In the midst of the global scramble to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, relations have ruptured at a most unexpected front—between China and Africa. Since April 8, reports and social media discussions about the eviction and maltreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou have gone viral, leading to a series of formal and official diplomatic protests from the African Union and African countries toward China. Never before had the two sides had such a critical, high-profile, and widespread clash of positions, let alone allowed it to erupt in front of the public. Given China’s relentless efforts to consolidate ties and enhance engagement with Africa (including sending medical equipment and doctors to the continent during this crisis), this racism and discrimination against African migrants and residents is both shocking to the world and damaging for China’s policy agenda.
The origin of the rupture: a rise in imported COVID-19 cases
The discrimination and maltreatment the African nationals have suffered are the direct result of the rising pressure from the imported cases of COVID-19 faced by the authorities of Guangzhou. On March 28, China officially imposed an entry ban on all foreign nationals with visas or residence permits in an attempt to curb the rising number of imported cases after the country managed to control the domestic infection. As a part of these measures, Chinese airlines are only allowed to operate one route per week to any specific country, primarily to bring back overseas Chinese who wish to return.
Read the full op-ed in Brookings.