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Book Reviews 1233

none of the principal players, including the Attorney General and the police leader-
ship, broke the law, Collett writes, they committed “heinous errors of judgement and
took courses of action motivated by selfishness and malevolence, failures sufficient to
cause them to face administrative penalties and even the end of their careers. Police
officers of the SIU broke both the law and police regulations… Both sets of those
involved lied, and in the case of the SIU, intimidated others in order to protect them-
selves” (pp. 352–53). Yet no one was punished, and yes, MacLennan committed


The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace
G O R D O N M A T H E W S , with L I N E S S A D A N L I N and Y A N G Y A N G
Chicago, IL, and London: University of Chicago Press, 2017
viii + 252 pp. $27.50; £20.50
ISBN 978-0-226-50610-4 doi:10.1017/S0305741018001583

It’s not Shanghai. It’s Guangzhou that is China’s new New York. The southern
Chinese megalopolis is the 21st-century “land of opportunities” for those across the
globe who dream of wealth and success through international trade. At least that is
what anthropologist Gordon Mathews argues after a year-long exploration of the
city uncovering examples of what he calls “low-end globalization” – the type of glo-
balization that is “experienced by the majority of the world’s people” (p. 2).
The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global
Marketplace is Mathews’s second book describing low-end globalization.
Co-authored with researchers Linessa Dan Lin and Yang Yang, the book’s main
argument is that low-end globalization is “traders sending relatively small amounts
of goods under the radar of the law, bribing customs agents in different continents,
and getting these goods back home to stalls and street vendors” (p. 2). This is a
follow-up on the argument Mathews developed in Ghetto at the Centre of the
World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong. The continuation of his argument is a nat-
ural one, however. As Chinese cities become more hospitable to foreigners, many of
Mathews’ Chungking informants (and a great deal of the trading activities he found
there) have moved from Hong Kong to Guangzhou.
If Mathews succeeded thoroughly in providing a comprehensive, ethnographic
description of the transnational connections that took place in Chungking
Mansions, he succeeds again here in describing a “world that almost all readers
will never have encountered” (p. 4). This is nowhere more evident than in the por-
trayal of the diverse group of foreigners that he introduces in chapter two.
Mathews’ careful selection of stories not only brings depth and nuance to the complex
realities of foreigners in Guangzhou, but also highlights the contrasts, tensions and
intersections between class, gender, ethnicity, religion and race (a trend that continues
throughout the book). His stories seem to both reinforce and challenge global racial
and patriarchal hierarchies in, sometimes, unexpected ways.
The book is full of fascinating personal accounts and stories told to the authors by
mostly African foreigners in the city – stories that he curates and threads into his
argument. As such, the book reads like a compendium of intriguing voices describing

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1234 The China Quarterly, 236, December 2018, pp. 1206–1244

the encounters between foreigners and locals in a highly unstable and unregulated
It is perhaps because of the instability and lack of regulations dominating economic
transactions in the city, that Mathews decided to focus on the strategies and methods
designed by traders (mostly African and Chinese) to interact in these circumstances.
Indeed, one of the greatest contributions of this book is the description of the tribula-
tions of those who trade in Guangzhou’s marketplace. From chapter three onwards,
Mathews’ stories take the reader deep into the world of buyers, suppliers, merchants,
and complex transnational logistics. It is here that the book’s true face begins to
emerge: an ethnographic portrayal of cheating, (dis)trust, misunderstandings and mis-
communications in relations and relationships predominantly between African men
and Chinese women in the midst of a precarious living and trading environment.
Another important contribution is in chapter five, where Mathews introduces a
number of stories by overstayers. Here he gives space to a plethora of voices that
describe what leads people to live illegally in China and risk potential imprisonment
and deportation. While overstaying in China is a situation that features prominently
in the accounts of many young foreigners in the city – a situation partly generated by
an outdated Chinese population management system – Mathews is careful to high-
light that this condition is not representative of the African presence in the country
as a whole.
The stories in The World in Guangzhou reveal what certain foreigners do in China,
and how they engage in “low-end globalization.” However, at times, the stories seem
a bit one-dimensional, as they do not extend to answer important questions such as:
Who are these people? Why are they in China? How do they feel about their journeys?
And, what are their hopes and expectations beyond the immediateness of their everyday
life and trading activities? The aspirations and motivations behind transnational jour-
neys are complex and, often, multidimensional.
Mathews seems to be aware of this lack, however. In chapter seven he intimates
that while he went to Guangzhou to “talk about business, thinking that it was key
to these people’s lives,” it was religion that “they really wanted to talk about”
(p. 166). One example provided in that chapter comes from a Kenyan trader who
explains that the “real reason” he came to China was a calling from God to evangel-
ize the Chinese.
All in all, The World in Guangzhou is a good read for anyone wanting to better
understand how transnational trade in China is conducted. Mathews has once
again succeeded in writing a book for a general audience in order to “democratize
anthropology,” as he puts it. Without a doubt, a must read.


Chinese Heritage in the Making: Experiences, Negotiations and Contestations

Edited by C H R I S T I N A M A A G S and M A R I N A S V E N S S O N
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018
298 pp. € 95.00; £85.00; $115.00
ISBN 978-94-6298-369-4 doi:10.1017/S0305741018001595

The field of heritage studies has long been dominated by cases from Europe and,
somewhat less so, North America and parts of the Middle East. Over the past couple

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