Moving Beyond “China in Africa”: Insights from Zambian Immigration Data

Hannah Postel


China’s growing presence in Africa is not news: the expansion of bilateral trade and investment ties has garnered intense media and political focus over the past decade. However, less is known about the people accompanying these increasingly intensive flows of goods and capital. This paper focuses on Zambia, drawing on mul­­tiple primary datasets to shed light on both the scale and nature of Chinese migration to the continent. Two years of Department of Immigration employment-permit data serve as the basis for the first quantitative analysis of the “Chinese” in “Africa,” illuminating the increasing diversity of this population flow. While the growing Chinese presence in Africa is often viewed as a coherent neocolonialist strategy planned and implemented by the Chinese state, this paper demonstrates that it is in fact typified by a multitude of both public and private actors with independent motives.

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