What do you think of Quanzhou

Emigrated AfricansLearn from China

"Oh, sorry! I do this out of habit. My name is Francis Tchiégué. In Chinese, my name is Tchie-Gai."

Francis Tchiégué is quite well known in China and for that reason is very busy. But on this Thursday evening he has time and comes to the fast-food restaurant in a Beijing shopping center. Tchiégué is the Sino-African cultural ambassador appointed by the Chinese government. When he is not working as a translator for the representations of African countries, he travels the world on behalf of the Chinese Hanban Language Institute. Tchiégué wears a long, shiny, Chinese shirt with wide sleeves. This is no coincidence, because Tchiégué loves China:

"When you love something, it's no longer about money. If you really care about something, you can fully understand it."

Tchiégué came to China ten years ago. This made a childhood dream come true, says the 39-year-old. His father had learned kung fu in Africa and seen action films with Bruce Lee. That piqued the son's interest. It was a Chinese government scholarship that brought him to Beijing, after all. He came to study mathematics but didn't speak a word of Mandarin, so he was studying like a madman. Today he sings Chinese operas in his spare time and is a frequent guest on TV talk shows. This is how the Chinese government became aware of him.

It is not known exactly how many Africans live in China because the government does not publish statistics on foreigners. However, the leading expert, Adams Bodomo at the University of Hong Kong, estimates it could be up to 500,000. The Africans stand out in China, they live in the big cities and more and more people are coming to China: especially students and traders. However, life is not as simple as many hope it is. The western world is much closer to Africa than China: culturally, linguistically, geographically and also climatically.

No financial crisis in China

Lunch break at the International University of Shanghai. Juma Salum is particularly concerned about the gray, cold weather. He comes from Tanzania. Now he's sitting in the cafeteria over a bowl of steaming chicken broth and trying to pick out pasta and meat. However, eating with the chopsticks does not work so well:

"I'm impressed by how hard the Chinese work. Just 30 years ago, Europe had nothing to fear from China. Today, China is growing faster than any other country in Europe. There is no financial crisis here. I think we can learn from China."

Salum has only just started his studies in politics, he now has to read Marxist theories as prescribed. He likes the material, as does the Chinese system of government. For many African countries, democracy is not yet suitable, it is still too early for that, he says. Still, Salum would have preferred to study in America than in China, but he couldn't choose.

China is only a second choice for many African students and they come anyway. Most of them are not bothered by politics, but they struggle with the language. The Chinese government awards thousands of full scholarships to Africans every year - to promote the talents that Africa needs for its development, according to Beijing. But it is also a way of increasing Chinese influence in Africa. According to the government, 27,000 Africans studied in China in the year before last. Some are taught in English, but even that is difficult, says this Ugandan student who prefers not to give his name:

"Often the professors just read a Powerpoint presentation. Afterwards you usually can't ask any questions. They couldn't answer them because they don't speak good English, even though they are respected professors."

Africans feel discriminated against

Despite these obstacles, African students in China have important experiences. Nevertheless, most of them want to go back home after their studies. On the one hand to help their country, on the other hand because it is difficult as a foreigner to get well-paid jobs in China or a residence permit that is valid for more than a year. Modern China has only recently opened up and is still on the way to becoming a country of immigration. Foreigners sense that they are foreigners. Politically and socially:

Guangzhou is located in southwest China. It is the third largest city and home to the largest African community: dealers come here from many African countries to buy everything from shoes to spare parts for cars. Most Africans in Guangzhou seem very closed. The Chinese police regularly conduct raids and passport controls. She is looking for Africans who will stay longer than her visa allows. The Africans feel discriminated against by it. On the street, they say, Chinese people would often stare at them and touch their black skin. In the subway, you sit away from them, sniffing. A couple of Nigerians have married Chinese women and have children with them. But these families are an exception.

If you ask the Chinese here, many are very open. But just as many want nothing to do with Africans.

Lin Biyun is Chinese and a seamstress. She makes traditional African women's clothes, which she sells to African customers in a trading center. She herself has never been to Africa and she doesn't think much of this continent either. Their prejudices were reinforced when the Chinese state television recently showed pictures of the genocide in Rwanda:

"It's unbelievable how retarded they are culturally. Of course there are ups and downs in Africa economically."

Night has fallen in Beijing. Francis Tchiégué narrated for almost four hours. Discrimination occurs everywhere, not just in China. You have to be open, he says, everything depends on your own attitude. Tchiégué is married to a Russian woman. From his point of view, many of the Africans in China are too little interested in Chinese culture and miss out on a lot in the process, art, philosophy, proverbs or the sense of warm water that is consumed with food everywhere in China.

"At first I had a hard time getting used to it. We thought, how can you just swallow something like this. Warm water? But over time you try it more often, and at some point you feel this comfort in your body. Then you think how could I just live without it for so long? "