Opinion (Part One): Is The Chinese Honeymoon in Zambia Over?

Two weeks ago the Chinese community in Lusaka cried foul after some of their members were rounded up at the JCS market by the joint operations team involving the police, immigration and other security wings. In order to try to find answers, some of the Chinese petitioned their embassy and their association to quickly engage the Zambian government and find out why the Chinese were treated in the manner the joint operations did to them.

Not long ago, some Chinese miners were rounded up in a similar fashion on the Copperbelt and were locked up by the immigration and the police. It was alleged that these Chinese were mining illegally and most of them did not have valid papers to work in Zambia. The Chinese community was disgusted because among the arrested was a pregnant lady. Similarly, the Chinese protested and cried to their leaders to have their countrymates released. Indeed they were released and most of them were deported back to China.

As someone who has been conducting research on Chinese operations in Africa, I have taken an interest to understand why such things are becoming a common occurrence for the Chinese, not just in Zambia but in many parts of Africa as well. Not many years ago, I was working in China for a Chinese multinational as an international business manager who was responsible for helping the company expand into new territories outside China. I remember travelling with my Chinese colleagues to many countries across Africa and South America. Apart from Brazil, generally the Chinese colleagues were given red carpet in all the countries we visited, more especially in Africa. The Brazilians were very cautious about my Chinese colleagues. On several occasions, since most of my colleagues could not speak English, the Brazilians warned me to stop my colleagues from taking photos or making sketches of the technology they were seeing. I was puzzled at this kind of mistrust and being naïve, I thought the Brazilians were just trying to be petty.

Fast forward to today, I had a similar incidence right here in Zambia when I talked to some officials about how I was planning to go into a joint venture with my Chinese colleagues for some project. The officials looked at me and said, “Just be careful not to give them too much information, otherwise they will go behind your back and do the project on their own without you”. I was short of words and I wanted to tell my country mates that I have lived with the Chinese for more than 15 years and I am married from there, so the Chinese are good people, they can’t throw me out. However, I kept quiet and took some time to think about the warning.

I am sure that most of us are asking ourselves about what really happened to the most loved Chinese colleagues in our country? Is their honeymoon in Zambia and Africa in particular slowly coming to an end?

When the JCS market incidence happened, a Chinese friend called me. He was like, “Kumbu, you have lived in China for many years and you are also married to a Chinese lady. What do you make of the recent happenings where Chinese people seem to be a target for so many negative things in the country”? If the Chinese are not being robbed, then they are being harassed by some unscrupulous people, or they are having a run-in with the officials. He further went on to lament about how some of them have invested heavily here to the extent they have made Zambia their home country. He really wondered why the Chinese who are doing so much for the country should be subjected to such ill treatment.

Indeed I really sympathised with my friend, and I felt sorry for what happened. However, my mind could not stop asking why over the past few years, most of the Zambians have begun to have a different attitude towards the Chinese, whom not so long ago they welcomed with a red carpet. Just what went wrong? Immediately, my inquisition led me to think about a number of things, both structural and social, that may have led to this. Today I will try to dwell much on the aspect of how, as Zambians, we are working with our Chinese colleagues and I will cover other aspects in subsequent write ups.

To be Continued……………………….

Article by Kumbukilani Phiri and Durban Kambaki

Chinese Scholars


  1. Nelson Chipaila Mena

    We can all agree that we Zambians are very hospitable. The Chinese have greatly contributed to the development of our country, especially infrastructure but, because of the illegal practices of some of their nationals all around Africa, people are becoming cautious.

  2. Wise me

    I am just easy how it is for Chinese to enter Zambia especially that they are handcapped in the our languages and conspicous in appearance so as to be easily screened advised about our immigration laws. Surely it is not right to embaras publicly someone who ignorantly finds himself/herself in such a situation. Why do you always take these issues to the media? Would be better handle them diplomatically? My observation is that the immigration department is part of the has weaknesses in making sure emmigrants by the way they aretreated at entry don’t points will not overlook laws in the country they have entered. I learnt this by the way I was treated in China at the airport by being subjected to double screening. I knew then that I had to be careful how I pneeded to behave in that country. By the way this happens at some borders in our region SADCC.

  3. Sj

    Well ma Choncholi (as jargon name) for Chinese are generally easy to embrace but be careful indeed how much they know.
    A story on the C/belt is told how they dismantled a mining instrument and sent it back to China where it was under scrutiny and ‘hey presto’ they began making their own (nothing wrong). Not sinister l guess.
    If they were with clean papers they’d never ‘ve been rounded up and deported. Or if it is well they fight their case and be back on the street, especially since we hear of their one child policy and how over populated it is in China despite their massive land. Comment

  4. Shikantwa

    Which side are you on? Chinese are the most racist. They don’t even hide it. In China in SOME PLACES the locals will tell you ” no Africans” . They look innocent but are the most crooked by average. Don’t make it seem like they are the best investors. In their investment they do not even have community responsibility. They can put up a toxic factory and emit toxic waste into a river without caring. Not all Chinese are bad though, on average they are the worst. People have realized that’s why they have to be controlled. They would do the same if we had the money to go and invest in China.They have the worst visa citizenship laws.

    • TLlaw

      Africans do not yet grasp what they are in for wholeheartedly embracing and dealing with China. This is a most renowned ‘rogue’ nation ever on planet globe Western nations could not contain. Its a fundamental error caving in to China at such a significant margin.

      We all knew they got ‘tech know-how’ through Westerners out sourcing manpower/tech jobs which they are paying for very direly today and since the early 2000.

  5. Having done

    Chinese are very dangerous humans even if they may invest heavily, we have head alot about negative activities such as considering blacks as their meat,in some African countries they were even caught for carnivorous activities,talk about an permitted expropriation when give any chance?why do they exclude aFrican when doing something and mostly they do at night?

  6. Sj

    Don’t ‘ve anything against Chinese people but few years back they were on record for not providing adequate Safety wear for Zambian miners @ a Mine somewhere in S/ern Province?
    This did not sit well with current Zedian labour Laws.I’m not sure if that mine has since closed. Not all Chinese are bad but they seem to ‘ve one of a kind that easily can flout our laws.
    Are they not the ones few weeks ago who went on Social media for running Casinos that nearly ‘ve ruined the social lives of Zambians? I stand to be corrected. Comment

  7. Stephen sampa

    Chinese are good people who can adapted any environment without difficulties very friendly although labor output to our Zambian people salaries are too low and that problem of salaries is not about our country but Africa at large.l was in China moved in about six cities such as Jiangxi, huaghazou, Shanghai, Guangzhou,Beijing, Jiangsu but Chinese people behaviour is the same their are handworkers and getting low wage

  8. chongololo

    The Brazilians were cautious… and now they have a vibrant economy. Amongst the top of the world.
    The Africans laid out the red carpet… kissed their feet. And continue doing so.

  9. Voltron

    Chinese are bribing our leaders by first making some construction somewhere and our leaders then think they are good and later give them mines. Tell the truth, kcm employees will kill one or more Chinese if they continue to bring substandard s in the mines. We shall organize as employees and beat them to teach even our leaders a lesson to as who they should bring as a good investor. Why has our government run away from bringing white s as mining investors?

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