The African Enclave of Guangzhou: A Case Study of Xiaobeilu

  • 1. Center of Urban and Regonal Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China;
    2. South Bank University, London, UK;
    3. Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Received date: 2007-06-10

  Revised date: 2007-12-10

  Online published: 2008-02-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40601033, No.40771066, No.50608033; Provincial Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong, No.06300105; Sun Yat-sen University 100 Scholars Foundation, No.3171310; Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars, Ministry of Education of P.R. China


Market reform and economic restructuring is reshaping the cities in mainland China. In the last two decades, a spate of studies have examined the transformation of urban social space under the perspective of socioeconomic transition, few lights, however, are shed on the implication of globalization upon urban China. Though the literature of transnationalism has extensively examined ethnic enclaves of Western cities especially the US, little is known about globalizing Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. This paper takes efforts to examine the newly appeared ethnic enclaves of African traders in Guangzhou, using Xiaobeilu as a study area. It mainly targets on the sociospatial feature as well as the underlying mechanism. The booming of Guangzhou's exporting economy is examined, followed by a general description of ethnic enclaves of transmigrants in Guangzhou. Five enclaves are identified, Sanyuanli, Huanshidong, Tianhebei, Ersha island, and Panyu, while the former two sites, Sanyuanli and Huanshidong, are becoming enclaves of African traders. As such, Xiaobeilu, one part of Huangshidong, is chosen to conduct in-depth studies. Under a microscopic lens, both questionnaires and half-structured interviews are used in the survey of 2006-2007. Though this study will use intensive interviews as the main method, questionnaires target on both Black and Chinese residents of Xiaobeilu are also used, and 45 questionnaires of African Traders have been collected, along with around 43 questionnaires of local residents. Importantly, a total of 46 semi-structured interviews have been successfully conducted, so that abundant qualitative information can be put into use. First, it is argued that Guangzhou's Black ethnic enclave is by no means the same as that of the West. Though the development of the enclave is largely an outcome of 'globalization from below', it is also heavily shaped by the national and local forces. Transnational migrants have been attracted to China as early as 1980, most African traders, however, came to Guangzhou after the door of China opened further in the late 1990s. Located in PRD (Pearl River Delta), one of the world factories of China, Guangzhou enjoys advantaged status in terms of goods export, annual fairs, accommodation, and so on. Moreover, the restructuring of Xiaobeilu is interacting with localities such as Guangzhou's entrepreneurial history and culture. It is found that most transnational migrants of Xiaobeilu come from West Africa and they work as merchants, either floating or fixed, to collect products, such as shoes, clothes and electronic facilities. Africans of Xiaobeilu can be grouped into two types: salesmen and tradesmen, the former is featured by regular mobility of crossing borders, whilst the latter, as Diasporas, has developed social networks to trade between China and Africa. Accordingly, Xiaobeilu is becoming a social field featured by ethnic enclave economy, within which the residents are featured by both high mobility and diversity. Nevertheless, African traders of Xiaobeilu suffer a high possibility of residential segregation. As such, globalization adds Chinese cities such as Guangzhou a new dimension of sociospatial segregation, ethnicity.

Cite this article

LI Zhigang, XUE Desheng, Michael Lyons, Alison Brown . The African Enclave of Guangzhou: A Case Study of Xiaobeilu[J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2008 , 63(2) : 207 -218 . DOI: 10.11821/xb200802010


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