Chinese immigrants in South Africa have not been spared from the violent, anti-immigrant riots that have swept across Durban and Johannesburg, two of the country’s largest cities. There have been reports of injuries along with at least 40 business that were ransacked and looted. Most of those business were small, independent shops, not any of the 20 vast China Malls that are spread across Johannesburg. Surprisingly, those China Malls have not been impacted by the xenophobic violence.
University of Minnesota doctoral student Mingwei Huang is conducting ethnographic research on the China Malls in Johannesburg and joins Cobus to discuss why they have been untouched, so far, by the rise of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa.
Mingwei Huang is conducting an interdisciplinary study of the contemporary spectacular reemergence of Sino-African relations, particularly Sino-African friendship, in South Africa. She is focusing on how the geopolitics of diplomatic ‘friendship’ and transnational capital flows between China and South Africa are localized in the everyday encounters and friendships between Chinese migrants, South Africans, and African migrants in South Africa. Huang is researching how friendship and capital are linked through productive sentiments such as amity and trust in addition to everyday social practices of exchange and transactions. In so doing, she conceptualizes how friendship and capital are mutually constitutive in a ‘political economy of friendship’ and a local ‘friendship economy’ in commercial spaces of transnational capital. Through ethnographic, historical, and cultural and media studies methods, Huang examines three Sino-African capital and cultural flows vis-à-vis friendship: mass Chinese tourism in Cape Town, China Malls–Chinese-import shopping malls–in Johannesburg, and PRC sponsored cultural diplomacy events in South Africa. Her research theoretically contributes to anthropological approaches to friendship, capital, globalization, and ‘south-south’ relations.