A few years ago, British reporter Andrew Malone of the Daily Mail prefaced a piece on the wave of Chinese migration to Africa with a quote from a letter Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, had written to The Times, way back in 1873.
Galton had outlined a new method to “tame” and colonise the “Dark Continent” – which Malone, with due caution, described as “daring, if by today’s standards utterly offensive”.
“My proposal,” Galton wrote, “is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of [Victorian Britain’s] national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race.
“I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semi-detached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.”
Galton was a distinguished African explorer, besides being a statistician of some note. His grand resettlement plan stirred controversy in the Royal Geographical Society, which soon fizzled out because there were much more exciting things going on in Africa at the time.
But, the Daily Mail reporter suggested, Galton may simply have been a century or so ahead of his time: “His vision is coming true – if not in the way he imagined: an astonishing Chinese invasion of Africa is now under way.
“Reminiscent of the West’s imperial push in the 18th and 19th centuries, China’s rulers believe Africa can become a ‘satellite’ state, solving its own problems of over-population and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.
“With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. [Many more have since arrived – and continue to arrive.]
“The strategy has been carefully devised by officials in Beijing, where one expert has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve its problems of over-population and pollution.” So reported the Daily Mail in 2008.
Noseweek’s guess is that Malone cribbed the quote from the right-wing US National Review, who’d used it in a 2007 report on the subject. Galton’s quote got another play, in 2011 on the US online news channel, NewscastMedia.com in relation to the same subject. All of which casts a racist pall over the debate: Galton is the father of Eugenics, the “science” – later also employed by Hitler – to cast Germanic people as “the master race”.
So, why might one want to quote Galton’s 1873 letter in relation to the current Chinese migration to Africa? First, maybe it’s just an intriguing bit of history; second, it’s clearly fashionable in certain media circles to do so.
Writers unconditionally in favour of Chinese migration to Africa – for reasons generally unstated, but suspiciously similar to Galton’s – might raise Galton’s ghost to frighten off decent, liberal-minded people from participating, critically, in the debate.
Noseweek entered the debate (in nose157) and intends participating in it for a while yet. So, for the record: we welcome immigrants (and refugees) from China, as from anywhere else, provided they meet our country’s immigration criteria, are legally resident and comply with our laws, including our tax and labour laws.
Stereotypically, the vast majority of the current immigrants from China are obviously well funded and organised, but meet none of the above criteria, prompting the suspicion of some or other as-yet-unproven criminal conspiracy.
The strange silence of the ANC and Cosatu on the subject lends credence to the suspicion that their leadership have a secret, lucrative relationship with the Chinese. Which might be in their own interests – but not in the interests of their members, the country and its people. Not a good thing – unless, of course, you subscribe to Galton’s theory.
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