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Residence Registration in China’s Immigration Control: Africans in Guangzhou

Abstract

Rapid economic development has transformed China’s place in the global migration order. To respond to these changes, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) drafted the country’s first comprehensive immigration law, which was passed in 2012. The new Exit and Entry Administration Law institutionalized long-standing practices of charging Chinese citizens with enforcing the nation’s outer borders. Penalties for housing and employing undocumented migrants were standardized, and people were required to “duly report” foreigners who illegally enter, reside, or work in China. The law’s inconsistent and vague nature leaves much to be specified through provincial regulations and interpreted by local law enforcement officers. The responsibility for implementing Chinese immigration legislation is largely placed at the subdistrict level, and relies on institutions and instruments that originally were designed to manage internal population movement. Among the most important of these is the residence registration requirement. While aspects of the aforementioned developments are specific to China, they also imply a double displacement of borders that can be observed in many parts of the world: border control is dispersed and shifted away from the nation’s outer edges, and the responsibility for monitoring the border is increasingly placed on non-state actors. The chapter identifies actors who—reluctantly, accidentally, or zealously—perform borders, as well as those who facilitate the circumvention of migration control in China. The performance of borders is examined from the perspective of African subjects of border control in Guangzhou, South China. The analysis is based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork, during which I was a registered foreign resident of a district in Guangzhou with a majority of African and Asian foreigners. Guangzhou hosts a large population of Africans who have come to China to study, trade, search for work, reunite with family, or a combination of such motives.

Keywords

  • China
  • Return migration
  • Immigration law
  • Borders
  • Africa
  • “Three illegals”

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The title of the report was 广州外籍流动人口管理现状分析与对策研究 (Guangzhou’s foreign migrant population: Analysis of management and counter measures).

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Correspondence to Heidi Østbø Haugen .

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Haugen, H.Ø. (2019). Residence Registration in China’s Immigration Control: Africans in Guangzhou. In: Lehmann, A., Leonard, P. (eds) Destination China. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54433-9_3

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