Mistreatment of Africans in China during the COVID-19 Outbreak: When Economic Interests Supersede all Others

There was a huge outcry when videos of mistreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou went viral on social media in April 2020. This was after authorities in Guangdong province introduced stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Africans living there said they were forced to undergo mandatory testing and quarantine, were evicted from their homes, and turned away from public places. In subsequent days the central government in Beijing intervened and promised to bring the situation to an end. Not much has been done to understand the rationale behind the actions of China and affected African countries. In this essay, I opine that the change of heart by China, which is known for strict enforcement of its rules and regulations, came as no surprise. Beijing realised that the mistreatment of Africans in Guangzhou was detrimental to its economic interests. Many African countries were affected, but the focus of this essay is Nigeria. I further argue that Nigeria was reluctant to put pressure on China, despite reports of the continuation of mistreatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou. It did not want to jeopardise its economic relations with China, I argue. This essay relies on online news articles by The Punch and Vanguard in Nigeria and Global Times and China Global Television Network Africa in China.