African-Chinese couples on the rise in Guangzhou, China

World Today

In China, parts of the southern city of Guangzhou have become a melting pot of Chinese and African cultures. The number of marriages between African immigrants and local Chinese has been on a steady rise. CCTV’s Audrey Siek reported.

Kingsley Azieh is a businessman from Cameroon. In 2007, he started work as a trader in Guangzhou. From building materials to clothing, Kingsley is supplying Africa with what it needs. He has become a leader of the African business community in Guangzhou. It’s Guangzhou he put down roots. He met his future wife in northwestern Shanxi province where they married. Kingsley said the beginning wasn’t easy.

“Secondly, the language barriers. To be able to communicate with the family friendly, it was a little bit difficult. And the Chinese food, it was very difficult for me to accept,” Kingsley said.

“At the very beginning, my family and friends rejected our marriage. Cultural differences and the distance between China and Africa were daunting,” Kingsley’s wife Wang Shuang said.

But their love bridged the gap. Kingsley adjusted to Chinese culture and won over his wife’s family and friends. Now they have two children. Wang Shuang sometimes finds herself having to explain why they stand out from the other children around. “Sometimes someone will ask my son why he is so black. I want him to be proud. I tell him you’re the color of chocolate while some other children are the color of milk,” Wang said.

Despite Kingsley’s success, for mixed marriage families in Guangzhou, visas, access to social welfare and education for their children are big concerns. The Guangzhou government has set up over 70 service centers in areas with a large foreign population. Social workers are trying to help with the difficulties.

“We think there are about 200 African-Chinese children on this street. Our center provides information and consultation services. We also provide language lessons, advice on how to deal with legal and medical issues, and help with cultural adjustment,” Xing Han, director of Dengfeng Community Family Integrated Service Center, said.

Many Africans in Guangzhou have to renew their visa every few months. Kingsley is now applying for his Chinese green card, but he doesn’t know whether he’ll get it, and that is his biggest wish. “Generally, China has an open visa policy. Anyone who is eligible can apply for permanent residency. Our policy is not country specific, but based on economic criteria,” Peng Yunfei, deputy director of Guangzhou Exit and Entry Administration, said.

Around 20,000 Africans live in Guangzhou, which is thought to be one of the largest groups of foreigners in the city. It’s also estimated there are 400 African-Chinese families. The belief that love conquers all is alive and well for many there. Social workers like Xing Han expect the Guangzhou authorities and local community to do more to welcome people who want to call China home.