Thursday, 20 February 2014


                          BLACK               SOCIAL           HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Chinese South Africans (simplified Chinese: 华裔南非人; traditional Chinese: 華裔南非人) are a group of overseas Chinese that were born and/or are currently living in South Africa. The community consists of both those whose ancestors came to South Africa throughout the early 20th century, until Chinese immigration was banned under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1904, Taiwanese industrialists who arrived in the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's, and post-apartheid immigrants (predominantly from mainland China) to South Africa, who now outnumber native-born Chinese South Africans.[3] South Africa has the largest population of Chinese in Africa.


South African Chinese Population, 1904 - 1936[4]:177
Natal Province
Cape Province
Transvaal Province

First settlers

The first Chinese to settle in South Africa were prisoners, usually debtors, exiled from Batavia by the Dutch to their then newly founded colony at Cape Town in 1660. Originally the Dutch wanted to recruit Chinese settlers to settle in the colony as farmers, thereby helping establish the colony and create a tax base so the colony would be less of a drain on Dutch coffers. However the Dutch failed to find anyone in the Chinese community in Batavia who was prepared to volunteer to go to such a far off place. The first Chinese person recorded by the Dutch to arrive in the Cape was a convict by the name of Ytcho Wancho (almost certainly a Dutch version of his original Chinese name). From 1660 until the late 19th century the number of Chinese people in the Cape Colony never exceeded 100.
Chinese people began arriving in large numbers in South Africa in the 1870's through to the early 20th century initially in hopes of making their fortune on the diamond and gold mines in Kimberley and the Witwatersrand respectively. Most were independent immigrants mostly coming from Guangdong Province then known as Canton. Due to anti-Chinese feeling and racial discrimination at the time they were prevented from obtaining mining contracts and so became entrepreneurs and small business owners instead.[6]
The Chinese community in South Africa grew steadily throughout the remainder of the 19th century, bolstered by new arrivals from China. The Anglo-Boer War, fought between 1898 and 1902, pushed some Chinese South Africans out of the Witwatersrand and into areas such as Port Elizabeth and East London in the Eastern Cape.[7] Large scale immigration into South Africa during this time was prohibited by the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act of 1902 and the Cape Chinese Exclusion Act of 1904. A host of discriminatory laws similar to the anti-Chinese laws that sought to restrict trade, land ownership and citizenship were also enacted during this time. These laws were largely made popular by a general anti-Chinese feeling across thewestern world during the early 1900's and the arrival of over sixty thousand indentured Chinese miners after the second Anglo-Boer War.[6]
These early immigrants arriving between the 1870's and early 1900's are the ancestors of most of South Africa's first Chinese community and number some 10,000 individuals today.

Contracted gold miners (1904-1910)


There were many complicated reasons why the British chose to import Chinese labour to use on the mines. After the Anglo-Boer War, production on the gold mines of the Witwatersrand was very low due to a lack of labour. The British government was eager to get these mines back online as quickly as possible as part of their overall effort to rebuild the war-torn country.
Because of the war, unskilled black labourers had returned to rural areas and were more inclined to work on rebuilding infrastructure as mining was more dangerous. Unskilled white labour was being phased out because it was deemed too expensive. The British found recruiting and importing labour from east Asia the most expedient way to solve this problem.[4]:104
Between 1904 and 1910, over 63,000 contracted miners were brought in to work the mines of the Witwatersrand. Most of these contractors were recruited from the provinces of Chihli (Zhili), Shantung (Shandong) and Honan (Henan) in China.[4]:105 They were repatriated after 1910, because of strong White opposition to their presence, similar to anti-Asian sentiments in the western United States, particularly California at the same time.[9] It is a myth that the contracted miners brought into South Africa at this time are the forefathers of much of South Africa's Chinese population. Herbert Hoover, later 31st president of the United States, was a director of Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation (CEMC) when it became a supplier of coolie (Asian) labor for South African mines.[10] The first shipment of almost 2000 coolies arrived in Durban from Qinhuangdao in July 1904. By 1906, the total number of Chinese coolies increased to 50,000, almost entirely recruited and shipped by CEMC. When the living and working conditions of the laborers became known, public opposition to the scheme grew and questions were asked in the British Parliament. The scheme was abandoned in 1911.
The mass importation of Chinese labourers to work on the gold mines contributed to the fall from power of the conservative government in the United Kingdom. However, it did stimulate to the economic recovery of South Africa after the Anglo-Boer War by once again making the mines of the Witwatersrand the most productive gold mines in the world.

Early Apartheid Era (1950-1970)

As with other non-White South Africans, the Chinese suffered from discrimination during apartheid, and were often classified as Coloureds, but sometimes as Asians, a category that was generally reserved for Indian South Africans. Today this segment of the South African Chinese population numbers some 10,000 individuals.
Under the apartheid-era Population Registration Act of 1950, Chinese South Africans were first deemed "Asiatic," then "Coloured," and finally:
the Chinese Group, which shall consist of persons who in fact are, or who, except in the case of persons who in fact are members of a race or class or tribe referred to in paragraph (1), (2), (3), (5) or (6) are generally accepted as members of a race or tribe whose national home is in China.
In 1966 the South African Institute of Race Relations described the negative affects of apartheid legislation on the South African Chinese community as well as the resulting brain drain in the following way:
No group is treated so inconsistently under South Africa's race legislation. Under the Immorality Act they are Non-White. The Group Areas Act says they are Coloured, subsection Chinese ... They are frequently mistaken for Japanese in public and have generally used White buses, hotels, cinemas and restaurants. But in Pretoria, only the consul-general's staff may use White buses .. Their future appears insecure and unstable. Because of past and present misery under South African laws, and what seems like more to come in the future, many Chinese are emigrating. Like many Coloured people who are leaving the country, they seem to favour Canada. Through humiliation and statutory discrimination South Africa is frustrating and alienating what should be a prized community.

Immigration from Taiwan

Number of Chinese granted
permanent residence
in South Africa
1985 - 1995[4]:419
By citizenship 1994 - 1995
Hong Kong2116
With the establishment of ties between apartheid South Africa and the Republic of China (Taiwan), Taiwanese Chinese (as well as some Hong Kong Chinese) started migrating to South Africa from the late 1970's onwards. Due to apartheid South Africa's desire to attract their investment in South Africa and the many poorer Bantustans within the country they were exempt from many apartheid laws and regulations. This created an odd situation whereby Chinese South Africans from the mainland continued to be classified as Coloureds or Asians, whereas the Taiwanese Chinese[14] and certain other east Asian immigrants (esp. South Koreans and Japanese) were considered "honorary whites" and enjoyed most, if not all, of the rights accorded to White South Africans.
The South African government also offered a number of economic incentives to investors from Taiwan seeking to set up factories and businesses in the country. These generous incentives ranged from 'paying for relocation costs, subsidized wages for seven years, subsidized commercial rent for ten years, housing loans, cheap transport of goods to urban areas, and favorable exchange rates.'[6]
In 1984, South African Chinese, now increased to about 10,000, finally obtained the same official rights as the Japanese in South Africa, that is, to be treated as whites in terms of the Group Areas Act. (Sanctions and Honorary White, Masako Osada[full citation needed])The arrival of the Taiwanese resulted in a surge of the ethnic Chinese population of South Africa, which climbed from around 10,000 in the early 1980's to at least 20,000 in the early 1990's. Many Taiwanese were entrepreneurs who set up small companies, particularly in the textile sector, across South Africa. It is estimated that by the end of the early 1990's Taiwanese industrialists had invested US$2 billion (or US$2,94 billion in 2011 dollars) in South Africa and employed roughly 50,000 people.
In the late 1990's and early first decade of the 21st century many of the Taiwanese immigrants left South Africa partly due to official recognition of the Peoples Republic of China and a post apartheid crime wave that swept the country. Numbers dropped from a high of around 30,000 Taiwanese South Africans in the mid-1990's to the current population of approximately 6,000 today.


Following the end of apartheid in 1994, impressive numbers of Chinese from mainland China began immigrating to South Africa, increasing the Chinese population in South Africa to 200,000-350,000 people, including illegal immigrants. In Johannesburg, in particular, a new Chinatown has emerged in the eastern suburbs of Cyrildene and Bruma Lake, replacing the declining one in the city centre. A Chinese housing development has also been established in the small town of Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria.

Black Economic Empowerment ruling

Under apartheid, some Chinese South Africans were discriminated against in various forms by the apartheid government. However, they were originally excluded from benefiting under the affirmative action programmes of the South African government. This changed in mid-2008 when, in a case brought by the Chinese Association of South Africa, the Pretoria division of the High Court of South Africa ruled that Chinese South Africans who were South African citizens before 1994, as well as their descendants, qualify as previously disadvantaged individuals as Coloureds,and therefore are eligible to benefit under BEE and other affirmative action policies and programmes. However, Chinese South Africans who immigrated to the country after 1994 will be ineligible to benefit under the policies. This means that out of a community numbering possibly as many as 300,000, only about 12-15,000 will directly benefit from the ruling.

Immigration of Mainland Chinese


The immigration of mainland Chinese, by far the largest group of Chinese in South Africa, can be divided into three periods. The first group arrived in the late 1980's and early 1990's along with the Taiwanese immigrants. Unlike the Taiwanese immigrants, lacking the capital to start larger firms most established small businesses. Although becoming relatively prosperous a large number of this group left South Africa, either back to China or to more developed Western countries, around the same time and for much the same reason as the Taiwanese immigrants left. The second group, arriving mostly from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces in the 1990's, were wealthier and better educated as well as also being very entrepreneurial. The latest and ongoing group began arriving after 2000 and primary made up of small traders and peasants from Fujian province.
Although the Chinese South African community is a law-abiding community that has maintained a low profile throughout South Africa's modern history; there is speculation that local criminal gangs in South Africa barter abalone illegally with Chinese nationals and triad societies in exchange for chemicals used in the production of drugs, reducing the need for the use of money and hence avoiding money laundering difficulties.