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Chinese Labor, Herbert Hoover, South African Gold Mines, and Boers

Herbert Hoover, the future 31st U.S. president, imported Chinese laborers for South African gold mines.

Examine Hoover's role as a director of the Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation (CEMC), which supplied tens of thousands of Chinese workers to the Transvaal Chamber of Mines after the South African War. Also, discover how Hoover tried to conceal and change the narrative of his Chinese mining career and how this affected his reputation and place in history.

The Witwatersrand gold mine in South Africa was one of the world's most important sources of gold. It was discovered in 1886 and led to the establishment of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. However, the gold mine also sparked a series of conflicts that shaped the history of South Africa and its relations with other countries.

Witwatersrand gold mine in South Africa
Witwatersrand gold mine in South Africa

The British wanted to control the gold mine and secure their dominance over the region. They also faced pressure from the mining magnates, who wanted cheap and reliable labor for their mines. The Boers were descendants of Dutch settlers who had established their own states in southern Africa. 

They resented British interference and taxation, especially after discovering gold on their lands. The existing labor force, composed mainly of Africans, was insufficient and often rebellious. The mining magnates sought to import Chinese workers, who were seen as more docile and cheaper than Africans or Europeans. 

The British government agreed to this plan and imported more than 60,000 Chinese laborers to work on the Witwatersrand gold mine between 1904 and 1910. The Chinese laborers were indentured, meaning they had to work for a fixed period under harsh conditions and low wages. They were also segregated from other workers and subjected to racial discrimination and abuse. 

Herbert Hoover, future U.S. president, directed CEMC to supply Chinese laborers. 

Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer who worked for the British corporation Chinese Engineering and Mining Company in China from 1899 to 1912. He transferred the Kaiping Mines from the Chinese government to the CEMC during the Boxer Uprising. This violent anti-foreigner movement threatened the lives and interests of foreigners in China. Hoover also served as a board member of the CEMC and oversaw the recruitment and transportation of thousands of Chinese laborers to work in the gold mines of South Africa.

Hoover's mining career in China was controversial, and he tried to conceal and alter the truth of his involvement in exploiting China's natural resources and people. He claimed he was a humanitarian and a mediator between China and the Western powers, but his actions were motivated by profit and ambition. He faced criticism and accusations from journalists, politicians, and historians who exposed his role in the CEMC's shady dealings.

Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover

Hoover later became the 31st president of the United States, but his Chinese mining career remained a source of controversy and embarrassment for him. He attempted to refute, suppress, and rewrite the history of his activities in China, but he could not erase the evidence of his complicity in the CEMC's imperialist agenda. Hoover saw the Chinese labor program as a profitable venture and a way to improve the efficiency of the gold mine. 

However, the Chinese labor program was met with fierce opposition from various South African and Britain groups. The Boers saw it as a violation of their sovereignty and a threat to their culture and identity. They also feared the Chinese would compete for land and resources. 

The Africans saw it as a further exploitation of their labor and a denial of their rights. They also resented the preferential treatment given to the Chinese by the British. The British workers saw it as lowering their wages and living standards. They also disliked working with or under the Chinese, whom they considered inferior and alien. 

The Chinese labor program became a major political issue that contributed to Britain's conservative government's fall in 1906. It also fueled the rise of nationalism and racism in South Africa, forming the Union of South Africa in 1910, which excluded both Africans and Asians from citizenship and voting rights. The Chinese labor program was eventually canceled in 1910 after most Chinese workers had completed their contracts and returned to China.  


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