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More Africans Move to China

An African student practices at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, Henan province, China, Sept. 25, 2013.
An African student practices at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, Henan province, China, Sept. 25, 2013.
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Expanding ties between Africa and China have led to more Chinese going to Africa. And, a growing number of Africans are moving to China.

Many Africans say they are moving to China by choice, not by need, and more plan to stay. Francis Tchiegue of Cameroon arrived in China 10 years ago. He recently spoke about his reasons for staying.

“I mean, you know, when you have something you really love, you do not do that for money or something, but you really like it. Then you can happen to get really deep inside because it’s personal, you know. It’s like love.”

Francis Tchiegue spoke during a visit to a fast-food restaurant in the center of Beijing. He says he became interested in China as a child in Cameroon. He and his father watched films starring Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Mr. Tchiegue says his father performed the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu. As a result, Francis began dreaming about going to China.

“I wish I would go to China to see how those people live. I am sure that all Chinese people will practice Kung Fu. I am sure all of them can jump, all of them can do these things that Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee do, those. ‘So I am thinking, well, I am dreaming to go and try and study this.”

At age 39, Francis Tchiegue has realized that dream. He lives in China and has become a master – an expert- but not in Kung Fu. He is now a master of the Mandarin language. He often sings at the Beijing Opera or appears on Chinese state television. On television, he performs tongue-twisters – expressions that are very hard to say.

The Chinese government named him special ambassador for Sino-African arts exchanges in 2009.

He travels around the world for Chinese language programs. He also serves as a Chinese language expert for African embassies in Beijing.

Francis Tchiegue came to China 10 years ago as a mathematics student on a Chinese government scholarship. At that time, he did not speak Mandarin. He learned the language by recording himself speaking and remembering Chinese radio news programs word for word.

His love of the language and the country influenced his decision to stay in China. Today he lives in Beijing with his wife -- a Russian woman -- and three children.

Some experts say Africans find life easier in China that the first foreigners who came to the country. Many said they felt discrimination and struggled with a foreign culture.

Stella Matsinhe is from Mozambique. She came to China to study development at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She completed her university studies and now attends language school to improve her Mandarin. She believes she can find a good job in China.