How Many Expats Live in Guangzhou? City Police Have an Answer

By Daniel Plafker, February 1, 2018

0 0

The Guangzhou police have released numbers detailing the purported size and scope of the city’s foreign population.

By their count, which was released to the public on Monday through Xinhua News, there are roughly 80,000 foreign nationals currently calling the city home.

According to the report, half of the foreigners living in the city hail from Europe, Japan or South Korea. Meanwhile 15,000 were said to have come from the African continent – down from 20,000 in 2009.

That being said, it’s best to take these numbers with a grain of salt – it’s quite possible that the actual count is far higher than reported.


For one, this estimate doesn’t account for folks who have entered the city legally but have since overstayed their visas, nor does it account for individuals who entered the country irregularly in the first place. Both these populations are thought to be greater in Guangzhou than other Chinese cities.

Furthermore, laowai who reside in neighboring municipalities but use Guangzhou as a transport, cultural and commercial hub would also be excluded from this count.

The African population in particular is quite difficult to nail down. As a major global center for trade and manufacturing, Guangzhou has been steadily attracting a large community of African merchants, students and entrepreneurs since the 1990s. 

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Guangzhou's Fading African District

Many of these traders come and go with great frequency, engaging in a constant back-and-forth cycle of suitcase commerce that is so regular that they might as well live here, too. From the Public Security Bureau’s perspective however, these folks are merely visitors. 

For example, Guangzhou’s deputy mayor told reporters in 2014 that while the official number of African residents at the time was only 16,000, annual entries and exits by African nationals at border crossings in the city numbered close to half a million.

An escalating police crackdown on overstayers and others with irregular immigration status over the past half-decade, along with ever-tightening visa restrictions, has caused portions of the foreign community to shrink significantly, while pushing those who remain further into the shadows. 

Protestors-on-Guangyuanxilu.jpgProtesters march near Sanyuanli in 2009, in protest of the death of an African man who fell from a window while trying to escape police during a passport check.

For instance, the report lists the major sources of African expatriates in Guangzhou as Egypt, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, leaving Nigeria – a country that Roberto Castillo, a lecturer on African Studies at Hong Kong University, notes faces some of the most restrictive visa controls and has historically been one of the most prominent homelands for Guangzhou’s African community – conspicuously absent.

READ MORE: When Nelson Mandela Came to China

The report also notes, in conveniently vague language, that “among 1,000 illegal immigrants detained last year, most were from South East Asian countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar”. 

An official from the Exit and Entry Administration of the Public Security Bureau told Xinhua that while the number of foreigners in the city has been on the rise in recent years, the number of criminal cases involving foreign nationals has gone down.

[Images via Sina, Guangzhou Life, The Guardian]

more news

Over 1,300 Overseas Workers Returned to Guangzhou Since June 30

An event was held in Guangzhou to discuss ways that the city government is working to bring foreign nationals back.

Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou Celebrates Its 8th Anniversary

The 8th anniversary of Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou was celebrated with a small reception for guests and stakeholders on July 23.

Walrus Paraded Around Guangzhou Mall Outrages Netizens

The mall has also exhibited tropical animals, alpacas and polar bears in the past.

Get Ready for This New Movie Featuring the Great City of Guangzhou

Everyone loves a good movie – especially when its about your city!

The 11 Best Things to Do This Weekend in Guangzhou

Here are some events we're excited about this upcoming Fourth of July weekend.

Shake Shack Announces South China Expansion Plans

Can you guess where the first location will be?

Meet the Man Behind Guangzhou's Popular Cycle Canton Tour Company

The bike-based tourist experience company aims to help curious people discover Guangzhou’s fascinating history, culture and architecture.

The 10 Best Things to do This Weekend in Guangzhou

A lot of events to get excited about this weekend!

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsGuangzhou for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Guangzhou With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's PRD!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.