Significant Others: Security and Suspicion in Chinese–Angolan Encounters

Cheryl Mei-ting Schmitz


The sense of mystery around Chinese presences in Angola impels researchers to understand not only the empirical details of economic transactions and diplomatic partnerships but also the various ways in which the actors involved make sense of a novel social, political, and economic configuration. By drawing several ethnographic portraits of the social practices and discursive strategies at play in Chinese–Angolan relations, I show how, in a context of mutual uncertainty and suspicion, appeals to “security” play a central role. Instead of viewing Chinese and Angolans as two separate groups with opposed interests and lack of communication between them, I explore how participation in a shared context generates common modes of explanation. Moreover, I propose a parallel analysis of state-level negotiations alongside everyday social encounters to consider how a political economic partnership between China and Angola is lived through the everyday negotiations of Chinese and Angolan residents in Luanda.

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