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Rethinking the Peripheral: A Study of Chinese Migrants in Lesotho


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  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.  Figure  1:  Map  of  Lesotho    Source:  Mapsget,  2011:     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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.   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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. ‘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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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  
  • 35.   These  twin  dichotomies  allow  little  room  for  most  researchers  of  flesh  and   blood  since  few  if  any  fit  the  racial  and  cultural  stereotypes  that  come   together  with  them,  and  needless  to  say  they  leave  even  less  room  for   variation  among  the  people  on  the  other  side  of  the  notebook  (Kjellgren,   2006,  p.  225).     Also,  given  the  complex  interplay  of  numerous  prejudices  between  whites,  locals  and  Chinese  migrants  in  Lesotho,  I  was  unsure  of  how  I  -­‐  a  mixed  race  researcher  with  a  Sesotho  name  -­‐  would  be  treated  by  my  respondents.  Rather  than  opt  for  dissimulation,  I  chose  to  be  honest  about  my  origins  and  my  research  agenda.  Generally,  I  felt  this  was  conducive  to  openness  and,  thanks  to  the  mediatory  role  played  by  Mr.  Lin,  a  considerable  degree  of  trust  was  extended  to  me  by  my  informants.  Indeed,  as  I  will  explain,  my  ambiguous  background  often  proved  an  advantage  in  navigating  through  the  interview  process.       Solinger  asserts  that  better  knowledge  of  the  context  of  the  interview  leads  to  better  interviews  (Solinger,  2006,  p.  161).    She  argues  that  such  prior  knowledge  can  provide  a  ‘springboard’  for  diving  much  deeper  into  more  complex  or  sensitive  issues  (ibid.).  For  this  reason  I  tried  to  read  as  much  as  possible  about  Fujianese  migration  to  Africa  before  heading  out  into  the  field.  Furthermore,  having  lived  in  Lesotho  before  and  being  partially  of  Basotho  descent,  I  was  able  to  display  a  degree  of  local  understanding  beyond  that  of  a  foreign  researcher.     However,  even  with  the  reassuring  presence  of  Mr  Lin  at  my  side,  many  of  my  respondents  were  initially  very  suspicious  and  unwilling  to  discuss  their  private     35  
  • 36. histories  of  migration  to  Lesotho.  When  asked  fairly  mundane  questions  about  the  Chinese  community  in  Maseru,  several  informants  tried  to  deflect  my  attention  onto  the  established  Indian  presence  in  Lesotho.  This  reluctance  to  communicate  highlights  the  fact  that  the  majority  of  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho  takes  place  through  illegal  channels  and  that  those  who  stay  in  Lesotho  often  live  outside  the  law.  In  most  cases  I  was  able  to  establish  a  workable  degree  of  trust  with  my  respondents  but  in  some  cases  I  was  left  to  extrapolate  information  from  their  silences  or  their  eagerness  to  discuss  other  topics.  Rather  than  being  disheartened  by  this  lack  of  cooperation,  I  tried  to  remember  Bu’s  assertion  that  ‘even  if  we  do  not  discover  any  absolute  truths  we  can,  at  least,  get  somewhat  closer  to  the  realities’  (Bu,  2006,  p.  223).     My  informants,  like  those  questioned  by  Kjellgren,  were  keen  to  assess  my  level  of  understanding  at  an  early  stage  in  the  interview.  Like  Kjellgren’s  respondents,  they  wanted  to  know  whether  I  knew  enough  Mandarin  to  be  able  to  understand  them,  whether  I  knew  enough  about  China  to  understand  their  references  to  home  and  Chinese  culture,  and  whether  I  knew  enough  about  Lesotho  to  understand  the  local  situation  (Kjellgren,  2006,  p.  233).       When  seeking  answers  to  more  sensitive  questions  I  was  able  to  play  up  my  ‘externality’  as  an  ‘outsider’  unlikely  to  report  to  the  Lesotho  government  or  to  authorities  at  home  in  China.  By  contrast,  my  local  understanding  of  the  general  situation  of  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  helped  me  to  avoid  generic  discussions  and  focus  on  more  personal  accounts  of  transnational  mobility.  In  this  sense,  taking     36  
  • 37. the  time  at  the  start  of  each  interview  to  establish  my  positionality  as  an  insider/outsider,  rather  than  hindering  the  conversation,  worked  to  my  advantage,  establishing  a  common  framework  for  the  discussion  of  both  general  and  personal  topics.  In  this  way,  I  was  required  to  present  what  Solinger  terms  a  ‘Daoist-­‐type’  ideal  of  understanding:  appearing  ‘at  once  knowledgeable  but  ignorant,  knowing  and  not  knowing’  (Solinger,  2006,  p.  161).                                           37  
  • 38. Chapter  4.  Findings  and  Discussion    4.1  Lesotho’s  Established  Chinese  Communities       The  recent  flow  of  Mainland  Chinese  migrants  to  Lesotho  is  by  no  means  an  isolated  instance  of  transnational  mobility.  Indeed,  it  would  be  impossible  to  write  a  history  of  Mainland  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  without  referring  to  earlier  flows  of  ‘pioneer  migrants’  from  Taiwan  and  Shanghai.  In  her  study  of  Chinese  communities  in  Zanzibar,  Hsu  identifies  three  distinct  groups  of  Chinese  on  the  island:  government-­‐sent  teams,  business  people  and  an  established  community  of  overseas  Chinese  (Hsu,  2007).  In  Lesotho  I  have  identified  three  comparable  but  distinct  Chinese  communities,  each  of  which  represents  a  different  phase  of  Chinese  migration,  reflecting  Lesotho’s  position  within  global  migratory  flows  at  different  periods  in  its  history.       First  among  these  groups  is  the  established  community  of  skilled  Taiwanese  experts,  originally  sent  to  Lesotho  during  the  early  70s  as  part  of  Taiwan’s  official  aid  to  Africa.  Second  is  the  community  of  skilled  Shanghainese  businesspeople,  recruited  by  Taiwanese  employers  during  the  early  90s  to  run  their  businesses  in  the  garment  and  retail  sectors.  Third  is  the  larger  community  of  recent  arrivals  from  Fujian,  consisting  predominantly  of  unskilled  traders  who  have  established  a  virtual  monopoly  over  the  retail  of  basic  consumer  goods,  penetrating  into  regions  of  Lesotho  previously  unreached  by  either  foreign  or  domestic  retailers.  Taking     38  
  • 39. advantage  of  contingent  and  dynamic  trajectories  of  mobility,  this  last  group  represents  the  paradigm  of  much  Chinese  migration  to  Africa  today.       My  research  demonstrates  that  the  arrival  of  each  of  these  groups  to  Lesotho  corresponds  to  the  context  of  Lesotho’s  economic  situation  and  national  policies  in  relation  to  those  of  Taiwan  and  Mainland  China  at  a  given  time.  Successive  waves  of  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  are  thus  the  product  of  the  evolving  geopolitical  configurations  between  these  three  countries.  The  impact  of  national  policies  on  the  volume  of  migratory  flows  at  different  points  in  Lesotho’s  history  suggests  the  continued  importance  of  the  nation  state  as  a  determinant  of  transnational  mobility.  This  being  said,  it  is  clear  that  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  is  highly  regionalised,  with  discrete  communities  of  migrants  from  Taiwan,  Shanghai,  Fuqing  and  Fuzhou.  This  suggests  that  the  role  of  the  nation  state  in  facilitating  migratory  flows  is  heavily  inflected  by  regional  specificities  and  localised  knowledge  networks.     The  first  Chinese  community  to  settle  in  Lesotho  arrived  from  Taiwan  in  the  early  70s,  during  a  period  of  warm  diplomatic  relations  between  Taipei  and  the  newly  independent  right-­‐wing  government  of  Lesotho.  The  Republic  of  China  had  been  keen  to  establish  ties  with  Africa’s  young  nations  in  an  attempt  to  win  international  support  for  its  independence  from  the  Mainland,  which,  by  contrast,  was  in  self-­‐imposed  diplomatic  isolation.  In  addition  to  establishing  relations  with  Lesotho  following  the  kingdom’s  independence  from  Britain  in  1966,  Taiwan  had     39  
  • 40. been  actively  building  bridges  with  the  apartheid  regime  in  neighbouring  South  Africa,  which  had  been  equally  eager  to  gain  political  allies.     South  Africa  and  Lesotho  were  early  recipients  of  Taiwanese  development  assistance  in  the  form  of  technical  medical  and  agricultural  teams  sent  by  the  Taiwan  government.  In  most  cases,  the  experts  dispatched  to  Lesotho  returned  to  Taiwan  as  soon  as  their  mandated  terms  had  elapsed,  however  a  significant  number  stayed  on  in  Lesotho  to  take  advantage  of  perceived  openings  for  business  in  the  local  economy.  These  early  arrivals  were  pioneers  in  establishing  informal  supply  chains  between  Lesotho  and  the  Far  East.  Their  model  has  been  copied  and  modified  by  successive  waves  of  Shanghainese  and  Fujianese  migrants.  The  specifics  of  the  Fujianese  model  will  be  discussed  in  detail  later  in  this  chapter.  Today  there  are  few  Taiwanese  left  in  Lesotho  who  date  back  to  the  era  of  Taiwanese  government  largesse.  The  majority  have  either  returned  to  Taiwan  or  have  moved  on  to  Western  Europe  or  North  America.       Those  remaining  in  Lesotho  whom  I  interviewed  during  the  course  of  my  fieldwork  formed  part  of  the  initial  influx  of  Taiwanese  migrants  to  Lesotho.  These  were  the  first  Chinese  traders  to  establish  themselves  in  Lesotho’s  retail  sector,  alongside  existing  Indian  merchants  who  had,  in  turn,  partly  displaced  Western  traders  as  the  country’s  main  vendors  of  groceries  and  imported  manufactured  goods.  The  Taiwanese  proved  to  be  highly  successful  in  business,  quickly  increasing  their  market  share  and  even  establishing  their  own  chamber  of  commerce.  Today  there  are  fewer  than  20  retail  businesses  in  Lesotho  owned  by  Taiwanese     40  
  • 41. merchants.  Those  who  have  remained  in  Lesotho  are  the  owners  of  large  and  successful  wholesalers  selling  building  materials,  spare  car  parts  and  other  manufactured  goods  sourced  from  Taiwan  and  Mainland  China,  either  from  importers  based  in  South  Africa  or  directly  from  suppliers  in  Hong  Kong,  Shanghai  and  Taiwan.     The  decline  of  Lesotho’s  Taiwanese  community  was  foreshadowed  by  a  diplomatic  caesura  that  saw  Maseru  establish  relations  with  Beijing  in  April  1983,  following  a  visit  by  the  Prime  Minister  Leabua  Jonathan  to  the  Chinese  mainland  in  the  same  year.  Jonathan’s  decision  to  embrace  Beijing  was  concordant  with  the  prevailing  government  ideology  of  the  time,  which  called  for  a  move  away  from  Taipei  and  its  association  with  the  apartheid  regime  in  South  Africa.  However,  it  was  not  to  last,  as  ‘following  China’s  violent  suppression  of  demonstrations  in  Tiananmen  Square  in  1989,  a  newly  democratic  Taiwan  began  to  reinvigorate  its  ‘checkbook’  diplomacy  efforts  to  win  recognition’  (Bräutigam,  2008b,  p.  13).  The  year  of  1986  also  saw  a  military  coup  in  Lesotho,  followed  in  April  1990  by  the  renewal  of  ties  with  a  newly  munificent  Taipei.  The  final  twist  came  in  1993  with  the  election  of  a  BCP  Basotholand  Congress  Party  government  in  Lesotho,  which  restored  relations  with  Beijing  in  January  1994.       As  in  the  case  of  its  earlier  relationship  with  Taiwan,  Lesotho’s  political  orientation  during  the  late  80s  and  early  90s  had  a  direct  impact  on  migratory  flows  to  the  country.  Beijing,  like  Taiwan  before  it,  was  keen  to  express  its  solidarity  with  African  nations  through  technical  assistance.  As  elsewhere  in  Africa,  these  projects     41  
  • 42. helped  initiate  the  earliest  flows  of  migration  to  Lesotho  from  Mainland  China  (see  Hsu,  2007,  pp.  114-­‐5).  Indeed,  these  ‘pioneer  migrants’  were  often  members  of  teams  of  technical  and  medical  experts  sent  as  part  of  Chinese  development  assistance  (He,  1994,  pp.  150-­‐162).       With  branches  in  every  province  and  at  prefecture  level,  the  Foreign  Economic  Liaison  Ministry  was  responsible  for  organising  and  managing  these  overseas  aid  projects  and  played  a  crucial  role  in  determining  early  migratory  trajectories  (Xiang,  2009,  p.  421).  Workers  would  be  recruited  by  prefectural  branches  and  then  dispatched  overseas  to  work  on  China’s  aid  projects,  thus  creating  ‘agent  chains’  which  strongly  resemble  the  structure  of  today’s  commercialised  labour  migration  chains  (ibid.).  In  most  cases,  members  of  these  teams  returned  to  China  at  the  end  of  their  contracted  posting  but  some  found  ways  of  remaining  in  Africa  after  their  work  was  done  (Hsu,  2007).       Concurrent  with  the  growth  in  numbers  of  arrivals  to  Lesotho  from  Mainland  China  was  decline  in  the  size  of  the  number  of  Taiwanese  living  in  the  country.  This  was  due,  in  part,  to  Lesotho’s  political  orientation  but  also,  importantly,  to  Taiwan’s  rapid  economic  development,  which  began  increasingly  to  provide  incentives  for  settled  Taiwanese  in  Lesotho  to  return  to  their  homeland.  However,  economic  transformations  in  the  R.O.C.  coincided  with  political  transformations  in  the  P.R.C.,  which  represented  a  turning  point  in  the  history  of  Chinese  migratory  trends.         42  
  • 43. By  far  the  most  important  contributor  to  the  dramatic  increase  in  Chinese  outmigration  to  Lesotho  in  the  90s  was  the  ‘gradual  but  fundamental  relaxation  of  the  country’s  emigration  policy  from  1978  onwards’  (Pieke,  2007,  p.  84).  Following  nearly  three  decades  of  government-­‐imposed  isolation,  China  had  once  again  opened  its  doors  to  the  outside  world  and  begun  to  reposition  itself  within  the  increasingly  complex  and  contingent  context  of  transnational  economic  and  migratory  flows.    In  the  case  of  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho,  this  repositioning  took  place  in  the  context  of  earlier  flows  of  Taiwanese  labour;  which  catalysed  the  formation  of  new  flows  of  Mainland  Chinese  labour  to  Lesotho.     By  the  early  90s,  a  sizeable  proportion  of  the  Taiwanese  community  in  Lesotho  was  involved  in  the  country’s  export-­‐oriented  textiles  industry.  Lesotho  had  become  an  attractive  destination  for  garment  manufacturers  because  of  its  exemption  from  the  Multi-­‐Fibre  Agreement  which,  from  1974  to  2004,  enforced  quotas  limiting  imports  from  developing  countries  to  the  U.S.  and  to  Europe,  except  from  those  developing  countries  granted  preferential  access  to  these  economies.  Under  these  conditions,  many  Taiwanese  and  some  Shanghainese  investors  undertook  to  move  their  assembly  operations  to  Lesotho,  so  as  to  circumvent  the  quotas  placed  on  garment  exports  from  Taiwan  and  China.     As  the  flow  of  skilled  Taiwanese  migration  to  Lesotho  began  to  slow  down  in  the  early  90s,  Taiwanese  factory  owners  and  traders  increasingly  found  themselves  in  need  of  new  managers  and  administrators  to  help  run  their  businesses.  In  most  cases,  bosses  were  reluctant  to  employ  local  Basotho,  either  because  they  were  not     43  
  • 44. qualified  or  not  trusted  as  employees.  The  shortage  of  Mandarin-­‐speaking  administrative  staff  was  compounded  by  the  fact  that,  owing  to  the  R.O.C.’s  economic  takeoff,  business  owners  could  no  longer  offer  attractive  salaries  to  tempt  skilled  labour  from  Taiwan.  This  scarcity  of  cheap  Chinese  labour  prompted  the  Taiwanese  to  begin  recruiting  skilled  labour  from  the  Chinese  mainland.       The  first  to  take  advantage  of  these  vacancies  were  skilled  workers  from  Shanghai.  The  overwhelming  majority  were  recruited  through  private  labour  agencies  in  Shanghai  to  fill  positions  in  garment  factories  owned  by  Taiwanese  and  Shanghainese  multinationals.  One  of  my  respondents,  a  Shanghainese  medical  expert  by  the  name  of  Dr.  Huang,  was  invited  to  Maseru  in  1988  by  the  owners  of  the  Shanghainese  ‘Bright  Garment’  plant,  to  investigate  a  mysterious  sickness  that  had  afflicted  their  workers.  Having  identified  the  disease  as  hepatitis  and  having  served  his  term  at  ‘Bright  Garment’,  Dr.  Huang  chose  to  stay  on  in  Lesotho,  establishing  his  own  practice  in  a  shopping  mall  in  Maseru.  The  majority  of  my  Shanghainese  respondents  had  similar  stories  to  tell.  Although  they  were  mostly  recruited  on  short-­‐term  contracts  to  work  in  Taiwanese  owned  factories,  many  –  like  Dr.  Huang  –  chose  to  stay  on  in  Lesotho,  buying  up  shops  and  small  businesses  that  had  originally  been  owned  by  Taiwanese  merchants.       Nowadays  there  are  few  Shanghai  Chinese  in  Lesotho  who  hark  back  to  that  era.  My  respondents  explained  to  me  that  the  majority  moved  on  two  to  three  years  ago  because  they  felt  that  doing  business  in  Lesotho  had  become  too  difficult.  Some  complained  that  the  2008  economic  crisis  had  severely  diminished  the  purchasing     44  
  • 45. power  of  local  consumers  and  increased  commodity  prices,  thus  limiting  the  profitability  of  sales  of  goods  imported  from  China.  Others  felt  that  they  could  no  longer  compete  in  a  market  that  had  become  crowded  by  Fujianese  competitors  willing  to  operate  under  increasingly  tight  profit  margins.  Of  those  who  remain,  the  majority  are  involved  in  running  clothing  outlets,  selling  low-­‐quality  garments  sourced  directly  from  Shanghai  or  from  Chinese  wholesalers  in  Johannesburg  and  Durban.     Observing  the  transition,  in  Lesotho’s  Chinese  retail  sector,  from  domination  by  Taiwanese  merchants  to  domination  by  Shanghainese  merchants  leads  us  to  three  major  conclusions:     Firstly,  we  see  that  both  Taiwanese  and  Shanghainese  migration  to  Lesotho  were  precipitated  by  changes  in  the  national  policies  of  the  sending  and  receiving  nations.  My  research  demonstrates  that  Chinese  transnational  mobility  does  not  take  place  in  a  political  vacuum,  but  rather  that  the  nation  state  is  still  a  significant  frame  for  analysing  and  explaining  migratory  flows.  It  is  clear  that  national  political  allegiances  and  migration  laws  both  play  an  instrumental  role  in  establishing  migratory  flows  at  the  periphery.       Secondly,  the  ebb  and  flow  of  successive  waves  of  Chinese  migration  to  Lesotho  is  strongly  inflected  by  the  relative  poverty  or  wealth  of  the  sending  area  in  relation  to  the  receiving  area.  Periphery  to  periphery  migration,  through  non-­‐governmental  channels,  can  only  be  sustained  when  the  sending  area  occupies  a     45  
  • 46. relatively  marginalised  place  in  the  world  economic  system,  as  in  the  case  of  Taiwan  until  the  1970s  and  Shanghai  until  the  1990s.  This  dependency  contributes  to  the  unsustainably  of  periphery-­‐to-­‐periphery  flows  and  the  cyclical  nature  of  ethnic  diversification  of  these  flows.     Thirdly,  my  findings  show  that  although  flows  from  Taiwan,  Shanghai  and  Fujian  are  undeniably  discrete  phenomena,  they  are  clearly  linked  in  a  transnational  social  and  economic  space  that  connects  Maseru,  Taipei,  Shanghai  and  Fujian.  The  evolving  nature  of  Lesotho’s  settled  Chinese  communities  and  the  history  of  their  involvement  in  the  country’s  retail  sector  suggests  that  migration  to  the  periphery  is  not  sustainable  to  a  given  group  from  a  given  region,  but  rather  that  the  contingent  nature  of  economic  and  political  developments  produce  malleable  migratory  networks  that  are  sensitive  to  change.       The  Taiwanese  were  clearly  pioneers  in  establishing  a  foothold  in  Lesotho’s  retail  industry;  however,  the  fact  that  shops  once  owned  by  Taiwanese  were  later  bought  up  by  Shanghainese  traders,  only  to  be  sold  on  again  to  Fujianese  traders  demonstrates  that  Chinese  communities  at  the  periphery  are  not  self-­‐perpetuating.  Rather,  they  deploy  a  set  of  strategies  which  allow  them  turn  the  periphery  into  a  lucrative  space,  leaving  as  soon  as  they  have  accumulated  enough  capital  to  continue  on  their  migratory  trajectories.  Their  departure  creates  new  opportunities  for  other  migrants  from  elsewhere  in  the  global  periphery.         46  
  • 47. 4.2  From  Fujian  to  Lesotho:  Periphery-­‐to-­‐Periphery  Migration     Fujian  has  long  been  a  centre  of  outmigration.  As  long  ago  as  the  Tang  dynasty  (618-­‐907  A.D.),  settlers  from  Fujian  deployed  sets  of  network-­‐based  strategies,  allowing  them  to  spread  throughout  South-­‐East  Asia,  establishing  settled  communities  at  the  periphery  in  places  such  as  Malaysia  and  Indonesia.  Today,  Fujianese  migrants  in  Lesotho  still  perceive  peripherality  with  a  set  of  strategies  that  allow  them  to  achieve  a  very  high  pace  of  capital  accumulation  and  business  expansion  in  places  where  others  see  no  opportunity  for  profit.  Based  on  the  findings  of  my  research,  I  argue  that  these  strategies  are  a  facet  of  Fujian’s  distinctive  ‘culture  of  migration’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  194).     In  Fujian,  the  decision  to  emigrate  is  strongly  determined  by  cultural  context.  Findlay  and  Li  explain  that  this  cultural  impetus  takes  the  form  of  values  and  goals  which  are  internalised  by  individuals  via  dominant  discourses  propounded  within  their  communities  or  extended  kinship  networks  (Findlay  &  Li,  1997).  It  has  been  argued  that  most  Fujianese  are  involved  in  migration,  to  a  greater  or  lesser  extent,  irrespective  of  whether  they  themselves  move  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  18).  Not  only  are  the  aspirations  and  decisions  of  migrants  affected  by  their  particular  cultural  context  but  their  actions,  in  turn,  shape  the  goals  and  aspirations  of  the  next  generation  of  migrants,  thus  perpetuating  the  culture  of  migration  indefinitely  (Massey  et  al.,  1993  and  Tsuda,  1999).  In  this  way  the  Fujianese  culture  of  migration  ‘prepares  all  able-­‐bodied  men  and  women  for  their  eventual  departure’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  194).     47  
  • 48.   Fujian’s  migratory  culture  constructs  emigration  as  ‘the  best,  even  the  only,  avenue  to  true  wealth,  power  and  success’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  48).  Indeed,  in  many  parts  of  Fujian,  migration  is  ‘the  dominant  locally  available  opportunity  of  advancement’  (ibid.,  p.  194).  In  this  economy  of  perceived  worth,  local  alternatives  to  emigration  are  often  devalued  as  less  desirable,  or  even  as  signs  of  failure  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  194).  Given  that  this  economy  of  values  is  distinct  from  local  and  transnational  economies  of  labour,  migratory  cultures  of  this  kind  ‘can  and  often  do  persist  after  the  opportunity  structure  in  the  destination  countries  or  home  areas  has  changed’  (ibid.).       According  to  Pieke  et  al.  (2004),  this  ‘culture  of  migration’  is,  in  part,  a  consequence  of  Fujian’s  relative  isolation  from  the  rest  of  China.  The  province  is  hemmed  in  to  the  North-­‐West  by  impassable  topography  and  shares  no  major  waterways  with  neighbouring  provinces  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  41).  A  second  major  contributor  to  outmigration  is  Fujian’s  relative  poverty  in  comparison  other  coastal  provinces.  With  a  population  of  over  36  million  (FSB,  2010)  and  arable  land  amounting  to  less  than  10%  of  total  surface  area  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  41),    Fujian  is  often  described  as  being  ‘eight  parts  mountain,  one  part  water,  and  one  part  farmland’  (八山一水一分田).    This  geographical  configuration  has  severely  limited  the  potential  for  economic  prosperity  based  on  agriculture.  Furthermore,  for  many  years,  Fujian’s  geopolitical  position  as  a  military  frontier  between  the  mainland  and  Taiwan  precluded  it  from  a  large  part  of  the  investment  apportioned  to  other  coastal  provinces  (ibid.).     48  
  • 49.   However,  with  the  end  of  the  strategy  of  containment  of  Taiwan,  Fujian’s  position  changed    ‘from  a  military  frontier  zone  to  a  key  region  of  economic  development’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  42).  Fujian  was  subsequently  designated  as  a  site  for  foreign  investment  and  Fujianese  authorities  were  encouraged  to  build  trading  ties  with  the  outside  world  (ibid.).  Realising  the  opportunities  created  by  the  liberalisation  of  China’s  economic  and  emigration  policies,  these  authorities  seized  upon  the  idea  that  Fujian’s  standard  of  living  could  be  raised  by  promoting  emigration,  as  had  happened  in  the  coastal  overseas  areas  (Thunø  &  Pieke,  2005).  In  this  way,  Fujian  –  a  relatively  peripheral  province  economically  –  quickly  became  a  major  centre  of  Chinese  outmigration.     Xiang  describes  how,  in  1988,  the  Fujianese  provincial  government  coined  the  term  ‘nongovernmental  channels’  to  describe  labour  migration  organised  by  companies  that  provide  individual  labourers  for  private-­‐sector  firms,  rather  than  sending  labourers  overseas  as  state  employees  to  work  on  its  own  projects  (Xiang,  2009,  p.  421).  According  to  Xiang,  by  2007,  the  Ministry  of  Labour  and  Social  Security  had  licensed  more  than  300,  mostly  private,  labour  migration  agents,  granting  them  the  power  to  send  Chinese  labourers  abroad  (ibid.).       The  influx  of  Fujianese  migrants  into  Lesotho’s  labour  market  began  in  earnest  between  1998  and  2000.  Like  earlier  flows  of  Shanghainese  labour,  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho  was  catalysed  by  developments  in  China’s  economy,  particularly  the  emergence  of  Shanghai  as  a  new  centre  of  global  commerce.  As  a     49  
  • 50. result  of  increased  prosperity  in  parts  of  China’s  coastal  regions  towards  the  end  of  the  90s,  Taiwanese  and  Shanghainese  factory  owners  began  to  find  it  increasingly  difficult  to  entice  cheap  labour  from  Shanghai,  leading  to  the  establishment  of  new  trajectories  of  mobility  from  nearby  Fujian  province.  Fujian,  of  course,  already  had  an  established  history  of  outmigration  and,  in  many  instances,  Taiwanese  or  Shanghainese  employers  were  able  to  take  advantage  of  existing  sending  networks  of  Fujianese  labour.     Given  the  clandestine  routes  taken  by  most  Fujianese  to  enter  and  remain  in  Lesotho,  there  are  no  reliable  figures  for  the  total  number  of  Chinese  immigrants  living  in  Lesotho  at  present.  One  government  census  taker  described  arriving  at  Fujianese  businesses  just  in  time  to  see  a  truck  full  of  Chinese  workers  driving  out  of  the  gate  to  avoid  being  counted.  These  census-­‐duckers  exist  outside  the  legal  framework  of  residence  and  taxation  and  constitute  a  significant  proportion  of  the  total  population  of  resident  Chinese  in  Lesotho.  Estimates  of  the  size  of  this  total  population  range  from  4,000  to  10,000.  Most  Chinese  respondents  estimated  the  size  of  the  Chinese  population  to  be  4,000-­‐5,000.  In  short,  it  is  difficult  to  be  sure  of  the  exact  magnitude  of  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho,  although  their  economic  presence  is  highly  visible  throughout  the  country.  In  any  case,  the  highly  contingent  and  opportunistic  nature  of  Fujianese  migration  means  that  exact  figures  of  population  size  at  a  given  time  are  not  always  helpful  for  understanding  broader  trends.       50  
  • 51. The  contingent  nature  of  Fujianese  migration  also  plays  an  important  role  in  determining  the  demographic  structure  of  the  resident  Fujianese  community  in  Lesotho.  With  one  exception,  all  of  my  respondents  were  young  or  middle-­‐aged  adults  and  during  my  time  in  the  field,  I  saw  no  other  Fujianese  immigrants  outside  this  age  range.  In  most  cases,  elderly  relatives  had  been  left  behind  in  Fujian.  These  relatives  were  the  principal  recipients  of  savings  remitted  to  Fujian.  Children  were  also  left  behind  in  China  to  be  educated.  One  Fujianese  parent  told  me  that  it  was  more  important  for  children  to  understand  their  own  culture  than  to  be  with  their  families  overseas.  I  was  informed  by  another  respondent  that  some  locally  resident  Chinese  send  their  children  to  school  in  Lesotho  or  South  Africa  although  these  families  are  thought  to  represent  less  than  10%  of  the  total  community.       Today  the  Fujianese  constitute  the  vast  majority  of  Chinese  in  Lesotho  although,  before  this  investigation,  their  reasons  for  migrating  to  Lesotho  were  unclear.  In  seeking  to  understand  these  new  migratory  flows,  I  borrow  the  well-­‐known  rubic  of  ‘push’  and  ‘pull’  factors:  ‘push’  factors  being  those  incentives  which  encourage  migrants  to  leave  home  and  ‘pull’  factors  being  those  incentives  which  draw  migrants  to  a  particular  destination.  In  the  context  of  Fujianese  migration  to  Lesotho,  obvious  ‘push’  factors  are  Fujian’s  economic  situation  and  historic  culture  of  migration.  ‘Pull’  factors  include  perceived  opportunities  for  profit  in  Lesotho,  family  reunification  and  Lesotho’s  weak  immigration  controls  in  comparison  to  other  countries  in  the  region.  Each  of  these  factors  will  be  considered  in  turn,  based  on  information  derived  from  conversations  with  Fujianese  migrants  in  Lesotho.       51  
  • 52. I  have  already  discussed  the  importance  of  migratory  culture  in  promoting  outmigration  from  Fujian.  Equally  important  is  Fujian’s  peripherality  within  China  and  its  specific  history  as  sender  of  migrants  to  other  peripheral  places  across  the  world.  It  is  important  to  note  that  irregular  migration  of  the  kind  discussed  here  is  not  simply  the  product  of  absolute  poverty.  On  the  contrary,  increases  in  the  volume  of  irregular  migratory  flows  can  be  a  direct  product  of  economic  development,  as  increased  prosperity  exposes  would-­‐be  migrants  to  the  knowledge  of  opportunities  available  elsewhere  (Skeldon,  2000,  p.  17).  In  Fujian’s  case,  the  regional  economy  is  strongly  oriented  towards  promoting  migration  and  is  heavily  dependent  on  capital  remitted  by  overseas  Fujianese,  thus  further  strengthening  the  creation  of  migrant  communities.       While  Fujian’s  particular  economic  context  certainly  provides  a  strong  ‘push’  for  the  departure  of  Fujianese  migrants,  it  does  not  explain  how  or  why  they  become  established  in  Lesotho,  probably  one  of  the  most  peripheral  countries  in  the  world.  My  research  suggests  that  the  ‘pull’  of  the  periphery  in  Lesotho  is  related  to  a  perceived  opportunity  for  profit  identified  by  Fujianese  migrants.  In  all  my  interviews,  I  encountered  the  recurrence  of  the  idea  that  there  was  ‘easy  money’  to  be  made  in  Lesotho,  through  opportunities  that  had  largely  been  overlooked  or  underexploited  by  Western  traders  and  local  businesspeople.  Throughout  Lesotho,  the  Fujianese  have  succeeded  in  making  money  in  situations  traditionally  deemed  to  be  fundamentally  unprofitable.  They  have  achieved  this  by  deploying  specific  strategies  to  mobilise  transnational  business  networks,  allowing  them  to  cut  costs     52  
  • 53. and  maximise  profits.  These  strategies  will  be  considered  in  detail  later  in  this  chapter.       For  many  migrants,  the  decision  to  come  to  Lesotho  is  determined  by  familial  obligation  rather  than  economic  imperatives.  Individual  migrants  are  embedded  within  households  situated  within  wider,  often  transnational,  networks  of  extended  family,  kin  and  community  (Goldschieder,  1987,  pp.  686-­‐687).  Thus,  the  presence  of  fellow  villagers  and  relatives  in  the  destination  area  can  act  as  a  major  ‘pull’  factor  in  decisions  of  mobility.  Many  young  Fujianese  leave  their  natal  homes  to  help  their  families  in  Lesotho  to  run  existing  businesses  and  expand  existing  operations.  In  this  sense,  the  dispersed  family  remains  the  migrant’s  core  reference  group  when  it  comes  to  decisions  of  mobility  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  195).       Another  deciding  factor  in  determining  the  mobility  of  Fujianese  migrants  is  the  immigration  policy  of  the  destination  country.  Weak  immigration  controls  are  a  significant  ‘pull’  for  migrants  from  the  periphery  without  access  to  the  resources  that  would  enable  them  to  enter  states  in  the  centre.  Several  of  my  respondents  explained  that  Lesotho  was  an  obvious  choice  for  Chinese  migration  to  Southern  Africa  because  of  its  lax  border  control  compared  to  other  countries  in  the  region  and  the  relative  ease  with  which  one  can  (legally  or  illegally)  obtain  a  Lesotho  visa  and  residence  permit.  When  asked,  all  my  respondents  replied  that  they  would  have  migrated  directly  to  South  Africa  if  they  could,  suggesting  that  decisions  to  migrate  to  Lesotho  are  part  of  more  far-­‐sighted  trajectories  of  mobility  (Pieke  et  al.  ,  2004,  p.     53  
  • 54. 18).  Compared  to  its  neighbours,  Lesotho  can  be  considered  to  have  a  comparative  advantage  in  attracting  unskilled  labour  from  the  global  periphery.      4.3  Understanding  Fujianese  Modes  of  Mobility     The  interaction  between  different  ‘push’  and  ‘pull’  factors  is  fundamentally  important  in  determining  the  size  and  direction  of  trajectories  of  transnational  mobility.  Particularly  in  the  case  of  ‘pull’  factors,  these  flows  are  dependent  on  networks  of  knowledge  that  link  the  sending  area  to  the  receiving  area.  In  my  discussions  with  migrants  from  Fujian,  I  was  interested  to  discover  what  they  knew  about  Lesotho  prior  to  their  arrival.  None  of  my  respondents  had  even  heard  of  Lesotho  outside  of  the  context  of  their  own  migration  but  were  willing  to  make  the  journey  to  Southern  Africa  based  solely  on  fragmented  information  provided  by  family  members  or  Chinese  employers.  Prior  to  coming  to  Lesotho,  the  majority  of  my  respondent’s  had  heard  little  more  than  that  Lesotho  was  poor  (贫苦)  and  backward  (落后).  This  supports  Todaro’s  assertion  that  migrants  often  base  their  mobility  decisions  on  incomplete  information  (Todaro,  1969).     I  noticed  that  young  migrants  were  significantly  less  enthusiastic  about  the  opportunities  for  business  in  Lesotho  than  their  parents.  Several  complained  about  the  lack  of  social  opportunities  outside  of  the  family  sphere  and  many  stated  openly  that  they  would  return  to  Fujian  if  they  could.  To  these  young  migrants,  China’s  rapid  economic  development  presents  new  and  exciting  life  opportunities  beyond  those  available  in  Lesotho.  When  asked  why  they  had  left  China  in  the  first  place,  all     54  
  • 55. those  in  the  20-­‐30  bracket  replied  that  they  had  been  compelled  to  migrate  by  their  parents  who  had  requested  or  demanded  their  assistance  in  running  businesses  in  Lesotho.  This  would  imply  that,  as  Fujian  begins  increasingly  to  benefit  from  China’s  economic  takeoff,  Fujianese  migrants,  like  their  Taiwanese  and  Shanghainese  predecessors,  may  become  increasingly  reluctant  to  migrate  to  the  periphery.       This  again  suggests  that  periphery-­‐to-­‐periphery  migration  cannot  be  sustained  exclusively  by  one  single  ethnic  group.  Migratory  flows  of  this  kind  appear  to  be  sustained  by  periodic  ethnic  ‘regeneration,’  catalysed  by  political  and  economic  developments  at  the  sending  area.  Thus,  it  may  be  that  in  the  future,  Fujianese  businesses  in  Lesotho  will  be  appropriated  by  merchants  from  elsewhere  in  the  global  periphery,  though  it  is  uncertain  as  to  whether  new  migrants  will  be  as  successful  as  the  Fujianese  in  generating  capital  in  Lesotho’s  highly  peripheral  mountainous  hinterland.     The  means  by  which  Fujianese  migrants  reach  Lesotho  proved  to  be  a  highly  sensitive  issue  in  all  discussions  with  locally  resident  Chinese  and  it  was  nearly  impossible  to  derive  any  meaningful  data  on  this  topic  from  my  interviews  with  settled  Fujianese.  Only  by  reading  poignant  silences  and  noting  attempts  to  change  the  subject  of  conversation  was  I  able  to  surmise  that  the  majority  of  Fujianese  that  reside  in  Lesotho  do  so  illegally.  This  hunch  was  corroborated  by  my  discussions  with  Lesotho  government  officials,  who  described  ‘the  Chinese’  as  the  worst  ‘tax-­‐evaders’  and  ‘census  duckers’  they  had  ever  encountered.  However,  as  Pieke  et  al.  explain,  for  Fujianese  migrants,  ‘the  many  forms  of  “legal”  and  “illegal”  migration  constitute     55  
  • 56. a  continuum  of  alternatives  rather  than  activities  that  are  very  different  from  each  other’  (2004,  p.  2).    This  is  suggests  a  different  worldview  in  which  the  cultural  imperative  to  migrate  often  overrides  the  comparatively  arbitrary  designations  of  ‘legal’  and  ‘illegal’  transit.     According  to  Xiang,  many  unauthorized  Chinese  migrants  enter  their  destination  country  by  legal  means  and  then  overstay  their  visas  (Xiang,  2009,  p.  422).  This  certainly  appears  to  be  the  case  in  Lesotho,  where  weak  immigration  controls  make  it  easy  to  bribe  one’s  way  into  the  country  and  perpetuate  one’s  stay  indefinitely.  Typical  routes  for  Fujianese  migrants  involve  travelling  by  plane  from  Fuqing  to  Fuzhou  or  Hong  Kong  and  then  on  to  Johannesburg  and  Maseru.  These  journeys  are  often  mediated  by  people-­‐traffickers    known  as  ‘snakeheads’  (蛇头).  Although  these  individuals  are  frequently  depicted  as  ruthless  mercenaries  who  make  their  livelihoods  out  of  the  misfortune  of  others,  this  designation  is  unhelpful  in  that  it  obscures  the  real  nature  of  the  relationship  between  snakeheads  and  their  clients.  Indeed,  snakeheads  are  not  simply  the  masterminds  behind  sinister  trafficking  networks,  they  are  providers  of  professional  migration  services  and  they  may  even  be  respected  members  of  the  migrant’s  community  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  198).       The  decision  to  pay  an  agent  to  smuggle  someone  out  of  the  country  is  made  collectively,  in  consultation  with  the  migrant’s  extended  family.  Given  the  risks  involved  in  transit  and  the  relative  poverty  of  the  average  Fujianese  migrant,    very  few  of  those  trafficked  make  advanced  payments  to  their  traffickers  (Skeldon,  2000,     56  
  • 57. p.  21).  It  is  more  common  for  migrants  to  make  an  advance  downpayment  of  10%,  with  a  further  payment  on  departure  (or  en-­‐route)  with  the  balance  paid  after  arrival  at  the  final  destination    (ibid.).       Skeldon  goes  on  to  explain  that  migrants  often  borrow  from  their  families  in  order  to  be  able  to  pay  the  costs  of  their  transit.  In  this  way,  they  ‘exchange  a  primary  debt  to  the  traffickers  for  a  secondary  debt  of  money  and  obligations  to  their  families’  (Skeldon,  2000,  p.  21).  This  is  an  extremely  risky  investment,  not  only  because  of  the  risk  of  death  or  injury  en-­‐route  but  also  because  there  is  no  guarantee  that  the  migrant  will  be  able  to  repay  the  money  invested  in  them  by  their  extended  family.  If  a  migrant  fails  to  succeed  in  one  place,  they  will  often  continue  on  their  migratory  trajectory,  trying  in  a  different  place  rather  than  facing  humiliation  at  home  in  Fujian.    4.4  Making  the  Periphery  Profitable       Despite  the  enormous  financial  risk  involved  in  migrating,  many  Fujianese  continue  to  be  drawn  to  Lesotho  by  accounts  of  perceived  opportunity  reported  to  them  by  friends  and  relatives.  Today  most  Fujianese  in  Lesotho  are  involved  in  the  retail  sector,  running  small  shops  throughout  Lesotho.  These  shops  typically  specialise  in  one  or  more  of  the  following  three  types  of  commodities:     1. Basic  groceries:  including  non-­‐perishable  food,  cooking  oil  and  other  daily   necessities.       57  
  • 58. 2. Clothes:  including  shoes,  bags,  accessories  and  cosmetics.     3. Gas  for  cooking.     The  Chinese  embassy  in  Lesotho  has  done  little  to  facilitate  Fujianese  migration  to  the  country,  preferring  instead  to  disassociate  itself  from  the  burgeoning  population  of  Fujianese  traders.  Rather,  the  success  of  these  traders  has  depended  on  commercial  networks,  often  organised  around  socio-­‐economic  nodes  such  as  the  Fuqing  Association  (福清同乡会)  and  the  Association  of  Chinese  Enterprises  (中资商会).  New  Fujianese  arrivals  to  Lesotho  can  approach  these  economic  ‘societies’  and  request  to  borrow  money  to  open  a  shop  in  Lesotho.       These  funds  are  provided  by  established  members  of  the  society  and  are  borrowed  at  high  interest.  Unfortunately  my  Fujianese  respondents  were  very  guarded  about  the  internal  structure  of  these  organisations  but  it  is  clear  that  new  arrivals  must  work  very  hard  to  pay  back  these  high  interest  loans  over  periods  of  several  years.  It  would  appear  that  these  business  organisations  also  play  a  regulatory  role  in  managing  competition  within  the  Chinese  retail  sector.  For  instance,  I  was  told  that  in  the  Maseru  area  there  is  an  unwritten  understanding  that  Chinese-­‐owned  shops  should  be  no  less  than  200m  apart.  Regulations  such  as  these  are  intended  to  prevent  what  Xiang  terms  the  ‘crowding  out’  of  the  core  business  of  Fujianese  migrant  communities  (Xiang,  2005,  p.  80).     Thus,  the  establishment  of  Fujianese  businesses  in  Lesotho  is  both  facilitated  and  mediated  by  existing  networks  of  traders,  mostly  based  in  Maseru  and  the     58  
  • 59. country’s  other  urban  centres.  These  associations  also  act  as  support  networks  in  case  of  personal  misfortune,  as  in  the  case  of  a  recent  fundraising  initiative  launched  by  the  Association  of  Chinese  Enterprises  to  help  rebuild  a  Fujianese-­‐owned  shop  in  Maseru,  which  had  burned  down.  According  to  one  of  my  respondents,  the  initiative  raised  over  5m  Maloti  (US$  738,676),  a  significant  amount,  given  that  the  majority  of  Chinese  in  Lesotho  operate  without  official  insurance.     The  strong  presence  of  foreign-­‐owned  businesses  in  Lesotho’s  retail  industry  is  by  no  means  a  new  phenomenon.  Foreign  trading  posts  have  been  a  common  sight  in  Lesotho  for  decades,  although  the  ethnicity  of  the  owners  has  changed  significantly.  The  western  Europeans  who  dominated  trade  in  Lesotho  in  the  early  part  of  the  twentieth  century  were  joined  after  the  country’s  independence  in  1966  by  a  contingent  of  Indian  traders  who  began  to  make  their  mark  on  the  country’s  retail  sector.  Lesotho’s  trading  landscape  was  once  again  transformed  by  the  arrival  of  Taiwanese  merchants  in  the  1980s,  who  bought  up  many  of  the  businesses  once  owned  by  white  and  Indian  traders.  Given  this  history,  the  Lesotho  government  is  all  too  aware  of  the  threat  posed  to  local  businesses  by  competition  from  immigrant  trading  communities  and  has  enacted  a  policy  making  it  illegal  for  foreigners  to  own  businesses  of  less  than  1000m2.      The  ban  on  ownership  of  small  retail  enterprises  by  foreign  nationals  has  been  comprehensively  circumvented  by  Fujianese  traders.  This  is  done  by  paying  a  local  Mosotho  to  register  the  business  under  their  name.  Meanwhile,  the  day-­‐to-­‐day  running  of  the  shop  is  left  to  the  Chinese  merchant,  who  is  the  de-­‐facto  owner.  In     59  
  • 60. the  event  that  the  authorities  should  appear  to  question  the  legitimacy  of  the  outfit,  the  local  ‘owner’  can  be  summoned  to  vouch  for  his  Chinese  ‘staff’.  In  addition  to  being  more  ingenious  than  their  predecessors  is  circumventing  government  interventions,  the  Fujianese  have  distinguished  themselves  by  the  extent  of  their  expansion  into  Lesotho’s  economic  frontier.       Lesotho’s  mountainous  terrain  has  traditionally  presented  a  significant  barrier  to  economic  penetration,  by  foreigners  and  locals  alike,  beyond  Maseru  and  the  surrounding  lowlands.  Costs  of  transportation  and  often-­‐inhospitable  weather  conditions  have  historically  limited  the  number  of  trading  posts  in  the  highlands,  where  margins  for  profit  are  frequently  deemed  to  be  too  slim  to  be  worth  pursuing.    However,  this  discourse  of  profitability  has  been  radically  overturned  by  the  Fujianese  who  have  succeeded  in  establishing  a  foothold  in  villages  which  have  never  had  their  own  general  store.       The  fact  that  the  Fujianese  have  pushed  the  boundaries  of  the  retail  sector  right  into  the  highlands  suggests  a  pioneer  mentality  that  perceives  peripherality  with  a  series  of  strategies  for  turning  the  frontier  into  a  lucrative  space.  Furthermore,  the  diffusion  of  Fujianese-­‐owned  shops  in  Lesotho  challenges  the  assertion  made  by  Pieke  et  al.  that  Fujianese  migrants  do  not  respond  mechanically  to  wage  differentials  but  tend  to  move  to  areas  ‘where  an  established  community  from  their  village  or  wider  area  of  origin  already  exists’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  24).         60  
  • 61. While  it  is  true  that  low-­‐skilled  Fujianese  labour  is  predominantly  drawn  to  Lesotho  by  the  country’s  existing  Chinese  communities,  the  profitability  of  the  periphery  is  ensured  by  a  centrifugal  force  that  pushes  new  arrivals  away  from  areas  where  a  strong  Fujianese  presence  already  exists.  This  is  because  the  Fujianese  model  relies  on  total  monopoly  over  tiny  village  markets.  The  Fujianese  specialise  in  driving  out  local  competitors  and  establishing  small  regimes  of  hegemony  in  remote  areas.  Thus,  new  arrivals  have  no  choice  but  to  leave  behind  the  saturated  markets  of  Lesotho’s  urban  centres  in  search  of  opportunities  at  the  margins.     This  centrifugal  pattern  strongly  resembles  the  kind  of  ‘diffusion  migration’  identified  by  Xiang  in  his  study  of  outmigration  from  Wenzhou  (2005,  p.  80).  As  among  the  Zhejiangcun  community  in  Beijing,  this  spreading  out  and  moving  out  is  rationalised  by  the  Fujianese  in  Lesotho  as  ‘an  entirely  natural,  if  not  essential  way  of  doing  business’  (ibid.).  Like  Wenzhou  traders  in  Beijing,  Fujianese  traders  in  Lesotho  have  clustered  around  identical  trades,  leading  to  increased  competition  within  the  Chinese  retail  community  (ibid.).  It  has  therefore  been  in  the  interest  of  established  traders  in  Lesotho  to  help  new  arrivals  to  identify  business  opportunities  in  Lesotho’s  economic  hinterland,  rather  than  at  the  saturated  centre  of  Chinese  business  activity.     Thus,  Fujianese  diffusion  at  the  periphery  is  facilitated  by  the  knowledge  networks  of  existing  communities  of  Fujianese  traders  in  Lesotho.  Upon  arrival,  these  networks  are  little  more  than  a  potential  resource  but  they  are  quickly  mobilised,  both  by  new  arrivals  and  existing  merchants,  in  order  to  ensure  the     61  
  • 62. profitability  of  the  system  as  a  whole.  This  is  because  these  networks  remain  profitable  only  as  long  as  they  are  expanding  outwards  through  centrifugal  diffusion.  Already  there  is  evidence  in  Lesotho  to  suggest  that  this  trend  may  be  reversing,  as  my  respondents  repeatedly  mentioned  the  increased  saturation  of  the  retail  sector,  even  at  the  limits  of  the  country’s  mountainous  periphery.     Having  been  advised  by  established  traders  to  survey  a  given  area  at  the  periphery,  new  arrivals  from  Fujian  will  typically  use  local  Basotho  to  collect  data  on  the  existing  shops  in  the  local  area.  These  ‘market  analysts’  will  supply  the  new  entrants  with  information  about  competitors’  prices  and  business  strategies.  Armed  with  this  information,  new  entrants  will  approach  an  existing  business  association  or  informal  network  of  retails  with  a  proposal  to  start  a  new  business  and  a  request  to  borrow  money  to  launch  the  new  venture.  As  I  have  already  mentioned,  these  loans  are  arranged  with  high  levels  of  interest,  such  that  the  lenders  have  a  vested  interest  in  the  success  of  the  new  business.  In  this  way,  peers  will  subsidise  the  new  entrant  until  they  are  able  to  capture  the  market.         The  success  of  Fujianese  traders  at  the  periphery  is  due  to  their  ability  to  mobilise  networks  to  establish  retail  hegemonies  at  the  micro  scale.  This  is  achieved  through  calculated  strategies  of  group  purchase,  which  are  crucial  to  the  modes  of  accumulation  that  allow  these  settlers  to  turn  the  periphery  into  a  productive  space.  In  forming  consortia  and  buying  in  bulk,  Fujianese  traders  are  able  to  overcome  the  two  fundamental  barriers  to  profitability  at  the  frontier:  firstly,  the  cost  of     62  
  • 63. transporting  regular  shipments  of  stock  into  the  periphery  and  secondly,  the  difficulty  of  achieving  economies  of  scale  when  operating  a  small  business.       Group-­‐purchase  strategies  allow  the  Fujianese  to  buy  their  wares  in  bulk  from  local  wholesalers  and  thus  undersell  local  competitors.  While  food  and  drink  are  usually  sourced  directly  from  the  producers  in  Lesotho  or  South  Africa,  manufactured  goods,  such  as  toys  and  clothing,  are  typically  sourced  from  consortia  based  in  Johannesburg  and  Durban  who  import  them  directly  from  China.  Groups  of  Fuijanese  traders  will  collaborate  by  collecting  money  amongst  themselves  and  buying  in  bulk.  Group  buying  allows  the  Fujianese  to  negotiate  sizeable  discounts  at  the  time  of  purchase.  Goods  are  then  transporting  collectively  and  stored  on-­‐site  for  long  periods  of  time,  further  cutting  costs  and  allowing  the  Fujianese  to  undersell  local  competitors.     The  Fujianese  are  not  only  strategic  about  how  they  source  their  wares  but  also  when  they  source  their  wares.  For  instance,  in  the  run-­‐up  to  Christmas,  they  have  been  known  to  buy  almost  everything  of  value  from  the  local  wholesalers.  I  was  informed  by  a  Mosotho  tradesman  that  it  is  not  uncommon  to  arrive  at  the  brewery  around  Christmas  time  to  find  that  all  the  beer  has  been  purchased  by  Chinese  traders:     They  will  buy  all  the  beer,  for  example,  from  the  brewery.  If  you  haven’t  got   money,  or  you  buy  small,  when  your  stock  is  finished  before  Christmas,  you   run  to  the  brewery  to  buy  beer  and  you  find  all  the  beer  is  gone,  or  one  type   of  beer  has  been  completely  bought  up.  And  production  at  that  time  is  very     63  
  • 64. slow.  It’s  the  holiday  period  and  production  capacity  in  the  brewery  is   limited.       Block-­‐buying  of  this  kind  is  not  limited  to  beer.  Indeed,  certain  Chinese  distributers  specialise  in  buying  huge  quantities  of  different  kinds  of  liquor  directly  from  the  Lesotho  Brewery  Company  at  very  low  prices  and  distributing  them  to  vendors  in  the  remote  areas.  The  same  strategy  is  used  for  the  purchase  of  all  locally-­‐sourced  consumables:     They  do  that  with  Coca-­‐Cola,  soft  drinks,  mielie-­‐meal,  EVERYTHING.  They  do   that  kind  of  block  thing.  If  you  see  them  on  the  day  that  they  buy,  there’s  a   place  with  a  supermarket  owned  by  the  Chinese,  it’s  got  a  large  parking   there.  You’ll  see  a  large  truck  parked  there  and  there  would  be  like,  around   50  vans  owned  by  Chinese  coming  to  pick  soft-­‐drinks,  coming  to  pick  mielie-­‐ meal,  coming  to  pick  whatever  …  you  know  groceries  that  they’re  going  to  be   selling  in  their  shops.       The  prices  at  which  these  goods  are  sold  are  always  calculated  to  be  cheaper  than  the  local  competition.  Specific  businesses  are  targeted  as  rivals  and  Fujianese  traders,  supported  by  capital  borrowed  from  a  local  Chinese  association,  will  operate  at  a  loss  until  the  local  competitor  has  been  driven  out  of  the  market.  Success  is  virtually  guaranteed,  since  the  Fujianese  have  access  to  goods  and  capital  that  cannot  be  matched  by  Basotho  traders.  As  soon  as  the  local  competition  begins  to  looks  shaky,  the  Fujianese  will  send  a  representative  to  negotiate  the  purchase  of  the  failing  shop.  Once  a  monopoly  has  been  achieved,  the  Fujianese  trader,  sometimes  operating  at  two  sites  in  the  same  tiny  village,  can  increase  their  prices  and  begin  to  pay  back  the  money  loaned  to  them  by  their  peers.       64  
  • 65. In  this  way,  Fujianese  traders  have  been  able  to  mobilise  local  networks,  sometimes  transplanted  from  Fujian,  in  order  to  established  a  retail  hegemony  in  Lesotho,  penetrating  corners  of  the  country  previously  unreached  by  either  local  or  foreign  businesses.  During  my  interviews  with  Fujianese  traders,  several  respondents  quoted  the  maxim  “有太阳的地方都可以看到福建人”  (wherever  the  sun  shines,  Fujianese  can  be  found).  Indeed,  Western  visitors  to  Lesotho  are  often  astounded  to  discover  Fujianese  businesses  operating  in  areas  without  tarred  roads,  running  water  or  electricity.       These  traders  often  work  on  extremely  slim  profit  margins,  living  on  the  premises  of  their  shops  and  keeping  all  their  earnings  on  site,  rather  than  depositing  them  in  a  bank,  so  to  avoid  incurring  additional  expenses.  Parsimony  of  this  kind  is  a  product  of  the  financial  situation  in  which  these  traders  are  forced  to  exist  in  order  to  be  able  to  survive  at  the  periphery.  Firstly,  a  proportion  of  earnings  must  be  set  aside  to  repay  any  debts  incurred  in  emigrating  from  Fujian.  Secondly,  shop  owners  must  repay  the  local  Chinese  associations  that  subsidised  their  efforts  to  capture  the  market.  Lastly,  and  perhaps  most  importantly,  migrants  must  generate  savings  and  remittances  to  send  back  to  their  relatives  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  195).       Indeed,  Pieke  et  al.  suggest  that  migrants  ‘do  not  measure  their  earning  abroad  by  their  local  purchasing  power,  but  by  how  much  they  can  save  and  how  much  that  money  will  be  worth  back  home’  (2004,  p.  195).  In  many  cases,  remittances  are  used  to  fund  the  construction  of  ostentatious  houses  in  the  natal     65  
  • 66. villages,  as  well  as  on  other  forms  of  conspicuous  consumption  by  the  migrants  and  their  extended  families  (ibid.,  p.  26).       The  extent  to  which  remittances  are  deployed  to  fund  conspicuous  displays  of  wealth  gives  credence  to  the  structuralist  assertion  that  migrant  prosperity  does  not  automatically  equal  a  meaningful  improvement  in  community  welfare  in  the  sending  area  (Connell  et  al.,  pp.  98-­‐104).  Rather  than  contributing  to  the  development  of  communal  infrastructure  and  institutions,  structuralists  argue  that  migrants’  earnings  are  frequently  monopolised  by  migrants  and  their  immediate  families  (Lipton,  1980,  p.  14).  Indeed,  conspicuous  consumption  may  reflect  a  desire  for  a  certain  type  of  modernity  previously  inaccessible  to  migrants’  families  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  57)  and  could  be  understood  as  a  symptom  of  the  lack  of  investment  opportunities  that  propelled  the  initial  outmigration  (Murphy,  2002,  p.  14).    4.5  Sino-­‐African  Relations  at  the  Periphery     According  to  Pieke  et  al.,  Chinese  immigrant  labour  is  ‘independent  of  the  general  supply  of  labour  in  the  destination  country’  (Pieke  et  al.,  2004,  p.  26).  This  does  not  appear  to  be  the  case  in  Lesotho.  The  Basotho  businesspeople  interviewed  for  this  project  were  quick  to  point  out  that  Fujianese  supermarket  owners  are  in  direct  competition  with  local  shop-­‐owners,  driving  locally-­‐owned  stores  out  of  business  through  a  series  of  ‘ruthless’  and  ‘cutthroat’  practices.         66  
  • 67. The  highly  visible  nature  of  Fujianese  domination  over  the  retail  sector  in  Lesotho  has  led  to  considerable  friction  between  the  Basotho  and  the  country’s  resident  Chinese  communities.  Unhelpfully,  local  discussions  of  the  ‘Chinese’  do  not  discriminate  between  Chinese,  Taiwanese,  Japanese  and  other  East  Asians.  This  point  was  repeatedly  raised  by  my  Taiwanese  respondents,  who  felt  that  their  good  reputation  in  Lesotho  had  been  tarnished  by  the  unscrupulous  practices  of  recent  Fujianese  migrants.       Fujianese  traders  have  attracted  a  great  deal  of  animosity  from  the  local  population  owing  to  the  perceived  ‘ruthlessness’  of  their  business  model.  The  local  media  frequently  publish  reports  of  Basotho  businesspeople  who  have  lost  their  livelihoods  as  a  result  of  ‘Chinese’  competition.  These  stories  are  interspersed  with  reports  of    ‘Chinese’  traders  selling  sub-­‐standard  products,  such  as  poisonous  baby-­‐formula,  or  providing  bogus  or  poor  quality  services.  Local  people  also  argue  that  the  ‘Chinese’  do  not  invest  in  Lesotho,  pointing  out  that  the  majority  of  ‘Chinese’  businesspeople  are  not  even  registered  with  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs,  let  alone  with  a  local  bank.     Animosity  towards  the  ‘Chinese’  is  frequently  expressed  through  indiscriminate  violence  towards  East  Asians  in  Lesotho.  Chinese  businesspeople  are  frequently  attacked,  mugged  and  robbed,  not  only  because  they  constitute  a  focal  point  of  xenophobic    aggression  but  because  they  are  known  to  carry  large  amounts  of  cash  on  their  person  and  often  keep  large  cash  savings  on  the  premises  of  their  businesses.  Many  locally  resident  Chinese,  of  all  extractions,  live  in  daily  fear  of     67  
  • 68. violent  attacks.  One  of  my  respondents  had  been  attacked  5  times  in  broad  daylight,  most  recently  between  8  and  9  in  the  morning.       Outright  animosity  towards  the  Chinese  in  Lesotho  is  tempered  by  increasing  dependence  on  the  services  that  they  provide.  For  local  people,  the  presence  of  these  entrepreneurs  has  had  a  profound  effect  on  consumptive  habits,  reducing  dependency  on  regional  centres  but  increasing  dependency  on  Fujianese  village  retailers.  Indeed,  local  attitudes  towards  the  Chinese  are  often  region-­‐specific  and  Basotho  from  the  rural  areas  are  often  surprised  by  how  xenophobic  people  are  in  Maseru.  One  respondent  exclaimed:  “if  the  Chinese  got  kicked  out  of  Teyateyaneng,  where  would  I  buy?”  It  is  clear  that,  through  their  networks,  the  Fujianese  have  changed  the  playing  field  by  making  cheap  goods,  particularly  manufactured  goods  from  China,  available  at  the  margins.       However,  the  quality  of  the  wares  sold  in  Chinese-­‐owned  shops  remains  a  point  of  contention.  The  ‘Chinese’  are  notorious  in  Lesotho  for  selling  food  that  is  well  past  its  sell-­‐by-­‐date.  Rumours  abound  of  Chinese  traders  using  false  measurements  to  weigh  meat  and  corn  flour,  or  of  diluting  skin  and  hair  care  products  with  cheap  chemicals.  These  accusations  are  an  indicator  of  seething  xenophobia  more  than  a  reliable  indicator  of  Fujianese  business  practices.  Indeed,  the  attitudes  towards  resident  Chinese  that  I  encountered  in  my  discussions  with  local  people  were  almost  exclusively  negative.  Some  respondents  complained  that  Chinese  shop-­‐owners  treat  their  clientele  very  suspiciously,  employing  staff  to  follow  individual  shoppers  while  they  browse.  Others  complained  the  Chinese  only  employ     68  
  • 69. illiterate  locals  to  perform  menial  tasks.  Basotho  employees  are  denied  access  to  the  till  and  are  never  allowed  to  handle  any  cash.  Indeed,  repeated  reference  was  made  to  the  fact  that  there  is  little,  if  any  skills  transfer  between  owners  and  employees  in  these  businesses:       They  are  strategic  in  terms  of  making  sure  that  Basotho  have  no  access  to   cash  …  If  you  do  find  a  Mosotho  at  a  counter,  receiving  cash,  that  Mosotho  is   under  very,  very  close  supervision.  You  will  find  him  or  her  sitting  there  with   a  Chinaman  or  Chinawoman  breathing  down  his  or  her  neck.    He  or  she  really   has  no  authority.  The  money  that  they  receive  is  directly  managed  or   supervised.       The  attitudes  of  local  people  towards  Chinese  traders  are  directly  mirrored  by  Chinese  perceptions  of  Basotho.  Many  of  my  Fujianese  respondents  described  the  Basotho  as  being  lazy  and  incompetent,  particularly  in  running  businesses.  The  promulgation  of  this  discourse  and  the  success  of  the  Fujianese  bulk-­‐buying  strategies  have  helped  entrench  the  perception  that  business  in  Lesotho  is  easy  for  Chinese  migrants  and  that  competition  with  local  entrepreneurs  is  ‘child’s  play’.         While  the  Basotho  are  universally  looked  down  upon  by  the  Chinese  community,  the  Fujianese  are  also  the  objects  of  racial  prejudice  by  other  Chinese  and  Taiwanese  residents.  One  of  my  respondents  described  the  early  cohort  of  migrants  from  Shanghai  as  being  of  “higher  quality  (素质)  ”  than  the  Fujianese  migrants  who  have  since  become  Lesotho’s  dominant  migrant  community.  Recurring  references  to  the  ‘quality’  of  migrants  in  my  interviews  suggest  a  perceived  hierarchy  of  migration,  which  places  skilled  Taiwanese  at  the  top  of  a  continuum,     69  
  • 70. just  above  skilled  Shangainese  migrants  and  with  unskilled  Fujianese  labour  at  the  far  end  of  the  spectrum.         In  many  respects,  this  differentiation  resembles  the  sub-­‐ethnic  hierarchy  described  by  Beck  in  his  study  of  the  Chinese  community  in  Liverpool  (Beck,  2007,  p.  145).  That  configuration  places  the  Cantonese  firmly  on  top  and  the  Fujianese  on  the  bottom  (ibid.).  In  Lesotho,  this  hierarchy  is  not  rigid,  as  those  who  have  spent  more  time  in  the  country  are  often  perceived  to  be  of  higher  ‘quality’  than  new  arrivals  because  they  have  a  better  understanding  of  the  local  situation  and  have  learned  local  norms  and  customs.       The  mistrust  between  Chinese  communities  in  Lesotho  is  similar  to  that  identified  by  Hsu  in  Zanzibar  (Hsu,  2007,  p.  112).  In  general,  locally  resident  Taiwanese  consider  the  Fujianese  to  be  crude  and  uneducated,  often  highlighting  their  ‘unhygienic’  practices  and  blaming  them  for  damaging  relations  with  local  people.  Beck  identifies  a  similar  dynamic  between  the  Fujianese  and  other  Chinese  groups  in  the  U.K.  (Beck,  2007,  p.  142).    He  argues  that  the  Fujianese  are  marginalised  by  other  Chinese  groups  because  their  presence  has  generated  hostility  towards  Chinese  immigrants  among  the  local  population.    4.6  New  Directions?     Beck  describes  the  contingent  nature  of  Fujianese  migration  as  being  the  product  of  a  ‘sojourner  mentality’  (Beck,  2007,  p.  147).  This  rings  true  in  Lesotho,     70  
  • 71. where  the  majority  of  my  respondents  stated  that  they  were  prepared  to  move  wherever  there  is  the  opportunity  of  greater  earnings  and  a  better  standard  of  living.  In  a  context  where  emigration  is  the  norm  rather  than  the  exception,  these  individual  episodes  of  migration  should  be  viewed  as  ‘part  of  careers  of  ongoing  spatial  and  social  mobility  that  do  not  start  when  the  decision  to  move  has  been  made  or  end  upon  arrival  at  the  destination’  (Pieke  et  al.  ,  2004,  p.  18).  Fujianese  migration  can  therefore  be  understood  as  an  open-­‐ended  experience  rather  than  a  series  of  individual  displacements.       As  my  research  demonstrates,  this  is  particularly  true  of  migration  to  the  margins  of  the  global  economic  system,  where  migratory  trajectories  are  likely  to  be  contingent  and  opportunistic,  leading  on  to  new  and  more  profitable  destinations  whenever  the  opportunity  presents  itself.  It  was  suggested  during  several  interviews  that,  at  present,  there  were  more  Chinese  immigrants  returning  to  China  than  new  arrivals  landing  in  Lesotho.  This  supports  Pieke’s  prediction  that  by  2020/30,  China’s  demographic  and  economic  transition  will  have  made  it  a  country  of  large-­‐scale  immigration  rather  than  emigration  (Pieke,  2007,  p.  192).  Indeed,  none  of  my  respondents  had  chosen  to  take  up  Lesotho  citizenship,  preferring  instead  to  hold  on  to  their  Chinese  nationality,  obviously  with  a  view  to  one  day  returning  to  China.       This  again  highlights  the  fact  that  migrant  communities  at  the  periphery  are  not  self-­‐perpetuating  (Massey  et  al.,  1993).  Rather,  they  are  dependent  on  migratory  flows  that  are  inherently  unstable  and  sensitive  to  economic  and  political  changes  both  at  the  sending  area  and  at  the  receiving  area.  While  periphery-­‐to-­‐   71  
  • 72. periphery  migration  might  be  ongoing,  the  specific  groups  that  are  represented  at  the  periphery  are  likely  to  change.                                                   72  
  • 73. Chapter  5.  Conclusions     In  the  introduction  to  this  thesis,  I  defined  the  notion  of  ‘the  peripheral’  as  consisting  of  ‘marginalised  spaces’,  or  ‘sites  of  exclusion’.  These  are  real  places  that  are  separated  from  the  major  centres  of  the  global  economy  and  typically  considered  to  be  outside  major  transnational  flows  of  capital,  knowledge  and  persons.  Lesotho  is  a  prime  example  of  a  nation  on  the  fringes  of  the  global  system.  With  its  tiny  population,  low  GDP,  scarcity  of  natural  resources  and  limited  opportunities  for  economic  growth,  the  country  is  completely  eclipsed  by  its  powerful  neighbour,  South  Africa.  And  yet,  despite  being  at  the  margins  of  the  global  system,  Lesotho  has  managed  to  attract  a  significant  volume  of  Chinese  migrants  over  the  past  40  years.  Within  Lesotho,  these  migrants  have  established  themselves  at  the  margins  of  the  margin  and  on  the  periphery  of  the  periphery.     The  primary  aim  of  this  investigation  was  to  discover  how  and  why  Lesotho’s  Fujianese  migrant  communities  become  established  at  these  marginalised  sites.  I  was  keen  to  discover  their  aspirations  in  coming  to  Lesotho  and  to  identify  the  specific  ‘push’  and  ‘pull’  factors  that  precipitated  their  migration.  Furthermore,  I  wanted  to  understand  how  they  perceive  the  ‘remoteness’  and  ‘peripherality’  of  Lesotho’s  mountainous  hinterland  and  to  discern  the  strategies  and  systems  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.     73  
  • 74.   It  is  clear  that  the  reforms  initiated  in  1978  have  had  a  profound  impact  on  China’s  migratory  landscape.  Nowhere  in  China  is  this  more  true  than  in  Fujian,  where  diverse  and  complex  migratory  trajectories  operate  within  a  ‘culture  of  migration’  that  valorises,  and  even  normalises,  international  mobility.  The  reforms  have  repositioned  Fujian  within  a  new  global  space  of  flows  that  not  only  operate  between  the  core  and  the  periphery  but  also  create  new  transnational  relationships  between  diverse  peripheries.  In  this  sense,  Fujianese  migration  is  both  an  exponent  and  a  proponent  of  ‘globalisation  at  the  margin’  (Xiang,  2009),  producing  contingent  and  dynamic  linkages  between  unexpected  sites  in  the  global  economy.       In  the  case  of  Lesotho,  Fujianese  migrants  have  followed  in  the  wake  of    earlier  flows  of  skilled  Taiwanese,  and  later  Mainland  Chinese,  investors  and  technical  support  teams  tied  to  foreign  aid  projects  during  the  1970s  and  80s.  The  political  origins  of  these  early  flows  of  migrants  suggests  an  ongoing  role  for  the  nation  state  in  catalysing  flows  of  migration  from  the  periphery  to  the  periphery,  although  it  is  clear  that  these  flows  are  heavily  dependent  on  the  economic  situation  at  the  sending  area.  Furthermore,  although  flows  from  Taiwan,  Shanghai  and  Fujian  are  undeniably  discrete  phenomena,  they  are  clearly  linked  in  an  evolving  transnational  social  and  economic  space.  This  space  is  dominated  by  networks,  which  connect  recent  flows  of  Fujianese  labour  to  earlier  movements  of  migrants  from  Taiwan  and  the  Chinese  Mainland.       74  
  • 75. The  decision  to  move  to  Lesotho  is  the  result  of  the  complex  interaction  between  various  ‘push’  and  ‘pull’  factors.  Firstly,  the  impetus  to  leave  Fujian  is  provided  by  the  province’s  economic  situation  and  the  perceived  lack  of  opportunities  at  home.  Meanwhile,  migrants  are  drawn  to  Lesotho  by  a  discourse  of  perceived  opportunity  promulgated  by  existing  communities  of  Chinese  in  Lesotho.  Through  these  knowledge  networks,  would-­‐be  migrants  are  made  aware  of  Lesotho’s  lax  border  controls  and  of  specific  opportunities  for  business  at  sites  on  the  fringes  of  the  country’s  retail  economy.  In  this  sense,  rather  than  being  marginalised  sites  of  exclusion,  Lesotho’s  mountainous  periphery  possesses  a  comparative  advantage  for  attracting  migrants  from  China’s  margins.     The  unprecedented  diffusion  of  Fujianese  businesses  into  Lesotho’s  mountainous  hinterland  suggests  that  the  Fujianese  perceive  ‘peripherality’  differently  from  local  people  and  other  migrant  groups.  I  argue  that  this  different  way  of  perceiving  the  periphery  is  an  outcome  of  the  Fujianese  ‘culture  of  migration’,  which  has  allowed  Fujianese  traders  to  develop  a  series  of  business  strategies  that  allow  them  to  achieve  a  very  high  pace  of  capital  accumulation  and  business  expansion.  This  is  not  to  say  that  the  Fujianese  have  a  different  ‘map’  of  centre  and  periphery  or  that  they  have  mistaken  periphery  for  centre.  Indeed,  my  Fujianese  respondents  were  all  too  aware  of  Lesotho’s  marginality  within  the  world  system.  Rather,  instead  of  seeing  the  periphery  as  a  space  of  constraint,  they  see  the  periphery  as  a  potentially  productive  space.  Furthermore,  the  geography  of  Chinese  competition  in  Lesotho  appears  to  be  centrifugal,  pushing  newcomers  further  and  further  out  into  the  margins.     75  
  • 76.   By  mobilising  potential  networks  of  Chinese  businesspeople  in  Lesotho,  the  Fujianese  are  able  to  deploy  a  series  of  specific  network  strategies  that  allow  them  to  capture  the  market  in  Lesotho’s  out-­‐of-­‐the-­‐way  places.  These  strategies  include  borrowing  from  economic  associations  in  order  to  set  up  new  businesses  and  using  group  purchase  to  buy  and  transport  goods  in  bulk,  so  as  to  be  able  to  undersell  local  competitors.  Indeed,  the  limited  size  of  markets  in  remote  areas  means  that  profitability  at  the  periphery  can  only  be  guaranteed  by  monopoly.  The  success  of  the  Fujianese  in  Lesotho’s  periphery  lies  in  their  ability  to  establish  small  regimes  of  hegemony  by  operating  under  tight  profit  margins  for  long  periods  of  time.     Fujianese  penetration  into  Lesotho’s  retail  economy  also  demonstrates  the  strength  of  business  and  kinship  networks  between  locally  resident  Chinese  and  between  these  communities  and  their  families  in  Fujian.  Isolated  traders  in  Lesotho’s  mountains  should  not  be  viewed  as  lone  pioneers  but  rather  as  individuals  embedded  in  transnational  kinship  networks.  These  networks  operate  independently  of  the  local  Basotho  labour  market,  employing  local  workers  only  to  perform  menial  tasks  and  without  any  meaningful  skills  transfer  to  the  local  populace.  Instead,  the  local  population  is  constructed  as  economically  incompetent    and  the  Lesotho  government  as,  at  best,  a  recurrent  nuisance  to  be  overcome  through  business  registration  by  proxy,  census-­‐ducking  and  tax-­‐evasion.       Beck  describes  the  contingent  nature  of  Fujianese  migration  as  being  the  product  of  a  ‘sojourner  mentality’  (Beck,  2007,  p.  147).  Everything  about  the     76  
  • 77. Fujianese  way  of  life  in  Lesotho,  from  their  reluctance  to  deposit  their  earnings  in  a  local  bank,  to  the  demographic  makeup  of  the  migrant  population,  suggests  the  ephemeral  nature  of  their  intended  sojourn  in  the  country.  New  arrivals  are  increasingly  likely  to  buy  businesses  from  fellow  Fujianese  who,  having  generated  enough  savings  in  Lesotho,  are  ready  to  continue  on  their  migratory  trajectories.  As  my  research  demonstrates,  these  trajectories  are  not  necessarily  always  focused  on  destinations  traditionally  understood  to  be  ‘hubs’  of  the  global  economic  system.  Rather,  Chinese  migrants  in  Lesotho  seem  ready  to  move  to  wherever  they  can  find  the  opportunity  of  greater  earnings  and  a  better  standard  of  living.     Progressively,  the  flow  of  migrants  between  China  and  Lesotho  appears  to  be  reversing,  as  more  and  more  families  look  to  return  to  China  in  the  long  term.  China’s  rapid  economic  development  increasingly  presents  new  and  exciting  life  opportunities,  particularly  for  young  Fujianese,  while  Lesotho’s  market  for  groceries  and  consumer  goods  has  shrunk  considerably  as  a  result  of  the  2008  financial  crisis  and  because  of  saturation  by  Chinese  traders.    Indeed,  fewer  and  fewer  Chinese  appear  to  be  arriving  in  Lesotho  each  year,  with  more  Chinese  immigrants  returning  to  China  than  new  arrivals  landing  in  Lesotho.  My  findings  support  Pieke’s  prediction  that  by  2020/30,  China’s  demographic  and  economic  transition  will  have  made  it  a  country  of  large-­‐scale  immigration  rather  than  emigration  (Pieke,  2007,  p.  92).  Furthermore,  they  suggest  that  migrant  communities  at  the  periphery  are  not  self-­‐sustaining,  but  are  dependent  on  contingent  flows  from  elsewhere  in  the  global  periphery.       77  
  • 78. It  is  clear  then,  that  the  Fujianese  in  Lesotho  possess  the  networking  skills  to  be  able  to  perceive  the  periphery  as  a  productive  or  lucrative  space,  sometimes  as  a  springboard  to  other  destinations  and  increasingly  as  a  means  to  enrich  themselves  with  a  view  to  returning  to  China.  These  migrants  cultivate  the  peripherality  of  Lesotho’s  underexploited  consumer  market,    in  order  to  create  new  transnational  spaces  of  opportunity.  The  periphery  is  therefore  made  attractive  by  virtue  of  its  exclusion  from  established  centres  of  capital  generation  and  migration.       Indeed,  rather  than  thinking  of  Lesotho’s  highlands  as  being  at  the  margins  of  the  margin,  it  is  more  helpful  to  consider  these  places  as  nodes  within  transnational  space,  linked  to  sending  communities  in  China  through  contingent  networks  of  mobility.  Flows  within  these  networks  are  highly  dependent  on  the  economic  situation  at  the  source  and  at  the  destination  as  well  as  on  familial  obligations  and  perceived  geographies  of  opportunity  at  other  nodes  within  the  network.                         78  
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