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Anti-Sinicism: Roots in Pre-industrial Colonial Southern Africa

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

With the Chinese presence on the African continent being perceived and portrayed as a new global phenomenon there has been a concomitant, albeit sporadic and nuanced, emergence of an aversion to things Chinese, gradually permeating popular consciousness. In a postcolonial world these anti-Sinitic or Sino-phobic sentiments are crudely reminiscent of the late nineteenth century colonial cries of the “yellow peril”, which culminated in acts of exclusion and extreme prohibition that singled out and targeted the Chinese in the various colonies across the Atlantic and Pacific including South Africa. This article, however, proposes to trace the genesis of some of anti-Sinicism to a pre-industrial period by considering developments in colonial Southern Africa. It will show how in the early Dutch settler and British colonial periods at the Cape, when the number of Chinese present in the region was miniscule, negative feelings towards the Chinese as the “other” were already apparent and evident in the reactions to them prior to the arrival of the large numbers which came to America, Australasia and Africa from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, University of Pretoria Lynnwood Road, Hillcrest, Pretoria 0002 South Africa, Email:


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