By Dagny Zenovia
As trade and development between Africa and China expands, another layer of relations is growing into uncovered territory. Afro-Chinese children in both Africa and China are increasing in number as a product of various circumstances. The concerns around their status in society and the origin of their identity will need to be addressed sooner or later.
African women and fatherless Afro-Chinese children in Africa
China’s investment in the African mining industry continues to have its ups and downs. Stories of deforestation, unemployment, child labor, and business victories have consumed most of the industries attention. Another story that has become a point of concern is Chinese miners in Africa fathering Afro-Chinese babies. Reportedly, Chinese workers, who are temporary migrants, are fathering unwanted children with young African women and girls who do not have the resources to take care of the children. From Ghana, to Uganda, to Kenya, accounts to this are split around the mothers and Afro-Chinese babies being abandoned by the Chinese fathers, young African women and girls intentionally having Afro-Chinese babies for perceived economic gain, and African women and Chinese men falling in love, marrying, and starting a family.
Even though these circumstances may differ, the status of the mother and child in society does not. Regardless if the Chinese father leaves or remains, the African woman is considered disempowered and devalued due to the mixture of her child. This would be very different if the African woman was a single mother with an African child. For the young African women and girls, a more proactive and wholesome sex and family planning education initiative could solve part of this. There are a plethora of these programs throughout Africa, but it seems as if it is still not touching everyone. For the Chinese workers and the companies they work for, education and etiquette could help part of this. Banning them to not have relationships with African women would probably be deemed discriminatory and a new apartheid. Instead, education on the cultural nuances in the African countries they are working in could be beneficial.
Interracial couples and Afro-Chinese children in China
The growing African immigrant population in China has also created a growing number of Afro-Chinese babies. There is a large community of Afro-Chinese families in Guangzhou, which is southern China’s largest city and a historic point of international exchange. Reportedly, the workplace in this city is where many interracial romantic relationships begin. This has also become a survival strategy for some in China. African entrepreneurs juggling visa restrictions and language barriers gain a lot by having a Chinese partner. Chinese women who come from a rural background who usually end up working in factories or sweatshops gain a lot by co-managing a business with their African partner. These interracial couples also experience societies curiousity and need for entertainment. For example, one couple became a live-streaming hit by sharing their daily life and answering questions about their relationship and family. The couple met in Cameroon, got married, and moved to China to start their family and new lives. They attracted 20,000 followers in one month after broadcasting their vlogs about cooking, recreation, and work.
As for the Afro-Chinese children living in China, it is inevitable that there will be some conflict in what identity the child follows. The African parent would want to raise the child to follow African traditions. The Chinese extended family would want to raise the child to follow Chinese traditions. A balance of both can be maintained, as long as the adults in question are on the same page. With or without that balance, the children still have great difficulty because they are not fully accepted by either side of their heritage. Some propose that these children will become unofficial ambassadors of both sides, defining their national and personal identity.
Finally, Afro-Chinese children in Africa and China are increasing in number and share a variety of challenges in common. The circumstances between interracial couples in both Africa and China are also having different challenges. There is a need for more education on both sides to understand and respect each other’s culture as well as protect from unwanted relations. As these children grow older, there is a possibility that they will play an even bigger part in Africa-China relations.
What do you think? How can we resolve the unwanted circumstances of some Afro-Chinese children? What can be done to better educate both sides on cultural differences and expectations?