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« On the Day or Our Return Home | Main | Finding Taoism Everywhere »

August 19, 2008

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What an insightful piece. Thank you for this.

Why is it important to "have black chinese people"? Isn't China already multicultural?

Yes, China is multicultural, and always has been. But there have also been limits to that multiculturalism. In the late 19th and early 20th century there was a strain of thought within China that embraced a more racial/ethnic understanding of "Chinese." This was an understandable response to the racial thinking of the Western imperialists, but it left a legacy, I believe. Thus, it is relatively easy for a PRC citizen to readily accept the idea that Tibetans or Mongolians or Manchurian or Chuang or any of the many ethnic minorities of the country can be "Chinese." But I think if you ask any PRC citizen the question, "can one be black and Chinese (i.e. of African racial heritage but a full member of the Chinese nation)", the answer would most certainly be "no." Just as the answer had been "no" for many people in the US and Britain for long periods of their history. Globalization, in short, deepens and widens multiculturalism. That is what has happened in the West. I suspect that, in time, globalization will bring a deepening and widening of multiculturalization to China and some day, in a couple of decades, the question of Black Chinese will be raised....

Hi Sam,
Very interesting discussion. Cultural and national integration of new peoples is something I'm very interested in.
You say: "in a couple of decades, the question of Black Chinese will be raised....". I think it'll take longer than a couple of decades for the Chinese on this question, for a couple of reasons. (Though it would be great if it turns out to be that quick!) In the case of the US, black people have been part of the mix since non-natives were on the continent, so this gave things a certain dynamic. Things are a bit different in England, granted, but China has a very different dynamic--that is, the population there is so immense that it's not clear that there will be the need or opportunity for mass importation of people into China as there was into both the US and England at certain periods in their history (and there are also no Chinese colonies from which immigrants will come as in the case of England). There will probably be continued migration to China, but probably at nothing like the levels both the US and England have seen in their history, at least for a long time. If that's so, that will probably mean traditionally non-Chinese groups (that is, ones not now considered Chinese) will be a fairly fringe minority, and as long as they remain a nearly negligible percentage of the population, the question of their integration into "Chineseness" will probably not be raised. It seems to me that "tipping points" of population and contribution to the general culture of a place must be met in order for difficulties about whether the minority groups count as Chinese, or British, etc. The question of the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the original culture probably also plays a role--in the case of the US, there had been a mixture of many different peoples not all of whom were accepted as American just about from the beginning. In England, less so, until relatively recently in its history (the British Empire probably played a big role in this). It's unclear in the case of China that such mass migration will be necessary or allowed anytime soon (the host country as well as the immigrants usually have to stand to gain from the deal)--so I think this question may be further removed than a few decades. But who knows--the global dynamics change so fast that the situation in China could be ripe for mass migration overnight. It's amazing how unpredictable history is as it unfolds, and how fast does so today. Exciting times!

I read your words once again, Sam, and they appeared a bit more clear to me. Thanks for you answer. You are right that the economy is the main cause of migration and, therefore, culture mixing. This however brings a lot of new problems, because the economy may accept immigrants with a smile, while the local culture not.

Alexus,
Good points. You may be right: the demographic dynamic does make a key difference. There is unlikely to be a shortage of low wage, unskilled labor in China; and it was that kind of shortage, or demand, that has been a driver of immigration into the US, and Western Europe.

Alexus, I'm not even so sure that the Chinese economy will be so welcoming. With a mass of underemployed there is little reason for China to seek outside help in filling labour roles, the very requirement that informs US and European migration policy. It wouldn't be long before the 'natives' start complaining about "foreigners stealing our jobs", a common complaint amongst the (albeit uninformed) average working class Brit.

Of course, China has had its own immigration trends in the past - for example, the ten Muslim groups that came via Central Asia - but it takes centuries for them to be considered indigenous enough to become part of the official 55 minority rhetoric and, legally speaking, 'Chinese'. Even now, some of those groups' civic 'Chineseness' is contested by both sides. (See for example, ongoing unrest amongst Uighurs, Tibetans.)

Clearly migration in to China will increase with China's own development. As much of Britain's post-WWII immigration is a direct result of imperial adventure, so of course you're right to suggest that China's activities in Africa are likely to boost migrants coming back. However, I can't help but feel that China remains a country with an incredibly strong concept of 'race', such that no matter how well you speak the language or understand the cultural intricacies, you won't be considered 'Chinese' unless you look 'Chinese'. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, Africans remain phenotypically too different for the Chinese psyche to even consider citizenship.

Also, Sam, I'd have to disagree that the Olympics are unimportant politically. With such a gathering of the world's leaders isn't it a symbolic approval of the path that China has taken over the last thirty years? It may not be intended in that way by those leaders, but that's not quite the point. Rather, it almost certainly buoys an already resurgent Chinese nationalism, itself a potent force in terms of China's domestic and foreign politics.

(Finally, good to see you went to Blighty's more interesting cities. Why doesn't anyone ever go to Milton Keynes?!)

"It was exactly like US or Chinese coverage - each place gives pride of place to its own."

So here it is good?

"Coming home has exposed us, once again, to the bias of American coverage."

and here it is bad?

Make up your mind.

Andy:

"As much of Britain's post-WWII immigration is a direct result of imperial adventure, so of course you're right to suggest that China's activities in Africa are likely to boost migrants coming back."

???

Are you suggesting that China is imitating the British imperialists' gunboat policy and re-drawing the boundaries of Africa? Is China the one who is currently practicing neo-colonialism in Africa? Are you confusing the political propaganda with geopolitical reality?

China is one who are using her hard earned (U.S.) dollars to buy resources from Africa, not conquering and stealing them like the Western powers have been doing for centuries. China is the one who are really working with the Africans to building their roads and information systems, which is undercutting the monopoly and control of Western powers and corporate control. Therefore come the outrage and moral condemnations to the Chinese. If they are such a moral bunch, where are they when they are practicing mass enslavement of the Africans? Where are they when IMF and World Bank are still stealing and controlling most of African countries? Who are the owners and the financial backers of these professional Chinese-in-Africa condemners?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7242016.stm
http://en.internationalism.org/wr/299/china-africa
http://www.cfr.org/publication/9557/

From both left and right, these professional China accusers are paddling their wares, are they doing anything to stop the real racist enslaving a whole people, the enslavement of the Palestine for almost half a century? Their pay masters don’t like it and paid shrills can’t afford to be too moral, right?

Isha

I think your question of "The Olympics is not Important" is important for whom. It has certainly is not important to the rest of the world, but it has been very important to the Chinese and the city of Beijing. For the political issues in China, I don't think China considers as their main priority as their authoritarian country keeps it that way anyways.

What's in it for China? I can tell you a few things.

1) Beijing already got tons of money to build trains, green technology, stadiums, roads, water reclaimination etc... that will be in Beijing long after the Olympics is over. Many of the same benefits and technologies can be duplicated to others Cities within China.

2) Tourism - Despite the news that you hear about the protests in China, the western Media has put China on a positive light as a good tourist destination. They put so much emphasis on teaching people 'crazy English' and how people should behave so that they would leave a good impression for people to come back.

3) Sports - Thanks to project 119, it has sprouted many athletes that won gold that never have even got close before. It will only be a matter of time when the seeds of these projects will sprout more future Olympians.

Personally, at this point, I don't see how can the Olympics in 2012 will have any long term positive impact to London or UK as a whole, compared to China in 2008.

" What is in it for China? " I have been wondering about the same question for a long time. What benefits could China get to justify the monsterous expenses??? I can't find any valuable causes until I was inspired by commentator from the New Yorker, another self-styled Master of the Universe: the money and energy was spent to guarantee the Everlasting world peace:
"
One townful of men and women would race on, swarm into a shape, and race off, to be replaced by the next; if, deep below the spectacle, there was an unspoken suggestion that it would be an extremely bad idea to go to war against this nation, it never rose to the surface, although one aerial travelling shot of fireworks exploding in sequence along the street leading up to the stadium, displayed for us on screens inside, was a ringer for bombing-run footage from the Vietnam War."

If China could truly convince the Neo-cons that "...there was an unspoken suggestion that it would be an extremely bad idea to go to war against this nation..." since the opinion maker truly convinced that China is the evil empire in the same league as Nazi Germany, if only more subtle, therefore, even more dangerous... anyway...look at this masterpiece from the same Master of the Universe:

"The obvious precedent for Beijing was the Berlin Olympics, in 1936. Both were showcases for a muscle-flexing nation, although Hitler made an elementary error when he chose not to dress his young National Socialists in lime-green catsuits laced with twinkling fairy lights. By a careful choice of color scheme, China was able to draw the sting from any accusations of militarism, while rarely permitting the result to slide into camp. ..."

It is wonderfully interestingly funny to read him, highly recommended for those who are interested in the Beijing Olympics...
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/08/25/080825fa_fact_lane?currentPage=all


It should be a must read for all the Beijing Olympic volunteers who made the game possible that they are unintentionally working for the D himself… what a true revelation …One world, one Dream… How ironic, one have to be in sleep to believe it, or “One World” who is your designated Master???

Isha

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