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« The Politics of Virtue Ethics | Main | Modern Mimicry »

September 08, 2008


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But the cultural ideal among "Chinese" of "blood", of a mythologized past connecting people and being passed down by ancestry, seems to preclude the transition from waiguoren to huaren. It's this cultural idea which allows overseas Chinese to think of themselves as fully Chinese in their own minds.

Ha! I think you've hit the nail square on the head. The Chinese, as a cultural block, have some of the longest historical continuity, if not the longest. Sam I'm sure remembers when he posted about the famed "5,000 years" of Chinese culture and the ongoing discussion about said timeline. That continuity alone, together with some of the philosophical and religious beliefs of the people, where the reverence to ancestry is so important, will always place exclusionary pressure on race integration.

Peter and Luis,
Yes, I see the prominence of blood and race in the definition of "Chineseness" (and I do not find China to be any more racist than many other places, pace Mike). But I guess I have been wandering in the classics too long. Confucianism, in its ideal, textual forms (as opposed to its historical institutionalized forms), promises, it seems to me, a more inclusive notion of cultural community. But I am coming to agree with all of you. Real historical practices, and I would add the effects of modernization, have strengthened the blood/race understanding of "Chinese" to a point where a broader cultural notion of "Chinese" seems impossible. Thus, while in ideal Confucian terms it might be possible for a black man or a white man to be within the extensive cultural definition of "Chinese," in the actually existing Chinese world it may be unlikely (notice how I cling to the "may be;" I may yet recast the argument and put it out there again).

Peony, Sam,

I guess it was kind of ethnocentric of me to focus on ‘white’ laowai. But I think it is pretty much the same whatever the country of origin and the color of your skin.
If you come to China for economic reasons, and assuming that you can secure a legal resident permit, why would you apply for Chinese citizenship? If it is easier to obtain the citizenship than a residence permit, some might consider it, but it is usually more difficult, right? Furthermore, my assumption (I cannot find any data to back it up just yet) is that there is almost no one who became Chinese by naturalization recently (past 10 years).
Could it be that no one wants to become Chinese? Unlikely. So I’d say the Chinese authorities are not encouraging naturalization, they’re doing quite the opposite actually. And I don’t see anything indicating that the Chinese government is working on a new policy on this matter.

I’d like to comment on another point: “If Chinese multiculturalism does not deepen, if whites and blacks and other racial and ethnic groups cannot become Chinese, China will discourage the very people it has invited to understand its language and culture; and in the process it will be limiting the global market for its cultural products and undermining its world-wide political influence.” I think you can be very attracted by everything Chinese without wanting to get a Chinese passport. Especially considering that according to Chinese law, you cannot keep your original citizenship. I might be displeased if I cannot secure a tourist visa and visit the country of my dreams, for instance. But even so, there is still a long way to go before me being ‘discouraged” and joining the ranks of the “anti China forces”.

Well, again, I would just say that while encouraging naturalization of foreigners and actively setting out to become a multi-pluralist society is a very valid course, I do **not** think that not doing so and choosing another style will inhibit China's economy or will keep it from actively being involved politically in the world. To be honest, I think the treatment of its own people is the place where China might feel it has to really work on if it wants to be a "full member of the international community"-- but then there is Russia (and I have real reservations about this phrase "internation community" as well).

In any case, it's very hard to say. The passport issue will only be attractive if there is an economic incensitive for the individuals seeking the passport-- for example, in Japan, there is really no reason (except if one wanted to vote) to try and get a Japanese passport; more important is that unlike the US they do not allow for dual citizenship so one would have to give up the citizenship of their own country. Whether I had a passport or not, I would never be Japanese-- but does this mean I am excluded? or that people are flocking to the anti-japanese camp for this reason? No matter what, if you open up immigration, it is I think a moral imperative to have a system in place to be able to educate all the immigrants and provide health care for them... that should be the first step (rather, I think than just saying China should be multicultural)...

Finally, while I don't think there is any real philosophical, logical or even practical necessity in the way Sam hinted for China to multiculturalize, I agree that Confucian Ladyship and Gentlemanship is indeed universal! And I think the sage would have as well!

Sam, can we take it that you're in New York today?

I am not in New York today. But I grew up in the northern suburbs, went to college there as well. New York is what first comes to mind whenever the term "the city" is uttered. I remember the towers being built, visited my friends who worked at the restaurant on top. I married into a large Brooklyn-Staten Island family and my first thought on 9/11 as the towers fell was of the firefighters who were running up those stairs. Whitman's poem got at the indomitable New York spirit....

It is the only place in the US for me as well-- I love the city! And thank you for reminding me of the poem... we went to the same university (UW), by the way-- perhaps were there at the same time as well? The winters almost killed me. After leaving, though, I have been unable to get the great beauty of the lakes and geese, the snow in the trees and the little farmer's market out of my mind.

Historically, the people that we now consider Chinese, originated in the Yellow River region and moved southwards, displacing, intermarrying with, and assimilating the local tribes in their way. The Chinese approach to multiculturalism should not be strictly compared to the Japanese, who are ethnically exclusionary, but rather the French, who are culturally exclusionary. You can theoretically become a Frenchman, but you'll have to accept the supremacy of French values and French culture. We can see the same process under effect in China with regards to the Zhuang and Hui minorities.


Just to be clear, no one was saying that the Chinese approach *should* be strictly compared to the Japanese, but rather the Japanese approach to multiculturalism can serve as *one valid different approach* to the pluralist societies of the US or Australia, for two examples-- because remember my original point was that there in nothing inherent to economic development that demands the kind of "openning up" that Sam was hinting in his original essay. I really want to be clear since I was NOT saying that the Chinese case *should be compared* to the Japanese. Nor do I think the French case is a perfect fit either.... the important point being there are many ways to participate in the world and develop economically.

For what its worth, in another forum I tried to say very much the same thing you just said about the french approach... people had a few problems as they said the Chinese have traditionally sought to include those peoples bordering them while the French case is more an acceptance of French values. For what its worth, that was the counter-argument to which I had no response.

Sorry to drag the level of discourse down, but judge for yourself:

Choice comments include "I can accept them as long as they're not the REALLY black kind."

Forget Beijing, I say this question needs to be looked at first and foremost from a Cantonese perspective, in which free markets have long sought to be free markets. Just look at how many Africans there are in Guangzhou who not only speak fine Cantonese, but apparently have no intent to return to the countries in which they were born.

RE: Chinese approach to who's Chinese

> most Chinese would be uncomfortable with the idea of a Japanese person becoming Chinese.

Except the Chinese have always believed that Japanese, Koreans, and just Asians in general are simply variants of Chinese.

And yet at the same time, it does seem to be a little more than that. I'm not really sure I understand it either.


@ Dr. Michael Dunn

> The 'Middle Kingdom' is, was, and always will be the most Racist in the world.

Oh! I didn't realize they had slaves from Africa and after they "freed" them set up "separate, but equal" Jim Crow laws.


I am a visible-minority American citizen. And even though I have no accent, and was born and raised here, I'm still seen as a perpetual foreigner.

Whenever I tell people in the US that I'm American, they're reply is "I mean where are you really form?"

So if the US can still see Asian Americans as foreign, then it's going to be awhile for the Chinese to see non-Asians as Chinese.

Let's let the Chinese speak plainly for themselves. A poster from the link I posted puts it very succinctly:


"China should not welcome non-yellow people to immigrate to China"

The absolute majority of Chinese people don't like black people, those Middle-Eastern little-white-hat wearing Muslims, and those not-grey, not-black South Asians."

Anyone disagree with this fine gentleman?

As a Chinese,I have to admit most of Chinese will be more friendly to white men,though we claim to be hospitable.Maybe it is because most of us are looking forward to going to America or Europe .However,it don't mean we despise black,we can accept them to stay with us,to work with us,so I believe China will be a fantastic place for foreigners.If you have any questions,I suggest you to

Not at this point, you'll always be a foreigner. That doesn't mean you'll get treated badly- sometimes better than locals- but that's just the way they think. This might change in the future, but certainly not for quite a few years, if it does at all. I've lived in China for quite a few years, have a Chinese wife, many Chinese friends, can speak and read Chinese, but still clearly a foreigner.

I think this has been less of an issue, at least for people in the West, because most of us don't plan on becoming Chinese citizens or living here for more than a few years (there are exceptions of course). So, it's different than the issues facing many immigrants that move to the West permanently, this issue is probably more important to them.

To develop Mr Kennedy's comment: the testing ground for multiculturalism is not going to be its reception of people from rich countries who are likely to be reluctant to give up their own citizenships, but of people who stand to gain something by living and working permanently in China. If they weren't routinely sent home, maybe North Koreans would fall into this category, or some Russians - just for example.

The other place where such immigration has already occurred is of course Hong Kong, which is a prosperous enclave and attractive destination for people from South and South-East Asian countries. There the recently introduced anti-discrimination legislation has provoked a furious response from one quite articulate blogger who even goes so far (at ) to quote Enoch Powell's speech, approvingly, in full. His other posts develop this point at length and vehemently, and blood-principles figure prominently.

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