development  Fund    FSB     Fujian  Statistics  Bureau    GDP     Gross  Domestic  Product    PRC     People’s  Republic  of  China    ROC     Republic  of  China  (Taiwan)                                   4  
  5. 5. Preface   The  reforms  initiated  in  China  in  1978  have  had  a  monumental  impact  on  the  mobility  of  Chinese  people,  both  nationally  and  internationally.  According  to  Murphy,  the  over  100  million  itinerant  labourers  and  traders  who  have  left  their  native  homes  in  search  of  work  in  China’s  cities  represent  ‘the  largest  peacetime  movement  of  people  in  history’  (Murphy,  2002,  p.  1).  In  addition  to  paving  the  way  for  internal  migration,  the  reforms  have  created  unprecedented  opportunities  for  outmigration  from  the  Chinese  mainland,  allowing  a  new  generation  of  Chinese  migrants  to  seek  their  fortunes  overseas.     Even  in  this  new  era  of  frenzied  interest  in  China,  studies  of  the  overseas  Chinese  have  focused  on  the  older  and  better-­‐known  Chinese  migrant  communities  of  North  America,  more  recently  Europe  (see:  Avenarius,  2007;  Beck,  2007;  Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.2;  Pieke  &  Xiang,  2009;  Skeldon,  2000;  Thunø  et  al.,  2005).    In  general,  writings  on  Chinese  transnational  migration  have  tended  to  assume  that  the  United  States  and  the  wealthy  countries  of  Western  Europe  are  every  migrant’s  destinations  of  choice.  Other  destinations  are  imagined  to  be  second  best,  or  stepping  stones  on  longer  trajectories  of  mobility  (ibid.,  p.  3).     This  focus  on  migration  to  the  centres  of  the  global  economy  ignores  the  fact  that  most  transnational  movements  of  persons,  including  Chinese  migration  take  people  to  places  ‘that  seem,  at  first  glance,  curiously  nonobvious’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  3).  For  instance,  studies  of  Chinese  migration  have  almost  entirely  overlooked  the     5  
  6. 6. fact  that  in  the  past  decade,  more  than  a  million  Chinese  people,  from  chefs  to  engineers,  are  thought  to  have  moved  to  work  in  Africa  (Rice,  2011).    Far  from  being  limited  to  Africa’s  urban  centres,  the  effects  of  Chinese  migration  have  been  felt  even  in  the  most  remote  corners  of  the  continent.    This  investigation  seeks  to  redress  the  imbalance  in  the  scholarship  around  this  issue  by  focusing  on  migration  between  different  sites  in  the  global  periphery.       Throughout  my  analysis,  I  use  the  term  ‘periphery’  to  refer  to  those  real  places  that  are  outside  the  flows  of  goods,  capital  and  persons  that  converge  on  global  centres  such  as  New  York,  London  and  Tokyo.  These  out-­‐of-­‐the-­‐way  places  constitute  sites  of  exclusion  in  the  global  economic  system  and  have  traditionally  been  assumed  to  offer  little  in  the  way  of  opportunities  for  accumulation  and  capital  generation.  Lesotho’s  highland  villages  are  a  textbook  example  of  this  kind  of  periphery,  and  yet  they  have  become  a  popular  destination  for  a  particular  class  of  merchants  from  Fujian  province.  These  traders  have  succeeded  in  establishing  a  retail  stronghold  in  Lesotho,  penetrating  corners  of  the  country  previously  unreached  by  foreign  businesses.     This  paper  is  premised  on  a  desire  to  discover  how  and  why  Lesotho’s  Fujianese  migrant  communities  become  established  at  these  marginalised  sites.  I  was  keen  to  discover  the  aspirations  of  Fujianese  migrants  in  coming  to  Lesotho  and  to  identify  the  specific  factors  that  influenced  their  decision  to  migrate.  Furthermore,  I  wanted  to  understand  how  they  perceive  the  ‘remoteness’  and  ‘peripherality’  of  Lesotho’s  mountainous  hinterland  and  to  discern  the  strategies     6  
  7. 7. and  practices  that  allow  them  to  turn  the  periphery  into  a  productive  space.  In  carrying  out  this  research,  I  hoped  to  be  able  to  redress  the  relative  paucity  of  ethnographic  research  on  the  Chinese  diaspora  in  Africa,  particularly  in  small,  resource-­‐poor  nations  such  as  Lesotho.     In  the  first  chapter,  I  seek  to  unpack  the  construction  of  ‘marginality’  in  the  context  of  different  theories  of  ‘core’  and  ‘periphery’  emerging  from  international  political  economy.  I  suggest  that  Fujianese  migrants,  who  are  themselves  a  peripheral  group  in  the  world  system,  may  perceive  the  periphery  in  distinct  ways  .  This  chapter  also  provides  an  overview  of  Lesotho’s  economic  situation  and  its  particular  history  as  a  peripheral  enclave  surrounded  by  South  Africa.  In  the  second  chapter,  I  provide  a  critique  of  the  existing  literature  on  Sino-­‐African  relations,  arguing  that  most  writings  on  Chinese  activity  in  Africa  have  provided  top-­‐down  accounts  of  Beijing’s  dealings,  ignoring  the  important  but  complex  role  played  by  the  Chinese  diaspora  in  transforming  the  continent.  Chapter  three  provides  an  account  of  the  research  methods  and  mode  of  analysis  adopted  for  this  investigation.  The  findings  of  my  investigation  are  discussed  in  chapter  four  and  summarised  in  chapter  five.                 7  
  8. 8. Chapter  1.  Introduction    1.1 Rethinking  the  Periphery     The  notion  of  ‘periphery’  provides  us  with  a  structural  orientation  for  understanding  spatialised  patterns  of  inequality  and  exclusion.  Although  peripheral  places  are  geographically  diverse,  they  share  a  number  of  common  characteristics  that  set  them  diametrically  apart  from  those  places  at  the  ‘centre’  of  global  systems.  These  places  often  enjoy  limited  access  to  flows  of  goods,  capitals  and  persons  and  are  subsequently  placed  outside  major  transnational  networks  of  trade  and  migration.       Indeed,  many  scholarly  narratives  of  migration  are  underpinned,  explicitly  or  implicitly,  by  an  assumption  about  a  divide  between  ‘traditional  peripheries’  and  ‘modern  centres’.  Being  located  outside  global  trade  and  knowledge  networks,  peripheral  regions  are  typically  unable  to  develop  the  kinds  of  industry  and  capital  base  required  to  achieve  economic  takeoff  and  ‘modernisation’.  By  contrast,  regions  at  the  core  concentrate  transnational  flows  and  typically  allow  for  rapid  rates  of  capital  accumulation  and  technical  innovation.     Modernisation  theorists  have  long  posited  that  migration  from  periphery  to  core  and  return  flows  from  core  to  periphery  play  a  vital  role  in  making  ‘traditional’  societies  more  ‘modern’,  thus  ‘developing’  the  periphery  (Goldscheider,  1987,  pp.  677-­‐80).  By  contrast,  structuralist  theories  have  argued  that  migration  cannot  improve  the  situation  of  the  periphery  because  it  consolidates  an  unequal     8  
  9. 9. relationship  of  dependence  with  the  core.  Instead,  structuralist  studies  have  suggested  that  migration  has  a  negative  impact  on  peripheral  regions,  locking  traditional  communities  into  poverty  and  cementing  traditional  power  structures  (Colton,  1993,  pp.  870-­‐82).     Dependency  theory  proposes  a  very  different  understanding  of  the  relationship  between  the  core  and  the  periphery,  but  nevertheless  it  holds  the  core-­‐periphery  divide  to  be  a  central  feature  of  the  world  society.  Dependency  theorists  have  posited  that  societies  are  inextricably  linked,  within  a  global  system,  through  relationships  of  dependence.  They  reject  the  idea  that  developing  countries  lag  behind  the  developing  world,  arguing  instead  that  both  developed  and  developing  countries  are  at  the  same  historical  stage.  They  suggest  that  the  developed  world  is  at  the  core  of  the  world  system  and  the  developing  world  is  at  the  periphery.  Core  and  periphery  thus  constitute  two  sides  of  the  same  coin,  with  the  poverty  of  the  latter  being  a  prerequisite  for  the  prosperity  of  the  former  (Frank,  1967;  Dos  Santos,  1971;  Amin,  1976).     World  systems  theory  has  proposed  a  similar  but  more  nuanced  model  of  ‘dependency’  or  ‘reliance’  between  the  core  and  the  periphery.  Whereas  ‘dependency’  in  Dependency  theory  is  unidirectional,  ‘reliance’  in  World  systems  theory  is  bidirectional,  operating  within  a  three-­‐tier  framework.  This  framework  posits  the  existence  of  a  third  category:  semi-­‐peripheral  places,  which  exist  between  the  core  and  the  periphery  proper.  This  sliding  model  differs  significantly  from  the  binary  conception  of  core  dependency  on  the  periphery  in  that  it  suggests  that  a     9  
  10. 10. circulation  of  powers  is  an  unavoidable  outcome  of  the  system.  In  other  words,  a  semi-­‐peripheral  region  may  displace  a  core  region  in  decline,  thus  moving  from  the  periphery  to  the  core  (Wallerstein,  1976).     In  any  case,  regardless  of  which  notion  of  peripherality  one  subscribes  to,  it  is  clear  that  both  the  core  and  the  periphery  are  increasingly  linked  by  the  processes  of  globalisation.  I  use  this  term  to  refer  not  to  a  unidirectional  tendency,  but  rather  to  a  multitude  of  processes  ‘that  transcend  and  redefine  regional  and  national  boundaries’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  9).  These  processes  produce  a  world  that  is  increasingly  interconnected,  rearranging  spaces  of  flows  and  challenging  established  notions  of  marginality  and  periphery.  In  doing  this,  globalisation  produces  a  ‘new  reality’,  creating  new  social  forms  and  inflecting  existing  social  forms  ‘such  as  the  nation-­‐state,  the  family,  class,  race,  or  ethnicity’  (ibid.).     Crucially,  the  scope  of  globalisation  extends  ‘beyond  the  traditional  centres  of  the  capitalist  system’  (Pieke  et  al.  2004,  p.  10).  That  is  to  say,  globalisation  reconfigures  spaces  within  and  beyond  the  established  centres  of  the  world  economy.  In  facilitating  new  flows  of  capital,  technology  and  migration,  globalisation  creates  contingent  and  dynamic  relationships  between  ‘multiple  centres  and  peripheries’  (ibid.).  Of  particular  interest  for  this  investigation  is  the  way  in  which  globalisation  creates  connections  between  places  previously  considered  to  be  on  the  fringes  of  hegemonic  geographies  of  flows.       10  
  11. 11. Notions  of  dependency  and  reliance  have  laid  the  foundation  for  popular  understandings  of  national  and  transnational  mobility.  These  interpretations,  emerging  from  the  field  of  development  studies  and  intended  to  inform  development  policy,  have  been  critiqued  by  Murphy  for  being  too  Manichean  and  simplistic  for  understanding  the  complexities  of  change  in  the  global  economy  (Murphy,  2002,  p.  18).  They  certainly  fall  short  in  terms  of  explaining  the  numerous  contingent  and  context-­‐specific  factors  that  may  influence  an  individual’s  decision  to  migrate.  Indeed,  macroeconomic  models  such  as  these  leave  little  room  for  an  appreciation  of  the  agency  of  the  individual  and  an  understanding  of  the  interactions  of  social  and  economic  pressures,  which  inflect  that  agency.     It  became  clear  to  me,  while  reading  around  this  topic,  that  the  changing  nature  of  Chinese  migration  required  in-­‐situ  investigation  of  Chinese  communities  outside  China.  How  and  why  these  communities  become  established  in  developing  countries  are  important  and  relatively  unexplored  questions  within  contemporary  social  anthropology  and  migration  studies.  This  is  a  particularly  interesting  area  of  study  given  that,  contrary  to  the  narratives  promulgated  in  Western  media  accounts  of  international  migration,  most  mobility  of  people  takes  place  ‘between  peripheral  areas  rather  than  from  a  periphery  to  a  centre’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.198).         Indeed,  Xiang  states  that,  within  the  destination  countries,  most  Chinese  migrants  work  in  remote  areas  instead  of  major  cities  (Xiang,  2009,  p.  421).  According  to  Pieke  and  his  team,  the  nature  of  this  mobility  cannot  be  truly  appreciated  from  the  centre,  hence  the  conspicuous  lack  of  writings  produced  on     11  
  12. 12. this  subject  by  Western  scholars  (ibid.).    This  is  because  the  enduring  influence  of  the  centre-­‐periphery  dichotomy  is  part  of  a  paradigm  that  tends  to  view  migration  and  return  flows  as  phenomena  that  are  external  to  peripheries  (Murphy,  2002,  p.  17).       Pieke  et  al.  go  on  to  explain  that,  for  Chinese  migrants,  ‘the  map  of  the  world  looks  distinctly  different  from  what  we  ourselves  would  assume,  with  centres  and  peripheries  in  some  unexpected  places’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  3).  Indeed,  this  paper  is  premised  on  a  desire  to  rethink  the  peripheral  and  to  view  the  world  from  the  migrant’s  perspective.  That  is  not  to  say  that  I  assume  that  migrants  do  not  perceive  ‘periphery’  as  a  real  spatial  category  but  rather,  that  they  approach  the  periphery  in  a  certain  way  that  allows  them  to  thrive  where  others  have  previously  struggled.    1.2  The  Research  Site     Lesotho  is  one  of  many  African  countries  that  have  been  entirely  neglected  by  scholarship  on  Chinese  migration  to  Africa.  With  a  population  of  just  over  two  million  people  (World  Bank,  2009)  and  a  total  land-­‐area  of  approximately  30,355  km2  (roughly  the  size  of  Belgium  or  Taiwan),  the  Mountain  Kingdom  is  completely  surrounded  by  South  Africa,  the  continent’s  most  developed  country.  Lesotho  is  classified  by  the  UN  as  a  ‘least  developed  country’  and,  with  a  GDP  per  capita  of    $764,  the  kingdom  is  ranked  156th  on  the  human  development  index  (World  Bank,  2009).  In  short,  Lesotho  occupies  a  position  within  conventional  imagined  geographies  of  development  that  is  undeniably  peripheral.       12  
  13. 13.  Figure  1:  Map  of  Lesotho    Source:  Mapsget,  2011:  http://www.mapsget.com/bigmaps/africa/lesotho_pol90.jpg     Lesotho’s  peripherality  is,  in  part,  a  product  of  its  relative  poverty  compared  to  its  wealthier  neighbour,  South  Africa  –  a  country  that  is  increasingly  seeking  to  assert  itself  as  a  regional  hub  of  transnational  flows.  Turner  identifies  three     13  
  14. 14. intermediate  causes  of  poverty  in  Lesotho.  These  are  unemployment  ‘linked  to  the  heavy  retrenchments  of  Basotho  migrant  labour  from  the  South  African  mines  over  the  last  decade’  (Turner,  2005,  p.  5),  environmental  problems  such  as  ‘frosts,  drought  and  floods’  (ibid.),  and  HIV/AIDS,  which  he  describes  as  ‘both  a  cause  and  a  symptom  of  poverty’  (ibid.).  Lesotho  currently  has  the  third  highest  adult  HIV  prevalence  in  the  world  at  23.3%  (ALAFA,  2008)  and  the  pandemic  continues  to  be  a  source  of  ‘enormous  hardship,  and  death,  for  rapidly  growing  numbers  of  people’  (Turner,  2005,  p.  6).       In  addition  to  these  intermediate  causes  of  poverty,  Lesotho’s  peripheral  position  within  Southern  Africa  is  perpetuated  by  its  history  as  a  labour  reserve  for  South  Africa,  its  prevalent  gender  inequality  and  its  record  of  inefficient  governance  (Turner,  2005  p.  5).  Low  fiscal  incomes  and  an  over-­‐bureaucratised  state  have  meant  that  poverty-­‐reduction  initiatives  in  Lesotho  frequently  fail  in  the  implementation  stage.  The  country  has  long  been  a  recipient  of  foreign  aid  but,  in  the  words  of  one  development  analyst,  the  history  of  foreign  aid  projects  in  Lesotho  has  been  one  of  ‘almost  unremitting  failure’  (Murray  1981,  pg.  19  in  Ferguson  1990,  pg.  8).     Lesotho  has  virtually  no  natural  resources  other  than  water,  which  it  exports  to  South  Africa.  Consequently,  the  country  suffers  from  a  large  trade  deficit,  with  exports  representing  only  a  small  proportion  of  total  imports.  These  factors  have  cemented  Lesotho’s  position  at  the  margins  of  the  global  economic  system.  This  economic  marginalisation  is  complemented  by  cultural  marginalisation  at  the     14  
  15. 15. international  level,  with  little  attention  being  given  to  Lesotho  by  the  international  media.     Estimates  of  the  total  population  of  Mainland  Chinese  currently  settled  in  Lesotho  range  from  five  to  twenty  thousand.  This  is  a  relatively  small  community  compared  to  the  populations  of  settled  Chinese  in  the  United  States  or  even  in  other  African  countries  and,  as  a  result,  Lesotho’s  Chinese  have  been  entirely  neglected  by  academic  scholarship.  My  research  has  shown  that  the  majority  of  the  Chinese  living  in  Lesotho  are  low-­‐skilled  economic  migrants  from  Fujian  province,  a  major  site  of  Chinese  emigration  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004).       Early  flows  of  Indian  and  skilled-­‐Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  have,  since  1998,  been  eclipsed  by  the  comparatively  vast  influx  of  poorly-­‐skilled  migrants  from  Fujian’s  rural  interior.  This  new  group  of  migrants  has  established  a  retail  hegemony  in  Lesotho,  penetrating  corners  of  the  country  previously  unreached  by  either  local  or  foreign  businesses.  The  present  flow  of  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho  appears  to  have  followed  in  the  wake  of  earlier  flows  of  Taiwanese  and  Shanghainese  migration  to  the  country,  suggesting  that  migration  to  the  periphery  is  not  sustainable,  in  the  long  term,  by  migrants  from  a  single  region.     My  research  demonstrates  that  the  Fujianese  in  Lesotho  approach  the  country’s  mountainous  margins  with  a  set  of  strategies  that  allow  them  to  cultivate  the  periphery  as  a  prime  site  for  capital  accumulation.  These  strategies  include  group  purchase  and  transport  of  goods  and  targeted  pricing  campaigns  against  local     15  
  16. 16. competitors.  Given  the  small  numbers  of  buyers  in  remote  areas,  Fujianese  traders  are  reliant  on  captive  markets  for  the  profitability  of  their  enterprises.  The  need  to  establish  a  small  monopoly  over  a  given  resource  in  a  given  area  produces  a  centrifugal  force  that  continuously  pushes  new  arrivals  from  Fujian  further  and  further  into  Lesotho’s  periphery.                                             16  
  17. 17. Chapter  2.  A  Review  of  Literature  on  China’s  Engagement  with  Africa     There  has,  in  recent  years,  been  an  explosion  of  interest  in  ‘China  and  Africa’.  While  the  socio-­‐economic  changes  brought  about  by  China’s  reforms  and  rapid  economic  ascendancy  have,  for  some  time,  been  a  focus  for  scholarly  interest,  it  is  only  in  the  last  two  decades  that  China’s  engagement  with  Africa  has  come  under  academic  scrutiny.  This  recent  scholarship  on  ‘China  and  Africa’  has  focused  almost  exclusively  on  the  geopolitical  implications  of  China’s  activities  in  Africa.  In  reviewing  the  recent  body  of  literature  on  Sino-­‐African  relations  I  hope  to  demonstrate  the  extent  to  which  the  majority  of  these  writings  present  top-­‐down,  macro-­‐scale  narratives  of  Chinese  engagement  with  African  countries.  By  contrast,  there  is  a  conspicuous  dearth  of  ethnographic  studies  of  the  Chinese  diaspora  in  Africa  and  the  migratory  trajectories  that  have  brought  them  to  even  the  most  remote  corners  of  the  continent.  This  paper  is  intended  to  help  redress  this  gap  since,  as  Alden  rightly  explains,  ‘for  most  ordinary  Africans  it  is  these  Chinese  small-­‐scale  entrepreneurs,  and  most  especially  retail  traders,  who  have  had  the  greatest  impact  on  their  lives’  (2007,  p.  37).     It  is  easy  to  see  why  the  geopolitics  of  Sino-­‐African  relations  has  recently  become  a  ‘hot’  topic  amongst  academics  from  a  wide  range  of  disciplines.  There  is  a  sense  in  the  literature  that  the  academic  community  was  caught  off-­‐guard  by  China’s  sudden  (re)intensification  of  its  relationships  with  African  governments.  The  Chinese  Communist  Party  strongly  denies  claims  that  its  interests  in  Africa  are     17  
  18. 18. opportunistic  and  instead  propounds  a  discourse  of  ‘ongoing  partnership’  with  the  African  peoples,  dating  as  far  back  as  the  15th  century  (Alden  &  Alves,  2008,  p.  43).  However,  in  spite  of  the  warm  Communist  rhetoric,  there  have  been  clear  fluctuations  in  the  intensity  of  China’s  African  diplomacy,  at  least  over  the  last  sixty  years.       Writings  published  in  English  during  the  last  decade  by  African,  European  and  American  scholars  on  China’s  engagement  with  Africa  have  tended  to  emphasise  the  materialistic  dimension  of  China’s  relationships  with  African  governments  (Alves,  2008;  Ennes  Ferreira,  2008;  Kragelund,  2007;  Soares  de  Oliveira,  2008).  However,  during  the  Mao  years  (1949-­‐1976),  the  emphasis  of  China’s  African  diplomacy  was  unmistakably  ideological.  Indeed,  according  to  He,  it  was  the  Bandung  Conference  of  1955  that  set  the  precedent  for  the  future  of  Sino-­‐African  relations  (He,  2008,  p.  147).  Alden  &  Alves  argue  that  the  ‘South-­‐South  solidarity’  expressed  in  the  Non-­‐Aligned  movement  persists  to  this  day  in  China’s  strictly  bilateral  approach  and  emphasis  on  ‘mutual  benefit’  (Alden  &  Alves,  2008,  p.  47).       However,  despite  this  politicised  language,  there  was  clearly  a  dilution  of  the  ideological  pro-­‐activism  of  Mao  Zedong  and  Zhou  Enlai  during  the  first  decade  under  Deng  Xiaoping  (1978–1989)  (Alden  et  al.,  2008,  p.  5).  Following  the  1978  reforms,  Beijing  has  tended  to  avoid  overtly  political  discourse  in  its  dealings  with  foreign  governments  and  instead  placed  a  greater  emphasis  on  economic  co-­‐operation  (Power  &  Mohan,  2008b,  p.  26).         18  
  19. 19.   The  latest  surge  in  scholarship  on  ‘China  and  Africa’  has  been  in  response  to  the  stepping-­‐up  of  Sino-­‐African  relations  in  the  wake  of  the  Tiananmen  Square  uprisings  of  1989,  which  left  Beijing  in  desperate  need  of  political  allies.  The  subsequent  rapprochement  between  the  party-­‐state  and  African  governments  has  been  consolidated,  in  economic  terms,  by  the  ‘Go  Out’  policy  (走出去战略)of  1999,  which  has  set  the  tone  for  more  proactive  overseas  investment  by  Chinese  companies.         It  is  clear  from  the  scholarly  literature  produced  outside  China  over  the  last  two  decades  that  China’s  ’going  out’  to  Africa  has  become  a  cause  for  real  concern  amongst  many  who  have  traditionally  imagined  Africa  as  being  part  of  a  peripheral  space  at  the  hinterland  of  Western  economic  empires.  That  is  to  say  that  the  majority  of  scholarship  on  ‘China  and  Africa’  appears  to  be  written  in  response  to  China’s  perceived  threat  to  the  geopolitical  status-­‐quo  rather  than  in  response  to  real  changes  happening  on  the  ground  as  a  result  of  interactions  between  Chinese  and  African  communities.       In  an  insightful  review  of  representations  of  Sino-­‐African  relations  in  British  broadsheet  newspapers,  Mawdsley  (2008)  identifies  a  number  of  recurring  discursive  patterns  that  pervade  reporting  on  China’s  activity  on  the  African  continent.  I  intend  to  borrow  Mawdsley’s  rubric  as  a  starting  point  from  which  to  frame  my  own  discussion  of  the  academic  literature  surrounding  contemporary  China-­‐Africa  relations.  Mawdsley’s  critique  highlights  a  number  of  characteristics,  which  define  recent  scholarly  accounts  of  China’s  engagement  with  Africa.  In  each     19  
  20. 20. case,  these  characteristics  are  the  result  of  a  decided  preference  for  top-­‐down  appraisals  of  China’s  presence  in  Africa  and  a  failure  to  understand  the  significance  of  this  presence  from  the  perspective  of  the  Chinese  who  have  made  their  livelihoods  there.       The  first  trend  identified  by  Mawdsley  in  her  review  of  British  reporting  on  Sino-­‐African  relations  is  the  tendency  to  conflate  non-­‐Western  actors  in  accounts  of  engagement  between  ‘China’  and  ‘Africa’.  I  use  inverted  commas  to  highlight  the  need  to  disaggregate  ‘China’  and  ‘Africa’  since,  as  some  have  rightly  pointed  out,  ‘neither  represents  a  coherent  and  uniform  set  of  motivations  and  opportunities’  (Power  &  Mohan,  2008b,  p.  19).  Even  within  academic  writing,  there  is  a  widespread  tendency  to  refer  to  ‘the  Chinese’  in  Africa,  despite  the  fact  that  this  designation  encompasses  a  huge  range  of  different  actors  often  with  ‘competing  and  contradictory  interests’  (Mawdsley,  2007,  p.  406).  Conflated  within  this  category  are  numerous  governmental  and  non-­‐governmental  bodies,  private  and  state-­‐owned  enterprises  as  well  as  diverse  settled  populations  of  Chinese  across  Africa.       Indeed,  there  is  a  tendency  to  speak  of  ‘China’  and  ‘Africa’  ‘as  if  there  were  relationships  between  two  countries  instead  of  between  one  &  fifty-­‐three’  (Chan,  2007,  p.  2,  in  Power  &  Mohan,  2008b,  p.  34).  While  Mawdsley  is  right  to  be  critical  of  writing  which  collapses  the  interests  of  ‘the  Chinese’  into  a  single  category,  there  is  just  as  much  scope  for  criticism  of  those  who  conflate  ‘Africa’  and  African  actors.  Accounts  of  Chinese  dealings  with  ‘Africans’  suggest  an  undifferentiated  and  nebulous  population  of  natives  passively  enduring  exploitation  by  ‘China’  and  ‘the     20  
  21. 21. West’.  This  trend  manifests  itself  most  frequently  in  accounts  that  lump  African  countries  together  and  speak  of  ‘Africa’  in  its  continental,  rather  than  its  political  configurations.  In  refusing  to  acknowledge  complexity  and  multiplicity  of  African  actors,  these  accounts  highlight  Africa’s  peripherality  as  a  vast  yet  marginalised  space  at  the  fringes  of  the  world  economy.         Mawdsley’s  second  observation  in  her  study  of  British  journalism  is  a  decided  preference  amongst  British  journalists  for  focusing  on  the  negative  aspects  of  China’s  engagement  with  Africa  (Mawdsley,  2008,  p.  518).  In  the  context  of  academic  writing,  I  intend  to  break  down  this  point  into  two  criticisms.  Firstly,  a  criticism  of  those  academic  writings  which  frame  ‘China’  as  a  ‘dragon’  or  ‘ravenous  beast’  and  secondly,  a  criticism  of  those  academics  who  choose  to  focus  solely  on  ‘issues  and  places  of  violence,  disorder  and  corruption’  (ibid.),  and  within  that  on  the  P.R.C.’s  engagement  with  odious  regimes  and  resource-­‐rich  countries  in  Africa.     The  image  of  China  as  a  dragon  or  rampant  leviathan  is  a  discursive  pattern  that  pre-­‐dates  the  recent  intensification  of  China’s  economic  relations  with  African  governments.  It  reflects  the  genuine  apprehension  felt  by  many  in  ‘the  West’  in  the  face  of  China’s  accelerated  economic  development  and  increasingly  important  role  in  the  geopolitical  arena.  In  the  context  of  recent  activity  in  Africa,  China  is  frequently  described  in  academic  writing  as  ‘a  monolithic  beast  with  an  insatiable  appetite  for  African  resources’  (Power  &  Mohan,  2008b,  p.  22).  This  discourse  simultaneously  reinforces  negative  narratives  of  Chinese  economic  development  and  reproduces  narratives  that  construct  ‘Africa’  as  a  marginalised  space  of  plunder     21  
  22. 22. within  a  binary  scenario  of  exploitation  by  major  economic  powers.    In  the  following  passage  we  see  an  extreme  example  of  this  kind  of  writing:     In  just  a  few  years,  the  Peoples  Republic  of  China  (P.R.C.)  has  become  the   most  aggressive  investor-­‐nation  in  Africa.  This  commercial  invasion  is   without  question  the  most  important  development  in  the  sub-­‐Sahara  since   the  end  of  the  Cold  War  -­‐-­‐  an  epic,  almost  primal  propulsion  that  is   redrawing  the  global  economic  map.  One  former  U.S.  assistant  secretary  of   state  has  called  it  a  "tsunami."  Some  are  even  calling  the  region   "ChinAfrica"(Behar,  2008,  p.  1).     Writing  such  as  this  serves  to  perpetuate  narratives  that  construct  China’s  presence  in  Africa  as  a  ‘scramble’,  ‘mad  dash’,  ‘resource  grab’,  or  even  a  ‘rape’(Power  &  Mohan,  2008b,  p.  24).  Criticisms  of  China’s  interest  in  African  natural  resources  are  often  voiced  explicitly  by  those  who  firmly  believe  that  Chinese  investment  in  Africa  is  part  of  a  long-­‐term  strategy  to  control  and  exploit  African  natural  resources,  particularly  oil  (Askouri,  2007,  p.  72).  Often,  China  is  portrayed  not  only  as  a  pillager  of  African  resources  but  also  as  a  direct  competitor  in  those  industries  that  are  seen  as  key  to  Africa’s  development.  Here,  China’s  presence  in  Africa,  like  America’s  presence  before  it,  is  regarded  as  problematic  because  it  is  thought  to  undermine  the  autonomy  of  African  societies  through  forms  of  imperialism  that  transcend  the  nation  state  (Hardt  &  Negri,  2000  and  Johnson,  2004):     The  undermining  of  manufacturing  in  Sub-­‐Saharan  Africa  as  a  consequence  of   Asian  Driver  competition  in  SSA  and  external  markets  is  likely  to  lead  to   increased  unemployment,  at  least  in  the  short  run,  and  heightened  levels  of   poverty  (Kaplinsky,  Robinson,  &  Willenbockel,  2007,  p.  25)       22  
  23. 23. China’s  presence  is  also  considered  to  be  detrimental  to  the  pursuit  of  developmental  sustainability  in  Africa  because  of  its  disregard  for  good  governance.  Within  the  body  of  recent  academic  writing  on  China’s  engagement  with  Africa,  we  can  also  identify  a  distinct  preference  for  accounts  of  China’s  dealings  in  resource  rich  countries  (Alves,  2008,  Ennes  Ferreira,  2008,  Kragelund,  2007,  Power,  2008,  Soares  de  Oliveira,  2008)  and  those  countries  where  China  appears  to  be  supporting  odious  regimes  (Askouri,  2007,  Karumbidza,  2007,  Large,  2008a,  Tull,  2008).         This  tendency  is  a  clear  manifestation  of  the  desire,  within  the  non-­‐Chinese  academic  community,  to  highlight  the  negative  aspects  of  China’s  ‘Going  out’  to  Africa.  The  positive  elements  of  Chinese  activity  in  Africa,  including  debt  cancellation,  investment,  commodity  price  impacts  and  support  for  a  greater  international  voice,  are  ignored  in  favour  of  a  focus  on  problem  issues  (Mawdsley,  2008,  p.  518).  This  concern  with  China’s  negative  impacts  on  the  continent  is  concurrent  with  a  postmodern  discourse  that  is  inherently  suspicious  of  global  economic  powers  and,  as  such,  fails  to  recognise  the  significance  of  day-­‐to-­‐day  interactions  between  Chinese  and  African  people.     One  notable  outcome  of  the  predominantly  macro-­‐  level  portrayal  of  China-­‐Africa  relations  is  a  strongly  biased  interpretation  of  the  role  of  Africans  in  these  interactions.  Accounts  of  China’s  activity  in  Africa  regularly  portray  Africans  either  as  ‘victims’  or  ‘villains’  (Mawdsley,  2008,  p.  518)  ,  and  sometimes  as  both,  thus  endorsing  images  of  a  politically  impotent  African  population,  perpetually  at  the  mercy  of  foreign  powers  and  corrupt  leaders.  As  Mawdsley  stresses  in  her  last     23  
  24. 24. criticism  of  British  journalism  on  Sino-­‐African  relations,  the  intensity  of  this  focus  on  China  as  a  new  threat  to  African  prosperity  leaves  room  for  little  more  than  a  ‘complacent  account’  of  the  West  and  its  past  and  present  dealings  with  African  peoples.     Within  this  uncritical  narrative,  Chinese  activity  in  Africa  is  negatively  contrasted  against  Europe’s  historical  forays  into  the  continent.  As  Mawdsley  explains,  ‘Western  colonialisism  is  claimed  to  at  least  have  had  a  paternalistic/developmental  dimension  and  well-­‐intentioned  elements  -­‐  an  attitude  that  has  translated  into  an  ethical  concern  for  Africa  in  the  postcolonial  period’  (Mawdsley,  2008,  p.  519).  The  implication  is  therefore  that  Europe  and  the  U.S.  have  moved  on  to  a  more  enlightened  concern  for  Africa.  This  concern  implies  moral  superiority  over  any  Chinese  interests  on  the  continent,  which  are  assumed  to  be  purely  opportunistic.  This  configuration  constructs  the  Chinese  state  as  potent  force  of  chaos  in  the  African  context.       It  is  clear  from  numerous  writings  (Bräutigam,  2008b;  Campbell,  2007;  Gill,  Morrison,  &  Huang,  2008;  Marchal,  2008)  that  there  is  considerable  concern,  amongst  African,  European  and  American  academics,  regarding  Beijing’s  recent  foreign  policy  towards  Africa.  Criticisms  of  China’s  dealings  with  African  governments  arguably  reflect  a  broader  concern  that  China  represents  a  chaotic  force  which  seeks  to  undermine  Western  efforts  to  promote  good  governance,  global  security  and  debt  sustainability  in  Africa.  I  will  examine  each  of  these  points  in  turn,  concluding  that  these  simplistic  representations  ignore  the  complexity  of     24  
  25. 25. ‘Chinese’  activity  in  Africa  and  the  many  faces  of  China’s  ‘presence’  on  the  continent.       That  Beijing’s  African  policies  are  a  threat  to  the  promotion  of  good  governance  on  the  continent  is  a  mantra  frequently  repeated  in  recent  Sino-­‐African  scholarship  (see:  Breslin  &  Taylor,  2008;  Dahle  Huse  &  Muyakwa,  2008;  Karumbidza,  2007;  Naím,  2007;  Power,  2008;  Power  &  Mohan,  2008a).  These  critical  writings  accuse  China  of  undermining  efforts  to  improve  transparency  and  accountability  in  Africa  by  financing  and  supporting  authoritarian  leaders  and  states,  by  supplying  arms  in  conflict  situations,  by  doing  business  without  ‘ethical’  conditionalities,  and  by  taking  advantage  of  corruption.       Many  Western  scholars  argue  that  China’s  behaviour  threatens  to  undo  the  fragile  gains  that  have  been  made  in  terms  of  democracy,  transparency  and  accountability  in  Africa  over  the  last  six  decades.  For  instance,  in  Zimbabwe,  China  is  accused  of  funding  the  state’s  ‘acquisition  of  military-­‐strength  radio  jamming  equipment  to  block  opposition  equipment  ahead  of  the  2005  elections’  (Karumbidza,  2007).  Accusations  such  as  these  have  focused  on  Beijing’s  apparent  willingness  to  finance  corrupt  and  autocratic  regimes  in  Africa,  and  stories  such  as  these  are  often  denoted  as  being  emblematic  of  Sino-­‐African  ties.     Scholars  are  quick  to  point  out  China’s  attractiveness  as  a  lender  ‘outside  the  existing  hegemony  of  development  actors  and  institutions  referred  to  as  ‘traditional’  donors  or  ‘the  West/Western  donors’  (Dahle  Huse  &  Muyakwa,  2008,  p.  8).  They     25  
  26. 26. warn  that  China  appeals  to  African  leaders  through  its  discourses  of  ‘respect’  and  ‘mutual  benefit’,  stressing  that,  unlike  the  West  ‘China  avoids  the  status  of  ‘donor’  and  the  word  ‘aid’  is  often  avoided  altogether  when  talking  about  Africa’  (Power,  2008).         The  post–9/11  security  agenda  has  included  a  greater  focus  on  ‘failed  states’,   counterterrorism  activities  and  development.  China  now  represents  at  least   a  geopolitical  complication  in  Africa,  at  worst  a  threat  in  its  relations  with   states  and  groups  potentially  hostile  to  the  West  (Mawdsley,  2007,  p.  407).     Amongst  those  who  promulgate  narratives  which  view  China  as  a  ‘hidden  dragon’,  there  are  many  who  view  China  as  a  ‘threat  to  healthy,  sustainable  development’  arguing  that  China  is  ‘effectively  pricing  responsible  and  well  meaning  organizations  out  of  the  market  in  the  very  places  they  are  needed  most’  whilst  ‘underwriting  a  world  that  is  more  corrupt,  chaotic  and  authoritarian’  (Naím,  2007,  p.  95).     There  seems  to  be  a  real  fear  that  China’s  ‘rogue  lending’  (Naím,  2007)  will  ‘burden  poor  countries  with  debt—a  burden  from  which  many  have  only  just  escaped’  (Lancaster,  2008,  p.  1).  Dahle  Huse  and  Muyakwa  argue  that  the  lack  of  transparency  in  the  disbursement  process  of  Chinese  ‘soft  loans’  to  African  governments  ‘makes  it  difficult  to  assess  how  much  debt  is  being  contracted  and  on  what  terms’  (Dahle  Huse  &  Muyakwa,  2008,  p.  5).  They  argue  that  ‘Zambian  NGOs,  donors  and  well-­‐wishers  need  to  keep  a  close  eye  on  Chinese  loans  and  raise  the  alarm  when  need  be’  (Dahle  Huse  &  Muyakwa,  2008,  p.  5).         26  
  27. 27. In  summary;  accounts,  such  as  these,  which  frame  discussions  of  China’s  economic  impact  in  Africa  in  terms  of  its  role  as  an  irresponsible  financer  of  corrupt  African  regimes  and  general  promoter  of  disorder  in  African  economies,  are  characteristic  of  much  recent  writing  on  Sino-­‐African  relations.  Indeed,  in  analysing  writings  published  in  English  during  the  last  two  decades  by  African,  European  and  American  scholars  on  China’s  engagement  with  Africa,  we  can  identify  the  following  popular  tendencies:     1. A  preference  for  generalised  narratives  of  ‘China’  and  ‘Africa,’  which  flatten   both  sets  of  actors,  producing  a  series  of  simplistic  and  dichotomous   scenarios  that  ignore  the  complex  interactions  between  different  local  actors   and  different  Chinese  actors,  particularly  members  of  the  Chinese  diaspora.     2. A  preference  for  constructing  ‘China’  as  a  powerful  and  homogenous  force  of   chaos  in  Africa,  suggesting  that  all  aspects  of  Chinese  activity  in  Africa  are   somehow  related  to  the  geopolitical  ambitions  of  the  Chinese  state.     3. Implicit  reference  to  supposedly  ‘superior’  Western  intentions  and  practices   and  a  simplistic  and  half-­‐hearted  attempt  at  understanding  African   perspectives,  motivations  and  interests  with  relation  to  China’s  presence  on   the  continent.     While  these  tendencies  are  by  no  means  universal  in  writing  on  Sino-­‐African  relations,  they  define  the  default  parameters  of  imagined  configurations  of  ‘China’     27  
  28. 28. and  ‘Africa’  in  which  much  academic  writing  on  Sino-­‐African  relations  is  situated.  For  instance,  accounts  of  Chinese  activity  in  Africa  have  typically  overlooked  the  hugely  important  role  played  by  Africa’s  diverse  Chinese  communities  in  changing  consumptive  habits  in  places  such  as  Lesotho.       While  it  is  certainly  true  that  the  presence  of  the  Chinese  diaspora  in  Lesotho  and  other  parts  of  Africa  is  an  outcome  of  political  and  economic  changes  in  China  mediated  by  the  Chinese  state,  my  research  shows  that  the  vast  majority  of  ‘Chinese  activity’  in  Africa  is  completely  outside  state  control.  Indeed,  the  majority  of  Chinese  migration  to  Africa  occurs  through  non-­‐governmental  channels  and  even  in  instances  where  migration  was  organised  as  part  of  official  programmes  of  development  assistance  or  resource  extraction,  individuals  usually  disassociate  themselves  from  the  Chinese  state  within  a  few  years  of  arriving  in  Lesotho.  In  this  way,  Sino-­‐African  relations  are  increasingly  dominated  by  individual  interactions  that  transcend  the  nation-­‐state.       In  conclusion,  this  paper  seeks  to  fill  a  gap  in  the  literature  by  providing  a  more  balanced  account  of  the  multiplicity  and  complexity  of  engagements  between  ‘China’  and  ‘Africa,’  avoiding  the  tendencies  that  Mawdsley  argues  are  characteristic  of  so  much  writing  on  Sino-­‐African  relations.  The  intention  is  to  provide  a  lens  through  which  to  understand  the  ways  in  which  individual  migrants  deploy  potential  social  networks  to  make  a  living  in  some  of  Africa’s  poorest  regions.           28  
  29. 29. Chapter  3.  Methodology    3.1  The  Ethnographic  Approach     The  essence  of  qualitative  research  is  that  it  can  construct  and  interpret  a   part  of  reality  based  on  what  grows  out  of  the  fieldwork  –  rather  than  on  the   researcher’s  a  priori  theories  and  knowledge  (Bu,  2006,  p.  223).     Bu’s  assertion  -­‐  that  good  qualitative  research  is  born  out  of  an  open-­‐minded  encounter  with  the  field  -­‐  was  highly  influential  in  shaping  my  methodological  approach  to  understanding  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho.  The  findings  outlined  in  this  paper  are  the  product  of  an  ethnographic  study  of  resident  Chinese  in  Lesotho,  based  on  semi-­‐structured  interviews  as  well  as  informal  conversations  and  participant  observation.  These  informal  meetings  allowed  me  to  corroborate  conclusions  drawn  from  my  semi-­‐structured  interviews,  a  technique  favoured  by  Kjellgren  (2006,  p.  237).     Bu  goes  on  to  highlight  the  importance  of  going  out  into  the  field  (Bu,  2006,  p.  221).  Although  this  may  seem  like  an  obvious  point  to  make,  it  is  worth  stressing  the  centrality  of  ‘place’  in  studies  of  migration  and,  hence,  the  fundamental  importance  of  visiting  the  research  site.  Indeed,  Pieke  et  al.  argue  that  the  aim  of  ethnographic  research  should  be  to  seek  to  ‘elucidate  the  social  processes  that  imagine,  produce  and  challenge  specific  places  and  communities’  (Pieke  et  al.  2004,  p.  6).       29  
  30. 30. Speaking  from  experience,  Pieke  et  al.  point  out  that  official  figures  and  statistics  on  Fujianese  migration  are  scarce  and  often  unreliable.  Consequently,  they  propose  that  ethnographic  research  is  the  most  appropriate  path  for  understanding  the  contingent  and  dynamic  nature  of  Chinese  migration  (Pieke  et  al.  2004,  p.  6).  Furthermore,  Bu  stresses  that  insiders  and  outsiders  may  have  different  perceptions  of  the  same  event  and  that  going  out  and  speaking  to  people  is  the  only  way  to  gain  a  real  insight  into  their  worldview  (Bu,  2006,  p.  214).  A  good  example  of  this  is  the  extent  to  which  definitions  of  ‘legal’  vs.  ‘illegal’  are  dependent  on  context,  particularly  in  the  case  of  Chinese  migration.  As  Bu  points  out,  maintaining  a  sensibility  to  the  insider’s  perspective  can  provide  fascinating  insights  into  the  reasoning  behind  their  actions  and  strategies  (ibid.,  p.  223).         3.2 The  Fieldwork     For  the  purposes  of  this  investigation,  I  travelled  to  Maseru,  Lesotho’s  capital  and  first  port-­‐of-­‐call  for  foreign  migrants.    Unfortunately,  limited  time  and  resources  meant  that  a  wider  survey  of  Lesotho’s  resident  Fujianese  population  would  have  been  outside  the  scope  of  this  investigation.  Rather  than  spending  days  travelling  between  mountain  villages  in  the  hope  of  finding  willing  Fujianese  respondents,  I  chose  to  focus  my  efforts  on  interviewing  settled  migrants  in  the  Maseru  district,  which  contains  both  Lesotho’s  most  populous  urban  centre  and  the  country’s  highest  concentration  of  Chinese  immigrants.         30  
  31. 31. In  total,  I  spent  17  days  in  Maseru,  from  the  3rd  to  the  20th  of  December  2010,  conducting  in-­‐depth  interviews  with  adult  male  and  female  urban  residents  of  Mainland  Chinese  origin.  Respondents  were  gathered  through  contacts  in  Lesotho,  and  later  through  ‘snowball  sampling’  (Goodman,  1961).  All  interviews  were  conducted  in  Mandarin  and  lasted  between  30  and  90  minutes.  The  total  number  of  respondents  was  25,  ranging  from  shop-­‐owners  to  hairdressers.  The  objective  of  these  interviews  was  to  answer  the  following  questions:    1. What  were  the  migrant’s  aspirations  in  coming  to  Lesotho?  2. How  do  they  perceive  the  ‘remoteness’  and  ‘peripherality’  of  Lesotho  in   relation  to  China  and  other  ‘marginal’  Third  World  spaces?  3. In  which  sectors  of  the  economy  are  they  established  and  how  did  they   become  established  in  those  sectors?    4. What  are  their  present  aspirations,  do  they  intend  to  return  to  China?     3.3 Gaining  Access     As  Heimer  and  Thøgersen  point  out,  good  contacts  are  often  a  necessary  prerequisite  for  doing  research,  particularly  when  doing  research  on  China  and  the  Chinese  (Thøgersen  &  Heimer,  2006).  Having  previously  researched  official  Chinese  development  assistance  to  Lesotho,  I  understood  the  importance  of  ‘gatekeepers’  in  providing  access  to  research  respondents.  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho  was  an  entirely  new  research  field  for  me  and,  as  such,  I  had  no  Fujianese  contacts  on  the  ground  to  kick-­‐start  my  investigation.  Instead,  I  was  compelled  to  take  Solinger’s     31  
  32. 32. advice  and  ‘draw  upon  any  relationship  one  might  have  with  any  person  willing  to  be  of  help  in  one’s  ploy  to  meet  potential  subjects’  (Solinger,  2006,  p.  157).       Solinger  also  stresses  the  importance  of  retaining  old  contacts  (ibid.,  p.  158).  I  was  lucky  enough  to  be  able  to  remain  in  touch  with  one  of  the  respondents  from  a  previous  visit  to  the  field,  a  Taiwanese  shop  owner  by  the  name  of  Mr.  Lin.  His  practical  assistance  in  helping  to  arrange  meetings  with  Fujianese  migrants  gave  me  free  access  to  respondents  who  would  otherwise  have  been  intensely  suspicious  of  my  project.  Presumably  out  of  the  kindness  of  his  heart,  Mr.  Lin  devoted  every  afternoon  of  my  time  in  the  field  to  arranging  interviews  with  recent  Fujianese  migrants,  as  well  as  with  established  resident  Chinese  from  Shanghai  and  Taiwan.  When  I  offered  to  reimburse  him  for  his  troubles,  he  refused,  saying  that  he  felt  grateful  that  someone  from  a  reputable  academic  institution  had  taken  interest  in  the  plight  of  Lesotho’s  Chinese  community.     Mr.  Lin  would  meet  me  every  day  at  an  appointed  time  before  lunch  with  a  list  of  respondents  with  whom  he  had  arranged  meetings.  He  would  then  drive  in  his  pickup  truck  to  see  each  of  the  respondents,  negotiating  access  with  security  guards  and  escorting  me  onto  their  business  premises.  Not  only  was  Mr.  Lin’s  assistance  invaluable  in  terms  of  providing  practical  access  and  transport,  but  also  in  facilitating  introductions  and  sometimes  communication  with  Fujianese  migrants  to  Lesotho.  These  individuals  were  understandably  wary  of  a  foreigner  taking  such  a  close  interest  in  their  presence  in  the  country.  Although  the  majority  spoke  intelligible  Putonghua,  there  were  occasions  when  I  had  to  ask  Mr.  Lin  to  clarify  the  meaning  of     32  
  33. 33. Fujianese  expressions  or  to  translate  from  the  Fujianese  dialect  into  Mandarin.    This,  he  did  willingly,  all  the  while  allaying  the  suspicions  of  my  respondents  and  helping  to  navigate  through  sensitive  issues.     Although  I  was  grateful  to  Mr.  Lin  for  sacrificing  so  much  of  his  personal  time  and  effort  to  assisting  me  in  my  research,  I  was  also  aware  that  his  positionality  as  an  economically  successful  Taiwanese  resident  in  Maseru  would  have  an  effect  on  the  findings  of  this  investigation.  As  a  result,  I  was  careful  to  maintain  a  critical  ear  throughout  my  time  in  the  field,  subjecting  Mr.  Lin’s  well-­‐meant  comments  and  theories  to  the  same  scrutiny  as  the  information  given  to  me  directly  by  my  respondents.  However,  despite  Mr.  Lin’s  inexplicable  dedication  to  helping  me  in  my  research,  I  have  no  reason  to  suspect  him  of  having  dubious  ulterior  motives  and  remain  enormously  grateful  for  all  his  help.     3.4 The  Interviews     Interviews  were  semi-­‐structured,  focusing  on  content  rather  than  on  the  questions  themselves.  The  approach  was  informant-­‐focused,  viewing  the  respondents  as  agents  in  an  unfolding  narrative,  rather  than  ‘mere  vessels  of  answers’  (Silverman,  1997,  p.  149).  The  ‘pyramid  strategy’  was  used  in  all  interviews.  ‘Easy-­‐to-­‐answer  questions’  were  asked  first  and  ‘abstract  and  general  questions’  were  asked  last  (Hay,  2000).  The  style  of  questioning  was  semi-­‐formal,  to  allow  for  conversational  development  towards  more  ‘sensitive  issues’  (ibid.).    Notes  were     33  
  34. 34. taken  during  all  the  interviews  and  I  typed  up  a  daily  report  of  my  research  findings  for  my  own  records.     The  difficulty  involved  in  earning  the  trust  of  my  respondents  made  me  reluctant  to  rouse  suspicions  by  seeking  to  record  interviews  electronically.  Previous  experience  of  interviews  with  Chinese  in  Lesotho  had  taught  me  that  the  mention  of  a  Dictaphone  could  either  end  an  interview  or  restrict  the  conversation  to  discussions  of  mundane  topics.  This  echoes  the  advice  given  to  Kjellgren  by  a  Chinese-­‐American  scholar  who  blankly  stated  that  ‘‘you  definitely  want  to  avoid  carrying  a  tape-­‐recorder  if  you  want  people  to  talk”  (Kjellgren,  2006,  p.  232).  This  seemed  self-­‐evident,  given  the  ethical  considerations  involved  in  interviewing  illegal  migrants  operating  businesses  without  licenses.  As  a  rule,  I  followed  Solinger’s  advice  and  only  pushed  sensitive  topics  as  far  as  the  respondent  was  willing  to  go  (Solinger,  2006,  p.  164).     Given  the  emphasis  placed  by  numerous  authors  on  the  proper  acknowledgement  of  positionality  in  qualitative  research  (Pratt,  2000;  Rose,  1997;  Seale  et  al.,  2007;  Valentine,  1997),  I  was  aware,  going  into  the  field,  that  my  position  as  a  student  from  Oxford  with  Mosotho  ancestry  could  affect  my  investigation.  Bu  discusses  the  difficulties  encountered  by  ‘outsiders’  in  seeking  to  gain  an  insight  into  the  lives  of  ‘insiders’  and  the  comparable  difficulties  faced  by  foreigners  seeking  to  understand  aspects  of  Chinese  society  (Bu,  2006).  However,  Kjellgren  argues  that  these  dichotomies  are  often  unhelpful,  since  they  allow  little  room  for  ambiguity  in  terms  of  race  and  background:     34  

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