While digging around for information after my recent flight where I was offered an upclose and personal look at increasing informal trade between Africa and China, I came across this research paper by Yang Yang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. A snippet from the introduction:
Based on my fieldwork in Guangzhou, this paper attempts to explore the routes, profits, and reasons of the African traders in southern China through individual stories. It discusses the organization of the market as well as individual economic activities reflecting a globalization from below, where traders with relatively small capital become upwardly mobile by standing on the shoulders of the giants, or more directly, by selling their Herculean sandals out from under them, that is, by taking advantage of the infrastructural advancements made possible in the modern age of globalization, such as fast international transportation, convenient communication, mass manufacturing, brand recognition, for short term gains.
The trading activities of the Africans in Guangzhou represent an economic ―underworld, a world that is not only untraceable by customs or survey institutes, but is also rapidly proliferating throughout the developing world.
This paper … focuses on the informal economy in China. China’s position in the world system is ambiguous—while China is the world‘s second largest economy, it is also still a developing country; beyond this, it is relatively closed in terms of immigration policy.