An ethnographic study of Sudanese businesspeople in Southeast China

 Wen Meizhen

On 18 June 2012, following the death of a Nigerian trader in police custody in Guangzhou city, in the province of Guangdong, more than one thousand African migrants organized a protest to disrupt public transportation. They demanded an explanation of the death of the young Nigerian and agitated for improved protection of African citizens living in the city. In particular, the called for greater transparency regarding visa and residence permit conditions, and an end to unfair official treatment towards Africans, as compared to other foreign nationals residing in Guangzhou. The impact of this protest reached far beyond this one city. Being the first time since the late 1980s that African residents had organised such a large-scale protest, the complaints of the Guangzhou migrants captured the attention of Chinese and international media. Local authorities dispersed the protesters within hours, and while their demands for fairer treatment went unheeded, journalists, public policy groups and academics have since paid greater attention to the conditions of Africans in China. Over the past twenty years hundreds of thousands of Africans have entered China, settling in large Guangzhou in Guangdong and Yiwu, in Zhejiang province, host the two large communities of African businesspeople. Yet relations between these migrants and local communities, movements among their population, their working and living conditions generally – and not just when an incident provokes media attention – remain understudied in the political and social sciences.

This project focuses on the daily lives and trading practices of a community of Sudanese businesspeople in Yiwu, a globally connected and complex market place. Wen Meizhen will focus primarily on three questions: how do Sudanese businesspeople enter the Chinese market and establish long-distance trading networks? How do they build trust to trade with people from different backgrounds? How have they transformed the marketplace, its practices and organisation?

About the Speaker

Meizhen Wen is a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World. She worked as a research assistant at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from 2013 to 2015. She was awarded a Master of Philosophy in Social Science by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and a Bachelor of Art by Wenzhou University. Her previous research focused on minority migration in China. Current research interests are in economic anthropology, international migration and ethnicity.


Wen Meizhen

Dates & times

Monday, 16 November 2015

3.00pm - 4.00pm


Plum Blossom Room, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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