Ethnic enclaves of transnational migrants in guangzhou a case study of xiaobei
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Ethnic enclaves of Transnational Migrants in Guangzhou ——A case study of Xiaobei. Dr. Zhigang Li Associate Professor Centre for Urban and Regional Studies Sun Yat-sen University Guangzhou, China. Outline. 1.Globalizing urban China and new enclaves

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Ethnic enclaves of Transnational Migrants in Guangzhou ——A case study of Xiaobei

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Ethnic enclaves of Transnational Migrants in Guangzhou——A case study of Xiaobei

Dr. Zhigang Li

Associate Professor

Centre for Urban and Regional Studies

Sun Yat-sen University

Guangzhou, China


1.Globalizing urban China and new enclaves

2.Transnational migrants and ethnic enclaves

3.An empirical Study: Xiaobei, Guangzhou

  • Ethnic enclaves of Guangzhou

  • African Traders in Xiaobei

  • Residential Segregation?

    4.Discussions and Conclusions

Chasing the Chinese DreamA Growing Number of the World's Emigrants Are Heading East, Rather Than West, in Search of Safety, Tolerance and OpportunityBy Ariana Eunjung ChaWashington Post Foreign ServiceSunday, October 21, 2007; A16

  • 450,000, Residence permit

  • 700, Green cards(2004-)

Ethnic enclaves + China

  • Beijing, Wangjing

  • Shanghai, Gubei and Huamu

  • Qingdao, Chengyang

  • Shenyang, Ta’xi

  • Yiwu, ‘Arabic street’

  • Dongguan, HongKongese Community

Wangjing, a large scale commodity housing estate of Chaoyang District in Beijing, has become a South Korean enclave where above 60,000 South Koreans live, making it the largest South Korean village in Beijing.

‘…Larger and more permanent than those frequented by expatriate businessmen on temporary assignment, the new enclaves evoke pre-revolutionary China, where cities such as Shanghai bustled with concessions dominated by French, British and Japanese…’ (Cha, 2007)


What is the implication of globalization upon sociospatial restructuring of post-reform Chinese cities?

Transnational migrants and ethnic enclaves

  • ‘transmigrants’, ‘transnational social field/social space/community’, ‘Diaspora’ (Portes 1987; 1996 ), ‘Globalisation from below’ (Portes 1996; Guarnizo and Smith 1998; Schiller and Fouron 1998) ’

  • Transnationalism:

    ‘…the process by which transmigrants, through their daily activities, forge and sustain multi-stranded social, economic, and political relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement, and through which they create transnational social fields that cross national borders…’ (Basch, et al. 1994; Gugler 2004)

  • The literature of transnational migrants, however, preoccupied with migration to the global North.

  • Especially, though the nations of transitional economy embrace the West in the 1990s, while the residential control upon foreign migrants is loosen, few empirically studies have been conducted to look closely at the rising number of transnational immigrants

  • In terms of the three forces that shape contemporary urban China, i.e. market reform, migrants and globalisation (Logan 2001), the impact of former two forces have been extensively studied, the latter, especially the practical undertakers of globalisation, immigrants and their implications, has been largely ignored (Wu and Webber 2004; Lin and Tse 2005).

  • Rural-urban migrants (Wu, 2000, 2001,2002; Fan,2001) and their enclaves, such as Zhejiangcun (Ma and Xiang 1998) and Chengzongcun (Zhang, Zhao et al. 2003) have been extensively studied, less is known about the so-called international migrants (Guoji yimin).

Transnational migrants and their enclaves in Guangzhou

  • Guangzhou: a market city

  • Guangzhou’s five enclaves

  • Xiaobei, an enclave of African traders

Guangzhou: A market of China

CECF (Chinese Export Commodities Fair)

Five sites

  • Sanyuan li

  • Huanshi dong

  • Tianhe bei

  • Er’sha Island

  • Dashi


The survey

  • 2006,Questionnaire: 80(43), 40(35)

  • 2007, Semi-structured interview: 46

Who are they?

  • Nationality: Sub-Saharan Africans

  • Profession: Traders

  • Language: French, English, Chinese, Cantonese

  • Religions: Muslims and Christians

  • Capital: Rich and poor

  • History of relation with China: Long and short

How many?

  • 20,000-200,000

How long…?

What kinds of business?

  • Salesman (行商-Xingshang) (Monthly, yearly)

  • Tradesman (坐贾-Zuogu) (500, Cargo)

‘They sell everything’

‘Shoes, clothes, cell-phones, MP3, from toothpick to motorcycle’

  • One wife and three children in New York

  • 200 containers a year


So, Africans immigrants VS Sichuan migrants


Local responses

Why Guangzhou

  • Rather than Shanghai, Beijing…?

  • Wholesale Market

  • Muslim history

  • Regional context

  • Entrepreneurial cultural

  • Climate and weather

World factory

  • Differ to the theory of transnational migrants such as the segmented labour market in the US, the rising of transnational ethnic enclave in Guangzhou is largely attributed to the ‘world factory’ status of the PRD


  • Transnational migrants in Xiaobei are composed of a highly diversified group. Though they mainly come from Middle-West Africa, they hold different socio-economic background, trading different goods, sharing various religions, different culture and languages.


  • Xiaobei serves as a vital, albeit unorthodox, economic institution for the welfare of transnational African traders.

  • Nevertheless, it is found that some local residents, businessmen and property managers have begun to take measures resist the newly arrival of Blacks. They either remove from Xiaobei, or curb the Blacks to move in.

  • Add a new dimension of sociospatial segregation for urban China, i.e. ethnicity

Future research

  • Social networks of transnational African traders

  • The links between Guangzhou, Yiwu and Dubai in terms of global trading


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