A Chinese perspective on crime, race, and the recent demonstrations in Paris

Ed note:  This is a guest post by Zhang Yajun, A.k.a. “YJ”, A.k.a. “Mrs. Granite Studio.”

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On June 20th, over 20,000 overseas Chinese in Paris organized a demonstration to protest against what they call an epidemic of violence and robbery against the ethnic Chinese community. As a Chinese citizen who once studied in France for a few years, I am happy to see the Chinese community speak out and demand its basic human rights in a peaceful way. Furthermore, based on my own experiences, I feel that this protest is not simply a reaction to a few individual crimes, but is related to profound race problems in French society.

Chinese and other residents of Paris protesting last week against what they see as a continuing pattern of violence and crime against the Asian community in France.

Possessed of a mentality that seeks to avoid trouble whenever possible, Chinese communities usually prefer to keep problems to themselves rather than seek help from police. Being perceived as physically weak also makes Chinese seem easy targets for attacks and robbery. But after keeping quiet for many decades, the Chinese community in Paris finally decided to publicly demand greater security.  This demonstration not only draws attention to the problem of violence and crime against Chinese in France, but signals an important step towards political action by the ethnic Chinese community.

Witnesses of some of the recent attacks have said the perpetrators were young immigrant men, but during the years I lived in France I saw how  people of African or North African descent are themselves victims of racial discrimination in French society. I remember during the violent riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005, current French president Nicolas Sarkozy called the African and Arabic ethnic youth “racaille” (“scum”) in public. I remember that one of my classmates, who was originally from Morocco complained to me about how difficult it was for Muslims — especially men — to find jobs in France. She considered herself a Moroccan even though she holds a French passport and comes from the second generation born and living in France. I also remember how my landlord told me to my face that the reason he agreed to rent his  apartment to me was because I was  Asian. If I had been African or Arab, he would have preferred to keep his house empty. However, it didn’t stop him from checking on me regularly without making an appointment ahead of time.

Of course Chinese are not immune from discrimination. If French discrimination against Africans and Arabs comes from their sense of superiority as former colonizer, then their feelings towards China are much more complex. 20 years ago, Chinese were considered poor refugees coming from a third world country and treated with generosity tinged with pity. However, as China has developed and prospered, French people’s attitudes towards Chinese have changed. During my two years in France, a number of people reacted to the discovery that I was Chinese by asking whether China would overtake the US and become the world’s strongest country in twenty years. Once, my French professor singled me out in front of the entire class, telling me “you Chinese took away all of the jobs from France.” As the Chinese residents of Paris can attest, the combination of fear and resentment towards China is growing in French society.

Ed note: The historian would just like to add that the Chinese students studying and working in France are the present-day intellectual descendants of such China notables as Zhou Enlai (1921-1924, Paris, Lyon) and Deng Xiaoping (1920-1926 in Paris, BayeuxChâtillon, Le Creusot, and Billancourt). It was in France that both Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping honed their chops as Communist revolutionaries, with the diminutive Deng Xiaoping’s expertise at handbill production earning him the moniker “The doctor of mimeography.”  – JJ.

Yajun works in the Beijing bureau of The Christian Science Monitor.  You can read her most recent article here. Yajun studied in France from 2004 to 2006.

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  • http://foundinchina.com/ stuart

    “This demonstration not only draws attention to the problem of violence and crime against Chinese in France, but signals an important step towards political action by the ethnic Chinese community.”

    First, I think it’s a mistake on the part of the Chinese community to single out discrimination against their own ethnicity. If they can’t march in solidarity against all forms – and with all victims – of discrimination, then they are setting themselves apart from the rest of the community.

    Second, I assume that the majority of those who protested were Chinese rather than French citizens, which means that, at some level, the march had the explicit backing of the Chinese government via the consulate in Paris. I find it a little distasteful that the CCP should encourage a display of free expression and basic human rights that they would deny the citizenry of their own country.

    “…comes from their sense of superiority as former colonizer…”

    I really don’t think so. The notion of a widespread residual colonial attitude among the former colonial powers is nonsense. It is, however, a well-worn narrative of publications like the People’s Daily, perpetuated by the fostering of historical grievances during China’s domestic education program.

    “Possessed of a mentality that seeks to avoid trouble whenever possible…”

    Again, I disagree. I don’t think this cultural artefact is any longer applicable to the contemporary, confident, more strident – even confrontational – attitude of modern chinese communities both at home and abroad. It derives from a potentially volatile fusion of nationalism, the entitlement syndrome and historical resentments of a purposefully nurtured chip-on-shoulder, and an increasingly arrogant Chinese government.

    If some Tibetan victims of discrimination had wished to march with this crowd, proudly cloaked in the flag of their homeland, how much tolerance of their human rights would we have seen?

    Having said all this, I’m not indifferent to the discrimination that one can meet when living overseas, and you clearly met your fair share of that when you were in France, just as I encounter liberal doses when in China.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Stuart,

    I’m a little surprised by this comment, it’s not one of your best by a long shot, so let me try to clear a few things up.

    1) There were plenty of people of other ethnicities marching in the rallies (see the picture), and there is a long history — at least in the US — of people of one particular group marching in solidarity without having to make an explicit blanket statement condemning all forms of injustice. To hold only Chinese to this standard is simply asinine. I’d also like to point out that one of the main themes of Yajun’s post was placing the attacks on the Asian community and the response within the context of the ongoing discourse/discussion on race, class, discrimination, and nationality in French society. I think she did a good job of noting that it was the Africans/North Africans who face the greatest hostility/discrimination in France today.

    2) I had a little bit of experience with the Chinese student community and Yajun obviously had a lot. Both of us feel your statement is a bit paranoid. Yajun was there for two years and never once had contact or was contacted by the Chinese embassy or the CCP.

    3) This is a major field of historical research in the United States, Europe, and the Antipode. Former colonial powers reinforce their superiority through a variety of ways in today’s world. You’d have to be enormously callous not to see that. If so, I suggest checking out Michel Foucault or Edward Said for starters.

    4) I think you’re assuming that every Chinese person overseas is one of your fenqing commentators, Stuart. Are they out there? Absolutely. But of the Chinese students we hung out with in France or with whom I work in the US, only one really fits that description. To be fair though, this kid was a PIECE of WORK and exhibit A in why the fenqing really need to date more. (He inspired my mock headline: CNN Reports, “Fenqing Finds Girlfriend, Loses Virginity, Decides ‘CNN not so bad after all.'” But he was the only one I met in France.

    5) How the hell did Tibet factor into this? I thought it was only fenqing who brought up Tibet and Taiwan every chance they get.

    Finally, I know you had some interesting experiences in China, as have I. We get stared at, charged more, laughed at, insulted, and all other manner of indignities. But to compare what we face here in China to what a person of color, recent immigrant, or non-Western student faces in the United States or France (I don’t know about Australia, but I can guess…) is simply boorish and frankly I’m disappointed that you feel this way. Racism = prejudice + power. Simply put, you and I as Anglophone Caucasians enjoy certain advantages here in China (despite all the bullshit) that a non-Western immigrant or student generally does not when living in the US or France.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t take this personally, I just thought some of your comment required a reply.

  • http://foundinchina.com/ stuart

    Stuart,

    I’m not a big fan of the continuous back and forth, I’ve appended my comments below and we’re going to leave it at that. – JJ
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    “To hold only Chinese to this standard is simply asinine”

    Actually, I hold everyone to this standard, which was more my point. I was merely referring to YJ’s original post in which she wrote: “…protest against what they call an epidemic of violence and robbery against the ethnic Chinese community”. My belief is the issue of discrimination is best viewed – and dealt with – through a wider lens.

    Which is what the post was about, you’re saying the same thing Yajun did.
    ————–
    “Yajun was there for two years and never once had contact or was contacted by the Chinese embassy or the CCP.”

    I’ve no doubt. But the implicit backing was clearly in evidence. If it had been a human rights march that irked Beijing, students would have been mobilised to counter-demonstrate. It is naive to think otherwise – we saw the latest evidence of this in Canada this week.

    What evidence? Do you have any evidence? That would be a story if you did. But you don’t. I can’t write articles based on what I think happened, I need to have sources.
    ———-
    “You’d have to be enormously callous not to see that.”

    I’m certainly not callous by any stretch of the imagination. The equally damaging trend – perhaps more so in a modern context – is the perpetuation of the myth of a ‘white man’s burden’ that the guilt-trippers like to extend to the individual, and which manifests itself as a nationalistic hybrid of resentment and entitlement.

    I don’t hold any of my German friends accountable for those lost to the gas chambers of Auschwitz; I don’t hold my Japanese friends accountable for WW2 atrocities; I don’t hold my American friends accountable for the humanitarian tragedies of Vietnam and Iraq; I don’t hold my Chinese friends accountable for the millions murdered and persecuted by their government; and I don’t hold myself accountable for the inhuman consequences of empires built by others.

    The world MUST move on from these irrational feelings and stop fostering age-old resentments that lead only to the desire for retribution. Mandela did it. China, under CCP guidance, is light years from that level of enlightenment.

    No, Mandela didn’t “get over it,” he overturned a whole government as I recall. And, again, you REALLY need to go read Foucault, or Said, or any number of academics from the “West” who would vigorously disagree with you. This isn’t the place for a lecture, but you’re simply replacing the ignorance of the CCP with a great deal of blindness on your own part.
    ———-
    “I think you’re assuming that every Chinese person overseas is one of your fenqing commentators”

    I don’t have that many of them. But even among Chinese that I would call my friends, conversations reveal a deep-rooted – if understated – grievances. These, I feel, are the product of a deliberately overplayed ‘100 years of humiliation’ narrative and a revisionist tendency in history textbooks (Korea a step in the right direction, though).

    I don’t know. I’m sitting a room with two Chinese and neither one feels this way. Maybe not representative, but you’re generalizing, it’s a logical fallacy and an intellectual flaw.
    ————
    “How the hell did Tibet factor into this?”

    My point was, if someone had unfurled a Tibetan flag in solidarity with the universal fight against discrimination, we’d have seen exactly how far the majority of this crowd wished to extend human rights. You could try this yourself if you happen to be in the location of the next such march. But I don’t advise it.

    Come on Stuart, this kind of red herring argument is something I’d expect from Ferin. You’re better than that.
    —————-
    “But to compare what we face here in China to what a person of color, recent immigrant, or non-Western student faces in the United States or France …”

    I’m not. Neither of us can truly empathise with that. But neither of us play any part in promoting that kind of prejudice either. And, speaking for myself, I’ve also lent my voice to anti-racist rallies here in Oz – an actively promoted policy by successive Aussie governments to address underlying problems of racism. The problem I have is when the poorly educated or deliberately misguided assume that we are racist simply because we are Caucasian; to do so is as repugnant a thought process as that which believes darker skin is a sign of inferiority or a drug dealer.

    Nobody is calling you or anybody else a racist, but surely you’re not denying there are problems with race/ethnicity in French society? That’s all the article is talking about.
    ————-
    “Anyway, I hope you don’t take this personally, I just thought some of your comment required a reply.”

    Of course not. And I appreciate the reply very much. It’s humbling to exchange views with someone who – as I have openly said elsewhere on more than one occasion – is one of a handful of China commenters that I turn to for a more measured and informed response than my own reading and experience currently allows. If you’re interested the others are Kaiser Kuo, David Wolf, Gady Epstein, James Fallows, Rebecca Mackinnon, Evan Osnos, and a few select others.

    The bottom line Stuart, is that Yajun is one of the most open-minded, liberal, cosmopolitan, globally aware people you could ever hope to meet. She’s worked in local government in Europe and the United States and has worked for the Beijing bureau of one of the hated foreign media for nearly three years. She’s been on the receiving end of all kinds of uber-nationalist bullshit in her time and, for my money, is also the smartest person I’ve ever known. I guess what I’m saying is, if you think she’s a CCP stooge, then I don’t know how to help you.

  • Tim

    I was rather surprised by the demonstration as I had not heard anything regarding a spike in crime against ethnic Chinese in France. Oddly enough, although it is easy to find information regarding the protest, there appears to be little in the news providing background.

    Speaking to a French friend today about this protest left me with impression that crime in France has rapidly increased in the past several years due primarily to social rigidities that have marginalized minorities by maintaining a political system that espouses egalitarianism while resisting cultural pluralism. He mentioned that much of the recent violence towards Chinese is the spiraling effect of discrimination that has led other disenfranchised minority groups in France to target Asians due to the assumption that Asians rely on and carry cash instead of credit cards and so are more “lucrative” targets for crime. In a sense, minority on minority crime is growing, ironically, as a result of how these different minority groups, Asians included,
    have adopted to a society that is struggling with it’s own identity.

  • http://michaelturton.blogspot.com Michael Turton

    A fascinating look at France. The situation with ethnic Chinese and other Asians there has really flown under the media radar.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    @JJ – Whoah – need to read self important win-bags like Foucault and Said? Are you crazy? Foucault is best forgott…I mean, remembered as the inventor of queer theory, which now serves mainly as a handy cosh for folk to attack academia in general as useless, and not without reason. Likewise, Said was the author of Orientalism, a book basically designed as an attack on everything any European had ever written or said on the east as being the result of racism and ignorance, and has been so roundly and impressively criticised that I cannot believe that you could advise someone that they have to read it to understand colonialism – as if there were not a thousand other historical, factual works far more informing.

    Anyway, I will say right now that the colonial generation is now either dead or senile, that whatever residual effect they may have had on shaping discourse about the east in the UK at least is now very small indeed, and that nowadays immigrants and descendants of immigrants from the east are far more influential on this score. Yes, newspapers quote Kipling rather a bit, especially when reporting on Afghanistan, but this is as much out of irony as anything else. Yes, Britain does retain some of its post-colonial role as guarantor of last resort – why else would Mugabe waste so much bile on the British government? But whilst I have witnessed evidence of latent racism in the UK, this has always been rather more obviously the product of the anti-immigration movement of the 70’s – that bizarre alliance of Enoch Powell, the unions, and the far-right.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    FOARP,

    Given erudite you can be, I’m surprised at how you’ve misread my intention. You start with Said and Focault and then you go forward. There’s a vast array of literature being produced right now dealing with how colonialist ideas, attitudes, and structures are being reproduced and deployed in the here and now, and how the legacies of the colonial experience and the problems of post-colonialism and de-colonization are being played out all over the world — in places like Haiti, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Tibet, to name a few — long after the fogeys who started it all have left us.

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, I’m afraid.

  • JL

    In 2008, about 15,000 Asian people (Chinese, Indian, Korean mostly) held a similar march in Auckland to express anger about feeling unsafe, and dissatisfaction with the New Zealand justice system.

    As far as I can tell, there are no statistics that show to what extent Asians are specifically targeted by non-Asian criminals, and if they are, whether that can be related to racism in mainstream society or not.
    But I think that specific issue is probably less important than the broader implications of the march, which is that groups who have traditionally been fairly invisible within New Zealand politics are becoming politically active, but in a way that fully accords with the norms of New Zealand politics. A good thing, and hopefully it signifies the same in France.

  • Yajun

    I am thrilled that my essay has attracted so much attention, but I am also amazed how quickly people make assumption based on their belief rather than well-sourced fact. When some people learn that it is the Chinese ethnic community seeking political rights, they ASSUME that the demonstration in Paris was organized by the Chinese embassy. As soon as some people learn that I am Chinese, they ASSUME that the essay that I wrote is the result of Chinese ‘Patriotic Education’ or CCP propaganda, totally ignoring facts reported in the media. For me, making judgments solely based on other people’s race is just another kind of racism.

    Second, maybe I didn’t write it clearly enough, but the main point of the essay was that Africans and Arabs suffer the most from racism in France. They deserve better treatment. It is always easier to deny the problem than to face the truth. It may be difficult for members of the majority to realize the effect of lingering colonial attitudes towards minority groups, but it only took a few conversations with friends in France to realize the severity of the problem.

    Third, racism exists in many countries. I am not saying France’s problem is more or less serious than any other country. It is not about comparison. It is about existence. I met many wise and generous people in France who taught me so much that I cannot thank them enough. However, it doesn’t stop me pointing out the problems in France. It’s just like the expats who complain about China on so many levels but who still have a deep attachment to this country and I believe those criticisms generally come from a motivation to see a better future for China.

    The point of this article was to call for the realization of the existence of racism, especially in one of the most developed countries. As a member of a majority ethnic group in China, I never thought about what it would be like to be a minority and what would constitute a fair relationship between the Han and other nationalities. My experiences living as a minority and a foreigner in the United States and France taught me a lot about the relationship between majority groups and minorities in those countries and also helped me to gain greater awareness and understanding of similar tensions in my own country.

  • http://foundinchina.com/ stuart

    I have to respond to a couple of points, if I may.

    Yajun,

    “…they ASSUME that the demonstration in Paris was organized by the Chinese embassy.”

    For my part, I didn’t make any assumptions about the organisation of the demo; my point was that the numbers would have been much reduced without the embassy’s backing. I can’t prove that, but on previous form it is intuitively correct.

    “As soon as some people learn that I am Chinese, they ASSUME that the essay that I wrote is the result of Chinese ‘Patriotic Education’ or CCP propaganda”

    Again, speaking for myself, I assure both you and Jeremiah with the utter conviction of the one person who knows for sure, that I made no such assumption. On reflection, however, I do wish I’d thought more carefully about the framing and relevance of some of my thoughts to your essay. Furthermore, I have no issues with being straightened out on a few points by people more knowledgeable on China matters than myself. None whatsoever. In fact, sites like this – and responses to occasionally ‘putting my foot in it’ – have contributed significantly to my learning.

    “The point of this article was to call for the realization of the existence of racism.”

    Amen to that.

  • kjc

    “I suggest checking out Michel Foucault or Edward Said for starters.”
    Rather than “oh snap,” I can only say “oh yawn!”
    Beyond the condescending nature of such a comment (“oh, perhaps you should read such and such, and then you’ll really understand” not really!), another factor remains: although perhaps these authors made some interesting points (um, 30some years ago), their points can apply to chinese national pride and colonialism just as easily as they apply to so-called “Western perspectives.” If power dwells within oneself and produces oneself, how can we differentiate such an obviously racially charged march from other more direct manipulations of racial sentiment (a la 2008)?
    The self-obsession with “being Chinese” and the accompanying perpetual feeling of victimhood is often no less “innocent” than colonialist tales of savages’ purported cannibalism. This is not only reflected in caricatures of China’s so-called minorities in relation to the majority, but also in allegations of “Western discrimination” (as far-far-far too many alleged in 2008 with regards to questions about Tibet). I really love that Yajun has responded to comments without descending too far into essentialism and nationalist cliches(as so many often do); nevertheless, I doubt that anyone in even “the most developed countries” would shy away from acknowledging the existence of racism in these social contexts, an acknowledgement that I unfortunately simply cannot extend to friends China.
    The idea of purportedly essential differences between Chinese and others fosters a simultaneous sense of superiority and resentment. Beyond crimes which are not being fully resovled, the conflict between these two emotions needs to be resolved in the mindset of many. If possible…

  • kjc

    PS- the reliable tendency to demonstrate abroad for “basic human rights” is troublesome. One might benefit from redirecting one’s attention in terms of basic human rights.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Kevinnolongerinpudong, a.k.a KJC,

    What’s the hostility? I’m arguing that the structures and rhetoric of colonialism continue to this day, and nobody seems to be disputing me on that. If you want to have this conversation, then Said and Foucault, among others, is where it starts. What’s wrong with suggesting we begin the discussion there, flaws and all?

    For what its worth, the Han Chinese are just as much a part of these processes as are the French, English, or Americans, there’s just far less self-awareness of, what Dru Gladney and others have called after Said, “internal orientalism” toward minority groups in the PRC. A point that Yajun also alluded to in her comment.

    Now the replication of the victimhood narrative for political gain in the present through the education and information environment in China is another matter. and is one that I’ve criticized often enough both here and over at The Duck.

  • friendo

    stuart said:
    “to do so is as repugnant a thought process as that which believes darker skin is a sign of inferiority or a drug dealer.”

    No it’s not. Whites have nothing to whine about.

    kjc said:
    “The idea of purportedly essential differences between Chinese and others fosters a simultaneous sense of superiority and resentment. ”

    There are essential differences. The main one being politics and opposing interests of Chinese (including minorities) and other power blocs.

    Jeremiah said:

    “For what its worth, the Han Chinese are just as much a part of these processes as are the French, English, or Americans, there’s just far less self-awareness of, what Dru Gladney and others have called after Said, “internal orientalism” toward minority groups in the PRC. A point that Yajun also alluded to in her comment.”

    Why should there be “awareness” though? The Han Chinese have no real power over minorities- the vast majority of Han Chinese are subjected to CCP and shown no preferences at all. Han Chinese have not historically victimized “minorities”- more realistically it was the other way around. There is also nothing that, institutionally, puts Han ahead of anyone else in China. That and the minorities themselves discriminate against Han, and ESPECIALLY each other in many situations… for example, the Uighur treat the Hui horribly, and discriminate against Kazakhs.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Han Chinese have not historically victimized “minorities”- more realistically it was the other way around.

    Well, depends on who you ask. I just co-led a Tibetan Studies classroom in NW Yunnan last month and plenty of people there do feel “victimized” but this is always a matter of perception…

    Moreover, “victimization” (or “colonial attitudes” whether Western or Han) do not always need to take the form of guns pointed at minorities or direct economic exploitation, the patterns of colonialist attitudes can take many forms including the portrayal of minorities in mass media, unconscious attitudes/stereotypes that assume a “modern majority” and a “benighted other,” etc.

  • friendo

    Friendo,

    Interesting points and it’s clear that there’s a wide gap between your ideas on the subject and mine and I don’t think either of us is going to change the other’s mind but I did want to take moment to respond. – JJ.
    ——————–
    “I just co-led a Tibetan Studies classroom in NW Yunnan last month and plenty of people there do feel “victimized” but this is always a matter of perception…”

    Most people feel victimized. It’s not always something grounded in reality or fact- after all, it was the Tibetans who attacked China first 1,300 years ago if you really wanted to get down to it. That and they didn’t seem to mind being put above North and South Chinese in the Mongol caste system.

    Not sure what the point is here. “They had it coming?” Seems pretty irrelevant to me.

    ——————–

    “The patterns of colonialist attitudes can take many forms including the portrayal of minorities in mass media, unconscious attitudes/stereotypes that assume a “modern majority” and a “benighted other,” etc.”

    A few minorities portray other minorities, Han, and whatever else unrealistically as well. They have their own stereotypical beliefs about who and what the “Han” are. “Colonialist attitudes” doesn’t really apply in the case of the Chinese, as they never really colonized anyone except other Han, who used to not be Chinese. Aside from all those things mentioned above already.

    Again, I think the statement “the Han never really colonized anyone except other Han, who used to not be Chinese” is a matter of perception and perspective. Certainly there is a significant body of work and research that would suggest otherwise, but I’m also aware that the perspective in the PRC on the subject is very different for a host of reasons. We may have to agree to disagree here.
    ——————

    The case of whites is difference because of history, power, institutions, and the lingering effects of all of these factors. In China everyone was pretty much given a blank slate a few decades ago, with the exception that minorities are heavily favored institutionally.

    Again, I think the idea that in China everyone was pretty much given a blank slate depends very much on perspective. My conversations with minorities throughout China as part of my teaching and research experience suggests there are not a few people who would disagree with you. But I suppose here too, you and I must agree to disagree

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  • friendo

    “Not sure what the point is here. “They had it coming?” Seems pretty irrelevant to me.”

    From what I read you were implying that the Tibetans were victims… because some of them feel victimized. Victims of who? I would have just disagreed flat out, but I wanted to humor you. Again they may be victims of a few in the CCP, but Han-Tibetan relations do not fall into such a clean cut dichotomy of “victimizer-victim” as it do say, Amerinds and white Americans.

    “Again, I think the statement “the Han never really colonized anyone except other Han, who used to not be Chinese” is a matter of perception and perspective. Certainly there is a significant body of work and research that would suggest otherwise”

    Just to gauge where you’re coming from, can you list the example that comes foremost in your mind? Would it be Tibet, I’m assuming? I wouldn’t call this colonialism for several reasons, but I don’t know if I’m totally off base here so I’ll talk about it later.

    “Again, I think the idea that in China everyone was pretty much given a blank slate depends very much on perspective. My conversations with minorities throughout China as part of my teaching and research experience suggests there not a few people who would disagree with you.”

    But not everyone feels that way. You are filtering out the responses and experiences that do not suit your argument. That, and their grievances may be real but misdirected- which is only human. It’s easy enough to have the perception that the “Han” are being oppressors or colonizers, but that simply is not the reality of it- the state structure simply isn’t Han. All they can be blamed for is being a demographic majority, but even then the Han is too flimsy a grouping of linguistically, culturally, racially, physically distinct people to really “impose itself” as “whites” do.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Friendo,

    As I said, I think you and I are coming at this from two radically different perspectives and intellectual/academic traditions, so I think this may have to be an “agree to disagree” situation, but two quick points.

    1) I’m not implying that “the Tibetans were victims,” I was simply reporting what people have told me and how they felt. You can decide for yourself whether their perspective is relevant or valid. I know how I feel, but I imagine you feel differently and that’s fine.

    2) You’re right about “Han” being an unstable ethnic signifier, and you have a point that using it as a metonym for the Chinese state doesn’t really work. In any case, much of my understanding of the subject of colonialism in Chinese history is from the research of scholars such as Dru Gladney, James Millward, Peter Perdue and others. You might say, “Hey, they’re all white guys” which, I think, is true, but I also feel that the analytical framework of their research is among the most sophisticated treatments of this tricky topic.

    Again, you might not agree with these authors’ interpretations or even the intellectual tradition from which these frameworks have been formed. Such is. I doubt very much we’re going to change each other’s minds on the subject.

    Nice chatting with you.

  • X@Y

    Ok, wow. Its all kicking off here now the comments are back. (Jay do you have time for this!) No, seriously racism is clearly still a big problem in most communities and is thus a deservidly emotive topic which needs to be talked out.
    I will just add my comment when I first saw this:

    ‘Thanks YJ for an informative read. Of course many places including London have problems with racism but I have heard that Paris suffers badly (from French.) Ironically the French like the British are post empire. Its is always easier to blame others for our own short comings.’