Black People in China: Do They Exist?

Black People in China: Do They Exist?
Mar 03, 2011 By Namarig Ahmed ,

In China, expats are often assumed to be white or Caucasian originating from the Americas or Europe. Other expats from Africa (some of whom are from the Americas and Europe), West Asia, Arabian nationalities etc. are given little to no recognition by employers, Chinese locals and perhaps even writers, such as ourselves. Black people in China specifically face a very different treatment than their white or Caucasian counterparts. The cumbersome of stereotypes, fears and intrigue clouds the interaction that Chinese people have with black people. It makes no big difference if one is from Africa or the Americas if the complexion is not white and many negative stereotypes and attitudes follow.

What to do?
It is true that black people in China face much racism and discrimination; however as their personalities are presented to locals, employers and in the market place, things often change. Once given the chance, they are often looked at from a different perspective altogether. Their once stereotyped persona by onlookers comes to an almost complete halt. The key here is to present ones’ self as one would in any other place, being polite, with a smile and confidence. Funny (or is it sad?) how colour can blind individuals and have them assume much negativity.

Curiosity or negativity?
Where do they get these stereotypes from anyways? Has Western media fogged their minds as well? And to be fair to the Chinese people, is it all really negative? Or do some of the behaviours stem from curiosity? Nevertheless, it is wrong to believe that this negativity and degree of racism only exists in China; perhaps it is just a bit more obvious here. Once, in a grocery store in Shanghai, a black couple were walking, smiling at passerbys and waving at children that stopped suddenly to look at them in fascination/ humour/ fear. A few Chinese people gave them a look of disgust. One in particular moved her cart and child from their path in exaggeration with a look of fear in her eyes. The couples definitely did not expect that reaction, however they continued steadfast in their smiling and cheerfulness and resumed nonchalantly, ignoring the rather puzzling attitude.

Another interesting encounter occurred with three black men who were shopping at a local market near Shanghai, laughing as they attempted to bargain with the clerks. At first a couple of Chinese people gathered; a few minutes later there were about six people around them. In about five minutes, a good 10-15 people crowded the three men. The men, growing accustomed to this behaviour, smiled at their audience and continued with the clerk. Suddenly hands appeared from the crowd touching their skin and their hair. One of the black men felt uncomfortable and left the shop and his friends. Later, when he was asked by his friends why he left he replied, “They came into my personal space.”

While the former interaction and behaviour of the Chinese people can be regarded as negative (moving the cart away in exaggeration), the latter is surely out of curiosity. However, one area remains the same: the feeling of discomfort. Although the degree of discomfort can differ from one individual to the next, it is still there.

Drug Dealers in China?
Simon, a black young man, aged 26, who works as an accountant for an international company, was sitting with his friends in a restaurant in Shanghai. His friends were around the same age, from various African countries. They were laughing at their different experiences and trying to put a bit of humour in the negativity that awaited them outside their intimate circle. Simon exclaimed, in utter confusion and almost anger, while still maintaining a subtle smile in his eyes, “Are you all tired of those that assume we sell drugs?” Everyone started laughing.

“I get approached by many Chinese people asking me if I had any [drugs], explaining they have money, “one man stated, “Almost shoving the money in my face sometimes.” They all laughed after they asked him if he took the money and ran. As much as they try to laugh off many of their experiences, the reality is that many black people in China have experienced very un-delightful encounters. Whether the behaviours are out of curiosity or negativity, is beyond the fact that it can become frustrating.

Chocolate City!
There are quite a number of black people in China. In Guangzhou alone there are about 100, 000 Africans who call the city their home. There’s an area there that is predominantly black and is famously called “Chocolate City” by the locals. However, with due time the Chinese people will learn that not all black people sell drugs and that their skin and hair is unique to them. They will also come to learn that not all white or Caucasian people speak good English or are wealthy. Until then, no matter who you are or what colour your skin is, just remember to be yourself and don’t forget that we are guests in their country; slowly but surely, with every encounter we share with the locals, we are breaking down stereotypes and building slight connections with every smile.  

Related links
Racism in China
Is There Really No Racism in China?
Expat Racism Towards Chinese

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Keywords: racism black people China African people China racism china Black people China


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I think black girl is lovely,I like them, I am chinese,and I think they are much more friendly and kindly.

Dec 07, 2013 09:30 Report Abuse



Hi I am white and today one chinese said to me.. go back home..and showing me this as gesture..well he was drunk. It must be hard to be black and live in China,hopefully it will change in future. Bad and good people are among all colours.

Mar 06, 2013 19:58 Report Abuse


Africa's friend

-( I don't want to be associated with the negatives) you have spoken the truth, nobody wants to associate with the negative.
-(its very important that people know that I am not African) yeah is truth and i guess Africa do not need kind of people like you .
do not disrespects Africans because of drugs, is not all Africans selling it.
1- how do you know that Africans selling drugs in china, you are the consumer?
2- you are smarter than the Chinese police?
we all know where this drug to plantation, that is not in Africa.
we all know who transports drugs to China, that is not Africans.
we all know who consumes more drugs, that is not Africans.
note: my friend
Chinese police do not want to waste time with small retailers.
hehe... if you really got my means. do not been telling lies on the internet because you can not cover the sky with your tiny hand.

Oct 10, 2012 02:06 Report Abuse



Its good to correct your nationality if mistaken for another.i was turned down for a job because i turned out to be a black that is not American...

Mar 22, 2012 09:08 Report Abuse



Excellent article and I will say that I am a Black American, that has been to China Twice, In particular Shanghai. The first time I was a little bit up-set about the stares but the second time was a Charm ! My Recommendation's are to always treat people as you would want to be treated ie; with dignity and respect, you get what you give!!

Mar 16, 2012 11:30 Report Abuse



When anyone ever gets my nationality wrong I just let them know I'm American. The girl's American not African. And as far as their being a tinge of disdain towards Africans in her tone Africans are guilty of the same thing when judging Western blacks as criminals, murders, etc. The disdain goes both ways in the Western black / African communities.

Dec 02, 2011 14:37 Report Abuse



Not all blacks deal in drugs. The big question is how do they get the drugs and who buy the drugs huh? Haha... I was in Beijing recently and I saw that Whites are selling and buying drugs. I was so surprised to see that because I taught they were saying blacks sell drugs and the same blacks sniff? This is a big question. Lot of Colombians, Americans, Swiss, Italians and Mexicans do drugs. Where are these drugs made? Which country is known to be the world drug dealing country? Is Mexico in Africa? Is Colombia in Africa, Is America in Africa? You walk in the streets and you see young guys and girls selling drugs. Young students in American and Mexico selling drugs. Were the drugs supplied to them by Africans haha. Spare me this who ever you call yourself Rob or what ever. Why not stay in you country if you have a LIFE in you own country haha. It is very very very funny how people claim to be who they are not...

Nov 25, 2011 18:12 Report Abuse



Thanks for you article and I am really happy to read this. I am a Ghanaian teaching in China. The fact that we are black doesn't mean we are stupid or we don't have sense. I must be honest with you, There are lots of Americans living in Ghana, some are struggling to survive. Not all whites are rich and not all blacks are poor. Why do the whites travel all the way to China to work? I taught they claim they are rich so don't they stay in their country huh? Next time you see a white man, ask him why he is here. There are lots of whites living in China and in Africa who had no LIFE in their own country. Because of that, they travel to make ends meet. Recent IMF tells how they are shrinking everyday. What is happening to other countries? Why do you think everybody is coming to China? We are all here to work. Can you tell me the whites come here to work for free? Never!!! I have taught for some years and I bet you, there are so many people who were taught by whites and they can't even say HOW ARE YOU? The kis I teach in China are between the ages of 6 to 11 years. I bet you, they speak better english and good grammar. My colour is unique and I look far far far better than so many whites I see moving around...

Nov 25, 2011 18:00 Report Abuse



I'm an American living in Switzerland who is constantly asked if I'm from the UK. Been here seven years and I still get a kick out of it. I seen no reason why a black person should correct the thought that they are African if they aren't. As for being black equals being a drug dealer, that thought isn't only Chinese. You ask just about any white Swiss person what they think of black people in this country and you'll find out that all of them are refugees and drug dealers. Unless the black person you are talking about it Blaise N'kufo (Swiss football - soccer - player). A "refugee" who came here at the age of seven and became naturalised at the age of 20. He's, of course, Swiss!

Oct 24, 2011 06:51 Report Abuse



It's amazing how much the love us in these Asian countries It's much different from the crap that's told to us in the West that all Asians hate us. I bet if I had dark skin I'd get more pictures taken and better looking women. Ironically the darker a man is in Asian cultures the more superior and smart he is.

Dec 02, 2011 14:44 Report Abuse



The media does a great job of diving people. It makes Western blacks and Africans hate each other because it always shows the worst aspects of both peoples as if the worst was monolithic.

Dec 02, 2011 14:29 Report Abuse



Now i'm totally convinced that Jamaica is in Africa. Drugs dealers=African, you are such a retarded black. I bet the whole drugs people sell, consume or deal in Africa is way behind what's happening in the carribean. From my own experience, black carribean in my surrounding consume more drugs than all black african together even thou I have more of black african around. So if people like you stop smoking it, my fella black african will stop selling it. You really should go to Africa and see what our real values are, what the real values of you forefather were before they got sold. Peace out

Apr 01, 2011 04:49 Report Abuse



Sorry my friend for offending you by saying chinese are ignorant but its simply the truth.How would you feel when u get into a bus and people cover their noses because of your prsence?People who have not taken their baths for days, they feel they are clean and smell nice.
If its because Blacks have diseases that can spread when they meet them,then its a lie, i wonder what doctor told them this.
All the facts the have in china are fiction, they have no real scientific proof.
I am really to say again the ignorance here is a big disease and they have to find a vacine to cure it.
Its really supprising to see how the country is progressing whilst the people are millions lights years behind.

Aug 27, 2011 21:04 Report Abuse



@Bones " You africans even get angry when chinese think you come from Africa the continent opposed to coming from your own individual country."
first of all that doesnt make any sense,how can u get angry when someone thinks u are from Africa the continent instead of e.g Ghana... a country on the same continent??! whenever i'm mentioning where i am from,i always start with africa then the country because most times saying Uganda is followed by a ??? FACE or actual qtn 'where is that'.
secondly i thought this was all about getting rid of the stereotypes so 4 u to say "you Africans..." you sound just as ignorant as my houseplant. i havent seen any of the people i know deny there countries so stop giving the impression we are all embarrased to be African.

Mar 22, 2012 09:04 Report Abuse



you are totally right

Sep 06, 2013 00:58 Report Abuse