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From Gold Mine to Land Mine – The Chinese in Ghana

150 Chinese immigrants in Ghana have been detained whilst the crackdown continues. What is the problem behind the large-scale arrests?

Manya Koetse





Topic Summary

During the first week of June 2013, the Chinese in Ghana instantly became a hot topic over China’s Internet as 124 Chinese civilians were captured by Ghanaian soldiers for alleged illegal gold mining. As local media reported that Chinese residents were being looted by villagers, disturbing pictures of the situation in Ghana started to spread across Weibo- they depicted wounded Chinese civilians and their houses amidst blazing fire.


Weibo Commenters

Weibo user Duzhifu (43.752 fans) says: “The Chinese in Ghana are in a state of emergency! As exposed on the Internet, Ghana has dispatched military troops to slaughter and loot Chinese citizens. Chinese in Ghana have sent pictures taken with their mobile phones of the ‘crackdown’. In these pictures you can see the flames lighting up the sky, a completely looted supermarket and even a wounded Chinese man lying on the ground waiting for help.”

Duzhifu comment:Ghana


A user who calls himself ‘Speaking in Whispers’ (Laonie tan zhanlue) (11538 followers), says: “I haven’t followed the situation of Chinese in Africa too much, but the past few days Weibo is flooded by news of Chinese being killed in Africa. After looking at this post [see the following post] I understand why the Chinese are hated so much. Perhaps it’s a people that naturally only respects those who act as slaves – I am not referring to Ghanaians or to the black people of Africa.”

The post that the last user is referring to is one that originally surfaced on a forum on June 6th – its screenshot was then shared by netizens. It supposedly is written by a Chinese man who calls himself “Washed, but not Brainwashed” (只洗头不洗脑)and who lives and works in Ghana himself. Here’s a translation of part of the text:

“The denigration and discrimination of black people is spreading like an epidemic.

When the day comes that large-scale anti-Chinese incidents erupt in Ghana, it surely cannot be taken as an unlucky accident. Thousands of Shanglin people in Ghana display abusive and discriminatory behavior towards black people on a daily basis, in various degrees. Other Chinese, with whom I share the same cultural genes, are not much different. They are robbing away the food provisions of the black people every day. They spend hundreds of cedi on some Fujian hookers in Kumasi, but can’t even give black people one rotten grain of pepper. The black people work the hardest and are the most tired, but end up getting the worst food. There are about ten dogs at the construction site, and they get fed better than the black people, who only get half a fish per person every day, whilst the dogs can eat unlimited amounts of fish. (…) The Chinese buy eggs and then just let them stand there go rotten. They’d rather throw them away than give them to the black people. Black people like to flavor their food with some hot pepper, but they never get it when they ask for it. One time a man who asked for pepper was even threatened with a gun by a Chinese guy. The Chinese like to give the black men insulting nicknames. Even though they cannot understand it, they understand its ill meaning because of the laughter and facial expressions of the Chinese.

 100% of the Chinese men have had sex with a black maid. Groping a girl’s bosom in a public place has become just one way to entertain themselves- they never grow tired of it.  A large part of black maids have slept with Chinese men. They can get some money for it afterwards, and although it seems like the majority is not forced into sex, the ones who are will never admit it since they’re too afraid to lose their well-paid job.  And so they have no other option than to cater to the Chinese man’s wishes. Even if they sell their bodies, the Chinese men will replace them after a month or two because the fun has worn out and they want to have a new one.

Whether it’s a boss or a worker- they all take pleasure in making fun of black people. Especially when they’re dissatisfied with something, they like to take out their anger on the black people. (..) I once asked why they would not treat black people with humanity, but the question was evaded and they just said that it would take me a long time to understand. Maybe I haven’t been here long enough, because I still don’t understand the malicious behavior of the Chinese people (…).

PS: When someone gropes a new maid in her bed in the middle of the night and satisfies himself, isn’t he doing exactly the same as what the Japanese did in those years? (…) A month ago, when a black man was struck with the gun of a Chinese man, the latter only remarked: “It’s a pity he didn’t die”. (…) What do you think- will it be long before Chinese will be killed?”


BACKGROUND ARTICLE: From Gold Mine to Land Mine – The Chinese in Ghana


Tensions between Chinese immigrants and Ghanaians reached their zenith in the first week of June as authorities started raiding camps, mines and hotels in search of Chinese nationals that were trespassing the law by overstaying their visa or undertaking illegal mining. Over 150 Chinese were detained. According to Chinese reports, the crackdown was violent and driven by popular resentment towards Chinese immigrants. Some Chinese were allegedly beaten and robbed by the military police before taken into custody (Nossiter&Sun 2013). Pictures of the situation in Ghana flooded across Weibo (see selection below). What is the background of these Chinese immigrants in Ghana, and how can we explain the resentment towards them? This article construes how the golden story of the Chinese in Ghana could turn into a nightmare for many of them.


China declared 2006 as the national “Year of Africa” when the China-Africa summit took place in Beijing. China has had long-term political and economical relations with Africa since the 1960s and started to conduct a more active African policy in the 1990s. The continent offered China the energy resources it needed and formed a strategic ally for China as an upcoming global power in the international community. The China-Africa relationship started off as the ideal love affair; China was willing to ignore Africa’s political, environmental or humanitarian misbehavior in exchange for energy resources, as Africa was willing to give this in return for China’s investment in technology, infrastructure and other sectors that urgently needed improvement for Africa’s long-term growth (Cornelissen&Taylor 2000; Rotberg 2008, 83). As one African official noted: “(..)the Western world is never prepared to transfer technology- but the Chinese do,[and] while China’s technology may not be as sophisticated as some Western governments’, it is better to have Chinese technology than to have none at all” (Sautman&Hairong 2007, 80).

Since the beginning of the millennium Chinese immigrants flooded into Ghana, Africa’s second-largest gold producer. A great part of the Chinese immigrants in Ghana come from Shanglin county, a place in Guangxi province with a long history of gold mining.  There are about 50,000 Shanglin locals in Ghana, also referred to as the “Shanglin Gang”. Their plans in Africa follow a three-year scheme: in the first year they build the mines and earn back their invested money, in the second year they generate profits and in the third year they return back to China (Hille 2013; Kalman 2013; Song 2013). Although Ghana’s law states that areas under 25 acres can only be mined by nationals, the Shanglin Gang actively mines these areas as well: “As long as you enter into an agreement with Ghanaian landowners, you can mine,” says one Chinese immigrant (Song 2013): “It’s their land and their mining permit. I’m just helping him mine.”


Existing tensions and conflicts between Chinese immigrants and Ghanaians cannot only be explained by Shanglin’s people illegal gold mining or overstay of visa. The roots of the problem can be found in the fundamental relationship between Chinese and Ghanaian workers. Conflicts within these employment relations have existed since the first Chinese immigrants started hiring Ghanaians to work for them and derive from “culturally grounded expectations”, as explained in an insightful article by Giese and Thiel (2012). As netizens on Weibo condemn the large-scale discrimination of black people amongst Chinese in Africa, Giese and Thiel argue that the problem does not so much lie in racial prejudices that Ghanaians have of Chinese and vice versa, but within the situations that occur during work and the expectations the Ghanaians and Chinese have of each other in their respective functions.

The vulnerability of both Chinese employers and Ghanian employees is central to the problem. The Chinese are vulnerable because they are in a foreign and possibly hostile environment with a different language and culture, while there is a lot at stake for them in terms of financial investment. They expect honesty, proactivity and dedication from their workers in order for their mutual relation to be successful (Giese&Thiel 2012, 16). In exchange, they pay Ghanaians wages that often exceed the local average (2012, 6). The Ghanaians that work for the Chinese, on the other hand, are vulnerable because they are overall economically marginalized and uneducated young men. They come from a cultural background where one’s employer is also supposed to be one’s guardian and protector. Employment relationships are characterized by the employer taking care of his workers in terms of fees or gifts in order to build on long-term loyalty; the employment relation, in this way, somewhat resembles a family relationship. The Chinese employers do not get what they want from their Ghanaian workers (hard work and loyalty) because they do not give them what they want (symbolic gifts or extra fees) (Giese&Thiel 2012: 6,16). This results in structural dissatisfaction; a derailed relationship where discrimination and violence eventually emerges as the consequence of complete mutual misunderstanding.

The Chinese in Ghana have created a dangerous situation for themselves as anti-Chinese sentiments are spiraling out of control. There are still many people who have fled and are hiding on cocoa farms or within Chinese owned companies, afraid of the military police (Nossiter&Sun 2013). The Chinese immigrants who are currently detained will be released and send back to their country (Hille 2013). This, however, does not solve the problem. As long as Chinese entrepreneurs do not work out their frustrated attitude towards local workers, the situation will keep on escalating and more blood will be shed on both sides. One thing is for sure; the happy end of the China-African fairytale relationship still needs a lot of work- if it’s possible at all. For the people of Shanglin, at least, the gold rush seems to have come to an end.     


What do you think about this situation? Do the problems of the Chinese immigrants in Ghana indeed lie within fundamental problems in the working relationship, or is it perhaps part of deeply rooted racist prejudice amongst Chinese? Share you thoughts and ‘like’ my page on the What’s on Weibo Facebook page.


– Manya Koetse, 2013.



Cornellisen, Scarlett and Ian Taylor. 2000. “The political economy of China and Japan’s relationship with Africa: a comparative perspective.” The Pacific Review 13, no. 4: 615-633.

Giese, Karsten and Alena Thiel. 2012. “The Vulnerable Other- distorted equity in Chinese-Ghanaian employment relations.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 1:20.

Kaiman, Jonathan.2013.”Ghana arrests 124 Chinese citizens for illegal gold mining.” The Guardian, June 6. Accessed June 11.

Nossiter, Adam and Yiting Sun. 2013. “Chasing a Golden Dream, Chinese Miners are on the Run in Ghana.” New York Times, June 10. Accessed June 12, 2013.

Rotberg, Robert. 2008. China into Africa: Trade, Aid and Influence. Cambridge: World Peace Foundation.

Sautman, Barry and Yan Hairong. 2007. “Friends and Interests: China’s Distinctive Links with Africa.” African Studies Review 50(3):75-114.

Song, Sophie. 2013. “A Modern Day Gold Rush.” International Business Times, May 15.  Accessed June 6.


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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at, or follow on Twitter.



  1. Avatar


    May 23, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Years ago when black people here in the US used to tell me that the Chinese will be helping Africa when the White Man wouldn’t, I would say to them “We will see.”
    Greed is greed no matter what the skin color or nationality. First, the Europeans raped Africa, now will be the Chinese’ turn.

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Over a Third of China’s Babies Are Delivered via C-Section – The National Health Commission Wants to Change That

Fear of pain is a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request.

Manya Koetse



Image by Sohu News

China’s National Health Commission wants to lower the nation’s high C-section rates. On Chinese social media, many women argue it should be up to the mother to decide how she wants to give birth.

In 2018 the percentage of deliveries by cesarean was 36.7% in mainland China, according to the latest Report on Women’s & Children’s Health (中国妇幼健康事业发展报告) that was launched by the National Health Commission on May 27.

This means that together with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) now has the highest C-section rates in the world.

A World Health Organization report from 2010 estimated that 46% of Chinese babies were delivered via C-section. In 2017, another study found that this percentage was incorrect, although some urban and wealthier regions in China, such as Shanghai, did see C-section (CS) rates as a high as 68% (Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 1; McNeil 2017).

China’s CS rates have recently become a hot topic in Chinese newspapers and on social media. On May 27, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China held a Beijing news conference in which Qin Geng (秦耕), the director, announced that more actions will be taken to encourage natural childbirth among Chinese women.

Qin Geng during the press conference on May 27.

These actions will, among others, include stricter regulation of cesarian section operations and the provision of more support and pain relief for laboring women, as well as a higher hospital income for natural births. The National Health Comission hopes to significantly reduce the number of unneccesssary C-sections without medical indication in this way (Beijing News 2019; Caijing 2019).

Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered 10-15% to be “the ideal rate” for C-sections, of which the highest percentage are those CS deliveries with medical indications that can actually save the lives of mothers and babies.

Although the worldwide rates for CS deliveries have increased throughout the years, there is no evidence for the benefits of nonmedically indicated C-sections for women or children, according to the World Health Organization.

This is not the first time Chinese authorities try to combat the country’s high CS rates. After reports by the World Health Organization from 2010 and 2015 pointing out the potential hazards of unnecessary C-sections, there have been various state efforts to reduce the number of nonmedical cesarian surgeries.

Besides the introduction of free prenatal education classes, these efforts included monitoring public hospital CS rates and removing bonuses or cutting portions of a hospital’s income once their CS rates reached a certain threshold (e.g. 40%) (Wang 2017, 3). These government initiatives seem to have had effect: the country’s C-section growth rates have slowed down, but were not decreasing yet.

Since the Chinese government announced an end to its one-child policy in 2015, lowering cesarean sections rates has become a more urgent matter, as Chinese couples are now allowed to have a second child.

Although various studies from mainland China and beyond challenge the idea that nonmedical C-sections are less ‘safe’ than vaginal births for single deliveries, this risk changes when a woman who previously had a CS section plans another pregnancy: multiple cesarean sections are associated with additional risks including CS scar rupture and abnormal placental invasion (Biler et al 2017, 1074; Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 2; Liu et al 2015, 817).


Why So Many C-sections in China?


But why does China have such a high cesarian delivery rate at all? Since the early 1990s, mainland China saw a more dramatic rise in CS rates than, for example, the USA; from less than 10% (with only 3.4% in 1988), China went to one of the highest in the world (Hellerstein 2011; Wolf 2018, 13).

The answer to why this is, is not so straightforward and relates to socio-economic changes as well as cultural factors that come into play.

One reason is that there is a general belief in the ‘safety’ of cesarian births that influence women’s choices for a (nonmedical and planned) C-section (Black & Bhattacharya 2017, 2).

An insightful study into this matter is that of researcher Eileen Wang (2017), who found that anxiety about giving birth and fear of pain is also a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request, especially considering that only a minority of Chinese women are given any form of pain relief during labor. Besides traditional concepts, this is also because China faces a shortage of anesthetists and because obstetricians are not always well-informed to prescribe other forms of pain medication (2017, 5).

As noted by Wang, epidurals are denied to laboring women not just because anesthesiologists are too busy, but also because of various other factors: different from a scheduled C-section on their agenda, they are not always available during nighttimes and in weekends to administer anesthesia to women in labor, do not have the time to monitor a patient for hours during labor (whereas a cesarean could be done in an hour), or were not even trained to administer epidurals (2017, 5).

“Giving labor without pain: removing mom’s fear for giving birth” – image by Chinese website

According to Wang, the concerns about labor pain result in more requests for C-sections, both before and during labor. With relatively low awareness and availability of labor pain relief methods many Chinese women simply opt for a C-section as a way to control their pain.

But there are also other factors that contribute to the relatively high rate of women requesting C-sections for nonmedical reasons. One of them is the importance placed in the astrological calendar: having a baby on that one ‘lucky day’ or within that ‘lucky year’ is considered enough reason to plan a cesarian birth for many Chinese families.

In early 2015, ahead of the Chinese New Year, many women rushed to the hospital to make sure their baby was born in the Year of the Horse (2014) as the Year of the Goat (2015) was coming up. There is an old Chinese saying that nine out of ten people born in the Year of the Goat are incomplete and will suffer from great misfortune throughout their life (“十羊九不全”).

Another factor that leads to more cesareans on maternal request relates to the existing concerns among women that vaginal delivery will affect their figure or sex life (Wang 2017, 2).


Responses on Chinese Social Media


Since the Beijing news conference of May 27, the hashtag “Reducing Unnecessary Cesarean Section Surgery” (#减少非必需剖宫产手术#) has taken off on Chinese social media.

On Weibo, the hashtag page received 340 million views at time of writing. One thread about this topic even received over 28400 comments.

“What do you call ‘unnecessary cesarian’?” one of the most popular comments said: “Isn’t it that so many women in labor choose to have a C-section because natural childbirth is too painful?”

Other commenters also called for a normalization of pain relief in labor, saying that the high percentage of C-sections lies in the fact that Chinese women lack access to “wútòng fēnmiǎn” (无痛分娩) or “painless birth,” meaning vaginal delivery with pain relief.

Some Weibo users also stress that women should have the freedom of choice on how they wish to give birth, saying: “C-section or natural should be my own choice” and “If you leave me no choice I might as well not give birth at all.”

Multiple commenters write: “The lower the C-section rate, the higher the suicides,” referring to an incident that occurred in Shaanxi in 2017 when a pregnant woman committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of the hospital after she was allegedly denied a CS delivery.

Other Chinese netizens also complain about the fact that it seems to be men who are promoting the new policies to combat the high C-section rates, writing: “Isn’t there a way to have them suffer the pain of labor instead?”

In her study, scholar Eileen Wang also argues that the lack of pain relief is one of the major issues that should be addressed by policymakers who are hoping to reduce the number of C-sections in China. Further improving the childbirth experience by, for example, integrating a midwifery model, is also essential in making natural childbirth more attractive for Chinese women, Wang argues.

For now, many hospitals in China are still offering C-section “packages”: some prices start at RMB 5800 ($840) for a C-section, other hospitals have packages that start from RMB 88,000 ($12,741) including a three-day hospital stay in a private room.

“It’s a pregnant’s woman body, so she should decide how she wants to deliver her baby,” one commenter on Weibo writes: “It should be a woman’s right to decide.”

By Manya Koetse


Biler, A., Ekin, A., Ozcan, A., Inan, A. H., Vural, T., & Toz, E. 2017. “Is It Safe to Have Multiple Repeat Cesarean Sections? A High Volume Tertiary Care Center Experience.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences 33(5): 1074–1079.

Black, Mairead & Sohinee Bhattacharya. 2018. “Cesarean Section in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong— A Safe Choice for Women and Clinicians?” PLOS Medicine 15(10): 1-3.

Caijing. 2019. “卫健委:全国剖宫产率为36.7% 积极推广分娩镇痛.” Caijing , May 27 [5.31.19].

Hellerstein, Susan Celia. 2011. “Cesarean Delivery in China Analysis of Cesarean Deliveries Without Indication.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: 20s.

McNeil, Donald. 2017. “Study Finds Lower, but Still High, Rate of C-Sections in China.” New York Times, Jan 9 [6.2.19].

Wang, Eileen. 2017. “Requests for Cesarean Deliveries: The Politics of Labor Pain and Pain Relief in Shanghai, China.” Social Science and Medicine (173): 1–8.

WHO. 2015. “WHO statement on caesarean section rates.” World Health Organization, April [6.2.19].

Wolf, Jacqueline H. 2018. Cesarean Section – An American History of Risk, Technology, and Consequence. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Featured image by Sohu News.

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What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?

Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”




What are Weibo’s “Super Topics” (超级话题) and what makes them different from normal hashtags?

Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.

Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.

These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:


#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.

Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.

A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).

On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.

A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.


#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content

Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.

A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.

One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.

Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.


#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather

Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.

Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.

The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.

Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).

What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.


By Manya KoetseGabi Verberg, with contributions from Boyu Xiao

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