Is there xenophobia in China? If yes, what is it like?
This is because the Chinese (and probably all East Asians) have an “essentialist” view on groups such as race and nationality. To the Chinese mind, there is something absolutely essential and special about being a Chinese or American or a Jewish person, something you are born with and will die with and unchangeable, almost like a biological marker that cannot be erased. There is an old saying that goes something like this “alive, a Chinese person, dead, a Chinese ghost (活是中国人，死是中国鬼)” A group’s essential features are supposed to be pervasive among all group members. As a result, when a Chinese sees one or few members of a group (foreigners) behaving in a disagreeable manner, they over-generalize disagreeableness to all the group members. Negative stereotypical views on foreigners lead to antagonism. This essentialist view on race and nationality might also make the Chinese find it hard to forego historical grudges. Today’s Japanese are held responsible for the atrocities of their ancestors, because there is something essential about being Japanese that never changes.
On the positive side, there is a more benign aspect to Chinese stereotypes of foreigners that makes it different from the racism found in white folks toward non-whites. The content of white folks’ stereotype of non-whites is inferiority in morality, intelligence and physical constitution. Bluntly put, non-whites are stereotyped as low-lifes loaded with bad genes. Chinese stereotypes of foreigners (particularly Whites) has a different content, i.e., “they are our tormenters” and “they are hostile to us” and “they want to stop us from achieving our glorious destinies” etc. In other words, Chinese antagonism to foreigners is retaliatory, a reaction to the perceived (imagined or real) slights and wrongs they have received from foreigners. It is not provocative, i.e., actively seeking out non-Chinese for harassment and belittling just because of their foreignness. Does this retaliatory characteristic of Chinese antagonism make it easier to change?
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