Announcement: China’s global capitalist expansion—prompted by Jiang Zemin’s Going Out Policy and, more recently, Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative—has given rise to numerous Chinese-run construction sites across Africa, as elsewhere. These building sites are loci not only of production, but also of friction. Many companies from China involved in construction projects work with an all-Chinese management, from project managers down to on-site foremen. The bulk of manual labor is, however, carried out by African workers. Capitalizing on productivity and efficiency, Chinese managers often complain about African workers under their direction and describe them as lazy. Local laborers are unwilling to work, they lament, and slow in learning.
Zooming in on management-labor relations on Chinese building sites in Ethiopia, Miriam Driessen will unpack the discourse of African worker indolence. Why do managers classify their laborers as lazy? What does this tell us about labor-management relations in the context of global China?