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Jun 11

Olympic torch arrives in Shangri-La

Written by Buxi on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 at 9:00 pm
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The Olympic torch has arrived in its first Tibetan Autonomous county, and will arrive in Lhasa later this month.

Reuters gives us this report of the torch’s visit to Shangri-La in Yunnan province, with responses both positive and negative from Tibetans in China:


“I have been really moved to see the Olympic flame in a Tibetan area,” said Sunnuo Qilin, a 25-year-old Tibetan man from a village in the hills who was carrying a Beijing Olympics flag.

Asked whether he thought there was merit to the argument that the torch should not be brought into Tibetan areas while there is still tension, he replied: “fei hua” — the Chinese equivalent of “baloney”.

Silan Quzhen, another ethnic Tibetan, took leave from her job in a restaurant and waited for several hours on the street for the torch to go by.

“There was no trouble in Yunnan province when other areas had trouble, so it is not an issue bringing the torch here. I can say 100 percent there wasn’t going to be a problem here,” she said.


At the Sumtseling monastery, home to about 800 red-robe wearing monks, one devotee said even if he had been free in the morning he wouldn’t have gone to see the flame.

“It shouldn’t have come here. It’s a little offensive to the Tibetans,” he said.

The first torch carrier is Ma Bajing, a Tibetan horse-skill champion. In one of his interviews, he says this:

As a Tibetan rider, I want to use the torch relay to tell everyone, that our people’s traditional sports movement, just like the Olympic Spirit, will never be lost.

Of the 208 torch-carriers in Shangri-La, 127 were non-Han minorities. Approximately 1/3rd of all torch-carriers were Tibetan.

The fact that some Tibetans would find the torch “a little offensive” isn’t a surprise. The fact that many Tibetans embrace the Olympic torch as a shared prize for all Chinese people should also be a surprise, not after so many Tibetans risked their lives in helping to bring the Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest.

From a netizen journalist in Tianya, students rushing to get to position:

PS. Does the Reuters report suggest that Western reporters can now gain access to at least some Tibetan areas?


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106 Responses to “Olympic torch arrives in Shangri-La”

  1. AC Says:

    “By saying nothing and allowing the torch relay to proceed through Tibet under lockdown, the IOC has essentially encouraged Chinese authorities to use whatever force they deem necessary to ensure a successful, protest-free propaganda exercise,” Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a statement.

    This is her Youtube page:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=beijingwideopen

    She was in Beijing last summer trying to confront IOC president Jacques Rogge. I think Mr. Rogge refused to see her. Then she tried to go to Tibet, but she couldn’t get a train ticket because she didn’t have a permit. The Chinese official later offered her a (guided) tour, she refused. What was she afraid of? The truth? Or reality maybe? 🙂

    Take a look, it’s very interesting.

  2. AC Says:

    Oh, I forgot. This is her blog:

    http://beijingwideopen.org/

  3. Nimrod Says:

    That woman is the product of Tibetan (exile) education at its best, lol… Does she speak Tibetan?

  4. Buxi Says:

    This video frustrates me the most:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX0016f28hA

    I understand that perhaps the park is a little crude, and definitely not up to Walt Disney standards… but for god’s sake, it’s at least a genuine *attempt* at creating space for multiple cultures to co-exist in China.

    You can sense that her real frustration is that there isn’t a “Great Han Chinese National Park” in Beijing, where she can find true justification for a Tibetan independence campaign.

  5. Buxi Says:

    So, this is the woman who’s going to free Tibet (and the Tibetan pandas)…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7VmBAECrHg

  6. AC Says:

    Nimrod,

    That woman is the product of Tibetan (exile) education at its best, lol… Does she speak Tibetan?

    I doubt it. I think she is half white and half Tibetan.

  7. WW Says:

    The first use of image in this blog?

  8. Buxi Says:

    WW,

    No, we’ve had some images in previous blog entries! Should we try to include more?

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/?tag=olympics

  9. demin Says:

    After all these things happened, I more and more believe that, if ever Tibet turns into a bloddy place like middle east, it is more for those so-called Tibet-freers and their supporters to blame. If racism ever becomes widespred in China, like it is in many western democratic countries, those self-proclaimed, arrogant and often ignorant so-called human-rights-fighters should not escape being judged.

  10. yo Says:

    lol, I was surprised to hear that there is a real Shangri-la.

  11. Nimrod Says:

    AC Says:

    I doubt it. I think she is half white and half Tibetan.

    +++++
    Um, you’re right. What a pedigree. Father is T.C. Tethong, a former exile government minister of some sort; mother is Judy Pullen, some BC Canada activist who worked with exiles in India.

  12. Karma Says:

    @demin:

    Well-said remark about western-based “racism.” There are all sorts of racism – throughout history and throughout all societies. But it is the modern breed of racism – born of European origins – that is truly wrecking the world…

  13. FOARP Says:

    @Demin, Karma – Guys, try to take a look at the real China and the attitudes that real Han Chinese people have about other races and cultures, and then we’ll talk about racism. If you’re trying to pretend that racial attitudes do not exist in China, try being someone of non-Chinese ancestry in a Chinese city for a few days and see how people respond to you. I’m not going to make some huge moan about Chinese folk being racist, but you’re kidding yourselves if you think that there aren’t some pretty deeply ingrained attitudes directed towards people of various colours.

    It is simply mind-bending that you guys can just label something like racism ‘western’, or say that there have been many kinds of racism, but the bad one is western racism. I doubt very much that Japanese soldiers who marched into Nanjing sure of their racial superiority were acting on western ideals. Nor was the Vietnamese government displaying western influence when they expelled ethnic Chinese people whose families had been living in Vietnam for generations. Nor indeed, were the various Han officials who labelled, at one time or another, Tibetans, Mongols, Manchu, British etc. ‘barbarians’ particularly westernised.

  14. Opersai Says:

    So FOARP

    Do you mind to define this “real” China and Chinese of yours? Who’s a “real” Chinese?

  15. goldenchink Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7VmBAECrHg

    It was a nice hotel Lhadon Tethong was able to afford, the Grand Hyatt, Beijing. I wonder who paid for it all.

    http://www.beijing.grand.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp

  16. BMY Says:

    you can see Australia daily tele only picks up the negative response of the same story
    http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23849897-5012768,00.html

  17. Karma Says:

    @FOARP – don’t want this thread to denigrate into a discussion on race and racism in the modern context. As with all social phenomena, it is undergoing change and development as we speak.

    If you are interested, check out
    Book on Racism/Modern Philosophy

    I found it insightful and informative.

  18. MutantJedi Says:

    Good god. Racism is ugly regardless of what color of skin it is wrapped in.

    What is more dangerous that a Western breed of racism (please note that the very notion of a racial based racism is in it self racist) is a Chinese racism that has conned itself to be benign in nature.

    Stupid talk of pedigree Nimrod, I am disappointed.

    Challenge this woman on her own racist, narrow minded, and arrogant perspective. Don’t soil yourself with her own tactics.

    By the way, I think I’ll take in the National Ethnic Minorities Park next time I’m in Beijing.
    Her review of the park strongly reflects her own arrogance. She seems like a spoilt child trying to define some sort of meaning for her life. Pity.

  19. Nimrod Says:

    MutantJedi, you misunderstand. I meant she’s practically born an activist. That’s what I mean by pedigree, not her mixed race. I don’t care about that.

  20. MutantJedi Says:

    Okay 🙂
    I’ll stop frothing at the mouth.

  21. AC Says:

    I don’t want to talk about racism, but since you guys mentioned it, here is something funny 🙂

    http://www.danwei.org/trends_and_buzz/beijing_cleans_up_its_sign_tra.php

    (The picture in this article is the exit sign on 4th ring road for the National Ethnic Minorities Park in Beijing.)

  22. Nimrod Says:

    How did these signs ever get made? Some of these signs were made by people who did not just not know English, but didn’t know of any foreign language! Otherwise you would not be under the mistaken impression that you could ignore all grammar and translate just words.

  23. DJ Says:

    Sometimes such English signs in China are just the results of simple mistakes or mere incompetence. Sometimes there is more to it.

    A few years ago I was in Beijing accompanying my wife in a salon while she was having her hair done. There was nothing else to do and I was forced to pick up a fashion magazine to glance through. One of the articles inside was promoting the concept of “word shirts”, which was nothing but a simple T-shirt with an English word imprinted on the front. And guess what the word was on the red shirt worn by a smiling model in the picture? “Bitch”

  24. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nimrod:
    “Some of these signs were made by people who did not just not know English” – unfortunately, there are entire sites devoted to examples of this. Check out http://www.engrish.com/ However, does seem like there is as much Japanese and Korean in there as CHinese.

  25. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To MJ:
    “What is more dangerous that a Western breed of racism (please note that the very notion of a racial based racism is in it self racist) is a Chinese racism that has conned itself to be benign in nature.” – nicely said. I know many people of my parent’s generation who still refer to Indian and Caucasian people in impolite terms.

  26. demin Says:

    @FOARP
    I am not a sociogist, and I am far from a expert either on racism itself or on racism in China. But I guess this is a site that allows an amateur to speak. See, I am a Han Chinese, I lived in China for twenty more years before I got abroad. My ex-girlfriend is an ethnic minority. Instead of discriminating her, I sometimes feel ‘discriminated’ by her and her ‘gangs’. (you can laugh) I have a lot of ethnic minority friends. I could say there is absolutely no discriminations among us. And we seldom feel that we are different in racial terms. I seriously doubt if this could happen if there is well-embedded ‘racial based’ racism going on in China. This said, I agree with you that of course there are ‘discriminations’ in China. And some of these discriminations are somehow connected with ‘race’. But in my experience, when these ‘racial’ discrimination happens, as you noted, it often has a lot to do with ‘who is rich, who is poor’ or ‘who is socially upper and who is not, as a bulk of ethnic minority lives in poor areas. And I dare to say that it has less to do with race itself. And in this sense a lot poor Han Chinese are discriminated by those rich people living in cities. This is why I compare this kind of ‘racial discrimination’ in China with ‘the other kind’ of racism (if ‘western kind’ is a little insulting to you). As I can tell from my experience, perhaps discriminations based on wealth and social status are much more serious than those based on race itself, as you can see how those migrant workers are treated in cities. And informatively enough, many of the bosses of those migrant workers happen to be ethnic minorities, as my es-gf’s father is. But, returning to my original comment, this benign kind of ‘racism’ I told above is not stable,it could pretty easily turn into ‘another kind’ of racism. All needed is constant instigation and wrong judgements on both sides of the race. And in this sense, I think those Tibet-freers and so-call human rights fighter are not doing much good out there.

  27. JL Says:

    Operasi and Karma:

    Funnily enough I was just having a look at an atlas published in China (Beijing) which has this to say in its introduction of Western Sichuan:

    “这裹的少数民族,受历代反动统治者的残酷的多方压迫,人民生活非常痛苦,屡次起来坚决反抗。但封建统治者用武力镇压,尤其是国民党反对派,竟使用飞机大炮等现代武器来实行屠杀掠夺。”
    (中华人民共和国分省地图,地图出版社,北京,第46页)

    Tibet has a bloody history and whatever flaws the present government has (and it sure has them) Tibet and its border lands are a less violent place today than at most times in recent history. But the notion that there is no Chinese racism (or Tibetan racism), or that it’s less bad or bloody than Western racism is pure fantasy. It’s a topic that has arisen many times on many blogs; I’m not sure why certain commenters felt the need to bring it up on this thread.

    Yo,
    Shangri-la (香格里拉)used to be called Zhongdian (中甸).The name was changed in 2001

  28. Karma Says:

    Ok – I’ll stick my neck out on this. I don’t pretend to know what is “Chinese racism” since I’ve been in the U.S. since 7.

    But I think discrimination per se or racism out of ignorance is natural – and not necessarily bad – while modern racism (that justified slavery, for example) is another thing.

    Everyone is informed by one’s experience – and endowed with certain biases. And that’s – relax – OK! If I’ve never known an Indian and had certain assumptions about Indians – or if my encounters with native Americans gave me certain perceptions of native Americans, that is not necessarily bad – so long as I recognize the basis of my views.

    What is bad – and “Western” – is the elevation of one’s biases into ideology and the taking of actions to suppress a particular group of people based on that ideology – i.e. modern racism.

    Here is a perverted example. I think it’s ok to feel “afraid” when walking down a dark alley when being followed by a black person if in my experience I’ve had bad experience with black people in that neighborhood.

    What becomes “racist” in the modern (Western) sense is when I treat my beliefs as gospel (ideology) that blacks are criminals and take actions to commit crimes against blacks or join political groups that aim to suppress blacks – simply on account of our views that blacks are criminal and inferior.

    So when one see discrimination in China (or anywhere else in the world) – my first instinct is to say, so what. Such discrimination is probably based on simple ignorance. What turns my head is when such discrimination/racism arises to the type of radical, ideological based racism we see so prevalent in the West (esp. U.S.).

  29. snow Says:

    Well said, demin!

    The Free Tibet championed by the so called human rights activists in the West suffers from an intentional blind spot or prejudice from the very beginning: by exaggerating racial issue, the corner stone of Tibet Independence, they refuse to see or purposefully cover up a more fundamental class issue in Tibet. For instance, when it comes to the root cause for 1959 Tibetan uprising, they like to talk about racial anger on the Tibetan side over the unfulfilled promise of more ethic and religious freedom by the Chinese government.

    They do not want the world to know that in fact it was only the Tibetan nobilities, a very small percentage population, who felt the anger and resent as their way of life was threatened by the ongoing land reform, who in defending their interests and by manipulating ordinary Tibetan’s religious piety instigated the bloody uprising which brutally killed innocent Tibetans and Han Chinese and thus incurred the government’s action of crackdown. They’d also hate to let the world know that the majority of Tibetans, the former serfs (worse than the former Han coolies), had so enjoyed their newly gained human rights as PRC citizens after the land reform, no longer a serf to certain noble master, that even today many still keep Mao’s picture hanging on the walls in their homes, according to, ironically, Wang Lixiong, a well known dissident scholar and Tibetan specialist (he also wrote that for the same reason it was mostly the Tibetans who destroyed religious temples during the Cultural Revolution).

    There is almost always a class issue, the economic and social divide and interests behind ethnic conflicts worldwide. An imperative task for CCP is to deal with the widening gap between rich and poor not only in Tibet but also in entire China. If any “human rights activist” in Free Tibet denies or refuses to address this issue, he or she is either a hypocrite or someone with ulterior motives.

  30. FOARP Says:

    @Karma – Racism is never, ever, just ‘okay’, nor is it’s elevation into a system of governance a ‘western’ phenomenon – systems of governance have involved racial descrimination since the days of Babylon. Recognising bias and trying to compensate for it is the only logical approach.

    If I were you, I would look back on the comment you have just written and reflect on what it says about you as a person.

  31. Karma Says:

    @FOARP – thank you. I was trying to elicit communication and not simply spout ideology/personal attacks. Sorry we disagree (you need not reply to me in the future).

  32. Buxi Says:

    These words are all very loaded, and it’s hard to make any clear points without starting from basics.

    Let me say this as my starting point: many Chinese believe that “Western racism” is qualitatively different from “Chinese racism”. And I agree.

    So, what is “Chinese racism”? I think the problem in China isn’t with racism per se, but with prejudice. As someone else mentioned above, many Chinese have very strong prejudices against people who are different, period. Ethnic background is only one component of this. You’ll hear prejudices based on religion, based on geographic background, based on accent… I really don’t think Tibetans face more prejudice in Chengdu than people from Anhui face in Shanghai.

    The origins of this problem is easy to understand. It’s only in recent years that Chinese have begun to leave the cities of their birth. For thousands of years, we grew up and died where our parents grew up and died. This is what allowed so many local accents to develop. So, when you face people who are different from you… very easy for prejudices to form. But I think that as the overall “quality” of the Chinese people go up, as people get used to traveling and mingling with people of other backgrounds, this provincial attitude will gradually resolve itself. Like Karma said above, it’s ignorance.

    In terms of racism as a specific form of prejudice, most Chinese do believe that we are products of civilization and culture. I don’t think this is a skin color issue, I think it’s a cultural issue. We’re accustomed to thinking of people based on our beliefs of the culture or society they come from.

    This often looks a lot like racism, because you get comments like “black people are XXX”, “Indians are YYY”… but again, I believe it’s about cultural/community background, not genetic difference or skin color (even though the two are often correlated).

    Is this racist? It can be… certainly in Western nations, where people of all ethnic backgrounds have all basically assimilated into the same culture. So when you point to a black Canadian and insist that he’s XXX when compared to a white Canadian… that can only be described as racist by Western standards.

    I think this is more or less a misunderstanding. I think as the Chinese see blacks gain in economic and political achievement in Western nations, perceptions will change.

    Within China itself, partly due to decades of constant propaganda from the government, I personally think this sort of racial-misunderstanding has already been resolved to a large degree. My cousin in Nanjing just married a Mongolian (from Inner Mongolia), with the bride in a gorgeous Mongolian wedding gown… and nobody could care less about “racial” or cultural differences, here.

  33. Buxi Says:

    By the way, who else loved the performance by Hao Ge at the 2007 Spring Festival show, a Chinese-speaking African (from Liberia)?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIgD7goPbGY

  34. Karma Says:

    @Buxi,

    Thanks for post #32. I wouldn’t necessarily say you “agreed” with me, but I’m glad for your genuine effort to reach out.

    One problem I have with US politics is the injection of race into the political discourse that started in the 1960’s. The injection of race is probably not bad per se – but too much of it – esp. today’s brand of magnifying ethnicity/race based identity into political discourse – is I don’t think good.

    Obama, for me at least, represents a shift from this. It he is successful, hopefully a change to have a more encompassing – instead of the currently divisive – political discourse will also spread throughout the world.

  35. yo Says:

    JL,
    “Shangri-la (香格里拉)used to be called Zhongdian (中甸).The name was changed in 2001”

    Yeah, I know, I found out from Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations”.

    Good marketing strategy. Bourdain said that there are like 3 potential Shangri-la’s in China, but the current one was the first to formalize it lol.

  36. JL Says:

    Buxi,

    That’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure I agree. As far as Chinese predjudice being based on ignorance goes, I personally found that the strongest predjudices against minority people in China were held by Han people in the Tibetan regions, whereas Han people from the outside were often quite interested in and respectful of Tibetan culture. I even met some tourists from Beijing who seemed to view it as superior to their own. By contrast, I know Han managers in Urumqi who wouldn’t even think of giving an Uighur person a job (and to be fair Uighurs who wouldn’t think of giving Han people jobs).

    As far as the West goes, well, there’s a bewildering variety of racisms and prejudices here too: people who think black people are genetically less intelligent, people who are afraid that Chinese will take their jobs, people who think of indigenous peoples as lazy bludgers who ‘hysterically’ want to claim their land back. And of course, such views aren’t limited to the white skinned people in the west, but also held by Western Chinese, Punjabis etc.

  37. demin Says:

    I think Karma in 28 makes good sense. Everything at last depends on politics or political power. Whether the current only legitimate power will be riven by racist thinking, given it could be too alerted of violent minority uprisings. Or whether there will be new power centrers popping up in name of ‘racial justice’. If these do not happen, we could relax. Given relatively good and fair background for different ethnic groups and strong hand for the sole purpose of peace, racism–if it exists at all–will very likely solve itself, at least will not become a major problem. We should not forget that any racial problem in the end is a political problem, not really a cultural problem. In this sense, while I think Tibet-freers and HR-fighters are doing some damages, I also think that they have very just cause, that is, in the end, Tibetans as an ethnic commnity does not have a fair say in overall state politics that affects them in substantive sense. That other people in this country, including ordinary Han Chinese, do not either enjoy a participatory parity does not change the nature of the ethnic-political problem, but only moves it onto another level. The paradox is, especially in the contest of China, to solve this apparantly ethnic problem efficiently, we should pretend it is not a ethnic/race problem. To emphasize the ethnic/race aspect would most probably lead to a wrong and damaging direction. In this regard, I think the human rights activists on Tibet are targeting the wrong thing. The corret objet would be stright and simple: democracy and neutral state (not necessarily in stigmatized western definition) for all Chinese people. Well, to argue for indepedence is a slightly different thing.

  38. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    Let me say this as my starting point: many Chinese believe that “Western racism” is qualitatively different from “Chinese racism”. And I agree.

    A starting point or a conclusion based on personal experience? As a member of the majority ethnic group and coming from a relatively affluent segment of the Chinese population, on what do you base a claim that there isn’t really racism in China? It may very well be true that Chinese do not believe that they are racist, if other people perceive them as racist, then we have a problem.

    It is comforting to thing that “we” are never racist, only “they” are.

  39. AC Says:

    @Anon

    I’m sure there are racists in China (although I’ve never seen or heard of any personally), there are bigots in every society. However, there has never been any institutionalized racism in China. We Chinese have never systematically discriminated against a certain group of people or race. That’s the difference between China and the West.

  40. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I think you are guilty of an -ism whenever you pre-judge someone. IF your prejudgement is based on race/skin colour, then you’re being racist. If you pre-judge based on age, then you’re being ageist. All this other splitting of hairs appears to be an attempt to somehow suggest that Chinese people are immune to racist behaviours, or perhaps to couch it in less repugnant terminology. The reluctance to acknowledge it likely increases the probability of one being guilty of it down the road.

  41. werew Says:

    I think the racism or prejudice currently in China mainly stem from ignorance because of lack of contact with minorities. I think in this way the racism is “different” from the west. The majority of “western racism” stems from a desire of some people to feel superior or to blame the social problems on the minority. This desire clouds judgments and builds stereotypes. It causes examples that further biases to make a deeper impression that the ones that don’t. I think the Chinese government had always tried to control this second kind of racism,(maybe for ethnic stability purposes) mostly by not talking about it or by saying how 56 minorities lives peacefully together. This is through my experience through the elementary and middle school education system. I wasn’t exactly aware of the existence racism until I came to US and got taught in school. I think the difference between “Western” and Chinese way of solving racism problem is that is that one try to reduce it by teaching and talking about it, while the other try to ignore it. Those TIers bring racism to the table mostly to play the stigmatized version of racism, where one party feels superior because of their race. This is definitely false.

  42. MutantJedi Says:

    I appreciate Buxi’s nuance of culture vs race.

    I certainly don’t have any problems criticizing or celebrating attributes of culture (religions, traditions, politics, etc). Culture is an extremely flexible and powerful human adaptation. It needs to change to remain relevant.

    Culture is also a useful but not infallible predictor of behavior. For example, a parade of people in KKK cowls would make me very uncomfortable. The color of the skin under the cowl is irrelevant as the garb is, to me, identified with a repulsive ideology.

    Racism is attributing of value, potential, behavior, etc to a person based on his/her arbitrarily defined physical/hereditary characteristics.

    To AC… where would one begin? What is the general feeling towards Japanese? Find a black guy in China and ask him if there is any racism. I’ve been the target of Chinese racism. Oh, hey, there’s even a wikipedia entry.

    Having said this, my point isn’t to rub noses in it but to temper the error that the reprehensible examples of racist culture we can readily point out in the West is impossible in China. This is why I like the idea of 中华民族 as a celebration of ethnic diversity. It is also why I found Lhadon Tethong’s review of the National Ethnic Minorities Park unsettling.

    I believe that celebrating the ethnic and cultural mosaic of China is extremely positive and is the best antidote to racism. It is also the high ground against Western racist attitudes towards Chinese.

  43. Buxi Says:

    MutantJedi,

    The “Racism in China” blog you link above is interesting, although if someone reads through it with an open mind… you can end up with the picture I started with above. If the Chinese people are “racist” against people on the basis of skin color, on the basis of geographic origin, and on the basis of wealth… is that still racism? Or is that just a tendency to jump to prejudiced assumptions, due to lack of world experience by most Chinese?

    I thought this was also pretty silly:

    The closest literal translation for Africa in Chinese means “non-state” or “not a state”,

    Sort of similar to the claim that the Chinese word Xizang (Tibet) suggests that Tibet is in reality a treasure-house of wealth in the mind of many Chinese…

    Both of these characters were picked phonetically. France is not faguo for being the country of laws, nor is America meiguo because it’s beautiful (even though it is).

  44. KL Says:

    @FOARP:
    Guys, try to take a look at the real China and the attitudes that real Han Chinese people have about other races and cultures, and then we’ll talk about racism.
    ———————–
    Wow, Mr. Knowledgeable! I am an ethnic minority(well, actually my parents are from different ethnic groups so I don’t really know which one I belong to, but it’s definitely not Han) but I’ve never felt discriminated by Han Chinese. They may be a little surprised when they know I am ethnic but never “discriminate” me or whatever(maybe they hide it very well?)
    It’s really funny to see someone who doesn’t like racism puts so much emphasis on “races”. And it’s even more funny to say he says “See, Han Chinese are racists!” Hey, my knowledgeable master, do you sense the racism towards Han Chinese in his accusation?

    中华民族 zhong hua min zu is the most commonly used word when we describe ourselves. It’s not Han Chinese; it’s not ethnic Chinese. It’s Chinese.
    See? The whole point is that Han Chinese don’t even bother to ask what ethnic group I belong to because they simply don’t care. Then some Mr. Knowledgeable jumps out and screams: “No. He is an ethnic minority. You should respect him and his culture!” Wow, thank you for reminding me of my supposed-to-be-inferior race.

  45. yo Says:

    How easy/hard is it to identify an ethnic minority in China? And I mean if they speak fluent mandarin, are wearing a business suit, and told you nothing of their background. I’m just trying to get a feel of the “mechanics” of race identification in China so to speak.

  46. Buxi Says:

    How easy/hard is it to identify an ethnic minority in China? And I mean if they speak fluent mandarin, are wearing a business suit, and told you nothing of their background.

    It’s basically impossible, except for Turkic Uygurs from Xinjiang. There are probably more Han Chinese who “look” exotic than actual minorities who “look” exotic.

    This, by the way, is one of my pet peeves about Western reporting on Tibet. I remember one article after the Qinghai/Tibet railroad was opened, where the (BBC? Guardian?) journalist said she could see very few Tibetans riding on the train; instead, she claimed it was mostly filled with “Chinese businessmen”.

    How exactly is she identifying a Tibetan? Tibetan nomads are certainly obvious, but how does a Tibetan businessman wearing a Western suit look any different than a Han Chinese businessman wearing a Western suit?

  47. chorasmian Says:

    @yo,

    Generally, the difference between ethnic minority in China and the Han Chinese living around is far smaller than between Han Chinese live in different areas. Actually, the definition of Han Chinese doesn’t come from gene character, but largely from Confucian cultural background.

  48. FOARP Says:

    @AC: Never institutionalised racism? A quick examination of the history of imperial China shows this to be incorrect.

    @KL: I fail to see your point, and since you were not involved in this discussion before, it is strange that you should think that my comment was directed at you personally. As we’ve discussed before, the term ‘中华民族’ is one with a long history, we see that in imperial times peoples now – at least according to your definition – included as ‘华人’ were previously called barbarians. It is only in modern times that the concept of an all encompasing racial identity was created. In is not my fault if some of the people who are supposed to make up this grouping do not accept it.

    I do not, and I hope never will, make the mistake of think of myself as being particularly ‘knowledgeable’ about anything – but when I see someone making a statement which I know to be untrue (racism does not exist in China; there are two types of racism, a type which is okay and a type which is not okay but only other people have it) then I will disagree.

    There is no racism in pointing out that some Han Chinese have racial attitudes.

  49. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    If the Chinese people are “racist” against people on the basis of skin color, on the basis of geographic origin, and on the basis of wealth… is that still racism? Or is that just a tendency to jump to prejudiced assumptions, due to lack of world experience by most Chinese?

    Wow. And just about any Westerner you would meet has world experience? If you were refused service based on the color of your skin in any Western country, I am sure you would call it racism. I am equally sure that you would not find alternative explanations for the treatment such as lack of exposure to Chinese.

    Somehow there is a double standard at work here. Quite ironic given the fact that many Chinese are hyper sensitive to real and perceived racial slights.

  50. Anon Says:

    That woman is the product of Tibetan (exile) education at its best, lol… Does she speak Tibetan?

    She does. Read her blog, it carries a Tibetan translation.

  51. werew Says:

    I think a big thing that is ignored here is that the mainland Chinese is not educated to see that racism is bad. They are not expose to the ugly side of racism. Do you think most US citizens are born to be immune to racism? Slavery, civil rights movements and deep south racial segregation in early 1900s are taught to children in US, as well as other western countries to control racism. Racism is tabooed. If China develops, more of this kind of anti-racist education will be implemented. One thing I am sure of is that the current Chinese education certainly do not promote this, nor does the Chinese culture. It just exists naturally because of the inherent nature of the human mind to group and simplify things.

    Then some Mr. Knowledgeable jumps out and screams: “No. He is an ethnic minority. You should respect him and his culture!”
    ^^LOL, I highly agree. I think some degree of this is happening.

  52. Buxi Says:

    That woman is the product of Tibetan (exile) education at its best, lol… Does she speak Tibetan?

    She does. Read her blog, it carries a Tibetan translation.

    Are you sure the Tibetan translation is done by her?

    Comment from lobsang
    Time: August 9, 2007, 8:50 pm

    It’s very fortunate for me to get chance to write something for Lhadon and her supporters. I highlly appreciate u guys. Keep Up!!! I am and we all are looking forward to ur movement.

    Lobsang.
    Chicago.

  53. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    I understand that perhaps the park is a little crude, and definitely not up to Walt Disney standards… but for god’s sake, it’s at least a genuine *attempt* at creating space for multiple cultures to co-exist in China.

    The whole idea of creating an ethnographic zoo, where you can gawk at exotic people, evokes very mixed emotions indeed because of the colonial roots of the concept. Nothing new here. For more:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Zoo

  54. KL Says:

    @FOARP:
    I guess I didn’t get the essence of British humour. So next time let’s call it Chinese humour. Or sarcasm? OK, I am also bad at that.
    —————
    “As we’ve discussed before, the term ‘中华民族’ is one with a long history, we see that in imperial times peoples now – at least according to your definition – included as ‘华人’ were previously called barbarians. It is only in modern times that the concept of an all encompasing racial identity was created. In is not my fault if some of the people who are supposed to make up this grouping do not accept it.”
    So what? I would have been called barbarian(or double barbarian?) if I lived in the old time. Why wouldn’t I embrace the concept of “中华民族” rather keep in mind I am actually a barbarian even if I live in the present? What’s funny is that I was never called barbarian by a Han Chinese but today a foreigner(?) told me I am actually a barbarian. How sad I would be!
    Mr. Knowledgeable, please stop telling me that my people are hated by SOME Han Chinese. We might go fighting with them like we did in the past 5000 years. We don’t like oppression and racism.
    —————
    Quote verbatim:
    “Try to take a look at the real China and the attitudes that real Han Chinese people have about other races and cultures”
    “Some Han Chinese have racial attitudes.”
    Thank you for telling me it’s SOME Han Chinese who have racial attitudes(which equal racism?), it’s not REAL Han Chinese who have racial attitudes. This gives me some hope.
    —————
    “when I see someone making a statement which I know to be untrue (racism does not exist in China; there are two types of racism, a type which is okay and a type which is not okay but only other people have it)”
    Could you tell me how did Demin and Karma explicitly or implicitly express such ideas?

  55. Buxi Says:

    @Anon,

    The whole idea of creating an ethnographic zoo, where you can gawk at exotic people, evokes very mixed emotions indeed because of the colonial roots of the concept. Nothing new here. For more:

    There’s a fine line between “gawking at exotic people” and celebrating minority culture, but there’s still a line. I’ve been to several minority villages in China… (in addition to the one in Beijing, these are pretty standard in various tourist locales): Yunnan in Kunming, Hainan island.

    It’s not a minority in a zoo. We’re taught a little about their unique culture, their unique history… I don’t know if you’ve been to the wonderful Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, but it’s a very comparable institution.

    What should make for “mixed emotions”, other than political expediency? Here’s what your Wikipedia entry provides as a very nice summary:

    A number of them placed indigenous people (particularly Africans) in a continuum somewhere between the great apes and human beings of European descent. For this reason, ethnographic zoos have since been criticized as highly degrading and racist.

    I’ve never seen any suggestion at a minority village that minorities and minority culture were in any way sub-human, or even sub-Han.

  56. Buxi Says:

    I just wanted to say I agree with werew’s comment #51. Very insightful and very true.

  57. FOARP Says:

    “If racism ever becomes widespred in China, like it is in many western democratic countries”

    “But it is the modern breed of racism – born of European origins – that is truly wrecking the world…”

    “I think it’s ok to feel “afraid” when walking down a dark alley when being followed by a black person”

  58. yo Says:

    “How easy/hard is it to identify an ethnic minority in China? And I mean if they speak fluent mandarin, are wearing a business suit, and told you nothing of their background. I’m just trying to get a feel of the “mechanics” of race identification in China so to speak. ”

    I would like to get more perspectives on this because I think it’s important,(for me at least 🙂 ) about race in China. Interesting comments so far.

  59. Nimrod Says:

    About ethnic zoos, yes, I was about to mention the Polynesian Culture Center, too. But now that I think about it, the ethnic center in Beijing is less of a zoo than the PCC. PCC is purely for tourists and their actors really are actors and can be a Tahitian one moment and be repurposed as Maori the next moment. The stuff they do have a ridiculous circus component (pretending to speak like indigenes, climbing trees and looking around like Tarzan, making jokes about coconuts being like breasts).

    The Beijing center, however, you don’t see that many tourists there anyway, and it’s more a government funded community and arts center — a serious one — for ethnic troupes to develop their crafts.

    And that, my friends, is the point: minority cultures actually still exist and are developing in China, not like in the West. So stop projecting Western colonial perceptions onto China. Chinese never put a minority’s butt on display in our museums like the British did to an African’s.

  60. Karma Says:

    Thanks for comments 47 and 51.

    Definition of “ethnicity” from WIKI (a good starting point, not necessarily definitive – I understand):

    An ethnic group is a group of human beings whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.[1] Ethnic identity is also marked by the recognition from others of a group’s distinctiveness[2] and by common cultural, linguistic, religious, behavioral or biological traits.

    Sometimes I wonder whether all the focus on ethnicity/racism/religion differences is CAUSING rather than SOLVING the world’s problems.

    As the Wiki definition suggests, there is nothing “inherent” about our perceived differences based on ethnicity. It is a “perceived” difference. Even in what are allegedly “homogenous groups,” further perceptions of differences separating each people can always manufactured – often for political expediency…

    It’s a chicken and egg problem. Racism has been used as a political leverage in the past, so a moderate amount of focus on racism is important to countering this influence. However, too much focus on alleged ethnic identities will only serve to suffocate – not liberate us!

  61. Karma Says:

    And that, my friends, is the point: minority cultures actually still exist and are developing in China, not like in the West. So stop projecting Western colonial perceptions onto China. Chinese never put a minority’s butt on display in our museums like the British did to an African’s.

    That essentially sums up many of my problems with the West… the (sometimes well-intentioned) projection of Western experiences onto China’s development, unnecessarily constraining and even distorting is growth.

  62. MutantJedi Says:

    不好意思。Buxi, yes, I should read my links more carefully. 非洲 is phonetic. I simply don’t have enough knowledge of Chinese to say much more than that.

    I’m with Buxi on #51’s comments.

    As for Human Zoos… if the park in Beijing is such a zoo, then the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village must be one too. Silliness. 🙂

  63. MutantJedi Says:

    Karma, you are right.
    #60 is well said.

  64. FOARP Says:

    Ethnicity exists, and as C.S. Lewis said “whatever exists, matters”. People do not forget about your ethnicity anywhere on this planet.

  65. yo Says:

    Karma,
    Well said, too much focus on differences isn’t healthy.

  66. Anon Says:

    @Buxi and MutantJedi

    I don’t think that the page about anti-black racism can be reduced to a misunderstanding about the provenance of the word “Feizhou,” and it is disingenuous, to say the least, of Buxi to focus on that instead of the real experiences people of African origin face in China. Racism towards Africans in China is pervasive. Spend an afternoon with an African resident in Beijing and you know what I’m talking about.

    It is implicit in many of the comments here that while any Chinese have the right to denounce racism anywhere in the world, only Chinese are qualified to comment on the nature of racism in China.

    @Buxi

    To suggest that ethnic theme parks in China have similarities with ethnic zoos in the 19th century is not to suggest that they are identical. Racism is much more subtle today anywhere in the world, and China does have it’s fair share of that. Just one example. Right after the Tibetan uprising, the online version of People’s Daily had a exhibition about “backward” Tibetan culture that the CCP had saved the Tibetans from. While this was quite standard propaganda towards any culture in the earlier PRC, you almost never see that kind of exhibition in regard to backward elements in Han Chinese culture today.

  67. Nimrod Says:

    Anon, you must have not been around when during SARS, editorials were written about the eating habits of rural Cantonese (eating civet cats) and blamed it on their backwardness.

  68. Buxi Says:

    @Anon,

    That’s a total straw man argument. No one here has suggested or implied that only Chinese are qualified to comment on the nature of racism in China. Don’t insult our intelligence.

    I didn’t intend to “focus” on the feizhou statement. I do accept that there’s prejudice towards Africans in China, but I still don’t agree it’s racism. There was an excellent article in the “rightist” crusading Southern Metropolis about the lonely lives that many African traders live in Guangzhou’s Chocolate City.

    http://www.infzm.com/content/trs/raw/35302

    This was published about a half year ago, and since racism seems to be a persistent question here… I’m going to translate it. Really insightful, IMO.

    To suggest that ethnic theme parks in China have similarities with ethnic zoos in the 19th century is not to suggest that they are identical.

    Why don’t you tell me in what ways they’re similar? If you have an implication, then why not make it clearly? As you yourself mentioned, any discussion of backward culture in old Tibetan society is matched by discussion of backward culture in “old China” in general.

    The reason that we don’t see many exhibitions about foot-bindings today isn’t because we now glorify old Han Chinese culture… in fact, it’s precisely because there is NO one out there seeking to glorify or restore these negative aspects of traditional Han Chinese culture.

    In the mean time, in the case of Tibet, there are people domestic and overseas who’re seeking to effectively return Tibet back into a religious state. You can disagree with the conclusion, but isn’t this the appropriate time to remember how the religious government in Tibet used to be?

  69. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    Staw man argument? Quite a few commenters on this site have basically made that point in so many words. You focus on your own subjective view of the problem, and completely ignore the fact that Chinese are widely perceived as racist. You have a problem here, and you won’t get anywhere by playing around with definitions.

    I do accept that there’s prejudice towards Africans in China, but I still don’t agree it’s racism.

    If it is not racism when Africans get consistently worse treatment than any other group of foreigners, then what is racism? Have you ever spent any length of time around Africans in Beijing or Shanghai? I have and it was a real eye-opener to me.

  70. Nimrod Says:

    I forgot to mention that the ethnic center in Beijing has all the ethnicities, so that means there is a section on the Han. So much for the tortured attempt to denigrate it as a racist zoo.

    Buxi wrote:

    You can sense that her real frustration is that there isn’t a “Great Han Chinese National Park” in Beijing, where she can find true justification for a Tibetan independence campaign.

    I think that Lhadon woman is just peeved that Tibetans are even in a park at all that puts them together with other Chinese ethnicities. It’s not the content’s authenticity or anything remotely racist that bother her, not that she could tell. The Tibetans were performing a traditional song in one of the Youtube videos and she shakes her head like they were doing it wrong… right…

  71. Leo Says:

    Two years ago I had an opportunity to accompany a very dark-skinned Indian to tour 9 provinces across China. Before that I have read about negative responses against dark-skinned people and a lot of anecdotes from the expat coummunity so I gave the Indian a bit warning what might happen. To my surprise, absolutely nothing happened. From the normal villagers to top-notch facility service personnel, people might openly show their curiosity but absolutely nothing hostile. If people talked about the Indian’s dark skin, I would do the translation and the both parties would understand it as harmless and give each other a friendly smile and that’s all. On the halfway we also encountered a few African Americans and their experiences were also very positive. So I wonder where come all this fuss about racism of the Chinese. Often cited facts are single incidents, like Beijing police’s Sanlitun crackdown, a lot of andecdotes sound as if different versions of one same story. When there is a lack of specific evidence, people begin to ramble into small things like being called laowai or shouted at with random hellos. When this does not work, they begin to talk about Tibet and the Uighurs, and, don’t forget, the ethnic parks, which is pulled into so many discussions about Chinese racism.

    I think the basic logic is such: Is there no racism in China? You are lying. Because there is racism everywhere. If you are lying, you must be concealing something (in a more reconscilliatory tone, you are brainwashed by the CCP. The ultimate truth is hidden from you.) If you are denying the truth, then the situation must be really dire! So the talk begins as some random perception and anecdotes, ends in the conclusion that China is a very racist country, if not the most!

  72. KL Says:

    “If racism ever becomes widespred in China, like it is in many western democratic countries”

    “But it is the modern breed of racism – born of European origins – that is truly wrecking the world…”

    “I think it’s ok to feel “afraid” when walking down a dark alley when being followed by a black person”

    Incredible logic:
    1. Racism in China is not as widespread as in the western democratic countries—–>Racism doesn’t exist in China.
    2. It’s the modern breed of racism that is truly wrecking the world.—–>Racism in China is OK because it’s not as bad as its western form.
    3. The commenter is racist(?)—->what conclusion do we get from this?

    Oh I guess racism is something really subjective, my Master.

  73. yo Says:

    “I think it’s ok to feel “afraid” when walking down a dark alley when being followed by a black person”

    Just as an interesting caveat, Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson said something to this end:

    “There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

  74. Anon Says:

    @Leo

    When there is a lack of specific evidence, people begin to ramble into small things like being called laowai or shouted at with random hellos.

    I have, on several occasions, been told by Han Chinese that they would never deal with Africans. When I rented my first apartment in China, my landlord expressed his relief I was not black. I have had a conversation with an African friend of mine on the street and heard bicyclists yelling the Chinese equivalent of n***** as they passed by. This is real. You may not have seen it, but racism exists in China and you better do something about it if you want to have a successful Olympics.

  75. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “Or is that just a tendency to jump to prejudiced assumptions, due to lack of world experience by most Chinese?” – whatever the explanation, doesn’t change what it is. Being able to explain the behaviour doesn’t make the behaviour any more acceptable.
    And Leo is criticizing anecdotes by providing his own anecdote.
    “…are taught to children in US, as well as other western countries to control racism. Racism is tabooed. If China develops, more of this kind of anti-racist education will be implemented.” – that sounds like a good idea.

  76. KL Says:

    Oh sorry, my last reply for Mr. Knowledgeable FOARP

  77. KL Says:

    @Anon

    I believe what you said is real. I also believe what Leo said is real. There is definitely racism in China. There are also many other forms of discrimination in China. However the level of racism remains unclear.
    I guess not all Han Chinese would say to you that they would never deal with Africans. I am not saying racism on a small level can be tolerated but what do the majority think?
    It’s already racism to generalize that Han Chinese are racists against ethnic Chinese and Chinese are racists against Black people(or all foreigners).

  78. Karma Says:

    Hmmm … a lot of interesting comments.

    But I still think there are 2 broad types of racism we are talking about – political racism and existential racism.

    Political racism is the gospel-ideology type meant to suppress a group of people based on “race.” Existential racism is the more common prejudice (that has existed since time immemorial) that arise from individual biases, limited knowledge, etc.

    Look – everyone is biased. You can be politically correct, but you will still be biased in some ways. Each of us are limited beings – with limited intellect, limited knowledge, limited experience. Each of us will have blind spots. Existential racism is stupid – but not “evil“. Political racism is – because it cause social tensions, suppressions, and wars…

    Problem is: we have such knee-jerk reaction to “race” it makes me want to puke. We are so PC: it’s a sort of “cultural revolution” where I am forced to confess my bad, adulterated thoughts if I don’t confirm to strict official knee-jerk ideology mantras about “race” – which in my opinion, unnecessarily exaggerates issues of “race.”

  79. Anon Says:

    @Karma

    Political racism is the gospel-ideology type meant to suppress a group of people based on “race.” Existential racism is the more common prejudice (that has existed since time immemorial) that arise from individual biases, limited knowledge, etc.

    That definition does make some sense, but if you apply it consistently, you would come up with the conclusion that most expressions of racism in modern Western Europe, the US or China are of the “existential” type.

  80. Karma Says:

    You are probably right that there is a “slippery” slope between political and existential racism. Also – to make political racism strong, one would probably have to strengthen existential racism. A very strong existential racism could also, under the right circumstances, spawn political racism.

    But I still think these are two concepts. And that the knee-jerk, jump to the conclusion type mix up between the two cause a lot of misunderstanding and impediments to solve the problem of political racism.

  81. Karma Says:

    Sorry: above message was addressed to @Anon.

  82. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Karma:
    “Look – everyone is biased” – absolutely agree.
    “Existential racism is stupid – but not “evil“” – agree, to a point. It becomes increasingly reprehensible if you turn a blind eye to its existence, and do nothing as an individual and as a society to neutralize it. Just as ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it, so too that the ignorance that sows the seeds of prejudice does not render such resultant prejudice any more acceptable.

  83. MutantJedi Says:

    http://www.unwinkinggaze.com/
    Watching a bit of it on the CBC.

    Interesting.

  84. Opersai Says:

    I have had a conversation with an African friend of mine on the street and heard bicyclists yelling the Chinese equivalent of n***** as they passed by.

    Anon,

    Are you sure your friend heard the word “nigger”, not the Chinese word “neige” meaning “that, that one”. They sound very similar you know. I read stories online of Chinese, over here in America, having a conversation beside a black person, and had the person offended because they said the word “neige”.

  85. Buxi Says:

    When I read that, I actually spent time trying to figuring out what the Chinese equivalent of nigger would be… and I really can’t figure out one.

    There’s certainly “black devils” (黑鬼子), but that’s no different than “devils” (鬼子) or “foreign devils” (洋鬼子)… all terms which you hear regularly in Chinese, and rarely with real hostility.

    I don’t think any of those terms come remotely close to “nigger”.

  86. FOARP Says:

    @Karma – You are making a distinction between racism itself and a racist system. In reality one is simply the expression of the other.

  87. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘Nigger’ is derived from the word ‘Negro’, and simply means ‘黑人’. It is the history of oppression and slavery that have given the word its evil meaning.

  88. Karma Says:

    @FOARP

    You are making a distinction between racism itself and a racist system. In reality one is simply the expression of the other.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘Nigger’ is derived from the word ‘Negro’, and simply means ‘黑人’. It is the history of oppression and slavery that have given the word its evil meaning.

    I cannot agree with you more on your last statement about the history of oppression and slavery giving the word “nigger” is “evil” meaning.

    But I’d go beyond that to include the whole concept of racism – i.e. it is the “history of oppression and slavery” (exp., in my mind, in the Western colonial context) that has given modern “racism” its “evil” meaning.

    Of course, I am not saying racism should be ignored or promoted in non-Wester countries like China (which never underwent the same sort of “political racism” as the West). It should not be ignored because any “racism,” under the right circumstances, can develop into a “political racism” as pernicious as that in the U.S. and other places in the West.

    But please do not jump the gun and equate all prejudices and discrimination in China to be the same as type of “political racism” existing in the West.

    To view “racism” in China through such Western eyes is to UNNECESSARILY magnify the problem.

    I really believe we meed to dial down race tensions in the world. We should solve the problem of ignorance objectively. Fomenting racial differences and identities is not the solution to “racism” throughout much of the world…!

  89. Anon Says:

    @Opersai

    He said Heigui!, so it was pretty clear what he meant.

  90. Opersai Says:

    He said Heigui!, so it was pretty clear what he meant.

    Opps. Sorry, my bad, sloppy reading. I thought you said people called him “nigger”.

    Buxi,
    I think “gui” in “heigui” can also be translated as ghost. It’s a bit rough way to address someone. I could see people gets offended with it. I did remember watching Chinese version of Rush Hour 1, and they translated nigger in there as “heigui”.

    However, I do agree with you that I think “heigui” doesn’t carry much demeaning value in it as the word “nigger”. It’s a bit rude way to say black foreigner, kinda like address an old man as “laotou”, or “laogui” (I think sometimes people with this to address their father, as a man to man rough affection). But then again, when you tangle things with race, things gets complicated and sensitive.

    I would definitely say that China lacks sensitivity, and political correctness(most times I think that’s a good thing though -_-, it’s so fake).

    @FOARP

    As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘Nigger’ is derived from the word ‘Negro’, and simply means ‘黑人’. It is the history of oppression and slavery that have given the word its evil meaning.

    I am not aware of that actually. Interesting to know. Thanks. But I guess it’s all depends on context. A black people can call his fellow “nigger” and use it in a non offending way, but a white or asian or anyone that’s non-black use that address would seem very offending.

    One thing I’ve been very confused though. Maybe you and Anon can answer me. Why are some people gets REALLY upset when we call them “laowai”? I mean, the word simply mean foreigner; it doesn’t carry any negative connotation. That’s how we address, in relative, foreign non-Chinese people (usually non-Asian too). Will you be upset too?

  91. demin Says:

    Guys, here is another little taste on Chinese people’s race perspecive (en masse), by James Fallows of “The Atlantic”:
    http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/06/post_1.php (A simple point about being a foreigner in China)

  92. Anon Says:

    @Opersai

    Why are some people gets REALLY upset when we call them “laowai”? I mean, the word simply mean foreigner; it doesn’t carry any negative connotation.

    I actually think “laowai” does carry some negative connotations, since it can also mean “ignorant”, as in the expression. Ni zhende shi laowai!. There are also a few experssions that don’t sound very nice, like zai laowai, meng laowai, bang laowai, etc, that you hear quite a lot. In sum, “laowai” sounds incredibly patronizing.

    The main reason some people get upset is that they feel singled out by being called “laowai” all the time. After a while in China, many foreigners become extremely self-conscious and tense because of the attention they get. You can handle it most of the time, but if you have a bad day, you’d better just stay indoors. Just taking a walk may involve people gawking at you and observing every move you make.

    Imagine yourself being a Chinese living in Britain and hearing people say “Chinaman” all the time, shouting stuff like “Oh! A Chinaman!” or “NEE HOW! Chinaman!” at a high pitch voice. Even if they’d do it just to be funny and had no bad intentions, you’d go nuts after some time. I mean, you could argue that Chinaman is not condescending at all, no different from Frenchman or Irishman. But I don’t think that is the way you would see it.

    What many foreigners in China don’t understand is this compulsive need of some Chinese to single out foreigners and point out difference. I have seen parents lift their child, point at me and say: “Ni kan! Laowai! Ta gen women bu yiyang!” I fell this has nothing to do with curiosity, just a complete lack of imagination and consideration when it comes to dealing with people. You do the same things to a Chinese, you’d be scolded for lack of respect.

  93. Buxi Says:

    What many foreigners in China don’t understand is this compulsive need of some Chinese to single out foreigners and point out difference. I have seen parents lift their child, point at me and say: “Ni kan! Laowai! Ta gen women bu yiyang!” I fell this has nothing to do with curiosity, just a complete lack of imagination and consideration when it comes to dealing with people. You do the same things to a Chinese, you’d be scolded for lack of respect.

    You do realize that for the vast majority of Chinese pointing at you, you’re literally the first non-Chinese person they’ve ever seen (and their friends/relatives/ancestors have ever seen)? A lack of “imagination”? Imagination is all that many Chinese have when it comes to non-Chinese. Hell, many Chinese have probably seen more pandas than non-Chinese.

    For as long as you have been in China, surely you’ve realized there are different cultural rules about what’s rude and what’s not. Many Chinese don’t see what’s so rude about staring, but consider it rude if you don’t offer water to a visiting guest. Ever been rude?

    Not to say you should just shut up and put up with it… but just a hope that you understand that much of is this unintentional, your gift for being a trail-blazer in terms of bringing world culture to China. If you want to be treated as nothing more than an average joe, either go to Hong Kong, or come back in 30 years.

  94. FOARP Says:

    @Opersai – To be honest, it was always the way it was used. It might seem overly sensitive, but when you’re Taiwanese boss insists on calling you a laowai but won’t accept you calling him a 台老 (or worse, 台客) it seems a bit unfair. I tried to be humourous about it, and yes, plenty of the people who use it just mean (as far as I can work out) ‘white foreigner’, but it can be somewhat tiring. Was it a huge problem? No.

    As for how terms like ‘Chink’ and ‘Chinaman’ became regarded as racist, I would say that this was also because of the way in which these terms were used. They are both simply terms derived from the English name for the Middle Kingdom. According to the Angry Asian Man website, ‘Oriental’ is also regarded as a racist term in the US Asian community – why this should be I have no idea. More than anything though, I think this is caused by a desire to control the terms that one is known by.

  95. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – My mother breeds poodles, everywhere she takes her show dogs people point and stare at them, especially kids who find them absolutely fascinating. I think it would be pretty dumb for anyone to get angry about that kind of attention, curiosity is something to be welcomed and engaged with. I always made time for parents who were trying to get their kids to try out their English with me. One of the moments I will treasure for the rest of my life was a trip I took to Chuzhou, Anhui province. I was sitting on a set of back-to-back benches in the railway station waiting for the train back to Nanjing, and a father and his children were sitting behind me. I turned round to look at the display screen and he turned round at the same moment. He saw my face, turned round to his children and said in a voice just above a whisper “You’ll never believe who is sitting behind us – it’s a 老外!” The kids all went “Oh, who are you trying to kid?”.

  96. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    You do realize that for the vast majority of Chinese pointing at you, you’re literally the first non-Chinese person they’ve ever seen (and their friends/relatives/ancestors have ever seen)?

    Let me elaborate. If you go to a remote village and get stared at, that’s part of the bargain and there is no point getting upset. And every time I go to the countryside I’m surprised of how reserve many Chinese farmers are. I have traveled in coaches in the countryside of Sichuan and Henan and no one was particularly interested in me.

    Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that there is no clear correlation between curiosity and staring. You can live in a block for a year, and every morning you get out on the street people stare at you. The same people. You can study at a large university and every time you enter the canteen people stare at you. These people see foreigners everyday. You can go to a Chinatown and you get stared at as you are waiting for the bus. Something else is going on here. And I can assure you that Chinese people do not like to be stared at by foreigners, where it be at home or when they travel abroad.

  97. Buxi Says:

    @Anon,

    I have traveled in coaches in the countryside of Sichuan and Henan and no one was particularly interested in me.

    I bet they were absolutely fascinated by every aspect of you, and that you were the topic of conversation at home for a week. But they probably know zero words of English, and (other than children) are too embarrassed to strike up a conversation. I like FOARP’s anecdote from the train station, sounds veeeeeery believable.

    As far as why the people in the cafeteria stare at you… I give up, I really have no explanation. But I strongly doubt it’s racial prejudice, and I strongly doubt they’re actually trying to insult you. So, what else could it be?

  98. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    I bet they were absolutely fascinated by every aspect of you, and that you were the topic of conversation at home for a week.

    Of course, you can never be sure about these things, but I often feel that people in the countryside are just as bewildered by people from other parts of China and the curiosity they sometimes express is often very innocuous. And usually they mind their own business. As I see it, this whole gawking business is an urban thing, where people are strangers to each other and don’t care what other people think. And when it comes to prejudice, I want to echo what FOARP has been saying, I think it is an acquired behavior. People learn from school, media and friends “what foreigners are like” and then they proceed on those assumptions. So when people are gawking at me in a cafeteria, it is often of the kind “let’s see how this guy handles the chopsticks”. You often overhear peoples conversations about you and they often proceed along those lines.

    The added twist is the guy who first stares at you, and then strikes up an conversation with you for a while according to the Waiban-approved screenplay (where you from? how much do you earn? do you have a Chinese girl friend?). Then, after a while he gets annoyed at the people that are staring at us (Look at those peasants gawking at us! Meiyou wenhua!)

    So, no. I don’t think it is polite to stare in China, but people only mind it as long as people are staring at them. I don’t think you will see a change in this until people start to get aware of civility in general, not just in relation to foreigners. But I remain convinced that the Chinese government wants to maintain the gulf between Chinese and foreigners.

  99. Buxi Says:

    But I remain convinced that the Chinese government wants to maintain the gulf between Chinese and foreigners.

    I disagree strongly with this. Other than obscure textbooks none of us have read, you haven’t been able to prove any sort of proof about this “gulf”. And in the mean time, results suggest the exact opposite is true. From a just recently published report about America versus China’s “soft power”:

    • Americans have very cool feelings toward China in both absolute and relative terms. On a 0-100 feeling scale, Americans give China a very low average rating of 35, down from 40 in 2006 and 44 in 2004.
    • Chinese give the United States an average rating of 61 on the 0-100 scale of feelings, which is significantly warmer than the rating of 51 which it received in 2006. Like Americans, Chinese people believe that economic relations (trade and investment) with the U.S. are extremely important to their country’s economy (7.6).
    • Americans do not think they share a way of life with the Chinese – 68% say they shared “no” or “little” values in common with Chinese, and 63% think it’s only “slightly” or “not at all important” for their children to study Chinese.
    • Forty-four percent of Chinese would pick the U.S. as first choice for their children’s higher education; 82% believed it is “very important” for their children to learn English in order to succeed in the future, and on a 0-10 scale they express across-the-board admiration for the quality of American science and technology (8.8), the appeal of its popular culture (7.5), the American entrepreneurial spirit (7.9), and a political system that serves the needs of its people (7.4).

    So, on which side of the Pacific ocean is this “gulf” more of a problem?

  100. Anon Says:

    @Anon

    Oh, I wouldn’t deny that US perceptions of China is a problem and that US-China relations suffer from a lot of cold war baggage. What I’m talking about, however, is something larger, that affects all foreigners in China, whether they be Americans or not (most foreigners are not Americans).

    After 1949, the Chinese government developed an intricate system to keep foreigners in check that was designed to keep foreigners and Chinese living completely different lives. When I first visited China, almost everything I did had a waiban angle and the residence of foreigners was regulated by miles of red tape. You had to pay more for almost anything, regardless of you ability to pay. You could only stay in specially designated (overpriced) hotels. Foreigners were strictly forbidden from renting apartments in regular areas. If you wanted to stay in a Chinese home for even one night, you had to ask go to the paichusuo. Many of these rules were still enforced in as recently as the late 1990s. The bottom line is that it created a gulf between foreigners and Chinese that you don’t see in other countries and it has left a legacy that affects us today. If you want to read more about this, please red Anne-Marie Brady, Making the Foreign Serve China.

  101. Buxi Says:

    Anon,

    If you’re talking about rules enforced in the ’60s through the ’80s, and gradually dying off in the ’90s… well heck, yea, I agree that was an era in which China was intentionally kept isolated from the world. We knew nothing about the outside world back then… and this includes 1989, by the way.

    But don’t you remember when the infamous Friendship Store in Beijing finally closed a few years back? That was literally the end of an era. Let’s talk about 2008.

  102. Anon Says:

    @Buxi

    Sure, let bygones be bygones, I was only trying to explain the legacy of this policy. And the policy of separation is not completely gone, as recent events demonstrate. Today, foreigners that are visually different from Chinese are routinely harassed by police for ID checks – you’d call that racial profiling in the West. Perhaps things will go back to some state of normalcy after the Olympics. All that I’m saying is that elements of the policy of separation are intermittently revived and as a foreigner in China you are always kept guessing what’s around the corner. It is always a good idea to have suitcase packed to be prepared when someone knocks on your door at 2 am.

  103. Nimrod Says:

    Ah the 80’s, the decade of smuggled audio tapes, disco, hoola hoops (year, we were a bit behind), $1=¥2 exchange rates, ration stamps, and every foreigner treated like a dignitary — I remember.

    Foreigners have had extraordinary rights in China. Maybe you’re just not used to the rules “enjoyed” by the locals.

  104. FOARP Says:

    @Anon –

    “It is always a good idea to have suitcase packed to be prepared when someone knocks on your door at 2 am.”

    Mate, speaking as someone who was kicked out of his accomodation at a few hours notice to make way for SARS quarantine patients, I have to say that if that’s really how you feel about living in China, it’s better if you don’t stay. All the same, as foreigner in China you are always being reminded how precarious your position is, and it pays to keep a weather eye on the news.

    @Nimrod – Foreigners bing treated like dignitaries? Puts me in mind of a visit I took to Taizhou, Jiangsu province (which I hear is Hu Jintao’s real 老家). A friend of a friend worked at the Taizhou 大专 and said I should come over and visit, I arrived to find that the entire school out to meet this visiting dignitary. I stepped out of the car to have my hand shaken and photo taken with the head of the school, and saw a big banner wishing a warm welcome to “British Professor FOARP”. I then had to give an hour long speech off the top of my head (in English, my Chinese wasn’t up to it in those days) which pretty much no-one understood – except for when I lavished praise on the Taizhou television tower (a monstrous construction, half Oriental Pearl and half Eiffel Tower) at which point they all started cheering!. After the speech I was mobbed by a giant crowd of screaming students all wanting my autograph – I don’t know who they thought I was!

    Considering things like this, it’s no wonder that the many ex-pats that China attracts are exhibitionists with giant egos, or quickly become so – I include myself in this.

  105. Dassani Says:

    As an ABC (American-born Chinese) who switches off living in the states and living in Guangzhou, I’ve seen a lot of racism and prejudice there. The prejudice there was not as bad as I expected, but not as small as I had hoped.

    From my experience, ethnicity is a hot topic. A very hot topic. Whenever I had dinner with my friends, they would looove to debate about it. And what I noticed was a tendency to group ethnic groups together and endow them with properties, something I found startling (like “this group is always snobbish, but great at bargaining” or even something random like “they have really high cheekbones, that’s how you know who they are”).

    I think this interest and debate about different types of people stems off the fact that the common Chinese person who has lived all his life in China has rarely been exposed to foreigners.

    The debate is lively and genuinely curious about other people, but it isn’t necessarily good (my parents’ friends once told me “don’t marry a black person–marry a white person” ughhhh) because the general public hasn’t started thinking about sensitivity yet.

    It’s just Chinese people who only mostly know Chinese people talking to Chinese people about other people. They don’t need/want to worry about keeping it tolerant. And when Chinese people who only mostly talk to Chinese about other people, they assume whatever is said is true.

    At dinner, my friends would nod sagely at someone else’s comments rather than ask “how the heck do you know that?”

    And hey, Chinese people don’t always group themselves together as just “Chinese”, as most of you probably know. There’s all different regions with different dialects, some that might as well just be different countries. We generalize them (generalization–my favorite hypocritical pastime) and gossip about them, too.

    At least, that’s my experience…just sharing it.

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