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General Trends among New Chinese Immigrants

New Chinese immigrants began moving to Zimbabwe after China and Zimbabwe established diplomatic relations in 1980. Starting in 1984, a large number of Chinese interpreters and engineers were dispatched by Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), such as China National Complete Plant Import and Export Corporation (Group), China North Industries Corporation, and China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation, to carry out large public construction projects. After the projects were completed, some stayed on and used their relationships with Zimbabweans to open wholesale or retail shops, or to establish factories. Those who remained are the first generation of new Chinese immigrants. After their businesses developed, they invited their families, relatives and friends to Zimbabwe. The new Chinese community built up

Table 4.1 The origin of new Chinese immigrants from China



1500 300-500 Fewer than 300


Heilongjiang, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong Hebei, Hunan, Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian

aOf those from Liaoning Province, the City of Anshan alone contributes more than 1000

gradually. But the development of this community was very slow in the beginning, and in 2000 there were only about 500 individuals (SCROCA 2005). This was the first wave of new Chinese immigrants.

The second wave began in 2000 and reached its height in 2006. It peaked because China accelerated its policy of “going out” to Africa; Zimbabwe implemented its “Looking East” policy in 2003; and the friendship between China and Zimbabwe strengthened and deepened. According to my fieldwork, about 6000 new Chinese immigrants live in Zimbabwe, including 5000 in Harare, 150 in Gweru, 100 in Bulawayo and 10-50 in other smaller cities, such as Mutare, Chinoyi and Chegutu. Unlike the older immigrants, most of them come from Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong (see Table 4.1). The Fujianese, who are the largest group in other Southern African countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho (McNamee et al. 2012/ 2013), only number around 100 in Zimbabwe.

Most of the new Chinese immigrants who entered Zimbabwe from the mid-1980s to 2000 are now 45-60 years old, accounting for 20 % of the Chinese in the country. Most of those who entered after 2000 are now 30-45 years old, accounting for 60 % of the total. The other 20 % are parents or children. Those who achieved a college education before moving to Zimbabwe account for about 30 % of the total, and most of them were from Liaoning, Gansu and Zhejiang. The educational level of those moving to Zimbabwe in the late 1980s and the early 1990s is higher than that of the rest, especially those who arrive after 2005.

There are three types of migrant: owners of small and medium-sized enterprises who invest in manufacturing; private businessmen engaged in catering, recreation, tourism, and wholesale and retail trading; and Chinese employees hired by the former two, or dispatched by China’s SOEs, who stayed on after finishing their contracts. Up to now, the first type have established more than 100 factories producing garments, footwear, construction materials, chemical products and food products, and exploiting and refining minerals. The second type have opened more than 1000 wholesale and retail shops, 6 well-known restaurants (5 in Harare, 1 in Bulawayo), a club and a tour company.

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