Chinese and ‘self-segregation’ in Africa

Hairong Yan, Barry Sautman, Yao Lu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Chinese are often said to ‘self-segregate’ in Africa. Chinese ethnocentricity is typically offered as an explanation for the putative non-interaction. Meanwhile Chinese are not compared to other non-indigenous people in Africa, implying unique Chinese self-isolation. Due to China’s semi-peripheral dynamics however, the contemporary Chinese presence in Africa cannot be generalized into a single category. Based on surveys, interviews, and documents, we examine the varied presence of Chinese in Africa, including residential patterns acquisition of local African languages, and socialization patterns, and draw distinctions between Chinese expatriates and Chinese migrants. Factors affecting Chinese adaptation include local political environment, recentness of migration, language barriers, and corporate policies to mitigate crime and conflict. We argue that most Chinese in Africa are not self-isolated and not more isolated in Africa than are other Asian migrants and whites there. Claims of Chinese self-isolation reflect a longstanding, global Yellow Peril discourse that persists despite discrediting evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-66
Number of pages27
JournalAsian Ethnicity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2018


  • Africa
  • discrimination
  • ethnic relations
  • Yellow peril

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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