China-Africa Peace Initiative (CAPI)
Background of the China-Africa Peace Initiative (CAPI)
The way some Africans were treated during the second wave of Coronavirus infections in China, particularly in the Guangdong province, left much to be desired as it drew widespread criticisms and led some members of the international community to view China as a racist country.
Majority of the black people affected are from Nigeria but a few are from Ghana, Mali and other African countries.
Several touching videos captured how a large number of tired-looking black people roamed miserably on the streets of Guangdong province after being ejected from their homes and hotels, because false rumors had been spread in China that blacks were the carriers of the COVID-19 disease.
These ejections were reported to have continued even after the blacks had been quarantined for more than the 14 days required by international standards.
Other videos showed how, for several days, the Africans clutched onto their small-sized backpacks and wandered without shower or laundry, slept in the street corners, got drenched by the rains and endured the weather.
In the words of one of the African victims; “I’ve been sleeping under the bridge for four days with no food to eat … I cannot buy food anywhere, no shops or restaurants will serve me“.
Such videos quickly spread in the African social media space, sparking outrage and deepening hatred for China among Africans, majority of whom had great goodwill and solidarity for China at the onset of the virus, until too many anti-China propaganda on social media started poisoning their minds. It is instructive to note that Africans were very sympathetic to China at the initial stages of the virus outbreak. It was common to find churches in Nigeria who dedicated several minutes during Sunday and Mid-week worships to pray for the situation in China. Churches in the country have been known to makes special overseas collections which were used to support relief efforts in disaster hit areas around the world, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people (including the poor who are strikingly kind hearted) in some churches doing that for China if the situation had called for financial support. The goodwill was massive and many Africans praised China’s technological know-how and decisive leadership in handling the virus, particularly when it made news rounds about how robots were helping out in hospitals and how China managed to build two hospitals with thousands of bed spaces in just about ten days each. But, this heart for China gradually changed and took a negative turn when conspiracy theories started filtering in through some mischievous persons on social media, in such a manner that they increasingly and successfully put fears, anxiety and suspicion about China in the minds of the unsuspecting social media users in Africa. These and other conspiracies worked to gradually change the minds of Africans to see China as evil, until the Guangdong videos surfaced, which dramatically made every one (including former skeptics) believe that China was indeed evil, hence the widespread anger yearning for revenge.
What was taking several months to achieve through conspiracy theories, the Guangdong videos achieved in just under a week – that “Chinese are evil”! How did things change?
A few out of the many unsubstantiated information that was spread include that:
It is instructive to note that Africans were very sympathetic to China at the initial stages of the virus outbreak. It was common to find churches in Nigeria who dedicated several minutes during Sunday and Mid-week worships to pray for the situation in China.
Churches in the country have been known to makes special overseas collections which were used to support relief efforts in disaster hit areas around the world, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people (including the poor who are strikingly kind hearted) in some churches doing that for China if the situation had called for financial support.
The goodwill was massive and many Africans praised China’s technological know-how and decisive leadership in handling the virus, particularly when it made news rounds about how robots were helping out in hospitals and how China managed to build two hospitals with thousands of bed spaces in just about ten days each.
But, this heart for China gradually changed and took a negative turn when conspiracy theories started filtering in through some mischievous persons on social media, in such a manner that they increasingly and successfully put fears, anxiety and suspicion about China in the minds of the unsuspecting social media users in Africa.
These and other conspiracies worked to gradually change the minds of Africans to see China as evil, until the Guangdong videos surfaced, which dramatically made every one (including former skeptics) believe that China was indeed evil, hence the widespread anger yearning for revenge.
The intense anger that followed the emergence and spread of the videos, and the series of threats of reprisal attacks emanating from African locals have put at great risk the lives of the between 1-10 million Chinese citizens who live in Africa, including their businesses, properties and even the hard earned friendship forged between Africa and China over several decades.
To calm the rage in Africa and manage China’s image, the Chinese central government, led by President Xi Jinping, reassured the international community that China does not hate Africans or unfairly target them in coronavirus prevention rules. In a meeting with Ambassadors and representatives from African countries in Beijing, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Chen Xiaodong assured that “health authorities will immediately start removing restrictions imposed on African people who are not confirmed COVID-19 patients or in close contact with them (including suspected cases)”.
Joining in solidarity with the government to tackle this problem was China’s media giant, Weibo, which begun cracking down on personal accounts that were used to spread fake news and hate against Africans. It is learnt that Weibo has reportedly gone ahead to ban about 180 of such accounts.
While such moves are commendable, the news about them didn’t circulate well enough in Africa, so they had very little effect in calming the frayed nerves of Africans who seem to be edging towards reprisal attacks.
PASDO condemns the way legitimate African migrants were mistreated by some Chinese resident in the Guangdong province of China. No single human being, talk more of a group of people, deserves to go through such discrimination and degrading humiliation.
PASDO welcomes the intervention of the Chinese government and how they reached out to the Africans that were affected by the unfortunate incident.
PASDO also commends the action taken by Weibo in banning multiple social media accounts used in spreading hate against blacks in China, which will help reduce the likelihood of re-occurrence of such incident.
How PASDO is Tackling the problem
PASDO considers it vital to not blame the the whole of China for the actions of a few Chinese living in the Guangdong region (a small portion in Southern China), who, for the most part, were acting out of fear (of contracting COVID-19) based on the propaganda against blacks that they had been continuously fed with several months leading up to the incident.
We also believe that it is unfair to let this recent development overshadow the friendship that China and Africa has enjoyed over the past several years.
The China-Africa Peace Initiative (CAPI) is designed to help resolve the situation and to achieve, among others, the following objectives:
Objectives of the China-Africa Peace Initiative
Prevent further rise in hate
To douse the tension and anger among Africans towards Chinese and prevent further rise in hate.
Protect the lives, properties, investments and businesses of Chinese in Africa
It is estimated that at least 1 million Chinese live in Africa. They own properties and investments, and run various businesses that range from manufacturing outfits, construction, mining, agriculture, fast food business and others.
Through CAPI, PASDO intends to prevent retaliatory attacks on the lives, properties, investments and businesses of Chinese people living in the African continent, now or in the future (as a result of built up anger).
Protect the livelihood of dependents
The millions of Chinese people living and doing legitimate business in Africa have husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, relatives and loved ones back home, who depend on them to feed, cloth, get education and meet their daily needs. In protecting the properties and investments of the Chinese in African, PASDO is also ensuring that the means of livelihoods of the dependents back home is not cut short.
A good proportion of the conflicts between Chinese and Africans can be traced to misunderstandings stemming from language and cultural differences.
PASDO is helping to correct some misconceptions that will enhance understanding about the Chinese people, so as to allow for stronger exchange and improved cooperation between the two parties.
Support Quick Economic Recovery from COVID-19 Crisis
China is the largest trading partner of sub-Saharan Africa, where 27 out of the world’s 28 poorest countries are.
As a lot of Africans depend on affordable imports from China to make a living, a stable relations with China is vital for African countries to quickly recover form the economic ravages of COVID-19.
Hence, PASDO is using CAPI to ensure that unwarranted hate doesn’t fester and come in-between the necessary trade relationship between Africa and China.
Pursue Stronger Ties Post COVID-19
PASDO will build on the gains of the CAPI program and ensure to continue advocating for peace between China and African even after COVID-19. PASDO will promote the cooperation of Africa and China in more areas like education, trade, cultural cooperation and others.
Protect Other Foreigners and their businesses in Africa
This video which shows a Nigerian roping in Toyota (a Japanese company) into his narrative of coronavirus, though funny, is a practical example of how companies and citizens of other countries around the world can easily be affected in reprisals targeted at Chinese.
Due to similarity in looks, it is almost impossible for a large majority of Africans to differentiate between Chinese and nationals of other South-East Asia countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and others. And in conflict situations, some Africans may even classify any light-skinned foreigners as same irrespective of whether they are from the UK, US, Canada, Russia or other countries.
Such conflicts should never have to happen, hence PASDO is pushing on with CAPI to douse tensions in Africa.
Highlight the Dangers of Misinformation
Several weeks leading up to the incidence in Guangdong province, some Chinese had consistently used social media to spread misinformation that Africans were the source of coronavirus.
The seed of discord was sown and the idea gradually spread, waiting for the right time to bear fruit.
The diagnosis of coronavirus among some Africans in Guangzhou, coupled with a few other incidences, seemed to be the perfect trigger for the effect of the misinformation to manifest.
PASDO, through CAPI, is drawing attention to the dangers of malicious information and how it could have very serious consequences on innocent people.
Racism, intolerance and xenophobia are global problems that seem to exist in every culture.
There have been several reports of xenophobia attacks in the African continent in the last five years, some of which resulted to deaths of Africans and foreigners.
PASDO is using the CAPI program to draw attention to the issue of racism and encourage everyone to be more tolerant.
Promote Stability and World Peace
In an increasingly globalized world, conflict in one section can easily spread to other areas or have consequences beyond boarders.
Through CAPI, PASDO is helping to promote stability and world peace.
What inspired the China-Africa Peace Initiative (CAPI)
Hear what inspired the CAPI program by listening to these short answers from the CAPI Director.
China-Africa Peace Initiative (CAPI) - Activities
A dedicated website was created in Chinese language and a Call for Applications was issued for all Chinese who may be interested in the peace program to apply.
Several thousand well-meaning Chinese citizens responded to the call and applied to make individual videos through which they could send their empathy across and assure Africans that most Chinese do not hate blacks (and that the Guangdong incident should be seen as an isolated case).
PASDO screened the applications and selected a fewer number of applicants who have gone ahead to produce the videos.
The applicants were paired with about 35 African volunteers who painstakingly provided lessons on the indigenous African languages and guided the Chinese applicants in making the videos.
Languages used in the videos include English, French, Nigerian pidgin English and 22 indigenous African languages spoken in countries with a cumulative population of about 1.2 billion Africans.
This is to ensure that the message of empathy, peace and friendship contained in the videos reaches a vast majority of Africans with special focus on African countries where a higher percentage of Chinese are resident (at least 1.7 million Chinese).
The China-Africa Day: 09-09 (September 9)
From September 9, marked as the China-Africa Day, the videos will be gradually released via social media to the targeted audience.
This is scheduled to run until October.
Broadcast by Elochukwu Ezenekwe, the Director of the CAPI program on the China-Africa Day, September 09, 2020, to Mark the Launch of the CAPI Videos.
The China-Africa Peace Initiative Videos
A sample of the CAPI videos will be featured here but all the videos will be gradually released on the Facebook Page and YouTube channel of PASDO.