Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism

Ahuv de Chazal Sinological Research Project

School of Oriental and African Studies University of London BA Chinese, Year Abroad Beijing 2010 4/26/2010

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism Table of Contents
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 3 The most famous Black-Chinese girl .......................................................................................... 3 China’s unique racism ................................................................................................................. 3 2. 3. Foreword and Outline ............................................................................................................. 4 What is racism? ....................................................................................................................... 4 3.1 3.2 4. In the West ....................................................................................................................... 4 In China ............................................................................................................................ 5

2

History...................................................................................................................................... 7 4.1 4.2 Imperial China ................................................................................................................. 7 Modern China .................................................................................................................. 7

5.

Attitudes in modern society .................................................................................................... 9 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.10 Denial ............................................................................................................................... 9 Africans in Mainland China............................................................................................ 10 Colourism ........................................................................................................................ 10 Discrimination in employment ....................................................................................... 11 Skin whitening ................................................................................................................. 11 Colonial mentality .......................................................................................................... 12 Gene-pool protectionism ................................................................................................ 12 Opinion polls .................................................................................................................. 13 Media & Film ................................................................................................................... 14 Simplified and ignorant views about foreign countries ................................................ 14

6. 7.

Addressing in Law and Government ..................................................................................... 15 Comparison to other Chinese countries ................................................................................ 16 7.1 7.2 Taiwan ............................................................................................................................. 16 Hong Kong ...................................................................................................................... 16

8.

Summary & Prospects............................................................................................................. 17

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism 1. Introduction
The most famous Black-Chinese girl
In 2009, the 20 year-old singer Lou Jing from Shanghai made it to the final of the casting-show “Jia you! Oriental Angel”. Her appearance and back story was the most outstanding and unusual aspect about her since she was the result of a Chinese woman’s short-lived romance with a Black man. While nothing extraordinary happened in the show itself, it was the comments and reactions of Chinese internet users that had first the nation’s and then even international media spark a nearly unprecedented debate on Chinese society’s view on race, interracial sex and racism. Comments did not only focus on her own skin tone (“I cannot help but say, those coming out of mixing yellow and black blood are all truly ugly, a dirty appearance”, “She is half-Chinese, how come she is still so black?”), but were also opinions about her mother’s extramarital affair, particularly that it was with a Black man. Many netizens were surprised any Chinese woman would ever be intimate with a Black person, some said it would be typical of Black men to selfishly leave women after pregnancy (“[In America] there are often black people who have had children with over 10 different women") and a lot of male commentators wondered if the woman’s Chinese husband or even all Chinese man in general would be so unattractive that Lou Jing’s mother had to ‘resort’ to an African-American. In other East Asian nations, particularly Japan and Korea, the importance of racial purity is often raised when discussing interracial marriages or their offspring, which are often bullied in school. China’s ethnicity is far from being as homogeneous as Japan’s or Korea’s and its ethnic minorities are even often show-cased proudly to tourists. However, expressions on bulletin boards such as “Mixing yellow and black people is very gross” seemed to suggest similar feelings that arise in these countries. A lot of commentators spoke of ‘shame’ and ‘being low’: “If I were that girl, I would be so low key that I could not be any more low key”. How could I possibly come out and expose my face, seeking attention?” 1

3

China’s unique racism
The above case raises a quintessential set of discriminatory views about Blacks and darkskinned colours. Stereotypes, ethnocentrism, pseudospeciation, racial hygiene, supremacism, ethnic hatred, colourism and skin tone preferences all play part in a complex mix of what I want to describe as China’s Racism and that is hardly comparable to other countries understanding and composition of this term.

1

Authors unknown, posting to KDSlife online forums, http://club.pchome.net/thread_1_15_4460806.html

2. Foreword and Outline
“Race” is a social construct. The term stems from theories and attempts to categorise humans into biological sub-species like animals that have all failed and been proven wrong by modern science. Unfortunately, the human brain likes to categorise not only objects but also people based on looks which leads some to assume people that look different, are different. The greater danger lies in people assuming they are superior to other people that are perceived to be different. The discussion of race is not a pleasant one as its history compromises division, mistreatment, discrimination, exploitation and even war. It is, however, an important discussion as our understanding and handling of races continues to dominate how we interact with other people. This essay seeks to explore different cultural implications on race and ethnicity based on different backgrounds with China’s limited experience in comparison to the century-long history of race-relations in Europe and America. I will look at the history of Sino-African relations and indications for discriminatory thoughts to other ethnicities along with that. Chapter five looks at attitudes towards different skin colours, ethnicities and nationalities in today’s People’s Republic of China and then seeks to list an array of aspects to look for explanations. I was also interested in comparing discriminatory behaviour of Africans to other Asian nations and want to look into the addressing of such by officials and politics. Analysing mainly cultural but also historical and political aspects I will try to summarise reasons of China’s racism towards Africans and Black people.

3. What is racism?
The understanding we as Westerners have of racism is based on our history and has gone through centuries of debate and different views. In China, alone the termini for ‘race’ are not completely synonym with the English term and the history of China’s inter-racial encounters in the long almost isolated country did not go beyond inner-continental ones. Therefore analysing what ethnicity, race and skin colours mean in Chinese culture is crucial.

3.1

In the West

The term “race” aims to categorise humans into biological subspecies according to anatomical traits that are supposed to distinguish people from each other. The assumption that flew into the forming of this term was that one’s race determines one’s character, behaviour and culture and modern science has proven this to be wrong and a purely cultural construct.2 The British Encyclopaedia Britannica defines racism as a belief that “humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races’’” and that personality, intellect and morality are linked to a race’s distinctive physical traits. In the history of the Western world, this ideology was held by Europeans to firstly expand perceived differences from only physical traits to differences of the whole being, then to dehumanise certain ‘different’ races so to furthermore justify the exploitation of non-European
2

Dr Dennis O’Neil, “Ethnicity and Race: An Introduction to the Nature of Social Group Differentiation and Inequality” http://anthro.palomar.edu/ethnicity/ethnic_1.htm

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
people (colonialisation, slavery, segregation) while holding on to values of equality and human rights (especially in the US). Undeniably, exterior differences and ethnicities have always been apparent to humans, yet racism seeks to take these visible differences to classify humans into ranks of priority. The termini racism and race have been in the understanding of the Western world since at least the 18th century and to a large extend dominate the history books of many Western countries like the US, Germany and South Africa. Along with increased worldwide migration, since the founding of the USA and even more so since the age of globalisation, the ethnic make-up of nations in Europe and the West became less and less patterned. A French national is not necessarily white (or French-speaking by mother tongue, or Catholic, or other superficial characteristics people used to apply according to nationality). In many modern countries that take ethnicity or race into account for statistics, it is emphasised that these categories are self-defined as there are no official distinction. The US census bureau has taken race into account since 19703 and officially recognises six different categorisations today (White, American Indian, Asian, Black/African, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Other plus ‘Multiracials’. In England, there are five different ethnic classifications used in official statistics and data (White, Mixed, Asian, Black, Chinese or other) with several sub-categories. While terms in American and British English and other languages differ, one could say that these categorisations, that used to classify someone as a national of a state, have now been broadened to group people to continental origin (European, African, Asian (sometimes divided into South and Far East), Native Americans, Pacifics). Less favourable today, because based on scientific racism theories, colour terminologies subjectively categorise different skin pigmentations of humans such as white, black, yellow, red and brown (popularised by Blumenbach in the 18th century). Nowadays, White and Black are still commonly-used (e.g. by the US census bureau) and while decreasingly popular in the West, Yellow has been adopted by the Chinese as a self-referrer (see next chapter).

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3.2

In China

Understanding the Chinese concepts of cultural, ethnic or racial belonging and classification demands cultural relativity; I will look at how the Chinese define themselves and others, a task which might already be somewhat ambiguous. Racial categorisation, based on physical traits and culture, is not a solely European concept and has existed in Chinese culture throughout the ages. Like any other civilisation, ethnocentric views defined one’s own culture as the most advanced and subordinated known
3

US Census Bureau, Through the Decades: 1790, http://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/1790_1.html

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
neighbours as savages. The distinction of was made between Han Chinese and the outside barbarians, which did not follow the “Chinese ways” e.g. were not part of the Chinese’s perceived superior culture. These outsiders were often compared to animals and even given names of which the Chinese characters bear animal radicals. Myths of half-man half-animal beings at the most outer edge of civilisations degraded alien groups to bestiality.4 Skin-colour played a part in all this but only along with physical characteristics, like long necks, that were to further animalise the foreigners. After the fall of the last imperial dynasty on the Chinese continent, the formation of a country much modelled after the Western concept of nationalism seemed unavoidable as China was to compete with the invading foreign powers. These were organised as nation-states, which decisively structured international relations. Questions of nationality and belonging arose in the first half of the 20th century. Far from being an ethnically homogeneous society, the new nation’s founders saw themselves faced with questions of ethnic and national distinction. They gave themselves the task of labelling and categorising their nation into different ethnicities and unified these under the umbrella term Zhonghua Minzu(中华民族), the “Chinese nationality”. This self-description was to transcend ethnic division to make up the Chinese nationhood and create a nationalist feeling of belonging to glue together this multinational construct that is now united as one country.5 The wording “race” in itself is problematic in Chinese. The term for race, “种族” (lit species group), is not as used as often as in the English language and not necessarily understood by everyone. The term for ethnicity, “民族” (lit. people group), is much more widespread in popular language and modern written context. This term is also used by the government to refer to the different ethnic minorities, of which 56 different ones are recognised, Han Chinese being the majority.
100,000,000 86,700,000 67,800,000

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"Race" vs. "Ethnicity"
69,000,000 种族 (race) 民族 (ethnicity)

13,900,000

7,722,791

Google

Baidu

Sugou.com

Looking closer at the usage of the term ‘ethnicity’, it becomes clear that it is rather used to refer to a group’s cultural characteristics. For example, those classified nowadays as Hui

4 5

Frank Dikoetter, The discourse of race in modern China (London: Hurst & Co., 1992), 2-6 Suisheng Zhao, A nation-state by construction: dynamics of modern Chinese nationalism (California: Stanford University Press, 2004)

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
Chinese (回民) are ethnically seen predominantly Han. The difference is that they are practitioners of Islam, a religion that was and still sometimes is called “Hui-Religion” (回教).6 If the cultural term ethnicity is far more common than the physical-characteristic describing term race, does this mean the Chinese are colour-blind, not judging a person’s external appearance and apply group classifications solely based on cultural identities?

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4. History
4.1 Imperial China
According to Frank Dikoetter, Skin colour played a significant role from early on in Chinese culture and white skin, or “white jade coloured skin” was regarded beautiful already in the Book of Song (诗经)and noted that royalty used to powder their faces much like in European courts. Labourers in China were distinguished from the landlord class by calling them “black-headed people” and a darker skin-complexion was forthwith associated with lower class status. A heightened colour-consciousness can be noted along with increased, yet comparably limited contact with darker-skinned foreigners since the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), which came in contact with Indians, Sri Lankans, Malays and even Madagascar via sea-routed. Few Black Africans did also come in contact with China. Most notable, some early discourses (Tang & Song dynasties) on Black Africans held them in the context of being slaves to Arabs and Europeans which lead to “the equation of ‘black’ with ‘slave’ (…) at a relatively early stage in China”. 7 African slaves held in Canton were described by the author Zhu Yu(朱彧)in the early twelfth century: “Their colour is black as ink, their lips are red and their teeth are white, their hair is curly and yellow… They eat raw things. If, in captivity, they are fed on cooked food, after several days they get diarrhoea.” This characteristic to describe the strangers reflected the tradition of measuring Barbarians within the Chinese cultural sphere at how they ate their food. “Raw barbarians”, those that didn’t cook their food were regarded as even more savage than others.8 The Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) employed Chinese-Africans as translators but noted that they “frighten the Chinese” and ultimately switched to native Chinese servants.

4.2

Modern China

In his work “Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China” Berry Sautman provides a detailed historical account of Africans coming to the People’s Republic. I will not reproduce every
6

Dru C. Gladney, Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People's Republic (Harvard: Harvard University Asia Center, 1996), 15-21 7 Frank Dikoetter, The discourse of race in modern China, 10-17 8 Frank Dikoetter, The discourse of race in modern China, 8-9

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
incident that yet successfully brings the vile attitudes of contempt towards Blacks to the light, but try to highlight details that might help to look for reasons for the racial contempt of the Chinese at that time. While these cultural exchange-students in the 1960s were unhappy with China, it was dissatisfaction with living standards, rather than racism, that the students from mostly elitebackgrounds complained about.9 At that time, Maoist China was supportive off third-world nations and sought to find diplomatic allies particularly in Africa. The first major race riots start only a few years after Mao’s death. The pattern of the 1979 race riot in Shanghai was to be repeated in the decades after: Either African or Chinese students complained about each other’s behaviour, Africans would become angry about the lack of help or even mistreatment from authorities and confrontations would end violently. While reading the account of these confrontations, it seems unusual to me that police reportedly would not intervene in some cases, stand by attacks or come hours after the assaults started. “Africans were stoned and the foreign student hall of residence besieged by Chinese hurling bricks. African students called the police, but officers did not arrive for several hours and failed to intervene as fighting continued throughout the day.”10 From my experience it takes second nowadays for the police to vigorously respond to any minor scuffle. In the 1980s, African students (sometimes along with Arabs and South Asians) staged several protests over the mistreatment and continuous racial taunting: 1980 in Nanjing, 1983, 1985 and 1987 in Beijing and 1986 in Tianjin along with minor incidents in Nanjing, Shenyang and Xi’an that year, 1988 in Hangzhou and Wuhan. A factor in some universities was that Chinese complained Africans would “pollute Chinese society by having relations with Chinese women”. Africans were also accused of being AIDScarriers. From analysing historical backgrounds, a change in attitudes towards Africa is evident. During the Mao era and national emphasis on belonging to the oppressed people, racial stereotypes played minor factors that Africans experienced in China. After the reform era in the late 1970s, morality changed and no longer was the third-world propagandised as the main friend, but the European and American lifestyle as the better, richer, more promising and sophisticated example that is to be striven for.

8

9

Berry Sautman, Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China, published in “The China Quarterly”, No 138 (Jun., 1994) (Cambridge University Press), 412 10 Berry Sautman, Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China, 415

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism 5. Attitudes in modern society
5.1 Denial
Prior to the 2001 UN World Conference against racism, Asian nations met in Teheran to discuss their objectives. Wang Guangya, the foreign affairs minister of the People’s Republic of China, said the following: “China, like the majority of other developing Asian nations, went through a tragic chapter in history and suffered to the fullest from the abuse of colonialism which was a painful experience. Half a century ago, the Chinese people overthrew imperialism, colonialism and feudalism, won a new state and embarked as a nation on a comprehensive journey of development. Currently, all ethnic groups of China get along with each other; economic and social developments have made remarkable achievements that astonish the world; the extent of human rights that the people enjoy has never been better.”11 The foreign minister used strong words condemning racism and racial discrimination, calling them one of the ‘ugliest forms of violations against human rights’. Throughout his speech, he however portrayed the Asian continent in a victim role, constantly referring to colonialism of the Western nations that exploited Asia (and in which Europeans tried to establish themselves as a dominating power, backed by their theory of racial superiority). That racism is also a matter of today, prevalent in every society including China, this wasn’t mentioned by him. On the contrary, Mr Wang portrayed China as an example of a harmonious society in which all ethnicities get along, i.e. racism is not a problem. During the race riots in the 1980s, it was obvious to international media that the problem was indeed racism like in many other parts of the world but officials were quick to deny these: ''The incident that has occurred in Nanjing is an isolated one, having nothing to do with racial discrimination” (Li Zhaoxing, Foreign Ministry spokesman).12

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In reaction to Dikoetters book “The discourse of race in modern China” Chung Cheng University professor Sun Longji accuses the author of trying to subvert the long history of racism in the West. His words suggest that someone of the West would have no right to „point fingers‟ at China. Trying to look for reasons of racism in China‟s past would be pointless as, „China didn‟t have any Black people back then‟.13
Professor Cheng Yinghong of Delaware State University argues in his article “How racist are the Chinese” that in China, “racism is often seen in connection with colonialism and only
11

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “Zhongguo Renmin Gongheguo waijiaobu fubuzhang Wang Guangya zai fandui zhongzuzhuyi shijie dahui Yazhou guyu choubei hui shang de fayan 中华人民共和国外交部副部长王光亚在反对种族主义世界大会亚洲区域筹备会上的发言 (The statement of foreign affairs minister Wang Guangya of the People’s Republic of China at the Asian regional meeting prior to the World Congress against racism) 08 March, 2001 http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjb/zygy/t4620.htm 12 Nicholas D. Kristof, “Black Africa Leaves China In Quandary”, New York Times, 30 December, 1988 13 Sun Longji 孙隆基 , “Fengke lun Zhongguoren de zhongzuzhuyi 冯客论中国人的种族主义 (“Dikoetter discusses Chinese racism”)”, Southern Weekly 南方人物周刊, 05 January, 2009, http://nf.nfdaily.cn/rwzk/20090105/gj/200901220015.asp

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
discussed when speaking about other countries”. He reasons that Marxism ignored racism over class-struggle and Mao then specifically dismissed ethnic and racial problems as a minor by-product of this class-struggle. Therefore, denying that racism in China exists has two reasons: “One, historically Chinese see themselves as victims of racism and two; their state ideology doesn’t accommodate notions of racism”. “No notable research has been done on this topic in academic world of Mainland China.”14

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5.2

Africans in Mainland China

Trading between Africa and China is on the rise. Nowadays, the Western world often looks anxiously on how China is gaining foothold in many African nations that were long ignored economically. Reversely, more and more Africans come to China to cheaply buy low-end products and resell them in their home countries. According to Prof. Cheng, the official number of Africans living in Guangzhou is higher than 20,000 plus an estimated illegal population of almost 200,000. He also finds that, at least on a [extended] personal-level, Sin0-Western relations have already a 160-year old history but that Sino-African encounters have really just been developing since the last two decades.

5.3

Colourism

Colourism means that people are treated differently on the basis of the skin colour. To look into the issue of racism from another ankle, one could consider attitudes towards people of different skin colours, not race, geographical or cultural origin. A very popular argument I often heard to explain the Chinese’s favour of lighter skin is that it’s just a cultural difference, backed up by a long history of Asian women lightening their faces, e.g. Japanese geisha’s (see 4.1). Can a trend so popular in this ever-changing modern world really be based on old habits? Today’s obsession with white skin is more logically explained as being connected to classism and discrimination based on economic status. Since the opening reform in the late 70s, being rich seems to be the nation’s most common goal. China’s rapid economic development has many Chinese striving for ever more status symbols. Dark skin is associated with poorer people who work in the fields while richer people that can stay or work indoors retain an untanned skin tone and so this superficial characteristic has become another factor on which Chinese subconsciously rank one’s status in today’s post-communist society.

14

Cheng Yinghong 程映虹. "Zhongguoren jiujing you duome zhongzuzhuyi?" 中國人究竟有多麼種族主 義? (How racist are the Chinese?). Chengming Mag 爭鳴動向網頁, http://www.chengmingmag.com/t291/select/291sel11.htm

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
5.4 Discrimination in employment

It is an open secret that one with whiter skin has better job chances; a practise that not only applies to Chinese job-hunters. Johnson notes: “The comfort level and the acceptance of a foreigner in the Chinas are directly proportional to the skin pigmentation of that non-Chinese (…) with whiteness being the most desired and favourable skin pigmentation.” 15 While outlawed in most Western countries, some classifieds on expat websites in China explicitly state “white only”. While trying to find a job in China, my husband (who is of Indian origin and has quite dark skin) was promised positions via the phone several times, only to be rejected the very second he personally showed up in the respective company’s office. In 2004, I personally worked as an English teacher for preschool children in Xi’an. While my company was looking for another teacher, an African was turned down after the interview. I spoke to my colleagues and said that I think his humorous way of teaching would be popular among students and that his 1Many job vacancies are not offered to Blacks pronunciation is flawless. However, I was told that “he might scare the little children” with his black face. Most teachers in the lucrative English-teaching market in China are employed for having a presentable face and are not on the basis of their actual English ability.16

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5.5

Skin whitening

In modern China and even among overseas Chinese around the world, skin-whitening products are lucrative market. While many Americans and Europeans love to sun-tan and consider a darker ‘holiday tan’ to look healthy or an indicator for being able to afford holidays to sunny regions, the opposite is true for Chinese. In a 2004 global study, “nearly 40% of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products that year.”17 When trying to buy a moisturizer or face wash in the big cities of China, it is difficult to find anything that doesn't contain "skin whitening" ingredients. White skin is a beauty standard that is excessively preached in everyday media. On TV and in print advertisements, most women have unnaturally-whitened faces; many photos are computer-enhanced. Possible reasons for this could be found in the following chapter.

15

M. Dujon Johnson, “Race and Racism in the Chinas”, 50 M. Dujon Johnson, “Race and Racism in the Chinas”, 58 17 Phillip Martin, “Why white skin is all the rage in Asia,” Global Post, November 25 2009, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-and-its-neighbors/091123/asia-white-skin-treatments-risks
16

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
5.6 Colonial mentality

Johnson’s main argument to explain China’s racism is that since 1978, a shift in not only political but also philosophical nature became evident that resulted in a “worship of White culture” as it began to “aggressively court Western technology, trade, investment, education and ideals” and its political dependence and relationship with Africa deteriorated.18 In the mid-nineteenth century, imperial China was taken by surprise of foreign nations invading. The greatness of China faded and the (cultural) superiority of the colonisers was forthwith embraced as evident, not only by China, but in the culture of many Asians, even natives worldwide began to hold “internalized feelings of inferiority to their past colonizers”.19 As a result of this, one’s native culture is denigrated and lead individuals to rank their own race and other ethnic groups under the idolised White race according to perceived integration into the coloniser’s culture.20 White skin is a major component of colonial mentality and the dark skin-tone of Africans is levelled at the very bottom of this racial hierarchy. Colonial mentality affects many areas, image of beauty being one. Many top model agencies in the Mainland and Hong Kong feature not only Asians but also many Caucasian models21 and even Chinese-White (‘Eurasian’) mixed-race models22, the latter which are often seen as natives with ‘favourable’ (more whiteMilk advertisement with three White children and one Chinese

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like) features.

Chinese and Asians bleaching their skin is just one aspect in the pursuit to appear more Western-like. Wearing green and blue contact-lenses, changing one’s hair texture or colour and even eye-lid and eye-shape surgery is a phenomenon among women in many Asian countries that could be explained with colonial mentality. White skin is associated with beauty, wealth and education. Johnson argues that he saw similar trends within in the African-American community in the second half of the 20th century with a favour for mulatto skin tones, straightened hair and even skin lightening products, much like in China today.

5.7

Gene-pool protectionism

It is interesting to note that Chinese seem to feel a sort of deep-seated hatred and agony when seeing Chinese women having relations with Blacks. “When I see them with our women, my heart boils”23 a student was quoted by Johnson. Sun Yatsen, seen by many Chinese as the

18

M. Dujon Johnson, “Race and Racism in the Chinas”, 39-40 The Colonial Mentality Project, “The Colonial Mentality Research Program”, date unknown, http://www.colonialmentality.com/Research%20Program.html 20 Nita Tevwari, Alvin Alvarez, “Asian American Psychology: Current Perspectives” 162-166 21 see for example www.mmhk.hk and www.elitehkmodel.com, 22 see http://www.starzpeople.com/ethnicity_eurasian_women.html 23 Berry Sautman, Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China, 425
19

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
nation’s father, supported the idea of racial purity and called the “common blood” of the Chinese “the greatest force” and “a kinship of powerful force”.24

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5.8

Opinion polls

Berry Sautman conducted a useful survey on racial perceptions of foreigners in 1992. His survey found that views on race are directly linked to perceptions of social class status. Although this survey was conducted almost two decades ago, it can be assumed that views changed little over the time and that little progress on racial equality has been made within society. M. Dujon Johnson began his personal research that included a questionnaire similar to the one of Sautman in 1992 and completed it ten years later. In his 2007 book he writes: “I returned to the Chinas to personally ascertain if this research concerning Chinese racial attitudes, which was originally completed in 2002, was still valid and applicable in the year 2006; to my great displeasure and disappointment, it is.”25 Thus assuming its continued validity, I will include the detailed poll results of Sautman to form my assessment on Chinese racism. Almost 500 people from different backgrounds were asked to rate different nationalities, ethnicities and Chinese social classes on various aspects of personality, abilities and behaviours. The respondents’ answers indicated that Africans and Chinese peasants have the lowest standing in social hierarchy, being rated worst for most of the attributes asked about. Chinese seem to view one’s cultural level (which was often equated with education) and intelligence linked to race as racial stereotypes were consistent among different groups of respondents. Africans were rated lowest for questions on cultural advance, interest in education, intelligence, role model and attractiveness. Most rated Africans as least industrious, viewed them below well-behaved as criminals and trouble-makers, least interested in economic development and least political capacity. Africans were, however, on average rated more honest than Japanese. It was very interesting to see that Western European and Americans were rated as more attractive than Japanese, which came third among all foreigners. In the survey, more than half of respondents expressed in hand-written comments that they viewed Africans as primitive, unclean, backward, lazy, ignorant, wild, rude, weak, uncivilised, primitive, troublemakers, nuisance, not welcome and lacking strength to resist oppression. More positive comments among younger high school students suggested that while not necessarily lacking work ethic, culture, cleverness or humour, inability to manage politics and economics, Africans seemed to be pitied for being ridden by diseases, rapid population growth and colonial legacy. Sautman draws the obvious conclusion that racism was the cause for the African student clashes in the 1970s and 80s and not xenophobia. Also, Africans seem to largely be equated with (Chinese) peasants.
24

Frank Dikoetter, “The construction of racial identities in China and Japan” (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997), 4 25 Jonhson, M. Dujon: Race and Racism in the Chinas, 1

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
5.9 Media & Film

In accordance with conclusions of M. Dujon Johnson, Sautman said Chinese cited news reports, media and accounts from friends who went abroad as primary sources of knowledge about Africans and Blacks. Both authors noted that many Chinese that study abroad in America seem to avoid contact with people other than Asians or whites, inherit the racial prejudices of these groups or are faced with negative experience from ‘Black ghettos’. Johnson particularly criticised Hollywood films, which are largely consumed within China, to portray or reinforce negative images of Black people.

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5.10

Simplified and ignorant views about foreign countries

Due to lack of extended contact with foreigners, education about foreign nations and foreign language skills, many Chinese have very stereotyped and simplified views of the world beyond one’s own borders. As a dynastic nation, China isolated itself for most of its history from the outside world. In modern history, this trend was continued by restrictive politics that almost compartmentalised the Chinese nation from the West throughout the Mao-era. By the end of the 20th century, it was still economically impossible for the vast majority of Chinese to go abroad. In 2001 there were 12,130,00026 Chinese travelling abroad, which accounts for less than 1% of the population, a percentage that rose to 3.6% in 2009. Even today, these numbers are in strong contrast with most countries where 15-20% of the population goes regularly abroad (f.ex. Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia27, Australia28) In the idolised image of Western nations that young generations of China hold and strive for in their popular culture, the cultural variety and racial plurality that is part of our modern society is not accommodated. Few Chinese seem to understand that a Black person is not necessarily from Africa. Even if a Black person is by mother tongue, culture and citizenship part of a western country, they would be classified French pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo: Contrary to popularly as African.
held belief, French people, as many other Western nationals, come in more shades than just white.

26

E Pingling 鄂平玲, “Zhongguo luxingye kuobu qianxing 中国旅行业阔步前行 (Chinese tourism industry advances fast)”, People’s Daily 人民日报, 19. October, 2002 27 Miral Fahmy, “Holidays abroad popular again despite downturn: survey”, Reuters Life!, 27 November, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5AQ06020091127 28 Tourism Review, “Domestic tourism drop: Australia suffering from the exodus of its own people”, Tourism Review, 21 December, 2009, http://wwww.tourism-review.com/australia-suffering-from-theexodus-of-its-own-people-news1973

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism 15 6. Addressing in Law and Government
In 1981 the People’s Republic of China ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and has forthwith submitted regular progress reports to the UN. In its 2009 report, the government praises itself for the numerous measures implemented and achieved progress. Eliminating racial discrimination would be “one of the most important pillars of the Chinese constitution” and it was claimed that “vast amount of measures have been be taken to protect every citizen’s rights” 29. The emphasis was on ethnic minorities and it seemed to suggest that economic progress would be an indicator for progressiveness of minority rights. That fact that other forms of racial discrimination existed in China that do affect other groups than ethnic minorities was not addressed. A 2001 report by the New York-based NGO “Human Rights in China” criticised previous reports by China to the UN, saying the PRC government adopted a “problematic and narrow conception of discrimination” and conflated “the issue of ‘racial discrimination’ with the situation of officially recognized ethnic minority peoples, which is not as broad as taking action to combat racial discrimination”. Although not specifically mentioned foreigners living in China, the organisation pointed out that anti-discrimination laws “left major groups virtually unprotected and ineligible for the putative benefits of special preferential policies”. Reflecting on the race riots in the 1980s, Johnson argues in his book “Race and Racism in the Chinas”: …in the People’s Republic of China there are immense social, environmental and economic pressures that have made Mainland China a ticking social time bomb. Social frustrations (…) has [sic] resulted in a population that is restless [and] agitated (…). It is no wonder than an occasional controlled outbreak against a foreign government or racial group is welcomed by the Chinese government as a social release valve directed at someone or something other than the Beijing central government itself.30 During this time, demands by African students towards the authorities included banning racial epithets, educate people about Africa to curb abuse of Africans based on stereotypes. Several African diplomats unsuccessfully demanded security guarantees from the Chinese authorities. Following the Shanghai incident of 1979, some efforts to ease tensions were made by a campaign to educate young citizens about other countries and some joint ChineseAfrican tea parties.31

29

Permanent mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations office at Geneva and other international organisations in Switzerland, “Zhongguo xiaochu zhongzuqishi he baohu shaoshuminzu quanyi shiye chengjiu xianzhu 中國消除種族歧視和保護少數民族權益事業成就顯著 (China achieves outstanding results in eliminating racial discrimination and protection ethnic minority rights), 07 August, 2009, http://big5.fmprc.gov.cn/gate/big5/www.china-un.ch/chn/dbthd/t577713.htm 30 Jonhson, M. Dujon: Race and Racism in the Chinas, p. 145 31 Berry Sautman, Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China, 416-422

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
In the Hong Kong case relating to the death of a dark-skinned immigrant (see 7.2), Stephen Vines of the Asian Wall Street Journal argued “as long as the Hong Kong government remains in denial about the [racism] problems that do exist it is permitting a cancer to grow.”32 It seems that no law on the books that outlaws racism directed at foreigners. Even if such laws existed, experience by many shows that there is no effective protection from discrimination in employment based on skin colour. Discussing foreign academic works on racism in China, Prof. Cheng notes that Dikoetter and M. Dujon Johnson come to similar conclusions after their research: Racism is profoundly widespread in China. Yet, under the affect of government propaganda, it is a concept that is used to criticise the West.33 Similar to the majority of the general population, the government likewise fails to show understanding of racial discrimination that is faced by foreigners within its borders.

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7. Comparison to other Chinese countries
7.1 Taiwan

Taiwan as a young democratic Republic with an almost exclusive Han Chinese population and direct links to Mainland China is a very good example to draw comparisons. The difference lies in the political system, although since the reform since 1978 China has been characterised by some as economically capitalist.34 Has Taiwan’s relative freedom of thought, expression and information advanced the people’s understanding of racial equality? That is a question I had since the beginning of the project. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Discrimination against Black English-teachers is just as widely complained about within the expat community as on the Mainland. Johnson argues that “Taiwanese hold the same [negative] views of Blacks as its Mainland Chinese neighbor”. Yet unlike in the Mainland in the 1980s, there were never any race riots and student uprisings. He explains this by firstly the less evident wealth disparities that had many Mainlanders agitated, secondly there is no perceived favourable treatment to foreigners and thirdly Taiwanese are not as isolated from the world.35

7.2

Hong Kong

Complaints from expats about hidden racism also come from the still autonomous Hong Kong, but yet again, the degree of denial even at official level slows progress;

32

Stephen Vines, “Hong Kong's Big Dirty Little Secret”, The Asian Wall Street Journal, 10 January, 2001, http://www.harinderveriah.com/articles5.html 33 Cheng Yinghong, "Zhongguoren jiujing you duome zhongzuzhuyi?" 中國人究竟有多麼種族主義? (How racist are the Chinese?) 34 Zhu Yuan, “Capitalism: The evil that’s vital to economy”, China Daily, 05 May, 2010 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2010-05/05/content_9810244.htm 35 M. Dujon Johnson, “Race and Racism in the Chinas”, 42-43

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
In March 2010 it was reported that a decade-long legal battle against the Hong Kong Hospital Authority led by the husband of an deceased Indian-Malaysian women was won. The ruling concluded that Harinder Veriah was left to die by gross negligence of duties in a hospital after epilepsy attacks. Her husband claims that it was due to his wife’s dark skin colour that doctors avoided monitoring and treating her properly and criticized that racism is “endemic to Hong Kong”.36 This incident became so widely discussed that even the city’s Secretary for Home Affairs came out to declare that racism wouldn’t be a problem and that people of every race would live together “in a remarkable degree of harmony”.37

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8. Summary & Prospects
One of Johnson’s main reasons that explain mistreatment of Africans is the following: “It is quite clear that the nations of China are unable to see the equality in other cultures within its own society because it does not see itself as equal to western (white) culture that it tries so hard to mimic. Thus it needs to maintain a discriminatory social and racial hierarchy just to feel good about itself and its own culture.”38 This is partially reflected by Berry Sautman, who writes: “Several observers maintained that the clashes reflected a general xenophobia with roots in China’s past humiliation at the hands of foreign powers (…)” and argues that this is not directed at White but mostly Black people because “whites were seen as contributors to China’s development, while Africans were viewed as uncultured suppliants.” A New York Times article Sautman quoted as well reads :

And on university campuses, Chinese students seethe when they see their government providing special dormitories, cafeterias and scholarships to African students - particularly when the Chinese students feel they should be looking down on the Africans.39

To draw conclusions from the various explanations that can be seen as reasons for China’s racism the most profound and deep-seated cause of racism in China is the lack of selfconfidence in the Chinese’ own identity. Further scared by the self-inflicted Cultural Revolution, traditional Chinese culture is nowadays experiencing a slow revival, also thanks to the heightened awareness that traditional culture sells better on the tourism market. Taking pride in Chinese heritage, if culture, physical characteristics, natural skin colour or identity, it is a vital step that needs to be taken before the concept of equality for all can be fully embraced.
36

Karen McVeigh, “Hospital pays compensation over ‘racism’ death,” Guardian, 31 March, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/31/hospital-pays-compensation-racism-death 37 Stephen Vines, “Hong Kong's Big Dirty Little Secret”, The Asian Wall Street Journal 38 Johnson, M. Dujon: Race and Racism In the Chinas, p. 146 39 Nicholas D. Kristof, “China’s burst of rage: a show of racism and something more”, New York Times, 8 January 1989

Analysing modern China’s anti-Black racism
Analysing statements publicly made by students in the 1980s yet still widely held today, it can be seen that the biggest factor for stereotypes of Africans is ignorance, lack of knowledge and contact. As China tries to more and more play a role in the international community, its citizen will hopefully learn to embrace the true diversity of humanity. Recent international events like the Olympics and World Expo gave many Chinese the chance to come in closer contact with people they have only seen portrayed in certain roles in films and on TV. Hong Kong recently passed the Chinese territory’s first equal opportunities measure, the “Race Discrimination Bill”, although enforcement of the seemingly dysphoricly-passed measure has to be seen. It may serve as a direction for the Mainland that is also increasingly exposed to contact with foreigners.40 Also, one can hope that China can learn from the history of race-relations in the West. To avoid further conflict, the problem has to be admitted and addressed officially. Finally, coming personally from London, I always try to emphasise the pride I take in my city’s multi-ethnic and multicultural make-up when I meet West-admiring Chinese. I wish for them to understand how diversity and equality are cultural assets. I hope that Westerners in China aware of the problems discussed in this essay will be able to do their part to draw a more accurate picture of what the world truly looks like beyond the borders that most Chinese never crossed and contribute to the understanding that although European nations have committed mistakes in the past, we have learnt from them and want to treat all colours equally.

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40

Ishaan Tharadoor “HK’s Half-Baked Anti-Racism Law”, Time Magazine, 14 July, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1822399,00.html

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