The Chinese industrial city of Guangzhou has become unsafe for black people. Visitors and workers from Africa were recently kicked out of their hotels and apartments because of the rumors that the coronavirus was sweeping through the black community. There have also been several racial incidents in the city as African nations and blacks in America have sounded an alarm about the racism.
It’s not a very well kept secret that Chinese society is racist. They are equal opportunity haters, seeing all races — white, black, brown, red — as inferior. They’re usually much too polite and courteous to make it obvious, but the coronavirus has apparently swept away the pretenses and exposed them for who they truly are.
In Guangzhou, one of the local McDonald’s restaurants politely posted the following notice in English on its doors:
“We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant. For the sake of your health, consciously notify the local police for medical isolation. Please understand the inconvenience caused.”
Not too many people understood anything about it.
The Guangdong provincial government has responded to concerns about discrimination by calling China and Africa good friends, partners and brothers.
It said it attached “great importance to some African countries’ concerns and is working promptly to improve” its way of operating.
McDonald’s also responded, saying the ban on black people was “not representative of our inclusive values”.
“Immediately upon learning of an unauthorised communication to our guests at a restaurant in Guangzhou, we immediately removed the communication and temporarily closed the restaurant.”
The restaurant added that it had conducted “diversity and inclusion” training in the branch.
You could blame the racism on the coronavirus pandemic, except the city, once a hub of China-Africa trade with hundreds of thousands of African visitors and merchants, has gradually been reducing the presence of black Africans.
The African community in Guangzhou has been dwindling in recent years. There were once thought to be hundreds of thousands from the continent conducting business in the city, but today the number has fallen to just thousands.
Many feel that their communities have been the target of discriminatory measures. Restrictions to visas have made many I have spoken to feel less welcome. Some feel that the coronavirus is being used as an excuse to target businessmen who overstay their visas.
Cultural superiority felt by the Chinese people may not be as prevalent (or obvious) as it was in the 19th century, and as China has opened up, that superiority has been tempered by the knowledge of other peoples.
But Chinese hate for Japan is real and it goes beyond the atrocities committed by imperial Japan against China in World War II. And there is a lingering condescension among the Chinese for western peoples that many businessmen comment on and find maddening.
If China expects to become more than a regional player in world affairs, they’re going to have to address these issues.
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