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"Chocolate City" – Africans seek their dreams in China

This feature article (文章,published Jan 2008) from the Southern Metropolis Daily provides a candid, street-level view of the lives of African traders in China. I translate this article to provide some depth to the discussion of racism in China, as seen in this previous thread. In an era when China-Africa relations are making headlines in Western newspapers, it’s time to hear the story from a Chinese perspective. If the 20th century was defined by the American Dream, what can China bring to the world in the 21st century?

In Guangzhou, a 10 square kilometer area centered around Hongqiao has been given the name “Chocolate City” by taxi drivers.

Every day after noon, “Chocolate City” begins to turn lively. Tens of thousands of black people seem to erupt from the ground in groups of twos and threes. Carrying large black plastic bags or wearing backpacks, they look through the stalls along the street. The stalls are filled with “tail goods” (尾货, excess production that did not meet quality standards) from thousands of small factories throughout Guangdong: blue jeans, unbranded television sets, hand-assembled cell phones.

In distant Africa, nearly 50 countries exploding with demand have opened their arms wide, and are rapidly digesting all of these consumer products not produced locally. Based on Chinese official statistics, during this period of China-Africa trade fever that started in 2003, the number of Africans headed to Guangzhou has been growing at annual rates of 30-40%.

Enticed – “Go to China!”
Clem quickly cuts through the flow of car traffic, like the fish you can never catch. He hesistated when he saw the Southern Metropolis reporter, but finally crossed the road using the pedestrian bridge nearby. He embarassedly stuck out his tongue, saying: “Sorry, I still don’t have the habit of waiting for traffic lights and crossing at pedestrian bridges.” When he’s warned that “Guangzhou’s public security isn’t very good, be careful with your backpack”, his eyes open wide with shock. “Are you joking? Public security here is the best!”

25 year old Clem comes from Nigeria. Before, he saw Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, as heaven. But after he arrived in Guangzhou, he felt he truly stood at the gate to heaven; China is the true heaven.

He couldn’t stop explaining to this reporter: many public buses in Lagos don’t have doors, so that during heavy traffic some passengers will hang outside the bus! The roads in Lagos basically don’t have any traffic lights, only on major intersections will here be two traffic police officers. Lagos doesn’t have so many passenger cars, instead, motorcycles imported from China dominate the streets…

If he hadn’t come to China, Clem would have continued managing his auto parts store. He would be working with partners to resell tires, steering wheels, and seats imported from China at up to 10 times profit. Every time he went to pick up parts, he’d run into clothing store, leather store, jewelry store, or just convenience store bosses, all of them waiting together for packages from China. Every time they see a Chinese person walk-by wearing a suit and carrying a leather suitcase, someone would whistle. “Look at that, we buy all this cheap crap from their country, but they’re shipping away Nigeria’s valuable oil!”

About five years ago, Chinese petrolem companies and businessmen poured into Africa. This led many locals to feel that China was grabbing their resources and rice bowls (jobs). And yet from tractors to toothpaste, everything was “Made in China”; this stimulated many of them into looking in China’s direction. Many of Clem’s friends encouraged him, “Go to China! Nigeria’s using petroleum to trade for foreign currency, and the Chinese are buying it to build heaven!”

When he watched CCTV’s satellite broadcasts, Clem saw Chinese cities were filled with skyscrapers, wide boulevards, orderly traffic. And the most shocking, factories in the Pearl River Delta (Hong Kong/Shenzhen/Guangzhou) were as dense as an ant hive! And Nigeria, other than oil resources, seemed so difficient. Manufacturing industries were extremely backward, and 80% of every-day consumer goods were still being imported – this is in fact the situation in many African countries.

In September of 2007, Clem’s father, working at a Nigerian embassy in Europe, was able to arrange a Chinese visa for him. His friends were envious. More and more Africans are patiently lining up in front of Chinese embassies in Africa, fighting for visas permitted under a limited quota. A guy who received his visa at the same time as Clem had paid a fee to a visa application service nine months ago. When he finally received the visa he had been waiting for, the guy who had been muttering and cursing under his breath finally calmed down; he fiercely kissed his passport.

In October of 2007, Clem dragged a few large suitcases out of Guangzhou Baiyun airport. After trying three or four times, a cab finally stopped for him. He handed a piece of paper with a Chinese address to his driver, and didn’t say another word. Clem’s new home is a 10 square meter single room; another Nigerian had arranged it for him. The room has a single bed, a set of drawers, and a sofa. He shares the bathroom with three other African drivers. He opened the window, and then quickly closed it. No more than half a meter outside his window was another building. He quickly crossed himself, praying that he’d see some sunlight in the morning.

The first impressions many Africans have of Guangzhou start in these local villages.

A mutual divide – “Annoying, so annoying!”
Many taxi drivers aren’t willing to take on “chocolate” customers. They don’t like the nose-irritating perfume, nor the constant bargaining on every trip. Some drivers will use excuses that “you’re too big, the car won’t fit you”, or “I don’t understand your foreign language”; but some don’t care, “driving anybody is just business.”

Based on official statistics, since 2003, the number of Africans in Guangzhou has been growing at 30-40% annually. Based on a report in the Guangzhou Daily, there might already be 100,000 in the community. They come from Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali. Amongst these, Africa’s most populous country Nigeria claims first place.

They primarily live in village-districts in the city of Guangdong (like Dongpu, Dengfeng Jie, Yongping Jie). They do their business in a few large-scale China-Africa commerce malls.

The stalls in these commerce malls don’t have much in terms of decoration; at most, there will be a black plastic model at the front door. Samples are piled up the ground, and hung up on the walls and placed in display cases. In one building, the warehouse and sales offices are one and the same. Stall owners pile their blue jeans on the walk-way itself. When it gets busy, you have to step over the piles of pants.

These centers have accumulated basically all of the world’s top brands — Dolce and Gabbana blue jeans, Adidas shoes, Gucci high-heels, Louis Vuitton purses, Chanel purses, Armani underwear. Their prices are ridiculous: Dolce and Gabbana jeans are 20 RMB (3 USD), Gucci high-heels and purse together for 100 RMB (15 USD)…

AP reporter Arnold previously lived in Africa for 10 years. He told a Southern Metropolis reporter that because Africa has almost no factories, most people don’t really distinguish counterfeits: “As long as the shoes have the Adidas stamp on it, that’s good enough. The key is it has to be cheap.”

Cote, a clothes merchant from Liberia, is a frequent guest in these stores. Many of the Africans who’ve come to dig for gold in China are, like him, n the clothing business. They consume many of the out-of-fashion goods in China. A Chinese stall-owner said half-jokingly, “they don’t care about style, but it has to be flexible, and should wrap a woman’s thigh tightly, like a dumpling (zongzi).” According to a manager at one clothing mall, the total amount of commerce at their mall had reached more than 70 million RMB in 2007.

While picking through clothes, Cote claimed that he had many Chinese friends here. To prove his point, he walked up, and pats the store-owner on his head. Or, he playfully kicks at the store-owner’s leg. He’ll loudly greet them, “Friend, how are you recently?” His “friends” don’t respond. Some pull out a cell phone and intentionally ignore him. Others impatiently wave at him, and say in a combination of Chinese and English: “if you’re not buying anything, then go… quickly GO!”

It seems friendship only exists between the Africans. When he runs into a fellow clothes dealer, Cote trades fists and claps with them, and quickly chats in their native tongue. Not many travel alone like Cote, most are in groups of twos or threes. They walk all of the malls from afternoon until the evening. They fold up the plastic bags full of clothes, and use a rented car to haul it away.

On one stall, Cote is told that the jeans he’s interested in are 20 RMB a pair. He fiercely throws the pants at the stall-owners head, angrily asking, “how it can be that expensive!?” He turns and goes. After the shocked stall-owner recovers, he stares at the back of the thick shoulders of the departing Cote. He opens his mouth, and then closes it, changing to a single phrase in Cantonese: “Crazy black guy!” (痴线黑佬)

After 40 minutes, Cote finally decides to buy 500 pairs of women blue jeans. He asked that the store owner remove the packing material and label for every pair. “Most customers only care about a low cost. But me, I care more about shipping costs!” He explains to the reporter, even as he keeps an eye on the store owner working with the clothes. When he finds packing paper isn’t removed from a pair, he shoots up and rips it out, screaming: “I’m buying so much of your stuff, can I get some service please?” The store-owner rolls his eyes and mutters, “Annoying!”.

This sort of unhappy encounter is seen in these Chinese-African trade malls every day. Sometimes, the police are called. A security guard in the mall says he really doesn’t understand it; how can some people be so poor, and yet still so outlandish!

Talking about the customers they deal with every day, stall-owners often pout their lips. The ability of some black people to bargain for discounts annoys many Chinese businessmen. Some will order 200 pairs of pants, but then only purchase 10, insisting on the original price. Some, when they’re picking up their products, will reach down and grab another pair as he walks out the door. Many stall-owners are too lazy to learn English; they feel using a calculator to deal with the black people was good enough. One stall-owner says that if she could do business with white people, she’d definitely improve her English.

Cote has stayed in China for 8 years, but he also doesn’t know a sentence of Chinese. “Why does that matter?” He loudly tells the reporter. His visa is only good for a month at a time, and just like a bird, he has to constantly fly between China and Africa. “I don’t care how you Chinese see us; we’re only here to make money, and then we’ll go home and build a home!”

Boredom: “Guangzhou is still Guangzhou, Chocolate City is still Chocolate City”
Clem doesn’t like to hear “criticisms” of China. Whenever he hears friends complaining about Chinese visas, or Chinese not being trust-worthy, Clem doesn’t say a word. The only thing that he agrees with is, it’s very difficult for Africans to make Chinese friends.

He likes to walk outside this little kingdom. The Guangzhou outside these village-districts is like the one that he saw on TV. Every time he sits on the bus or subway, he lets his friends who speak better Chinese help him buy a ticket, as he stands on the side watching. When he sees the automated machine spit out the subway ticket, he always says softly, “Not that hard at all”. But when friends encourage him to give it a try, he sees the curious looks from all sides, and quickly slides away to the side.

“After I’ve been here longer, after I learn Chinese, I will make Chinese friends”. Clem always comforts himself this way. He feels the problem is in language, and his shy nature. “I will try and change.”

But every time Clem praises China without reservation, Williams will coldly interrupt him. “Once you stay longer, you’ll know. China isn’t just like what you’ve imagined; it’s not only a language problem!”

25 year old Williams is also Clem’s countrymen, a good friend always by his side, and a young man with excess energy. When he has free time, William turns on the stereo and dances to the rock music. He points at a reporter next to him, “I admit it, China is better than Nigeria in many ways. But in music, you can only copy us!” A customer walks in, and he quickly turns off the stereo, takes off his sunglasses, and goes to work. “I’m busy, don’t talk to me,” he points at the reporter. “But you can take a few more pictures of me, try a few different angles!”

Williams came to China a year ago, and opened a hair salon in one of the malls. Everything in the salon, from wall paper to sofa to the customer’s chairs, are all the same color: bright red. His customers are all the same color: black. “Chinese salons don’t understand African hair styles, so they all come to my store.” He says boastfully. Although his “design” (of hair style) often just involves a total shave. “Africans especially trust, and depend on their fellow people; that’s why we call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.” Mall management Chen Lianren told the reporter that every store opened by an African becomes a focal point, and attracts many of his fellow countrymen, increasing the traffic flow for other stores in the mall. For that reason, they lowered the rent for African tenants.

Unlike the always migrating Cote, Williams and other Africans with an economic foundation all share a “Chinese Dream”. They hope that by struggling for 4-5 years, they will be able to open a trade company or service center, and make large profits from servicing the rapidly growing Chinese-African trade. Based on published research, more than 20,000 Africans are long-term residents in Guangzhou (more than six months).

But just like Clem, the lives of many Africans never extends out of the 20 kilometer “Chocolate City”. Just about all African visitors can’t name a single tourist spot in Guangzhou, and can’t name many Chinese friends. They don’t open accounts with Chinese banks, and few purchase bus passes, even though it’s their primary mode of transportation. If all of the Africans in Guangzhou evapored overnight, they would leave almost no mark in “Chocolate City” or Guangzhou. “My daughter asked me what I saw in China.” A Nigerian getting his hair-cut said, “I answered, jeans and black people!”

But Williams likes to interact with Chinese, and uses every opportunity to learn Chinese. Once, he chatted with a little Chinese girl, and had a picture taken of the two of them together. He developed the picture, and has kept it in his wallet ever since. He joined a local amateur African soccer team, and competes with local Chinese teams.

“Interacting with Chinese people, it’s really complicated,” Williams said. On this point, most of the people in his circle of friends agree.

Once, on a bus, he chatted with an university student for half an hour. Right before separating, they traded telephone numbers, and agreed to watch a ballgame together next week. But when he called that number the same night, it was an unused number.

Another time, he was chatting with an old lady in front of a church. When he learned she had a grand-daughter, he asked, “Your grand-daughter must be beautiful! How old is she?” The old lady suddenly turned around in anger and left, saying, “Why are you asking so many questions?…”

“I really didn’t mean anything by it, just wanted to practice my Chinese.” Williams shrugged his shoulders. “This time, after you’re done with the interview, will we still be friends?” He asked the reporter. Without waiting for an answer, he laughed drily, “Whatever.”

Another method Williams uses to learn Chinese are TV shows and movies. But the more he watches, the more he feels he’s living in a foreign country. “I never knew Chinese women were tougher than the men. You can refuse to do housework, refuse to have kids, or have only one kid!” He called out to Clem, “You love China, but how much do you know about it? Did you know this? Can you accept it?”

As if he forgot he denied he had chased Chinese girls before, he puts on an exaggerated expression for the reporter, “Luckily, I’ve never successfully dated a Chinese girl!”

“Of course they can’t get a Chinese girl.” 23 year old Ms. Lee is both angry and amused as she talks about this topic. She feels “being normal friends with them is okay, but dating is too strange”. Besides, friends will mock you. From her point of view, many young Africans flirt with girls out of boredom, as a form of entertainment. As soon as they’re refused, they turn around and start expressing their love to someone else.

When Cote was walking around the mall, he repeatedly asked the reporter, “How many boyfriends do you have?” “Just one? Why not get a few more?” Before separating, he graciously invited in a gentlemanly manner, “Will you have dinner with me? Come to where I live, I’ll make the best African food for you.” After being denied, he could only spread his hands, “Why are Chinese girls so hard to date?”

After watching a Chinese TV series, Williams had some insight into the reason for his failure in love, “Maybe Chinese are shy, and prefer to take it slowly.” But his guess might also be a case of wishful thinking. Wang Jia, a girl working in the same mall, once screamed at a suitor who refused to take no for an answer: “Stay away from me, even if you wait 100 years, I won’t be your girlfriend!”

On Christmas Eve, still-single Williams invited Clem to go bar-hopping, but was refused. The reserved boy who usually preserves peace and quiet instead pulled out a newly purchased phone card. He called his parents in the Nigeria capital of Abuja, “I like China, I really want to stay here as long as I possibly can! My New Year’s wish, would be starting a clothing company in Guangzhou!”

Williams put on his jacket, and went through the door. At 1 AM, he came to Dafengche Bar. The heavy beat of rock music booming, and black brothers wearing Santa hats and held beers. They danced and laughed loudly together. The afternoon of Christmas Day, just sobering Williams gave the reporter a telephone call, “Remember how you said the place where I live is called Chocolate City? That’s too true! I’ve been here a year, and Chocolate City is still Chocolate City, and Guangzhou is still your Guangzhou.”

Love – “I’m already very China!”
Compared to the Africans who live in peasant-villages in the city, young Omar belongs to the minority that the Chinese people like. He lives in a small gated apartment community. His life had long moved passed the lonely phase, everything was already in his grasp.

Although business was busy, Omar arrives at the Stone Chamber Church every every week. English mass is held from 3:30 until 4:50 every Sunday afternoon. The church capable of fitting more than two thousand people still can’t squeeze in all of the religious. Some late arriving Africans kneel quietly in the aisle. The sound of softly sung hymns, along with the sharp scent of perfume, circle in the space above the heads of the faithful.

Religion and business are the two things that most closely bind Africans and Guangzhou. Catholicism and Islam are the two dominant religions. Every Friday is the holiest day of prayer for the Muslims, and African Muslims also stop their work. They congregate at the mosque across from Yuexiu Park; carefully they wash their head, hand, and feet, and kneel in the direction of the mosque, saying their prayers to the true Allah.

After prayers are finished, Omar walks over to the adjacent hall, and joins a ceremony unique to African Catholics. A few hundred Africans clapped and danced to a religious music that only they can understand. With the dance finished, one person stood up, and called on everyone to raise their hands, close their eyes, their mouths muttered and gradually grew faster and faster; their faces showed a frantic expression. After Omar faithfully finishes the ceremony, he returns to his typical well-mannered attitude. Pulling out his cell phone, he uses fluent Chinese to tell his wife that the brothers are meeting for dinner that night, he won’t be returning for dinner.

Amongst the Africans who’ve come to Guangzhou, Omar belongs to the small number who’ve received higher education. He even studied Chinese in university. He came to China from Nigeria three years ago, thinking that his advantage in language would allow him to quickly adjust to this new life. But he tried Beijing, no luck; moved to Shanghai, still no luck; continued onto Zhejiang, and still no luck. At the time, one of Omar’s countrymen in America tried to talk him into going to the United States. There, people of different skin colors live together, and no one can tell at a glance that he’s a foreigner.

Finally, he ended up in Guangzhou and set down roots in Chocolate City. Guangzhou has the densest concentration of African businessmen in China. Areas and cities surrounding the area has thousands of factories that take tens of thousands of African orders, originating from Chocolate City, every day.

To Omar, brothers and the factory are equally important. “When I got to Guangzhou, I finally realized why I could never stay in any other place, ” he said, “in Chocolate City, at least no one is coming over and lecture to me, ‘Hey, this is China!'”

This is the attraction of Guangzhou. On Yongping Street, many black illegal immigrants live together in homes that rent for 100-200 RMB per month. They come out only at night, either selling physical labor by offering to carry goods, or sell drugs and other illegal activities. According to police in the area, starting in November of 2007, they had searched out a group of Africans in the country illegally. They were sent to Yunnan and deported.

Omar’s life was all smooth sailing. After he had been in Guangzhou for a year, he opened a clothing store. Quickly, he built a reputation. Everyone knew that Boss Omar not only spoke fluent putonghua, the way he behaved and did business was also very solid. Omar’s store was almost always the last to close at night, including Christmas Eve. After the lights to the store are extinguished at 7 PM, he rushed home to spend the holiday with his wife. In his homeland of Nigeria, on Christmas Eve, the only thing working are the Christmas lights. But in China, both people and the Christmas lights remain as busy as always on Christmas Eve.

His skinny wife comes from Shandong. She met Omar on business about a year ago. After they were married in 2007, Omar’s parents came to China to visit. They couldn’t stop compliment their son and his yellow-skinned wife, and even agreed to their daughter-in-law’s preference to delay having kids.

In their building, there are four or five African bosses who, based on their talent, sincerity, and of course a certain level of economic foundation, won the love of Chinese women. Some have had kids; yellow skin and curly hair, they look just like Barbie dolls. Based on the understanding of the mall’s manager Jiang Ganglong, for an African to lay down roots and open a store, it typically takes around four years of hard work. The primary reason they’re successful, is because they “have integrity, do things the Chinese way.”

The changes that marriage brought Omar go beyond becoming accustomed to a new way of celebrating Christmas Eve. He gradually left Chocolate City, and was accepted and welcomed by his wife’s family and friends. As the other stall-owners in the mall complained about the low quality of Africans, they always add a sentence, “but look at Omar, he’s not at all Africa!”

“I’m already very China!” Omar laughs as he says this. Today, the man from male-chauvinist Africa has happily been infected by China’s specialty: “management by wife”. Friends are always teasing him that the first he does with every cent earned, is to hand it over to this wife. He’s not offended by this, and laughs along.

Future – “I hope she has a Chinese brain”
From the perspective of AP reporter Arnold, formerly stationed in Africa, the various collisions between Chinese and Africans are a necessary part of the “wearing in” process, between two peoples who’re only in the early stages of establishing contact. Chinese aren’t prejudiced in a racial sense, “compared to Americans, the amount of contact between Chinese and Africa is still very little, far too little for mutual understanding. So-called prejudice, is more analogous to the way city-dwellers with money view poor villagers who don’t understand manners.”

Arnold feels that the primary difference between the way Africans are pursuing their “Chinese dream” and the way Chinese are seeking the “American dream” lies in that most Africans don’t really wish to integrate into China’s mainstream society, and become true Chinese citizens. The harsh conditions behind China’s emigration policy, as well as a drastically different culture, and the lack of religious tradition makes China unattractive to many Africans. They like to drink milk, but have no interest in living in a dairy farm. They prefer to squeeze the milk, and then bring it home with them.

The boss of the #9 stall in Building B, Cisse, his “Chinese dream” is designed for his CBB (China-Born Baby). He raised up his less than one year old black baby, and excitedly said: “Look, she’s a Chinese girl!”

Cisse and his black wife have no plans to apply for a Chinese green card. Cisse has another wife and four kids back home in Nigeria. Cisse is Muslim; three years ago, he brought one of his wives from Mali to Guangzhou. They gave birth to their darling daughter in a Guangzhou hospital.

Two months ago, they hired a Chinese nanny to teach their baby Chinese, and Chinese manners. “In the future, our baby is going to go to kindergarten, middle school, and university in China!” He emphasized, “China’s influence in Africa is growing more and more, and Chinese brains are very sharp. I hope she has a Chinese brain.”

After his business becomes stable, Cisse’s long-term plan is to spend three months in each of Guangzhou and Nigeria. Normally, he’ll call his wive in their homeland every few days, and in front of his present wife, pour out his guilt and sadness for not having her there.

In response to the shock on this reporter’s face, this calm Muslim volunteered to explain, “According to the Koran, you can marry the women that you love; two wives, three wives, four wives. But if you can not treat them equally, then you can only have one wife.” He smiled as he said, “I think I’m a good husband.”

As far as China’s one-wife/one-husband and family planning policies, Cisse said that from both a male/female ratio and national population point of view, he understands. “These policies benefit China, so they’re good policies.”

Cisse’s younger brothers don’t share his benevolent feelings. When China is brought up, just like many other recently arrived Africans, he’s filled with anger – Chinese get African visas far easier than Africans can get Chinese visas, and this is unfair; Chinese don’t believe in religion, too terrifying…

Whenever this happens, Cisse smiles without responding. After his younger brother is done complaining, then he’ll say, “One day, you’ll understand.”

On December 22nd, after Islam’s holiest holiday Ramadan has passed, Christmas quickly follows. And every year at this time, Cisse’s store, and indeed the entire mall enters the off-season, and Chocolate City becomes almost empty.

And during this time, workers at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport’s international airport enters into their highest level of alertness. Behind the tens of thousands of African passengers, trails a small mountain’s worth of luggage.

Cote, the “migratory bird” from Liberia, almost looks drowned in his luggage. As he’s picking up his boarding pass, he’s told that his luggage is overweight. He tries to talk his way through it, even calling the workers “sister”, and begging his “sister” to give him a break. After this is denied, he’s frustrated as he stuffs his luggage back onto his cart. “China, so annoying! Really annoying!”

Finally, he still paid the surplus. As he crossed the security check, he seems to have forgotten that momentary unhappiness. He turns around and waves at the reporter, “March of next year, I’ll be back!”

Categories: culture Tags: , ,
  1. June 14th, 2008 at 08:36 | #1

    Interesting piece. Right now it is pretty much impossible for someone to put down permanent roots in China because of excessive amount of time you have to spend in China to gain citizenship, but one of these days each Chinese city will have its own substantial population of foreign-born residents. I remember when I first lived in Nanjing there were fewer than 10,000 non-PRC citizens (including HK/Macau/Taiwan folk) in a population of several million, and the total foreign-born population in China is still only a few hundred thousand.

  2. yo
    June 14th, 2008 at 14:36 | #2

    Good piece. I always wondered what all those African traders did in Guangzhou. It’s definitely not a business for the weak at heart.

  3. AC
    June 14th, 2008 at 14:50 | #3

    This is what an African(?) American businessman living in Suzhou have to say about racism in China:

    http://silkrc.com/chinadialogs/2007/11/16/black-like-me-in-china/

    …..
    A reporter for America’s National Public Radio recently interviewed me for a piece on the Marketplace radio program. The reporter wanted to know how I had been racially discriminated against as a black man doing business in China.

    I said I hadn’t. Not even once. Not during the five years I’ve been living and working here in China. And I’ve traveled to dozens of cities in China.

    …..

    And finally, I finished, I do believe from the experience I’ve had working in China and in other countries that nine-tenths of getting along in a foreign land with the natives is the way you present yourself. So if you have taken your emotional baggage from your home country to a foreign land, you will certainly find an audience willing to throw the baggage back at you. That is, look for discrimination, and you will find it.

    So, yes, there is discrimination in China, even racial. But I do believe you either have to go looking for it in Business or manufacture it yourself during business transactions.

    …..

  4. Anon
    June 14th, 2008 at 15:34 | #4

    @AC

    I read his post and I think he makes a valid point that doesn’t only hold for foreigners in China, but in basically any country. Needless to say, it also applies to Chinese who are ready to call almost any negative press coverage of China “racist” or “anti-China.”

    I also want to add that the way your perceive prejudice in China is often tied to living circumstances. If you have a comfortable job and a comfortable apartment, it is much easier to deal with the small nuisances of everyday life. If you live in a ordinary neighborhood and you get stared at the moment you leave your apartment, it is more likely that you will get increasingly annoyed.

    @Buxi

    I browsed the Chinese original yesterday and I had a look at it now. The writers seem to have found more or less the type of Africans that do satisfy various stereotypes they already have and then they wrote accordingly. If someone wrote a piece about Chinese immigrants in the US as greedy, oversexed people who refused to learn English and adapt to local culture, I’m sure you would provide us with a lengthy rebuttal.

  5. yo
    June 14th, 2008 at 16:09 | #5

    Anon,
    I disagree that they were stereotyped. They come off as anybody else would adjusting to a new environment while at the same time, strongly connected to their old. Different perspectives where presented, with some liking the environment, some not so much.

  6. Buxi
    June 14th, 2008 at 16:14 | #6

    @Anon,

    I browsed the Chinese original yesterday and I had a look at it now. The writers seem to have found more or less the type of Africans that do satisfy various stereotypes they already have and then they wrote accordingly. If someone wrote a piece about Chinese immigrants in the US as greedy, oversexed people who refused to learn English and adapt to local culture, I’m sure you would provide us with a lengthy rebuttal.

    It’s rather sad that you read this article and came away with the summary that it’s about stereotypical views of Africans. I see it as presenting the lives of 5-6 different Africans, all holding different perspectives on life, and life in China specifically. Stereotype? What exactly is the stereotype being perpetuated?

    Which, I guess, demonstrates the difference between you and me. I’m not insisting on a conclusion before hand and looking for examples that back up my conclusion.

    If an article on Chinese immigrants was careful enough to present a picture of different facets of the Chinese community, just like this one tried to do, I wouldn’t complain about the negative aspects.

    Why would I rebuttal an English article that talked about the significant segment of the first-generation Chinese community that refused to learn English, if it also talked about the significant segment of Chinese desperately trying to integrate as quickly as possible? That’s a fair picture of the Chinese community overseas. I’m interested only in the truth, or at least the closest approximation possible.

  7. yo
    June 14th, 2008 at 16:39 | #7

    Buxi,
    What “negative” traits were displayed in the article? After reading the article, I didn’t get any sort of negative impression from the people being interviewed.

  8. June 14th, 2008 at 17:22 | #8

    I didn’t see anything incredibly racist in this article, and much of what it says about Africans in China goes for all the China expats. I don’t think that starring happens out of racism, except when you get the occasional blatant hate-filled stare. What I count as racism is having your girlfriend called a whore for going out with a foreigner by random strangers and then kidnapped by her parents and ordered never to see me again – but this was several years ago.

  9. Anon
    June 14th, 2008 at 18:27 | #9

    Just to clarify, I didn’t say that the article was racist, but I didn’t find it remarkable either. The way the Chinese press works, it usually doesn’t get much better than this.

    Neither am I sure that China is more racist than any other country in the world right now. What I do say is that there is very little discussion about racism, racial prejudice or whatever you’d like to call it, in today’s Mainland China. I think that is a big problem and at the end of the day, China will pay a price for that.

    Is staring racist? I don’t know, sometimes it is. What I do know is that it is very disrespectful to stare in almost any culture. Reverse the stare and you will see what happens.

  10. AC
    June 14th, 2008 at 21:26 | #10

    You can’t use the political correctness BS (sorry, but I think it’s just what it is) in the West to measure China. China had very different racial/ethnic relations in it’s history from the West. The PRC has never systematically discriminated against any race, therefore we Chinese don’t suffer from the guilty complex that most white liberals in the West do. You have a big baggage on your back and you don’t even notice it. Discovering racism in China won’t make you feel any less guilty. 🙂

    Some Chinese stare at you because they have met very few people from a different race. They are curious and it’s just bad manner. They never refused to sit next to you on a bus, did they? Don’t read too much into it, OK?

  11. yo
    June 14th, 2008 at 22:29 | #11

    I got to say, race dynamics in China seem different from what I’m use to in the U.S. I agree with AC in that we can’t apply our “liberal guilt” uniformly into the context of China because the racial mixture and historical backgrounds are much different compared to “western” countries like the U.S. Interesting discussion by the way.

  12. Anon
    June 14th, 2008 at 23:22 | #12

    @AC

    China had very different racial/ethnic relations in it’s history from the West.

    The West is not a single country or a single culture, neither is China. Racism, xenophobia and nationalism have taken very different expressions in different countries. You better read up.

    The PRC has never systematically discriminated against any race, therefore we Chinese don’t suffer from the guilty complex that most white liberals in the West do.

    Sorry, but I feel that you do not have any first hand experience of racism in China, so I would steer clear from statements that this is all about “white guilt.” Just a decade ago, I would be refused service at hotels just based on my looks: “We do not serve foreigners.” The next moment, a foreigner of Chinese origins steps in and get a room. One of the innovations of PRC policy was the so-called waishi gongzuo, which outlined detailed instructions on how foreigners should and should not be treated. On the surface, this was part of “friendship” policies, but the grim reality of the policy was to institute a an apartheid of sorts between foreigners and Chinese. In reality it did mean that many foreigners did suffer discrimination, while Chinese believed that all foreigners lived in luxury and privilege.

    Some Chinese stare at you because they have met very few people from a different race.

    That is a very convenient myth, but it doesn’t match with reality. I have traveled in small mianbao buses in the countryside and not a single person would bother me with staring. I have been in small villages and people ask me politely which part of China I’m from. The next day I step unto a university campus and you get gawking crowds and you are asked inappropriate questions about almost anything. You go to the university library to read some stuff and people talk behind you back if he “really” understand what is written in the book. You are involved in a minor accident and people speak eloquently in English why you as a foreigner are a despicable person.

    I do not have an explanation for this, but it seems to me that exposure to foreigners doesn’t necessarily mean that people necessarily behave in either this or that way.

  13. AC
    June 15th, 2008 at 00:05 | #13

    @Anon,
    The West is not a single country or a single culture, neither is China. Racism, xenophobia and nationalism have taken very different expressions in different countries. You better read up.

    Sorry I didn’t make it clear enough. So please allow me to be more specific. When I say “the West”, I mean US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium etc. That pretty much covers the “West”, wouldn’t you say? Most of these countries have a colonial history and all of them practiced some form of institutionalized racism in the past. China has done none of these.

    Just a decade ago, I would be refused service at hotels just based on my looks: “We do not serve foreigners.” ….

    They forced you to stay in the best hotels and apartments the country can offer. You call that racial discrimination?

    …The next day I step unto a university campus and you get gawking crowds and you are asked inappropriate questions about almost anything. You go to the university library to read some stuff and people talk behind you back if he “really” understand what is written in the book. You are involved in a minor accident and people speak eloquently in English why you as a foreigner are a despicable person.

    So these people are rude, but I still can’t understand why this is related to racism.

    From what you wrote here, I can tell you have never been on the receiving end of racism.

  14. June 15th, 2008 at 00:16 | #14

    @Anon – I still have a copy of that dumb-assed book of ‘rules for foreigners living in Nanjing’ that the local foreign affairs people gave me when I first arrived telling me not to ‘molest chinese women’ – they gave this book to all foreigners, women and men both. Is this racism? I don’t know, but it tells you how people see foreigners.

    Likewise I don’t know if all the hassling that foreigners get in China are racist, just reflective of deeply held attitudes. Attitudes which you simply cannot change however hard you might try.

  15. June 15th, 2008 at 01:12 | #15

    Sigh.

    How fortunate we are to have the self examination of the West to use as a mirror to reveal no flaw in ourselves.

  16. Anon
    June 15th, 2008 at 01:17 | #16

    @AC

    Most of these countries have a colonial history and all of them practiced some form of institutionalized racism in the past.

    Some form, yes, but what form? It is not that simple. Europeans were usually quite harsh in the colonies, but much more liberal in the home country. Britain discriminated against Indians in British India, but allowed Indians like Muhammad Ali Jinnah to practice law in London and Dadabhai Naoroji to be elected to parliament (both in the 1890). It was usually these elites that later led decolonization.

    China has done none of these.

    …and you know that for a fact? Not even the Communist Party would whitewash Chinese history like that. I would ask you to read up on Chinese history, you could start with how different ethnic minorities were pushed out and how their land was confiscated by Han Chinese settlers. You do not have to be an expert on Chinese history to realize that people have been classified after physical characteristics in China and treated differently. Many non-Chinese were regarded as sub-human and the Chinese characters denoting these people usually contained a “beast” radical.

    If there is anything that makes China peculiar it is the fact that it was both a colonizing empire and a victim of imperialism at the same time.

    They forced you to stay in the best hotels and apartments the country can offer. You call that racial discrimination?

    Yes, the force me to stay in expensive hotels that I couldn’t afford, all the while more wealthy people of Chinese origin could get good hotels at decent rates. If Chinese tourists in Europe were targeted for such scam based on their skin-color, I’m sure the mainland Chinese press would cry “racism”.

    @FOARP

    Yes, I remember that book. Quite a shock. Racist? I agree that we should be careful before we invoke that label, but somewhere we need to draw the line. If I put up a sign in Chinese in a Japanese dorm instructing people of the proper use of seat toilets, I can guarantee you that the “R” word would be invoked before you know it.

    Likewise I don’t know if all the hassling that foreigners get in China are racist, just reflective of deeply held attitudes. Attitudes which you simply cannot change however hard you might try.

    Not all the hassling is racist, but a lot. I can guarantee you that most Chinese would regard similar kind of behavior as racist in Europe, regardless of the subjective intentions of local people. And that’s precisely my point. I lot of very inn

    Can you change it? It is Utopian to think that racism can be completely eradicated. But education plays a great role in teaching people how to behave and I think one big problem here is the way the Chinese government is playing up nationalism (and is expected to). And you can change that. I am always surprised how quickly people take their cues from the government. When I returned to Beijing after a two years’ absence I was surprised to find that cab drivers had stopped using certain words and that they would always offer a refund if they took you the wrong way. Then, after a couple of weeks in Beijing I saw a sign with a couple of dos and don’ts in preparation for the Olympics…

  17. Karma
    June 15th, 2008 at 02:03 | #17

    @yo: “liberal guilt” – I like that term!

  18. yo
    June 15th, 2008 at 03:10 | #18

    Anon,

    ”institute a an apartheid”
    wow! that’s a bold statement.

    I think I know what you are trying to do here, and I understand. It looks like you had some crappy experiences in China but it also appears you put a lot of race assumptions to the things that you experienced. I don’t want to take anything away from your experiences, you have every right to be pissed, but I wouldn’t jump the gun and say, hey, look at all these racists.

    A good friend of mine, who is white, travels to China annually, and he said that there are a few douchebags(my word, not his) that he encounters who don’t like him because he is white. And he told me something really cool which is:
    “if you don’t like me for who I am, that’s your problem, not mine”.
    And I really took that to heart for my own experiences.

    For a clarification, I agree that “racism” exists in China, but of course, given the makeup and history of China, I feel it’s not the same as the “racism” that I’m use to in the U.S., nor is it defined the same way, racism is a very vague word.

    In addition, in the American context, people throw the “race card” around so frequently that the word is losing it’s meaning to me so I’m careful about labeling people or policies “racist”.

  19. JL
    June 15th, 2008 at 03:56 | #19

    AC:

    The term ‘polical correctness’ was invented by American conservatives as a perjurative label for the kind of thinking that says it’s not okay for, say, me to call you a “chink”.

    In my experience, the urge to avoid using certain terms (i.e. ‘political correctness’ is just as strong in China as it is in the Europe and America. Just the other day I read in a Chinese history book that made the following comment about a poem:
    “More than a little heroic, even if the use of ‘barbarian’ (蛮) to refer to the Tibetans, which reflects the Han Chauvinism of the time [1910s], is really not appropriate. (实不足取).”

    Buxi; a good article about an interesting topic.

    People’s perceptions of others is a complex phenomenon. I think China does pretty well on the whole, although it’s utterly senseless to compare the whole of China with the whole of the West- within the West there is an incredible amount of variation with regards to racist attitudes (and I think there is in China too. (Remember, AC, that not all Western nations used to be colonial powers. Ireland didn’t, in fact, some English used to see the Irish as “black” )
    To the people who still think there’s no racism in China, I can only recommend travelling with a black person in China.

  20. S.K. Cheung
    June 15th, 2008 at 06:13 | #20

    There seems to be a distinction being made here between “the West” and CHina wrt the presence or absence of institutionalized racism, presumably referring to government- sanctioned behaviour. However, it would seem to me that racism borne of the people without government solicitation does not make it a more virtuous trait.

    To AC:
    “…people talk behind you back if he “really” understand what is written in the book. You are involved in a minor accident and people speak eloquently in English why you as a foreigner are a despicable person.

    So these people are rude, but I still can’t understand why this is related to racism.”
    – if you’re being prejudged based on appearance or the colour of your skin, that to me is racism. If you were in Oklahoma somewhere and someone said that about you, I suspect you’d find it to me more than just them being rude.

  21. June 15th, 2008 at 07:06 | #21

    @AC – Switzerland has never had an empire and has never had racial laws – does this make it a country in which racism is not a problem?

  22. Buxi
    June 15th, 2008 at 08:05 | #22

    People are arguing back and forth about a concept that isn’t even clearly defined. What do we mean by racism?

    I said in the previous thread that I believe “racism” in the West and China are qualitatively different… meaning that an observable difference exists, but this difference is difficult to define.

    I’ll echo the quote from the AP reporter Arnold:

    From the perspective of AP reporter Arnold, formerly stationed in Africa, the various collisions between Chinese and Africans are a necessary part of the “wearing in” process, between two peoples who’re only in the early stages of establishing contact. Chinese aren’t prejudiced in a racial sense, “compared to Americans, the amount of contact between Chinese and Africa is still very little, far too little for mutual understanding. So-called prejudice, is more analogous to the way city-dwellers with money view poor villagers who don’t understand manners.”

    I’ve given this a little more thought, trying to at least put words to what this difference is. This is what I’ve come up with so far.

    People in China are prejudiced. We’ve already talked about this. Prejudiced on the basis of skin-color, on the basis of education, on the basis of geographic origin. And unlike in the West, all of these prejudices are equally compelling. I believe an African in Guangzhou faces prejudice (as mentioned in the article above), but a dark-skinned Anhui farmer in Shanghai also faces rough prejudice.

    These prejudices are basically assumptions (often unfair and inaccurate) made about groups of people. But these prejudices are discarded on an individual basis. An African who graduates from Beijing University and speaks fluent Chinese will not be judged on the basis of skin color.

    In contrast, Western racism in my opinion goes beyond this. There *are* racists in the West who will judge people on the basis of their skin, above and beyond any individual characteristics and impressions. Let’s take the case of Barack Obama in the US presidential campaign. There remains a legitimate question whether some American voters will accept this graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law, purely because they might not be accepting of his skin color.

    And my sense is that this sentiment simply doesn’t exist in China. If we could flash back to the discussion of 6/4 again, keep in mind that the race of student leader Wu’er Kaixi (the Beijing-raised Turkic Uygur) was never an issue in any context, even as he confronted Li Peng in the Great Hall of the People.

    So, as Chinese, I don’t think our intention should be defend ing the prejudicial actions that exist in China. Again, not just on the basis of race… there is plenty of narrow-minded behavior by many Chinese. However, in this debate, we’ve been forced to do precisely that.

    Let’s step back, and stop insisting that this is a black/white (no pun-intended) situation. It’s an issue of relative grayness.

  23. zuiweng
    June 15th, 2008 at 11:12 | #23

    Thanks to Buxi for consistently selecting and translating interesting articles from the Chinese press and internet and thereby making them accessible to a wider audience.

    On the subject at hand I’d like to recommend a book:

    Dikötter, Frank: The Discourse of Race in Modern China.- London: Hurst, 1992

    You will find that it provides a clear and detailed background to a very touchy and convoluted story.

    Just stating categorically that either racism doesn’t exist in China (and never has) or, on the contrary, that Chinese society is racist to the core (and seeing racism in every stare and every attempt to fleece the unwary laowai) isn’t really helpful. Dikötter’s work elucidates the (Chinese and European) history of some of the key terms and notions involved and puts them in their proper historical context. This will go a long way towards de-emotionalizing a subject sometimes dicussed all too emotionally.

    Thanks again for this excellent site. Keep up the good work!

    Greetings,

    Sulishan Zuiweng.

  24. BMY
    June 15th, 2008 at 12:11 | #24

    I understand Anon and FOARP’s those unpleasant experience in China and you might see them “racism”.

    I would echo Buxi ,they were prejudice based on lack of understanding/knowledges of foreigners and lack of manner , lack of education in many Chinese.

    My mum often get staring by Chinese people in Chinese shops because she neither speaks Mandarin nor Cantonese which are the two major dialects local Chinese community speak.She speaks our home town dialect hardly heard by local Chinese people here.

    I once lived in a southern city for few months and I got charged more in the local fruit market few times just simply
    because I only spoke mandarin not the local dialect.

    I see these are no different with what Anon got people were staring at him wandering if he was able to read the book or not.

    I am pretty sure the migrant workers in the big cities face much more prejudice than what Anon and FOARP had received. you know foreigners sometimes are treated as celebrities all over China just simply because they are foreigners or foreigners who can speak Chinese.

    these are all caused by lack of contacts,lack of understanding,lack of engagement,lack of education etc. They are hardly race based. They are based on differences. these differences could be just different accent, different dressing codes,different provincial origin, different social status etc.

    by the time of improvement of education, the economic growth,the more contacts with outsiders(people from other villages,other counties,other provinces,other countries), I believe these prejudice among Chinese people should be seeing less and less. These are one of the many unhealthy characters in our society we are trying to get ride of.

  25. Anon
    June 15th, 2008 at 15:09 | #25

    @everybody

    This discussion became interesting and civil than I had expected. Before I respond to some of the points, I just want to say that I agree that racism in the “West” and in “China” are not identical (who could they?), but that doesn’t mean that there is no racism in China or that it isn’t a problem.

    @Buxi

    People in China are prejudiced. We’ve already talked about this. Prejudiced on the basis of skin-color, on the basis of education, on the basis of geographic origin. And unlike in the West, all of these prejudices are equally compelling.

    Hmm. I think this to too broad. First of all, there is a huge difference between racism in the Americas and Europe. US style segregation has no neat European counterpart. In many European countries, people were routinely discriminated against on the basis of class, language, religion or geographic origin, but there was less systematic discrimination against non-Europeans because the population of non-Europeans was smaller. Well educated members from the colonies could go very far in the mother country, in Britain it even happened that Indians were elected to parliament. And once in parliament, the first Indian MP argued forcefully for both Indian and Irish home rule.

    I believe an African in Guangzhou faces prejudice (as mentioned in the article above), but a dark-skinned Anhui farmer in Shanghai also faces rough prejudice.

    Again, this is something that is also familiar to almost any country. There is an added twist to this: Irish had a mountain of prejudice to overcome in Britain, but in the colonies they suddenly became “white” and fit to rule.

    An African who graduates from Beijing University and speaks fluent Chinese will not be judged on the basis of skin color.

    I can assure you that is not that simple. I have meet well-educated Africans who are fluent in Chinese and they still complain that they are treated like dirt. You should have a chat with some of the African students who studied at Hehai University in the 80s and 90s or even now.

    And when it comes to hiring English teachers in China, well educated native speakers of English who happen to be black are routinely ignored.

    Have to run. More later.

  26. Anon
    June 15th, 2008 at 15:40 | #26

    @BMY

    by the time of improvement of education, the economic growth,the more contacts with outsiders(people from other villages,other counties,other provinces,other countries), I believe these prejudice among Chinese people should be seeing less and less.

    I am not that optimistic. Education or wealth are not a safeguard against prejudice. Some of the worst race riots in China have taken place at universities. As I have said before, it is sometimes easier to talk to people in remote villages of China than to big city people who think they “know” what foreigners are like.

    One of the most shocking conversations I have had was a couple of years ago after I had witnessed a single foreigner being beaten up by some locals in Sanlitun. I talked to some onlookers next to me, who were wealthy, educated and may even have been abroad, and I found out that they enjoyed seeing a foreigner being beaten up and they were not the slightest ashamed telling me this. Given what has happened the last six months, I am afraid that there are more people like that.

  27. June 15th, 2008 at 19:06 | #27

    @Buxi – A Kenyan friend of mine who is studying medecine at South-East University in Nanjing and speaks fluent Chinese (he studies alongside Chinese students) is basically treated like a pariah by his classmates – many of them simply refuse to talk to him. Does this prove that Chinese people are racist? No, but it does show that even a well-educated African can find it difficult to fit in in China.

    As for education solving the problem, I long ago decided that when it comes to Chinese attitudes towards foreigners, Chinese state education IS THE PROBLEM. Teaching of history consists of one-sided pro-CCP propaganda where pretty much everything bad that ever happened to China is the fault of foreign imperialists. The main purpose seems to be to engender an ‘us and them’ mentality. Hell, the state pretty much admits that this is the purpose of ‘patriotic’ education when it says that things like the Unit 731 museum are there to ‘promote patriotism’ – a bizarre concept: a war crimes museum promoting patriotism. It seems that in the eyes of many people being patriotic in China means hating foreigners .

  28. June 15th, 2008 at 19:09 | #28

    That said, expats – with the exception of those of third-world origin – are one of the most pampered groups in China. I’m certainly not bitter, but I think it is very hard for anyone to put down roots there.

  29. Dandan
    June 15th, 2008 at 19:31 | #29

    Agree with Anon. My husband is white, and we have been back to China for holiday a few times. Each time he was treated nicely by my family, friends and local people in general. However I am not confident enough to think that he would be treated exactly the same way if he was a black person.
    Racism in China might be different from racism in US, but it poisons every parts of the society nonetheless. Whatever it is based on, Govt should take it more seriously, start educating people and toughening up the law. As the Beijing taxi driver case Anon has observed, it would be much more effective and efficient when such movement runs top-to-bottom.

  30. June 15th, 2008 at 19:45 | #30

    My biggest concern is the avoidance of looking at prejudice, regardless of its foundation, straight in the face. Like any wound, ignoring it only gives it opportunity to fester.

    This is not an East vs West or color A vs color B thing, who is more virtuous sort of thing. It is a human thing. Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.

    To pretend that racism doesn’t happen, or if it does it is the product of ignorance, or it is somehow different than someone else’s version of it, doesn’t make it vanish. And you know what? I’ve heard the same sort of arguments from good old white folk talking about aboriginal or Asian people. As well as from the Chinese community here about attitudes towards white people. So, at its core, while you can dress it up, it is still the same ugly canker. It can’t heal if you pretend it isn’t there.

    At the same time, keeping with the metaphor, if we keep poking at it, with the attitude that we won’t be happy until it is an infected ulcer, that’s exactly what we’ll get. It is too easy to get overly zealous about racism and turn a mild pimple into something worse. Sometimes, a little dab of antibiotic discretely applied is the best approach.

    I’m hoping that the people who have participated in this discussion, who wish to believe that racism in China either doesn’t exist or is somehow special, might be a bit more aware the next time it happens right in front of them.

  31. Manu
    June 15th, 2008 at 21:48 | #31

    Sorry to see that in this lengthy and fairly well-thought article the author couldn’t find more non-merchant black Africans, or blacks in general. It would have made for a broader perspective. As a black who spent two years in Shanghai, the majority of the (many) Africans I met in China were students, like myself. Of course I always heard tales about the many blacks that were in Guangzhou, and I even met a few who would come up to Shanghai on business. I suppose these were the more monied ones; they could afford to travel around China for biz and (some of them) had that air of the sophisticate that you find in any international merchant.

    Those guys in Guangzhou ought to get out of Guangzhou! There are more opportunities outside of a place like that, especially for someone with a respectable command of Chinese. One of my classmates from Cameroon (Donghua university in Shanghai) got a great job with a tech company in Shanghai, bought a place in Jing’An…

    It’s true that the average black African won’t experience the sort of discrimination that is easy to identify. A lot of that is due to most of them having no idea what is being said about them, scaring the hell out of the Chinese, and being from homogenous environments their idea of racism is probably limited to direct assaults or whatnot.

    China’s ready for a lot more black people! Now that countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, are introducing Chinese into the curriculum, it’s only a matter of time before more of the tribe show up in China. While in Senegal, Nigeria, and Namimbia, there are more and more Chinese!

    I am just waiting to taste that first Chinese/African dish that fuses the our love for the yam with the Chinese love for the noodle.

  32. Dandan
    June 15th, 2008 at 23:24 | #32

    @MutantJedi
    What has been frustrating me is precisely the avoidance issue. I have tried to bring up Racism problem in Chinese forums, more often than not people just do not seem to take it seriously or lightly blame it on ‘a handful of bad guys’.

    @FOARP
    Just wandering if your Kenyan friend ever complained to a tutor? If he did, was any kind of support offered? It’s not uncommon for people to be prejudiced, but looks like some of his classmates don’t even want to take the opportunity get to know him, that is really sad and worrying.

  33. yo
    June 16th, 2008 at 00:21 | #33

    Everyone,
    I think you guys are all over the place now. Are we talking about black race relations in China or are we including white people to?

  34. June 16th, 2008 at 01:29 | #34

    Interesting Manu 🙂
    And I think you’re right – there’s going to be more African interest in life within China.
    mmmmm African/Chinese culinary fusion – could be interesting.

  35. BMY
    June 16th, 2008 at 01:54 | #35

    I agree, no matter we call those phenomenons “racism” or not. They are discriminations or prejudice against people(Chinese or foreigners) who are different. People and the government should take steps to work out the issues.

    @Anon,

    I would say Chinese people in general are friendly and kind to foreigners.regarding the street fighting you witnessed, people won’t just pick up a foreigner to beat up simply because of skin color. You might see the same enjoyment from the onlookers next time in Sanlitun when a group of locals beat up a migrate work from HeNan province. There are lots of street fightings in ShenZhen involved different group of people divided by province origin and some onlookers enjoy seeing. again this is not healthy characters among some people.

    @FOARP,

    “Chinese state education IS THE PROBLEM. Teaching of history consists of one-sided pro-CCP propaganda where pretty much everything bad that ever happened to China is the fault of foreign imperialists” and “It seems that in the eyes of many people being patriotic in China means hating foreigners “.

    I disagree based upone my personal experience and most Chinese people I know. we might hate people who invaded China 170 years ago to open up a drug trade but not mean we hate general now days English people or a white person walks in the street of Beijing. we are kind and have great hospitality which you might have also found along with the unpleasant experience you had. we might also have very unfriendly feeling towards people who are still trying to break our nation,trying stirring up ethnic hatred,trying to grab Olimpic torch from a wheel chaired carrier. These are different things with what you assumed of “”It seems that in the eyes of many people being patriotic in China means hating foreigners ”

    I was educated by CCP. I never feel the patriotic education of bring up the victimism past is about to “hate foreigners”
    It’s about to remember the dark human past, it’s about encouraging students/people to study/work hard to build a wealthy/strong/modern nation which would not be invaded again. I would have to say you misunderstood this.

    @Anon/FOARP,

    next time when you are in China and if it happens you are lecturing in front of uni students, you should tell them it’s not a good manner to staring in the back of you and it’s a bad thing to call a girl a whore just because she is dating a foreigner. I beleive most people are understanding people. And some times people don’t realize it’s a bad manner or discrimination.

  36. Anon
    June 16th, 2008 at 02:17 | #36

    @BMY

    we might also have very unfriendly feeling towards people who are still trying to break our nation,trying stirring up ethnic hatred,trying to grab Olimpic torch from a wheel chaired carrier.

    I don’t know if you realize this yourself, but you are actually confirming FOARP’s point here by parroting the official Xinhua line on “splittism”.

    While I usually do not feel worried about my personal safety in China, it is truly frightening to see how ordinary Chinese take their cues from official media and adjust their behavior towards foreigners accordingly. Certain years hostility towards foreigners is tacitly condoned by the authorities, at other times they put on the brakes.

    next time when you are in China and if it happens you are lecturing in front of uni students, you should tell them it’s not a good manner to staring in the back of you and it’s a bad thing to call a girl a whore just because she is dating a foreigner.

    If you do that you are likely to get into trouble. Believe me, I have some sense of self-preservation. Chinese people need to realize that this is a problem and keep their own countrymen in line. A foreigner trying to lecture Chinese how to behave leads nowhere, but we can vote with our feet and avoid going to China.

  37. AC
    June 16th, 2008 at 02:50 | #37

    Manu,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Chinese are not only in Senegal, Nigeria, and Namimbia as you mentioned. Not sure if you have heard of this, China has made a deal with DR Congo. It will invest 9 bln dollars in Congo.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/7343060.stm

    Due to be signed in Beijing in the next few days, it gives DR Congo $6bn of desperately needed infrastructure – about 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 hospitals, 145 health centres and two universities.

    In return, China gets a slice of DR Congo’s precious natural resources to feed its booming industries – 10m tonnes of copper and 400,000 tonnes of cobalt.

  38. BMY
    June 16th, 2008 at 02:53 | #38

    XinHua’s “splittism” might be diffrent with my terms of “splittism”.
    I don’t need to parrot XinHuha on people who are trying to break down my country. I doubt if how many people feel anything if someone is trying to destroy their country.

    people have every right to avoid going to places they don’t want to go. There are many foreigners are lecturing in China and teaching Chinese kids about manners without getting into trouble.

  39. BMY
    June 16th, 2008 at 02:54 | #39

    sorry, I mean “I doubt if how many people feel nothing if someone is trying to destroy their country.”

  40. yo
    June 16th, 2008 at 03:18 | #40

    Anon,

    “Believe me, I have some sense of self-preservation. Chinese people need to realize that this is a problem and keep their own countrymen in line.”

    Well that is the issue isn’t it? There is a “problem”, well that doesn’t say much about anything. Outside of your anecdotal stories, what is there? With all do respect, that’s not really a rigorous process of finding and investigating a problem. Saying racism exists in China is one thing(much like saying prostitution exists in China), but finding the extent of the problem and how it happens is another thing.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you want to be methodical about it, I would say we are in the hypothesis stage of this issue, because, and correct me if I’m wrong, this area of study and research is new in relation to modern China. More and more, people are immigrating and traveling to China, and my guess is that racial tensions probably start to heat up, much like Mexican immigration into the U.S. IMO, outside of our assumptions and some personally stories, we really don’t know much about the issue as a whole.

    Like I said before, I know where you are coming from and my guess and attitudes about race is probably similar to yours(being a liberal myself :-)), but all I’m saying is more needs to be learned about the issue before we come to our conclusions and debate about possible solutions.

  41. Anon
    June 16th, 2008 at 05:06 | #41

    @BMY

    The point I’m trying to make (and I think FOARP as well) is that this crude division of foreigners into “good” and “bad” foreigners is at the heart of Xinhua propaganda, and contributes to the hostile climate many foreigners face in China. If you really think that it is wrong to single out groups of foreigners as “enemies of the people” based on their origin, I don’t really understand why you are saying we might also have very unfriendly feeling towards people who are still trying to break our nation,trying stirring up ethnic hatred,trying to grab Olimpic torch from a wheel chaired carrier.

    You have absolutely no idea how tiring it is to be in China, when the country is gripped in patriotic fervor, and people you never met before feel that they have a right to question you on your views on Tibet, Taiwan or whatever, just because you look different physically. I’m not saying that this happens only in China, but what I do say is that the Chinese government has a great responsibility for things being the way they are.

    @yo

    Racism in China is pretty well-documented and there is a growing literature on this. You can start reading Frank Dikotter, who was mentioned above.

  42. yo
    June 16th, 2008 at 05:14 | #42

    @anon
    Not according to the amazon review. Did you read it?

  43. yo
    June 16th, 2008 at 05:46 | #43

    I don’t like driving traffic away, but here is another blog that talks about racism in China. Its anecdotal, but a start.

    http://www.thechinaexpat.com/racism-in-china/

    Comments are interesting too.

  44. BMY
    June 16th, 2008 at 06:00 | #44

    @Anon

    I don’t know whether “this crude division of foreigners into “good” and “bad” foreigners is at the heart of Xinhua propaganda” or not .

    I do think that it is wrong to single out groups of foreigners as “enemies of the people” based on their origin. It is very wrong.

    my saying of “we might also have very unfriendly feeling towards people who are still trying to break our nation,trying stirring up ethnic hatred,trying to grab Olimpic torch from a wheel chaired carrier” is very clear the singling out is not based on origin. it’s based on the behalves and actions from people foreigners or Chinese who are trying to destroy a country and people . origin and acts are very different things.

  45. June 16th, 2008 at 10:09 | #45

    @BMY –

    next time when you are in China and if it happens you are lecturing in front of uni students, you should tell them it’s not a good manner to staring in the back of you and it’s a bad thing to call a girl a whore just because she is dating a foreigner.

    I don’t think this would be such a great idea, not least because it would understandably insult each and every person in the audience. You make the distinction between political opinions that you disapprove of and the people from those countries where the opinions that you disapprove of are held – but many do not make this distinction. When writers like Wang Xiaodong and Song Qiang label Chinese liberals ‘洋奴’, what are we ‘洋人’ to think of it?

    “we might hate people who invaded China 170 years ago to open up a drug trade but not mean we hate general now days English people or a white person walks in the street of Beijing. we are kind and have great hospitality which you might have also found along with the unpleasant experience you had.”

    Funnily enough, I have only been to Beijing once, when my parents came to visit. We had a nice holiday, and were treated well by the majority of people we came across. However, even though we were only there for four days we were twice insulted in the street (and I am not talking about the continuous ironic ‘Hello 老外!’). It must also be said that the way some foreigners behave in China is almost designed to make the locals hate us. On the same holiday I saw a bunch of young Australians acting incredibly boorishly towards the staff in the restaurant we were eating in.

    Almost every week at 古堡酒巴 in Nanjing where the foreign South-East university students hang-out there would be some kind of brawl between foreigners (usually, it must be said, the African students) and locals. I myself took my fair share of punches for being white in the wrong place at the wrong time. I never really had much idea how these fights got started or who started them, but once they got started they would always turn into foreigners v. locals.

    A lot of the problem is caused by the fact that the majority of foreigners living and working in China are young men making salaries which are above average for China. People see them and realise that they are making all this money simply ‘because they are foreigners’ – resentment is almost inevitable, especially in a country where for every ten men who find a wife three will be without one. Add to this the weight of history and the virtues that many people ascribe to foreigners (wherever they come from) – i.e., that they are loose, immoral, arrogant, violent, lazy, lack culture, are incapable of learning the local language, do not look after their parents etc. and you have the situation you have today.

    @Yo – Foreigners are not allowed to carry out the kind of research necessary (i.e., wide-spread interviewing and questionnaires) to examine the extent of this problem. In fact, even relatively innocuous surveys of wildlife are illegal and are usually carried out by people pretending to be tourists or locals. However, I would welcome this kind of research, as it would highlight attitudes which almost never make the news but are a definite fact.

    @Anon – I always thought that what is at the heart of government propaganda is the maintenance of government power and the control of popular opinion.

    What should be done to improve this situation?

    1) It seems that many Chinese people did not learn the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human evolution in school and, as far as I am aware, still learn that Chinese people evolved separately from the rest of humankind. This must be changed.

    2) Chinese textbooks up to university level contain outlandish statements describing homosexuality and bestiality as being ‘very common’ in western countries. I remember reading one in particular which described old people in Britain and America as being so poorly treated that many of them have to survive on pet food. These text books must be revised.

    3) A loosening of citizenship rules – at the moment it is virtually impossible for a foreigner to become a Chinese citizen, or gain residence without marrying a local. At the very least ten years of residence with no more than eighteen months spent outside the country should be enough to gain permanent residence.

    4)The ending of China’s cult of victimhood is probably too much to ask for, but can we not have a bit more civility? The tone of language used at, for example, the Nanjing massacre museum, is not one which discourages hatred of other nationalities. Likewise the history of events like the Boxer rebellion are taught in a way which gives the imprssion that eight countries went mad in 1899 and invaded China with the intent of colonising it. There is no mention of the massacre of missionaries and their converts, or of the siege of Peking. I remember watching one ‘historical’ drama on CCTV 1 that showed a ‘German’ officer (speaking poor, Russian-accented English) expounding on how they had decided not to colonise China as scientific measurements had shown the Chinese to be equally capable at soldiering as foreigners. Needless to say this never actually happened.

    At any rate, as I said before, most foreigners do enjoy significant priveleges in China, and we should not concentrate too much on negative experiences. Furthermore, this blog is about China, it is not an expat blog.

    @Dandan – I doubt that anything would happen if he did complain, certainly nothing happened when I complained about being rudely accosted by some ‘学友’. Anyway, nobody wants people who do not want to speak to you to be forced to do so.

  46. yo
    June 16th, 2008 at 13:48 | #46

    FOARP,
    I’m not sure if what you said is necessarily true in regards to research in this context and I will use the Pew poll as an example. Irregardless, the research doesn’t need to be conducted by “foreigners”(that term always bugged me).

    “However, I would welcome this kind of research, as it would highlight attitudes which almost never make the news but are a definite fact”

    I also refer back to my comments to Anon about extent. Highlighting “facts” is not as valuable without knowing the extent and probably causes.

    In fact, your ideas for a solution really highlight my point about understanding a problem more. It would be premature to offer solutions to a problem we don’t fully understand. You and I probably have our guesses and interpretations based in our anecdotal stories. Your interpretations show in your solutions, given that they are related to the government somehow. My interpretation so far would not focus on that. For one thing, you leave out an interesting role “Western” Media plays, in particular, Hollywood. If the only encounters of a black guy you see is a token one in the movies, that will skew your perception. I know this is an issue in America, and I assume it is as well in the Chinese context.

    I believe more will be done in the form of research, and should be done, assuming the influx of “foreigners” continue.

  47. Buxi
    June 16th, 2008 at 15:10 | #47

    @FOARP,

    As for education solving the problem, I long ago decided that when it comes to Chinese attitudes towards foreigners, Chinese state education IS THE PROBLEM. Teaching of history consists of one-sided pro-CCP propaganda where pretty much everything bad that ever happened to China is the fault of foreign imperialists.

    And do you know what you’d call me if I told you that I “long ago decided” something, with zero interest in revisiting that conclusion? You’d probably call it brain-washing, and the term would be pretty appropriate.

    I don’t know how familiar you were with China when you made that decision, but your conclusion is not only insulting, it’s ludicrous. If Chinese state education was the problem here, why would there be racism towards Africans, and such a fawning attitude towards white-Europeans? Shouldn’t it be reversed?

    Anyone who grew up in China could tell you that our *education* has always taught us to respect our colored brothers in the third world. I remember a great anecdote from Richard Nixon’s first visit to China back in the early ’70s, and was welcomed with a state dinner. The man given the honor of being served first at dinner? It wasn’t Nixon, it wasn’t Kissinger… it was one of their black security agents.

  48. Buxi
    June 16th, 2008 at 15:18 | #48

    @Anon,

    I don’t know if you realize this yourself, but you are actually confirming FOARP’s point here by parroting the official Xinhua line on “splittism”.

    Resisting splittism is no more the official Xinhua line than advocating for democracy and freedom is the official George Bush line.

    You have absolutely no idea how tiring it is to be in China, when the country is gripped in patriotic fervor, and people you never met before feel that they have a right to question you on your views on Tibet, Taiwan or whatever, just because you look different physically.

    You have absolutely no idea how tiring it is to be in the West, when the country is gripped in “Free Tibet”, anti-Chinese, anti-Olympics fervor. When every newspaper you open is filled with editorials calling your country a genocidal invader that needs to be carved up (or as a SFGate columnist said: “China: please implode”), when every online message board is filled with the message “boycott China”, when the elected officials in a nearby city vote to receive the torch (which you’ve waited with anticipation for for 7 years) with “alarm and protest”.

    Why don’t you start by apologizing for the “Free Tibet” fervor expressed by some of your countrymen, and then I’ll think about reinterpreting the patriotic fervor of mine. If you could have kept the anti-China sentiment of some of your countrymen in line, then you certainly wouldn’t have seen the outraged reactions from many Chinese.

  49. Buxi
    June 16th, 2008 at 15:55 | #49

    FOARP,

    I appreciate your balanced thoughts on the underlying reason behind these “weekly brawls” from Nanjing pubs. We can look for similar fights in just about any country on this planet, and I don’t think deep underlying racial prejudice is behind it.

    1) It seems that many Chinese people did not learn the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human evolution in school and

    Well, really, are countries where only the “Out of Africa” theory is taught any less likely to have racial tension? I don’t see the link here at all.

    2) Chinese textbooks up to university level contain outlandish statements describing homosexuality and bestiality as being ‘very common’ in western countries. I remember reading one in particular which described old people in Britain and America as being so poorly treated that many of them have to survive on pet food. These text books must be revised.

    The latter example about “pet food” that you actually read seems plausible. If you go back 30-50 years during the heat of the Communist era, you’ll find even more outrageous example.

    But you are absolutely exaggerating the former example. Beastility described as “very common”? I look forward to seeing specific reference to a Chinese textbook making such an outrageous statement.

    Likewise the history of events like the Boxer rebellion are taught in a way which gives the imprssion that eight countries went mad in 1899 and invaded China with the intent of colonising it.

    And… what impression of the Baguo Alliance would be given if the Chinese history books simply reprinted these words from Kaiser Wilhelm II, to German soldiers on the way to Peking?

    But you can see from this what a culture not based on Christianity comes to. Every heathen culture, no matter how beautiful or august, will come to nought at the first catastrophe!
    … When you come upon the enemy, smite him. Pardon will not be given. Prisoners will not be taken. Whoever falls into your hands is forfeit. Once, a thousand years ago, the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one still potent in legend and tradition.[3] May you in this way make the name German remembered in China for a thousand years so that no Chinaman will ever again dare to even squint at a German!
    … Open the way for civilization once and for all!
    … And may God’s blessing attach itself to your banner and bring a blessing upon this war so that Christianity may survive in that land and such sad events never reoccur.

    Seems rather mad, and rather suggestive of imperialism if you ask me.

    In recent decades, Chinese discussion of the imperialist era has been very “civil”, in my opinion. I don’t know if you watched the movie “The Opium War” from the late ’90s, which was a huge hit in China. I recall it was a very balanced look, reflecting the depth of debate within the British parliament itself.

    I also recall the excellent, excellent TV series “March to the Republic” (走向共和) about the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republican era. The beginning of the end would the first Sino-Japanese war, which culminated in the treaty that signed away Taiwan and Korea. Japan is presented in a very “civilized” way, not at all demonized.

  50. Buxi
    June 16th, 2008 at 17:18 | #50

    @Manu,

    Very interesting post, thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you completely that China’s ready for a lot more black people. There’s no better way to better understand each other, and I’m very glad to hear African nations are adding Chinese into the curriculum.

    I hope China continues to make a commitment to providing educational opportunities to the best minds in Africa.

  51. Anon
    June 16th, 2008 at 17:32 | #51

    @Buxi

    Why don’t you start by apologizing for the “Free Tibet” fervor expressed by some of your countrymen, and then I’ll think about reinterpreting the patriotic fervor of mine.

    I’m a bit surprised by your outburst. Let me start with this. Once upon a time, I took part in all kinds of manifestations against racism and xenophobia, because I believed (and still believe) that it is the right thing to do. Sometimes, when I read something in my local newspaper or saw something on TV about China that I felt was biased, I called them and told them what I thought (politely). If a friend or relative said something stupid about immigrants, I spoke up.

    After living in China for a couple of years, my perspective has changed. Not that I think that the plight of foreigners in China should be the top concern in China right now. Neither to I question my previous commitment to what I felt was justice. But I find it shocking that almost no one in China is prepared to stand up and defend a wronged foreigner (of any nationality) in public. The few times I have seen it happen, the accusation Yangnu! effectively silences any discussion.

    As I see it, this is not a fringe phenomenon, but a problem that poisons the relationship between foreigners and Chinese. Different people find different ways of dealing with it, and many foreigners prefer not to talk about it at all. But I can tell you from personal experience that I know of many people that regard themselves as true friends of China, who have been alienated by this “either you are with us or against us” mentality. If you want this blog to promote understanding between “China” and the “West” this is something you need to take seriously.

    You feel that Western coverage – especially US coverage – of China is biased and to a certain extent I agree with you. But the Western press is biased in dealing with almost any country and these trends come and go. If you have paid attention, you would know that there is a strong anti-US bias in the European press and a strong anti-European (particularly anti-French) bias in the US press. This causes a lot of discomfort for Americans in Europe and Europeans in the US. Just as some Chinese feel that negative coverage is racist, some Israelis and Americans think that the European press is anti-semitic. But they don’t organize demonstrations abroad with the assistance of their embassies or mob foreigners on the street at home. They write letters to the editor, argue with their neighbors, if they have the right connection, they might even lobby local politicians.

    When it comes to China, this is not a symmetric situation and you’d better not pretend that it is. Unlike you, who can show off your patriotism both at home and abroad, comfortably protected by free speech legislation in the host country, the choice of a foreigner in China is either to stay and put up with what’s going on or leave. In China, there are no legitimate channels of dissent whatsoever and that is disproportionately to the detriment of foreigners.

    Again, if you want to promote greater understanding between China and the West, this should concern you.

  52. Buxi
    June 16th, 2008 at 18:55 | #52

    @Anon,

    Perhaps we’re both a little guilty of talking at each other rather than with each other, then. You had a priority high on your mind (the status of foreigners in China), and I had a priority high on my mind (biased perceptions of China in the West). I don’t mean to suggest my priority is more important than yours; both deserve attention and discussion.

    I don’t have enough personal experience in terms of seeing Westerners in China to speak to whatever you directly experience; I simply don’t know. The limited experiences I’ve had led me to believe, like many Chinese believe, that Westerners (especially caucasians) are fawned over and given numerous advantages in various aspects of daily life in China.

    But if I’m wrong on this, well, certainly, feel free to use this as a platform to speak your piece and help bridge that gap. If there’s anything specific you want me to translate or highlight, that’s an option as well.

    Now, above, you talked specifically about “patriotic fervor”. I don’t believe in any way that patriotism in China is dangerous to individual Westerners who show “proper” respect. I believe there’s room for discussion here on this issue (as we’ve demonstrated on various Tibet threads here), but the starting point, especially if you’re in China, has to be a basic level of respect and understanding for what many Chinese believe.

    Dismissing strongly held opinions on “splittism” as products of government propaganda suggests a lack of have that basic respect and understanding. A Westerner who doesn’t understand that 3/14 is as meaningful and sensitive to many Chinese as 9/11 is to New Yorkers will certainly find himself confronted, both on Chinese streets and on this blog.

  53. Dandan
    June 16th, 2008 at 20:23 | #53

    @Anon,

    Someone jumped the queue when I was waiting patiently with my husband to buy train tickets in Shanghai, I criticized him for his behavior, and guess what? He said ‘oh you think yourself are really something for marrying a foreigner’.
    This incident alone proved your point, some Chinese people do have xenophobia, to the extent that they could use that ‘Yang Nu’/’Us and Them’ technique to defend or justify their own wrongdoings and insulting others at the same time.
    Such mentality truly damages the society, and I for one will speak up in any given opportunity.

  54. CLC
    June 16th, 2008 at 20:52 | #54

    James Fallows just wrote a post on being a foreigner in China.

    A simple point about being a foreigner in China.

    “The reason (that I like Chinese people in general) is that, most of the time, people in China treat me as … a person.”

  55. June 16th, 2008 at 22:50 | #55

    “I don’t know how familiar you were with China when you made that decision, but your conclusion is not only insulting, it’s ludicrous. If Chinese state education was the problem here, why would there be racism towards Africans, and such a fawning attitude towards white-Europeans? Shouldn’t it be reversed?”

    The guy who smacked me in the face with a bottle did not look particularly fawning, nor did the random guy who shouted “fuck your mother” at me as I showed her around the streets of Beijing. Racism in China is pretty much omni-directional – it’s just more intense against Africans.

    As for why I made that decision, when someone told me that they hated Americans, Japanese, British, or just foreigners in general, it would almost always go back to either the old line about us all being there to steal jobs and women, or historical grievances. Nothing in Chinese education acts as a counter to racism, much acts as an excuse to hate non-Chinese.

    I’m sure you’re aware that the whole ‘African brothers’ thing was pretty much about China positioning itself as leader of the non-aligned movement – there was very little real sympathy involved. The descriptions I’ve met show the Chinese on the one side being fairly wary of the Africans, and on the other the Africans taking the Chinese money but giving little in return. Jung Chang, whom I’m sure a lot of Chinese would nowadays describe as a traitor, wrote an amusing description of speaking to visiting African sailors in Guangzhou.

    As for the non-acceptance of the ‘out of Africa’ theory, I can only say it is because some people do not wish to accept that they are descended directly from Africans. This despite genetic studies showing that the two separate and distinct ethnic groups who make up the race nowadays known as the Han both have the same origin as everyone else on this planet. It is the government that resists changing the text books, a piece of unscientific ludditism little better than the insistance of some American scholars on teaching so-called ‘intelligent design’.

    As for the textbook, from memory it is a book called ‘British and American culture’. Peter Hessler also wrote about this book in ‘River Town’ – look it up, you’ll see he describes it just as I have written. The belief that so-called ‘sexual deviancy’ is a foreign invention is an example of a commonly held racist belief found in China that state education does nothing to dispell, and in fact encourages.

    The quote from Kaiser Wilhelm (who actually contributed little to the effort) certainly belongs in any history of the Boxer rebellion, but so does the massacre of foreigners and the siege of the legations – otherwise the history of the event is unbalanced. However, the goal of state education in this area is not to impart a balanced view of the history of that era, but to reinforce the message that China can only be saved from foreign invasion by a ‘strong socialist motherland’. The fact that the wacky beliefs of the 义和团 (foreigners drink blood and eat babies, bullets will turn into water), their belief in Qigong, and their anti-government stand make them very similar to the ‘counter-revolutionary’ Falungong is quite ironic.

    As for the comparison between the murder of innocent people by rioters and a terrorist attack by suicide bombers, this is not much of a good fit. The whole idea of the riots being sparked by a ‘conspiracy by splittist forces’ is one with no substantial proof whatsoever behind it. The idea that you can conjure up some kind of special ‘sensitivity’ that disallows anyone casting doubt on the idea of the riots being the result of a conspiracy is not one conducive to debate. Anyway, I might ask, was the ‘sensitivity’ surrounding the 9/11 attacks reasonable? Did it result in good decision making?

    @CLC – James Fallows is a brilliant writer, but he cannot speak Chinese and has no idea what people are saying around him. However, I second him in saying that my experience of China was, all thing considered, a pleasant one.

    @Anon – Isn’t it about time you chose a name rather than going as ‘Anon’?

  56. ann
    June 17th, 2008 at 00:45 | #56

    With all due respect for the genuine expressions of outsiderness felt by some foreign immigrants in China, I cannot see how racial tension is the main thing underlying some other expats’ unpleasant experiences in China, which amounts to no more than xenophobia-as-permission-to-complain. So you feel you are denied equal access to a fancy hotel because of your Anglo looks, but is it really *racial profiling*, or just maybe there are pent-up political tensions, on all sides, giving rise to quotidian hostility between locals and their *frenemies*?

    Racism is grounded in history and there is no counterpart throughout Chinese history comparable to the great deal of injustice, like blacks (or other minorities) faced or continue to face in western societies. There is also little racial/ethnic pattern in China in terms of illiteracy, crimes, lack access to health care, etc., while these problems seem to particularly beset minorities in the west. We may not have the counterpart of affirmative action in China, although minorities do enjoy tax/tuition exemptions, but this just attests to the lack of systematic discriminations or prejudices along the racial/ethnic line in China. What some foreigners may perceive as racial prejudice is more likely attributable to irrational nativism which is not unique to China. Try living in Japan for a while and the China experience may not seem so bad. 🙂

  57. BMY
    June 17th, 2008 at 02:08 | #57

    @FOARP and Anon,

    I am sorry to hear your many unpleasant experience in China and draw your conclusion of “racist” Chinese people. And it’s good to know the other side of feelings rather than only knowing just the privileges have been given to foreigners (外宾)

    Maybe I’ve left China few years is too long and it has been lot of changes. But I still can’t images a foreigner would fear of being beaten up(or self-preservation) if he(she) tells Chinese kids in the class about “staring or shouting at people are not good manners”. I never witnessed foreigners just by walking in the street been insulted by strangers in my 30 years of time lived in China. it is wrong of those individules who are doing this as I don’t know the percentages out of the whole population.

    Regaring the ridiculous stories on the textbooks FOARP mentioned and I can’t image and I don’t think they are in textbooks in present day schools.

    I do remember I read similar stories about the “bad west” in 70s and early 80s from articles but not in school textbooks. I do remember in mid-late 80s I read many articles everywhere about how amazed the west culture/systems/people were. there was a then highly rated book and also TV serial called 河殇 which praised the west and totally bashed Chinese culture. Those were part of the causes of 89 movement.

    doesn’t matter people call the phenomenons we are discussing are “racism” or not. they are discriminations(mainly from behalves not from institution) against people who are from other places(province or country).

    Regarding the brawls FOARP experienced in pub, let me tell you a similar story I witnessed in the street which happened in the early 90s. I heard people yelling in the street”老广打老陕咧” because there was a street fight between a local with someone not local(might just looked like a Cantonese person) .and soon the “老广“ was beaten up by a group of ganging up locals. whatever the motive (race or origin based) were behind are not right.

  58. Chris
    June 17th, 2008 at 03:41 | #58

    It really depends on how you define “racism”. As a foreigner living in China, no matter how well you know the language and culture, you will never integrate like a Chinese person could plausibly do in the United States. This is a fact of life: no matter how hard you try, China as a country is defined (like 99% of the world) along largely racial lines, and you will never become Chinese. 没办法…

    I am a guest in this country, and on the whole Chinese people treat me very well. While I have come across some ignorant and disrespectful Chinese people, this is the same as anywhere else in the world. My Grandfather, veteran of the Korean War, is blatently racist toward Asians. He’s completely bewildered why I would want to live among so many Chinese people, and has some very backwards attitudes. However, I know that he’s a good person in his heart, and that he’s just biased and ignorant. A palpable minority of Chinese people are just as biased and ignorant, and I think it’s important for Chinese people to understand that. You may not see it, just as many white people in the United States don’t see any racism towards blacks and wonder what all the fuss is about.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. The key is whether you think racism is “the systemic oppression of an ethnic group” or simply “any show of disrespect on the basis of race”. When it comes to foreigners, the former obviously doesn’t apply, but the latter often does. C’est la vie.

  59. BMY
    June 17th, 2008 at 04:14 | #59

    Chris, thanks for telling your experience in China.

  60. Anon
    June 17th, 2008 at 05:06 | #60

    @ann

    Try living in Japan for a while and the China experience may not seem so bad.

    I have actually lived in Japan and it is a country where you sometimes forget that you are a foreigner, believe it or not. Racism in Japan is way hyped up, in my experience. The only reason we hear about racism in there is that we expect more of Japanese than we sometimes expect of ourselves. For the two years I lived there, I can only recall that I was assaulted two or three times and only verbally.

  61. June 17th, 2008 at 07:34 | #61

    I thought the article was pretty good. I used to hang around areas around SanYuanLi with my cousin and we talked to a lot of the shopkeepers there. They all looked down on the ‘black ghosts’. None of them had anything good to say about them. However, at the same time, the negative comments were very generic and they all repeated the same thing. When I asked them for specific examples, they just said things like ‘they’re loud’ or ‘they don’t speak Chinese’. I’m not sure if they’re actually speaking from experience or if they’re just saying what everyone else says.

  62. June 17th, 2008 at 08:13 | #62

    @BMY – The book I was talking about is a university textbook used in at least the majority of Chinese universities back in 2004. It may well have been written in the early eighties – it refers to the 1976 moratorium on executions as proof of the US’s ‘lawlessness’ – but was still being printed and used back in 2004.

    I don’t need to go far to see people bashing folk from other areas, a trip to a London football ground may very well show the same thing. All the same, you won’t see videos like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIbLzIo4FY0&feature=related

    become karaoke favourites which can be found in every KTV in the country.

    @Ann – China has a history of racial conflict which is the equal of any western country. Look up the history of the Yuan or Qing empires and you will see this. Hell, why do you show the above video to some of your Japanese friends and see what they say?

  63. BMY
    June 17th, 2008 at 11:24 | #63

    now I am telling some of my own personal experience of being assaulted in Sydney.

    a anglo-looking high school student from a group yell at me and my wife when we were walking in our local suburb street:Chinese mother f**er

    I was hit by a egg threw out of a passing by car full of laughing young males

    I got robbered twice in broad daylight by groups of Caucasian youth . I(and all my family members) never got robbered in China.

    some of the incidents were race motivated and some of them were just street crime and the victim happened to me-a Chinese

    I don’t jump up and conclude that general Aussies are racist because I’ve been assaulted few times. I know most of people in Australia are hardworking kind people.

    there are ignorant elements in any society.

  64. Oli
    June 17th, 2008 at 11:47 | #64

    Oh for crying out loud! What’s the big frigging deal! So some foreigners (white, black, pink, blue whatever) encounters some individual imbecilic comments and behaviour in another country where they are the minority, so what???? It happense anywhere where there are uneducated, narrow minded bigots. I’ve encountered my fair share of racism and prejudice in Europe, the Americas and in Asia. Usually I either just laugh in their faces, give back as good as I got or just put on a look of total surprise or pity depending on the circumstances and watch them trundle off sheepishly.

    Consequently why should China or the Chinese people be any different? Chinese idealists, the educated and sinophiles may wish it was different, but to judge China against a higher yardstick is to project one’s own idealism and prejudice unto reality, which is in itself pretty patronising and condescending. Thus conjuring the stereotypical image of the reserved, geeky, bespectacled Chinese/Oriental nerd and should a Chinese person then loose his cool, it then becomes tut-tutting, “Oh that’s just typical isn’t it?”.

    Of course China, like past European Kingdoms, has undertaken tribal warfare in the past for what was she to do if these same tribes undertake raids into the Chinese heartland or Chinese interests were at stake. However, Chinese society overall are generally and on the whole far more tolerant (though individual and personal frictions are of course inevitable) of outsiders, foreign cultures and foreign religion if they come in peace and do not seek to destabilise the established political order. And to my knowledge no past Chinese governments, imperial or republic, have ever policy-wise instituted specifically racial persecution within China.

    I mean seriously, I’ll statrt to really worry when there is a Chinese Krystall Nacht or the average Chinese start dabling crescent moons on the Hui or the Uighurs or the sawstikas on Tibetans. Frankly I find that European, American and Australian elites and their leadership far more racist in sentiment than China’s with its traditional Confucian-Taoist-Buddhist outlook and tolerance. As for African leaders, it sadly all too often boils down to tribes and money.

  65. June 17th, 2008 at 12:22 | #65

    @Oli – Once again, if you say that you know of no instances of previous governments implementing racist policies, look up the opression of the Han by the Manchus and Mongols. Different ethnic groups in modern-day China do have different laws applied to them. If you want an instance of a Chinese movement that sought to kill each and every foreigner they could get their hands on, look up the Boxer rebellion. None of these things excuse racism directed at Chinese.

    The main point here was that many attempt to deny that racism exists or is a problem in China, and it is a hell of a lot easier to laugh things like this off if you are not planning to live in a country long-term.

    @BMY – I am very sorry to hear of the treatment you have received in Australia. Britain, of course, bears its share of responsibility for the whole ‘white Australia’ program.

  66. Anon
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:52 | #66

    @Dandan

    Thanks for sharing this, I have very similar experiences.

  67. Anon
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:56 | #67

    @oli

    I mean seriously, I’ll statrt to really worry when there is a Chinese Krystall Nacht or the average Chinese start dabling crescent moons on the Hui or the Uighurs or the sawstikas on Tibetans.

    That is more or less what happened in 1911, when local mobs instituted pogroms against Manchus, not making any distinction between men, women and children.

  68. Buxi
    June 17th, 2008 at 15:48 | #68

    @Oli,

    Anon/FOARP are completely right on this point. China in recent centuries has had a long, bloody history of racial conflict and oppression that rivals what was seen in Europe.

    The Qing dynasty itself was, in modern terms, extremely “racist”. Society was segregated by race, with Manchu and other non-Han given legal superiority. There are a few infamous massacres of Han Chinese by Manchus early during the Qing. And during the revolution in 1911, in addition to fighting between Qing troops (which were Manchu and Han) with revolutionaries… there are also documented reports of a few days of racial purges against Manchu in various areas of China. The central government moved quickly to stop this.

    If you look at the 19th and 20th centuries, there were also a number of other religious/race wars. The Christian-inspired Taiping rebellion; a series of religious uprisings with Muslims in Gansu/Qinghai/Xinjiang…

    But this is all largely history. China is where it is today because for about 90 years, the Chinese government has tried to erase this long history of racial and religious confrontation. Sun Zhongshan made unity of the “five races” a core part of his Republican ideal. Mao Zedong continued it, with a Communist-emphasis.

    For China to continue to be a peaceful, unified country, for us to reject our historical legacy, we really do need to emphasize the creation of a new shared Chinese (zhonghua minzu) identity. This is really why Tibetan (and non-zhonghua minzu) nationalism can’t be tolerated.

  69. Buxi
    June 17th, 2008 at 16:02 | #69

    @FOARP,

    I don’t need to go far to see people bashing folk from other areas, a trip to a London football ground may very well show the same thing. All the same, you won’t see videos like this:

    LOL, I had never seen that video before. I admit it, I laughed.

    In terms of people bashing folk from other areas.. you mean something like this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiCkVEjCh_8

    I really don’t know if China has a monopoly on popular hatred of a neighboring country… and hell, France hasn’t even invaded England for centuries. Perhaps its because BBC, the state-controlled broadcaster, is always fanning the flames of racism?

  70. June 17th, 2008 at 16:05 | #70

    @Buxi – This process is what is called ‘nation-building’, and is one of the reasons why I beleive that other countries can learn much from China’s current state of affairs.

  71. Oli
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:36 | #71

    I think what we are discussing here is a matter of degrees. When the Manchus and the Yuan dynasty conquered China, they simply didn’t trust the Han Chinese. I mean seriously, would you trust the people you’ve just conquered, how naive can you be???? Ask your average American soldier patroling the streets of Saigon or Baghdad whether they trust/ed the locals.

    As for the Mongols they were never interested in becoming rulers, but wanted to continue being conquerors, so of course the Han resented it and kicked them out. In contrast after things settled down and the Manchus adopted Confucian ethics and admitted Han Chinese officials in their administration (after having dealt with the minor problem of Wu Sangui and Taiwan), thereby co-opting the old Han elites, China enjoyed over 250 years of peace.

    Were there discrimination? Hell, yes, but retrospectively with the hindsight of history I tend to view the discrimination towards the Han as the Manchus’ reaction towards preserving their culture. To the extent that like the Scots, much of what we today regard as quitessentially Manchurian, such as the banner system, which ironically included many Han Chinese, were actually fabrications and inventions that occurred after the conquest of China.

    As for the Boxer Rebellion, this was a society wide rejection of Western imperialism and avarice in the early 1900’s rather than a state sponsored movement, though granted that the daowger empress sought to exploit the rebellion against the foreigners. Prior to that there were no records of persecution, whether state sponsored, like the killing of jesuit priests in Japan, or mass social pogroms against foreigners. I mean after rampaging around China and the Opium Wars do you expect the Chinese people to just sit back and get screwed williy nilly????

    As for the pogroms against the Manchus after 1911, I am not convinced that this was racially motivated and nor are there evidence to that effect either. I regard it as people being fed up with an ineffectual government that happened to be Manchurian and that the Chinese people were pissed off that the Manchurian nobles willingly prostituted themselves to the Japanese (ie Manchuko) to regain their status from the republicans.

    Once again I reiterate, in comparison to Western/Australian/Japanese government policies and culture in the past I know of no occasion where a Chinese government whether imperial or republican deliberately and systematically set out a policy of society-wide discrimination and persecution within China.

  72. AC
    June 17th, 2008 at 18:24 | #72

    During the Yuan and Qing dynasties, the MAJORITY (i.e. Han Chinese) was on the receiving end of the discrimination. At least at the beginning of those dynasties, the Mongols and Manchus were not considered Chinese by most of the Chinese. Some Western historians still don’t want to admit Yuan and Qing are Chinese dynasties.

    The slogan “驱除鞑虏,复兴中华” used in 辛亥革命 was not racism motivated, it was used to unify and rally the Chinese people (mostly Han) to overthrow the Manchu imperial rule. The slogan was quickly changed to “五族共和” after the Qing emperor was overthrown. There is no state sanctioned racism or discrimination against the minorities in the republic era (ROC and PRC).

    Using these examples as Chinese racism is a practice of quoting out of context.

    For millenniums, Jews faced discriminations in their adopted countries around the world, they kept their identities, religion and traditions. But Jewish communities in China disappeared over time, they integrated themselves into the Chinese society. How did that happen? Because they were not discriminated against, they were treated as emperors’ subjects just like the rest of Chinese. They were given the right to own land and properties, they were allowed to take imperial exams just like the Chinese.

    Same with the Arabs. Today in Quanzhou, Fujian, you can find tombstones with Arabic on them everywhere. The descendants of those people look as Chinese as I do, although they kept their religion.

    These historical facts prove that the Chinese culture was/is not as discriminatory and xenophobic as some people here tried to make it out to be.

    The most serious racial incident in China happened in Nanjing (Buxi’s hometown?) in 1988. Some African students brought two Chinese girls to a Christmas party on campus. They got into a fight with the security guards. That angered the Chinese students and protests followed. I don’t know the details but I do know this, there wouldn’t be a fight if they behaved gentlemanly.

    What I have to say is, if you want to be treated as a gentleman, act like one yourself, and if you act like a jerk, you are going to be treated as a jerk. This rule is true in any country and culture.

  73. Oli
    June 17th, 2008 at 20:16 | #73

    @AC

    About the Jews in China, they were intergrated/assimilated/ whatever into Chinese society not just because of its generally overall tolerance, but also because of the percularities of Judaism. Having often discussed Judaism with my Jewish friends I hypothesize that one of the reason why Judaism was passed along the maternal line is that it is a survival strategy eveolved from generations of conquest, enslavement and dispersal.

    Conquerors are often more likely to kill off the men and enslave the women and children such that women became the natural custodian of the Jewish culture, tradition and religion, consequently giving the Jewish ethnicity a chance, however slim, at survival and continuance, irrespective of rape and servitude. However, in China many of the initial Jewish traders were men and because of the great distance it became practically impossible to bring Jewish womenfolk along. After marrying local women the Jewish culture natural subsumed into the Chinese society.

  74. Oli
    June 17th, 2008 at 20:33 | #74

    @FORAP
    China’s ethnic different ethnic groups have different law applied to them.

    Yeah, so what???? Sometimes these laws work sometimes they don’t. The devil is in the details. The point is whether they are negatively discriminatroy or not. Or maybe China should do the reverse, follow the American/Canadian/Australian example and stick all non-Han Chinese into their own (“natural”???) reserve/preserve??? What utter tosh!!

    I say far better in the long term that they join the 21st Century than drag it out and watch their culture undergo a slow suffocating death and become nothing more than tourist curiosity and museum pieces. At least this way their next generation has the chance to become prosperous and with it the money to maintain their own culture according to their own interpretations. BTW, culture is not sacrosanct nor immutable. It changes…duh!!!

  75. AC
    June 17th, 2008 at 20:42 | #75

    @Oli

    That’s an interesting theory.

    I am not an expert on this, but I would imagine that the offsprings of the first generation Jewish males would prefer to marry each other instead of the local Chinese if that’s their tradition? Apparently that was not the case.

    Besides, Poland and Russia are just as far away from Jerusalem as China is.

  76. Anon
    June 17th, 2008 at 21:28 | #76

    @Oli and AC

    I don’t find your argument about the fate of the Jews in China particularly convincing. There have been waves of religious persecution in China, against Buddhists, Christians and Moslems, and I suspect that the Jews suffered the same fate eventually.

  77. Buxi
    June 17th, 2008 at 21:36 | #77

    @Anon,

    Other than very rare exceptions (like Emperor Wuzong of the Tang dynasty back in 800 AD), I’m not aware of any sort of anti-Buddhist, anti-Christian “religious persecution” in China.

    The persecution under the hands of the Boxer rebellion was towards *foreign* missionaries, much more accurately to describe it as an anti-foreign persecution than religious persecution.

    As far as anti-Muslim persecution, again, not aware of its existence. There have been wars *against* Muslims (like in the 19th century, mentioned in my previous post), but these were often fought by Muslim generals on behalf of the Empire.

    So, compared to the history of the world at large… China has a history of being extremely, extremely tolerant towards religious practice.

    By the way, I talked about Judism’s history in China in this post as well:
    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/?p=19

  78. BMY
    June 18th, 2008 at 01:18 | #78

    @FORAP

    “@BMY – I am very sorry to hear of the treatment you have received in Australia. Britain, of course, bears its share of responsibility for the whole ‘white Australia’ program.”

    I don’t really feel any “white Australia” program today even there were few incidence happened to me. Australia is a multi culture country. Almost every Australian I know in person from all different background/origin are nice people.

    I don’t think you and the younger generation of British need feel guilty of “white Australia policy”. It was the past. we got move forward.

  79. Oli
    June 18th, 2008 at 01:49 | #79

    @Anon

    What I said about Judaism being passed down on the maternal line was just a personal anthropological theory/hypothesis of one of many aspects to the tradition. Another being the obvious nurturing maternal role which dictates that children inevitably spend more time with their mother, thereby making the mother the best conduit to pass on the religion/culture. But overall, not even my Jewish friends nor his rabbi know the exact or all the reasons why.

    As for there having been “periodic waves of religious persecutions in China”, show me the proof!! Go and compile a list with the years or dates when such “persecutions” supposedly took place and we can analyse your interpretations.

    Granted, there have been times when one emperor or another favoured Taoism over Buddhism or vice versa or one Buddhist sect over another, such that it may become more a matter of competition for imperial political patronage and influence and imperial policies of balancing social-religious forces rather than the outright persecution of any single religion in and of itself.

    Furthermore, just as with the Catholic vs Protestant conflict in Elizabethan England, which was really about royal prerogative vs papal power; do not mistake what is in fact a political conflict for a religious one.

    With its historically Confucian political ethics and modus operandi which have very little to say about religion and by extension on the issue of race in general, the Chinese people and its governments couldn’t give a toss about race and religion. That is until someboday tries to upset the apple cart and politicise the issue thereby seeking to destablise the existing political order for their own narrow gain. Just as with European states, China’s imperial governments have never tolerated religious rivals to their temporal authority.

    With the exception of China and India, I know of no other enduring civilisation, and definitely not those of the West, where three or more major world religions coexisted largely peacefully for so long and largely free of state sponsored religious persecutions.

    @Anon
    As for you suspecting the Jews having suffered the same fate, unless all you’ve got are speculations and conjectures, show us the proof. In contrast there are plenty of evidence that Judaism existed in China since the Tang Dynasty and that more often than not they fought for and was very much part of Imperial China (I suggest you google the name Zhao Yingcheng) against the nomadic tribes.

    So show us evidence that Jews were persecuted by the state in China, otherwise you are just another piffy ignoramus pretending to understand China, the ilk of which we have all too much of lately.

    Frankly the issue of race and eugenics is an unhealthy outgrowth born out of human’s competitive nature and the Western scientific tradition and obssession with categorisation and classification. Which in turn all too often permanently narrow people’s perspective when it was originally simply intended as an aide to further our understanding of nature rather than as an end in itself.

  80. Anon
    June 18th, 2008 at 15:48 | #80

    @Buxi

    I agree that the relative degree of religious pluralism in China has no clear counterpart in Europe. But let’s not delude ourselves to think that China was “tolerant” because of that. The fact that Moslems suffered discrimination during the Qing is widely documented. And Christianity was banned in China in the early 18th century, and both Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries were executed long before anyone had come with the idea of exporting opium to China. So let’s be fair. I don’t think any country can claim any moral high ground on tolerance when you go back 200 years back or so.

  81. Buxi
    June 18th, 2008 at 16:18 | #81

    @Anon,

    Looking through the Chinese websites, I can find mention of a limited Qing dynasty crack-down on Sufism, partly because of some of the political movements it was related to. But “discrimination” of Muslims in general? Again, there were numerous high-ranking Muslim generals and state officials.

    As far as Christianity in China, there’s a long history of Christians being present in China before the Qing dynasty. In the Yongzheng era, he did expel foreign *missionaries* and tried to rename Catholicism in China (literally: “heavenly master religion”) so that it didn’t suggest political allegiance to a foreign master. So, all in all, I think that was still more of a political than religious conflict.

    As I mention in the other blog post I linked, perhaps Judism has survived in China partly because it’s not missionary, and because it’s not harshly sectarian. I’m not aware of anything like a Jewish crusade or inquisition. I think China will continue to be tolerant of religions that are not missionary, and not harshly sectarian.

    Compared to the countries of Europe, I really do believe historically China can claim the moral high ground on religious tolerance… at least with religions that are themselves tolerant. China has never depended on religious belief as a unifying cultural factor, the way that Europe (traditionally) has.

  82. June 18th, 2008 at 16:52 | #82

    In fact nearly all metrics of religious freedom put China in the bottom twenty countries of the world, above countries like Saudi Arabia, but in some cases below borderline failed states like Zimbabwe, Syria and Sri Lanka.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3865&page=1

    Ethnic conflict in China is low compared to the rest of the third world, but only slightly better than average for the nations of South-East Asia.

  83. Buxi
    June 18th, 2008 at 20:09 | #83

    @FOARP,

    Actually, there’s only one metric used by the West to gauge religious freedom… whether the state interferes with religious practice. And there’s no doubt that in China, the state interferes with religion.

    This is a very black or white interpretation of what religious tolerance really mean. It demands a binary value: “free”, or “unfree”. And that’s not good enough to describe reality. The reality is that religious practice in China is free within firm political boundaries.

  84. June 18th, 2008 at 20:55 | #84

    @Buxi – I was born in a country with an official state religion where the position of head of state is restricted to members of the Church of England, I received state funded education in a Church of England school where we said the Lord’s Prayer every day and received daily religious instruction, and which was still an ongoing sectarian struggle which killed thousands. In the space of three years there have been at least four instances of terrorist attacks by people motivated by religious extremism. Unlike the PRC, UK’s constitution does not guarantee religious free – because the UK does not have a constitution.

    Put like this, the UK sounds like a state with a high degree of religious persecution and state control of faith, but this not the reality on the ground. China has laws which ostensibly protect religious freedom – but essentially grant unregulated control over religious belief in a way offensive to those who practice it. Religious belief that is “free within firm political boundaries” is not free.

  85. Anon
    June 18th, 2008 at 21:32 | #85

    @Buxi

    No, religious persecution after the Yongzheng era did extend to Chinese converts, many of who were sent on exile, and hundreds of churches were confiscated or razed to the ground.

    Furthermore, as a response to your earlier point about the Boxer War, we should remember that the “Boxers” did not only set out to expel all foreigners, but also to exterminate all Chinese Christians. Indeed the major victims of the Boxers were actually Chinese, not foreigners, and a lot of the people who hid in the Legation quarter were Chinese.

    You say that Judaism has survived in China, has it? I have been to Kaifeng and seen a few Mosques, but not a single Jew or a single Synagogue. I know that a few scriptures have been recovered from Kaifeng, but as far as I know there is no active Jewish community. Let’s also remember the fact that the Jews who survived the Holocaust by staying under foreign-ruled Shanghai, were encouraged to leave China after 1949.

  86. June 18th, 2008 at 21:56 | #86

    @Anon – Mate, try finding some evidence about persecution of the Jews in China. At a guess, I would say that Shanghai Jews were wary of the CCP given Stalin’s policies against ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ – but I find no evidence of them actually doing anything. Anyway, by 1949 both Israel and the US would have been far more attractive destinations than a beseiged Shanghai.

    Like I said, China is one of the twenty countries in the world most persecuting of those who have religious belief. A history of tolerance does not change this.

  87. Buxi
    June 19th, 2008 at 01:00 | #87

    @FOARP,

    You didn’t really offer a rebuttal. You just repeated the mantra that “gray is black”, the same observation I predicted earlier. I’ll certainly agree that compared to most Western liberal nations, religious freedom in China is very gray.

    This is all a more or less recent development. I was a little surprised to read that the British empire didn’t “legalize” the practice of Islam until 1821. But along with growing superpower status comes growing confidence. And along with failing national stability comes growing doubt.

    I’ll just say that I’m not necessarily sanguine about religious freedoms in Great Britain, either in the aftermath of a devastating Islam-inspired civil war (similar to our Taiping war), or if forced to live in the same world as hegemonic Islamic superpowers (imagine Iran and the United States trading places)… we’re only 100 years removed from blatantly hegemonic Christian superpowers, after all.

    History, and the series of events involving Abu Hamza al-Masri, tells me that the state of religous freedom can change very quickly, indeed.

  88. June 19th, 2008 at 07:39 | #88

    @Buxi – My point was that I endorse your ‘shades of grat’ approach, but I think that the situation in China is towards the extreme end of the dark end of the scale – not as bad as Iran or Saudi Arabia of course, but a long way behind most countries at comparable states of economic development.

  89. Anon
    June 19th, 2008 at 14:21 | #89

    @FOARP

    All I have said that I’m not sure if there has been no persecution of Jews in China, given what we know about religious persecution there in general.

  90. Oli
    June 19th, 2008 at 15:31 | #90

    So we have moved from race to religion now have we? My, some people do have a very big axe to grind and I wonder what carrying around such a big axe all the time does to a person’s mental health and rationality particularly when one is prone to using sweeping generalisations.

    @ FOARP & Anon

    “Metrics of religious freedom” depends on who commission these reports/statistical analysis, their motivations and agenda, what are its criteria, parameters, interpretive methodolgy etc. Consequently, anybody can play these absurd statistical games. Survey companies and statistical analysts/researchers/”scientists” churn out such “studies” by the busload every week to say what partisan/marketing/interest groups want it to say, such that it all becomes so much “marketing”, hypercritical BS.

    In China, with its 50+ ethnic groups and corresponding religious and cultural practices, people pretty much practice whatever religion/belief system they want within the privacy of their own homes, subject to certain legal restraints and exclusions, some of which are no different from other countries’ and some that are specific to China’s own socio-political circumstances, evolution and perceived needs.

    If you are born into a family of certain religious convictions and continue that belief/practice or you seek to join certain legally recognised religion of your own volition or seek to individually convert, there are no existing ban stopping you from doing so. But, the biggest No NO is the ban on public proselytising, preaching, actively seeking converts and the politicisation of religion.

    Such restrictions/rejections didn’t began with the Communists, but have always been both part of Chinese culture and were at one time or another formalised in its legal code or by imperial edict. The reasons are manifold and some of it includes maintaining social peace (imagine the fuss Chinese Muslims or Tibetan Buddhists will kick up if some happy-clappy American/S. Korean missionaries publicly and loudly set up shop in their neighbourhood and seek to convert their youth) and other Chinese’ cultural disdain for their children to join a celibate clergy, whether of the Buddhist or Christian persuasion, because of a perceived duty/importance to continue the family name/line and to have progenitors, especially under the one-child policy.

    Nor are such restrictions/ban unique to China. Turkey bans the wearing of the head scarf in certain circumstances, Malaysia bans the seeking of Muslim converts, certain US states ban the practice of religious polygamy (I would love to see them go after the Saudi princes, no wait oil is at stake) and same sex marriages. Ireland bans abortion on religious grounds (if you are pro-choice), the UK generally allows abortion (if you are pro-life), Germany imposes a church tax on everybody irrespective of their religion and the list goes on, including bureaucratic or judicial mechanism for the automatic banning of cults that are deemed not conducive to public health or interests.

    As different religions have always been practised in China and for the sake of social stability and efficiency, Chinese governments have always maintained and insisted on its legal and political supremacy over any religious/spiritual institutions. And this was so even long before the idea of a separation of state and church and parliamentary/legislative supremacy was but a twinkle in the eyes of Voltaire (a fan of Confucian rationalism), Rousseau, Bacon and the French/Scottish revolutionaries of the European Enlightenment period.

    Because of historical experiences and competing religions, China’s peoples, particularly the majority Han Chinese have always been too pragmatic and cynical/sceptical to go wholesale into one religion or another, so that they are more superstitious, at best “spiritual”, than religious. Consequently, China is perhaps the only ancient civilisation that does not have a home grown organised religion (personally I consider Taoism (The Way) more a philosophy than a religion) nor adopted an official state religion.

    Besides, the loudest complaining seems to come from foreign pseudo-religious interest groups who are being deprived of potentially new “customers” and new “revenue streams”. And lest we forget, it is these same religious groups/people who are so irrationally convinced of the “rightness” of their own interpretation of the divine or its existence that have so often been the cause/impetus of religious/sectarian bloodshed.

    Just look at the Crusades and some American right wing religious neo-cons’ unquestioning support of Israeli government policies simply because they believe that the second coming of Jesus will occur if all Jews returned to Palestine. On the other hand there was nary a squeak of protest/condemnation from the pro-democracy/freedom of religion brigade when the Algerian military took power in a coup d’etat just when an Islamist party won the election in the 1990s and was poised to take power. What utter hypocritical bollocks.

    So ultimately tough luck, it’s the law of the land and to harp on about China restricting “freedom” of religion is a disingenuity based on a selective and myopic narrative, concluding in sweeping generalisations to support a narrow, partisan political purpose, whilst disregarding the overall picture and China’s socio-political evolution and circumstances. And frankly why should China be like everybody else??? How boring and inherently intolerant is that!

    Consequently, I would rather that China’s peoples remain superstitious/spiritual rather than religious and that current restrictions remain in place. This way its people will continue to question the possible existence/non-existence of the divine and its social and ethical mores can continue to evolve and to adapt to changes, for this has always been what underpinned the perseverance of its civilisation. All too often it is only when we are too sure of ourselves and of what we believe in that we stagnate, ossify, and give rise to religious/racial/political conflicts.

  91. Buxi
    June 19th, 2008 at 15:42 | #91

    Solid post, Oli. Any interest in submitting that as a blog entry…? I’m sure Anon and FOARP will want to respond as well, and this deserves its own discussion.

    Contact CLC at webmaster@hiddenharmonies.org, and he can get you setup with an account…

  92. June 19th, 2008 at 16:14 | #92

    @Oli – Please explain the ban on following Roman Catholicism, the world’s largest religion.

    Please explain the ban on Anglicanism.

    Please explain the ban on the Society Of Friends (AKA the Quakers).

    Please explain the bar on the religious joining the communist party.

    These are not quirks, and pointing them out is not an ‘absurd statistical game’. They constitute a campaign on the part of the government to eliminate any competition for the loyalty of the populace. You are right to say these restrictions are not unique to China, I believe North Korea exercises even stronger forms of oppression – no doubt the high level of development in that country is a result of this.

    Do you not find the idea that those of religious belief in China must restrict themselves to the so-called ‘Patriotic’ religious organisations ‘boring and inherently intolerant’?

  93. S.K. Cheung
    June 20th, 2008 at 05:20 | #93

    To Oli:
    “As different religions have always been practised in China and for the sake of social stability and efficiency, Chinese governments have always maintained and insisted on its legal and political supremacy over any religious/spiritual institutions” – it’s one thing to be spiritual/superstitious within the confines of your own home; but it’s a little harder to seek fellowship when the state condemns congregation.  I agree with some of your points, for example, Christian-based faiths do have a somewhat “viral” nature about them, but if a family doesn’t want their “one child” to be enticed into leading a life of celibacy, isn’t that an issue for the family to deal with, rather than have big brother decide for them?  It’s also striking how frequently China does things for the “sake of social stability”…is its society so inherently unstable, or is that just the convenient CCP tagline to quash any progenitors of potential dissent?

  94. Oli
    June 20th, 2008 at 10:38 | #94

    @Buxi
    Hi, quite like the new, cleaner format and the font, although the delayed posting update threw me off a bit initially, but now that I know its not a technical fault I guess I can live with it. And as for entering my posting as a blog entry, I am flattered/glad that you like it and I don’t mind, besides this thread has obviously moved on from its original topic and the discussion section has become a bit long. As for setting up an account, please understand that I am not a blogger nor do I have my own personal blog and am worried about the amount of maintenance it entails and what am I committing to by being setup with an account. I Peruse these blogs simply as primary sources of news and people’s sentiments and I am sometimes moved to comment when I encounter obvious misconceptions and preconceptions born out of intellectual sloth and inflexibility.
     
    As for answering FOARP and SK Cheung their questions, I would like to do it under a new entry and a new thread just for the sake of orderliness. But to give FOARP a hint of my answers to his questions, I would say that the they lie in FOARP’s own supposedly Anglican educational background and that he should look there for the answers to his own questions. And should he still not understand, he can ask me again under the new blog entry and I shall endeavour to answer them.

  95. admin
    June 20th, 2008 at 12:32 | #95

    @Oli

    I already set up an account for you. Please check your email for info. Trust me, blogging is (almost) the same as commenting. There are zero maintenance work and no commitment to write a post.

  96. June 20th, 2008 at 13:31 | #96

    @Oli – Yes, I went to a C. Of E. Primary School – what’s your point? If I am anything now, I am an agnostic. If you think that the Archbishop of Canterbury is somekind of evil genius plotting against China, or are worried that someone like Desmond Tutu might come out of some Chinese Christian movement (and wouldn’t that be terrible?), let me just say that I doubt things would turn out that way.

    Obviously, a group like the Society of Friends is an evil conspiracy against the Chinese people – I mean, they are pacifists who live according to personal beliefs, the danger is clear for everyone to see!

  97. Leo
    June 20th, 2008 at 19:15 | #97

    @Anon,

    Regarding the Jewish refugees, all the foreigners were encouraged to leave after 1949. The policies were not only applied to Jews, but also to White Russians, French missionaries, and people of other origins, which has nothing to do with Jewry or Judaism. The policy was pushy and the US and Australia were luring with citizenship. Some did stay behind. Some foreigners who acquired Chinese citizenship after 1949 were Jews, such as Israel Epstein, Ruth Weiss, Sidney Shapiro.

  98. TravIsland
    June 21st, 2008 at 17:42 | #98

    This is a great and insightful article.  The fact to me is that there are noticeable differeces between people all over the world…even within ones own country.  What’s new there?  The fact is misconseptions are exactly that.  Due to one’s past, even a simple misconception can be misconstrued to be racism…but is it?  Life is short, people.  If you have contemptuous dealings, you will likely breed contemptuous feelings.  Let it go…the world is changing.  Lets take the best of our pasts (no matter where you originated) and be a part of the growth and the understanding movement.  Personal Disclaimer: I write with all due respect for the contributors and appreciation for this dialog.

  99. August 6th, 2008 at 18:40 | #99

    I read wiith interest this piece on the experience of Africans in China. You might find equally interesting a piece that I wrote on a similar topic from the other side of the straits. My article can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

    http://xavierchance.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/more-than-skin-deep-taiwaneses-attitude-to-foreigners/

  100. August 6th, 2008 at 18:43 | #100

    Do you think that the fact that many African do not take time to learn Chinese can also contribute to Chinese’ attitudes towards them?

  101. NMBWhat
    August 31st, 2008 at 10:59 | #101

    No. It means that the Chines are racist.

    The way I look at it, you can argue about the semantics of the kinds of racisism, but in the end it still about a people hating another people, due to the difference of race.

    So fuck Chinese people!

    Hehehehehe.

    hey man, if any of these dudes meet me in real life they would definitely get a real friend. Fuck these other haters.

  102. NMBWhat
    August 31st, 2008 at 10:59 | #102

    * race and customs.

  103. BlackRacist
    September 1st, 2008 at 17:58 | #103

    NMBWhat you are a dumbass.

    What I want to know is why no one every talks about black racism. Oh, so when Russell Simmons says black ain’t racist then it must be true, right? All I can say is in America, a lot of blacks that I’ve interacted with are pretty damn racist, or at least have this smug superiority complex attitude problem with everyone else. And no, you can’t say that I’m just ignorant that I don’t have any real experience, well I do, I lived with many blacks. I can say this, they are just like everyone else. Although I don’t know why a majority of them are so prone to this I ain’t racist racist problem, that is, being racist to others without even realizing it. But I think they know, they just don’t care, it’s just a card that they play.

    No one dares to talk about it because there is huge white guilt in America.

  104. majority minority
    September 9th, 2008 at 20:26 | #104

    @ Buxi…i like most of what you write but i have a couple of points, slightly off topic-for this post…

    Buxi wrote:
    “For China to continue to be a peaceful, unified country, for us to reject our historical legacy, we really do need to emphasize the creation of a new shared Chinese (zhonghua minzu) identity. This is really why Tibetan (and non-zhonghua minzu) nationalism can’t be tolerated.”

    First of all, I will say I’m not a Free-Tibetter, and I don’t know how the average Tibetan feels about being part of China. I’m willing to believe that they are happy to be part of China, but I’m just as willing to believe they’re not. The world can see, thanks to the wonders of democracy, that a majority of people in Taiwan still consider themselves Chinese on some level. As we know, nowhere on the mainland can we tell this, least of all in Tibet. It’s certainly not impossible that the majority of Tibetans could be content to be part of China, that their motherland is the same as yours. It’s also possible that it isn’t. I wish foreigners would start to tend to the concerns of their cultures and stop projecting romantic fantasies onto the Tibetan people, but I also ask the same of the Chinese. All I ask is that Chinese admit that without transparency, and a critical media, most Chinese have as a little idea abouthow an average Tibetan feels as the average foreigner does. Then ask yourself if it should turn out that the Tibetans do not want to be in China, how can the Chinese still justify being there…without resorting to moral equivalency along the lines of …well, the US does it…

    It’s not only Tibet though. You seem to have a blind spot towards the minorities issue. The key to this is your uncritical look towards the official, and not necessarily ill-meaning, classification of non-Han minorities, as if they are all equal in their minority-ness. Some are much closer ethnically, culturally and geographically to the Han than others. Some are ethnically indistinguishable and more or less co-exist (such as the Hui), some are distributed through isolated pockets of remote territory otherwise long-controlled considered to be China (e.g Tujia in the mountains of central China or the Hakka in the south), some are outsiders who have Sinified themselves by becoming former rulers of China (the Mongols and Manchu), some share ethnicity and culture with actual sovereign countries bordering China (eg the Koreans and Khazaks and Dai in Yunnan), and some like the Tibetans and the Uygurs are historically seperate nations, whose leaders have been convinced, perhaps against the will of their people, to give up their sovereignty to co-operate as part of China. However, these social contracts are different for each nationality, and in some cases, they are finite, needing to be renewed with each generation. The current ones were made in times of promises of communist utopia, and have perhaps persevered through the times of initial optimism for market reform, but I think the Chinese need to realise that these periods of optimism have masked the true nature of the relationship between China and these outlying regions. Nationalism, regionalism and unrest is not simply the work of mischevious “splittists” insitgated by outsiders, it is a completely natural phenomenon between groups of people caused by time passing of time, and perhaps by the failure of the central government’s policies, either by doing too much, or too little.

    In the name of ensuring peace and unity within its borders as a whole, by not allowing any cracks to show in Tibet, by controlling too much with one hand and taking too much with the other, the Chinese policy up on the Himalyan plateau potentially sows the seeds of that disunity. While keeping a lid on regionalism throughout China as a whole, they may actually amplify disunity and segregation locally in Tibet.

    If you see all the minorities as the same, then its possible that you could extrapolate and say that conceding to one minority’s drive for independence would lead to all minorities in China wanting their independence too. But I doubt it would happen like that though, it’s simply not geographically practical for many of the nationalities to have their own country. I think the majority would want to stay within China too some out of a sense of loyalty, some because of the economic and cultural advantages it gives them. The likelyhood is that if China lost Tibet, what remained of China would continue as a peaceful and united country, just without Tibet. It’s a special case. What would become of Tibet is anyone’s guess. There’s no guarantee it would be peaceful and unified…

    as for the discussion on racism in China, you can still buy 黑人 “Black person” toothpaste. Certainly it’s more honest than the English name, being changed to a less derogatory “Darlie” to appease the PC watchdogs, but essentially unchanged. Aside from the name though, is the concept itself necessarily a racial slur, or is it a compliment to bright smiles and clean teeth ?

  105. vmoore55
    December 7th, 2008 at 10:49 | #105

    Nothing like a stupid Chinese person living in the good old US of A, NOT.

  106. December 18th, 2008 at 08:47 | #106

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I had no idea about “Chocolate City.” I reposted some of your article on the travel forum of ChinaTravel.net. Hope that is ok.

    http://www.chinatravel.net/forum/Guangzhou-Guangzhou-Chocolate-City-Africans-Seek-Their-Dreams-in-China/1499.html

    Regards,
    Rebekah

  107. Lilith
    December 20th, 2008 at 06:44 | #107

    It was heartening to read some of the comments posted on the site. It seems that some Africans living in GuangZhou experience life here as a positive experience, notwithstanding the sometimes blatant racism that appears to occur rather more frequently than we would like. I am an Australian living and working in China for three years now and have suffered the impolitenesses of some Chinese regularly. However, I have also met Chinese who are genuinely helpful and who have a natural curiosity about those from non-Chinese countries. Racism and rudeness is everywhere, in every country, and it can only be fought successfully by individuals making a concerted effort to see others not merely as different racial groups, but as people who simply wish to survive in a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and difficult. Individuals from all countries have similar needs, wishes and dreams, and these typically revolve around the need to provide for themselves and their families. The Chinese and the Africans are no different in this respect; they simply have different ways of having their needs met, largely as a result of the culture in which they have grown. It is time to help each other and try to learn about each other, as opposed to staying within our own racial group and mistrusting those who do not have the same skin colour as we.

    On this point, I would like to add that, from my experiences, the African community in GuangZhou is itself somewhat of a ‘closed’ society; I have several African friends here however Africans do tend to mix almost exclusively with other Africans, and I, as an Australian woman, will never be able to penetrate this closed group as easily as an African woman who has just arrived in GuangZhou with no friends and family here. It is simply the case that most racial groups distrust others who are not from their home country; many believe the stereotypes they are told about those from different racial groups without testing the stereotypes for themselves. As an example, many of the people I meet in GuangZhou will not speak to Nigerians and make derogatory comments about them because of the stereotypes they hold about Nigerians. This is truly a shame. The only way that we can start to dismantle the racial wall is to attempt to communicate with others from many different countries with a view toward better understanding the unique challenges faced by those who come from cultures different from our own. It is only when we learn that other racial groups are no different from ourselves in ways that are important, such as needing to provide for our families, that we will begin to discard useless and counterproductive racial stereotypes that only hurt us. It is the culture in which people have been raised that causes the differences in behaviour we see amongst different racial groups and, as we know, behaviour that is a result of culture can easily be unlearned, much more so than behaviour that results from personality, which is much more difficult to alter.

    I think it is time for those from other countries who are living in GuangZhou to venture a little further than their own neighbourhood and make a concerted attempt to meet and converse with others from other countries. Perhaps we can all help each other to make life in GuangZhou, which is one of the most difficult cities I have lived in, and I have lived in many around the world, a little more pleasant and, who knows, perhaps fun.

    Of course, it is easy to suggest these things, but rather more difficult to put them into practice. Some foreigners in GuangZhou have very good reason to distrust others; I am simply stating that we should, whilst maintaining a healthy skepticism about human nature generally, and making efforts to protect ourselves from those in GuangZhou (from all racial groups) who would harm us, stop seeing others as members of particular countries and begin to see others as fellow travellers who might have interesting stories to tell, and might even become our friends, who we can trust.

    We can only try. By the way, can someone supply me with the address of the hairdresser in the photo on this forum? I have a bit of an unusual hairstyle and the chinese have difficulty with it. I think the hairdresser in the photo would be right up my alley, as we say in Australia.
    Cheers
    Lilith

  108. December 20th, 2008 at 18:39 | #108
  109. CL
    February 12th, 2009 at 03:18 | #109

    Are foreign men allowed to court Chinese women as long as they follow cultural etiquette? Or is having a relationship with a Chinese woman simply not allowed?

  110. Marcy
    February 16th, 2009 at 10:59 | #110

    I’m an african living in Macao for 4 years and a half now. Now I’m working in a local newspaper. I enjoyed reading this article. I think that there’s not much racism in China. At least Chinese Culture, with time, doesn’t reflect discrimination against other cultures, but yet curiosity…Here in Macao they say that the residents have different mind from the mainlanders, they suffered a kind of acculturation with the presence of western cultures, which is very visible in the city. But, the last news about black people in Macao are not that good. Now people are not just curious, they share another feeling which I can’t say is 100% racism but is more than 80% of fear. With the central government restrictions for visa during the Olympic Games, many of these african who are settle in mainland came and are still coming to Macao to get visa. Most of then bring drugs and stay illegal in Macao until they can return to China. Macao’s government are very strict concerning illegals and drug dealers. One thing that all africans here in Macao now are suffering (I’m talking about those who are residents here) is this feeling of being in the same bag with those who come from “Chocolate City” and as a matter of fact we know that bad things overcome the good ones and so all are considered to be “bad people”.

    It often happens with me when I’m walking in “Sam Ma Lou” (a touristic plaza in Macao) some black people start to follow me and I think that is just because I’m black too. I don’t like that…and actually I start to ask why are they following me?? They approach and yell “HEY SISTER” or sometimes in french “HEY SOEUR” and I just start to walk faster. If I stop, and that happened once, they start to ask me what I’m doing in Macao, if I’m married or single and all sort of personal questions that I’ll not answer to strangers…I just don’t understand.

    In particular, I never felt discriminated by Macao’s citizens (they are friendly) but I felt discriminated once by the emigration police who thought that I was some kind of “drug dealer or some opportunist who’s around to attack people”. today when I think about it I just laugh…

    I’ve never been in Ghuangzhou but I’m planning to visit on March 1rst..

    Thanks

    peace and love

  111. Mike
    February 21st, 2009 at 13:13 | #111

    Yeah it’s weird. There isn’t really racism in Guangzhou, there is bias against Nigerians. I’ve heard from locals that they like blacks, Africans, just not Nigerians. I’ve heard from many Africans in Guangzhou that it’s Nigerians that give the rest of the Africans a bad name.

  112. calvin
    April 11th, 2009 at 18:54 | #112

    I think there are too many foreigners in China at moment. I hope the chinese government will do anything about it very soon.

  113. April 14th, 2009 at 06:12 | #113

    Well, Calvin, without all of the foreigners in GuangZhou you would see a marked decrease in the economy. So perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to have us here after all.

    Lilith

  114. April 14th, 2009 at 06:15 | #114

    Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Africans doing business in GuangZhou are decent, honest people. There are always a few bad apples in every bunch, and this is the case in all countries, not just African ones. A bit less discrimination against Africans would be a very welcome sight.

    Lilith

  115. AlanP
    July 16th, 2009 at 05:29 | #115

    both sides have to bring down their country/individual/cultural differences. It’s good to read both sides of the story here. China is not too exposed to the rest of the world. That explains why they’re always reluctant and shy away.

  116. JJ
    July 19th, 2009 at 17:10 | #116

    This article reminds me of the Chinese Caribbeans.

    Back in the 1900s a large group of Chinese migrants were going to America but got diverted to the Caribbeans. Most of them probably thought it was just a temporary situation but eventually they settled down and married the local women.

    Nowadays there’s actually quite a few famous Chinese Caribbeans.

    One of the richest is Michael Lee-Chin, a half-Chinese/half-Jamaican who was recently on Forbes Billionaire list.

  117. samuel welsh
    July 21st, 2009 at 08:19 | #117

    Africian people should be welcomed in china.
    There is no need for hate or misunderstanding.
    Only people who break the law are criminals.

  118. samuel welsh
    July 21st, 2009 at 08:20 | #118

    Bless our africian brothers and sisters.

  119. samuel welsh
    July 21st, 2009 at 09:47 | #119

    People in Gaoxing should improve thier manners and make africian people more welcome.
    Racism is never aceptable.

  120. Ha ha ha
    July 21st, 2009 at 23:44 | #120

    Man, Africans….Have they no shame or self-worth?….I guess that can have its advantages. It can make them very adaptable in adverse situations. But still….Also Africans let Europeans rape the continent and now they are letting the Chinese rape the continent. Are they determined to forever be exploited? How about taking a cue from the Middle East and taking control of your resources to empower your countries?
    If I were African I would be embarassed by the Africans in this article. Apparently the Nigerians are the worst. From Italy to Japan I have heard terrible things about Nigerians.
    I also love how the author attempts to show that the Chinese are not racist but instead makes the opposite clear. Just because Africans may not notice racist discrimination does not mean it does not exist there. Just because a person does not notice a mosquito biting does not mean that the mosquito is not biting.

  121. lee
    August 22nd, 2009 at 14:02 | #121

    It’s really funny reading the comments on this blog.The people who think that chinese are not racist are making a big mistake. Put a white and a black together infront of a chinese and you will notice what racism is all about. There are even website for job searchers in China and it clearly stated there that these jobs requires only whites. What does that mean? I am chinese but there are certain things which i don’t personally agree with when it comes to my race. Blacks in China really suffer a lot especially the ones trying to apply for jobs. We should all blame the Chinese government in the first place for leting so many black in to China and then treating them so bad.

    Talking about Africans, one thing we all have to understand is that they are all from different countries and while other are well behaved, people especially from Nigeria are very BAD. Every time you hear about a problem in China caused by blacks, you will only hear the name Nigeria coming first. I have African friends who all hate the fact that Nigerians even exist because they have caused problems all over the world and other Africna have to pay for that. In china it’s not alway said nigerians are bad people, but usually Africans which is not at all a good thing.
    Nowadays they say too many African people in China, I wish the same chinese people should see how many chinese people are in Africa,

    Life generally in china for foreigners depends on where you come from. America is the beautiful country and African continents is the Evil Continent.

  122. didi
    August 23rd, 2009 at 01:23 | #122

    DELETED FOR OBSCENITY AND RACIST REMARKS

  123. eezee
    August 23rd, 2009 at 01:32 | #123

    DELETED FOR RACIST REMARKS

  124. eezee
    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:51 | #124

    DELETED FOR OBSCENITY AND RACIST REMARKS

  125. Steve
    August 23rd, 2009 at 14:31 | #125

    @ eezee & didi: You’re welcome to leave appropriate comments but if you continue to leave racist and profane remarks, you’ll be banned from the site.

    You have also posted under two different names and if you continue to do so, you’ll be banned from the site.

  126. MG
    October 10th, 2009 at 14:04 | #126

    I want to have our first African Chinese President like Obama

  127. Lawdy
    November 18th, 2009 at 19:44 | #127

    [Racist remarks deleted by admin]

  128. Continent
    November 25th, 2009 at 06:01 | #128

    Really? China is raping the continent of Africa? By exchanging goods that increase the quality of life for Africans for oil, a substance that the majority of Africans have no use for? haha.

  129. Marielle
    January 12th, 2010 at 22:59 | #129

    It is a GRAVE error on the part of the Chinese to allow Africans to migrate there. What sense is there in allowing in unskilled Africans in a country with 1.5 BILLION! I repeat, BILLION! Also, look at the suburbs of Paris, Southern Italy where Africans are burning, rioting, ruining. Do you ever hear of peoples from other cultures migrating to Africa? Hardly. China is China, NOT America.

    This trend, if it continues, will be the utter downfall of China and what is uniquely Chinese in character.

  130. Dragan
    January 13th, 2010 at 03:14 | #130

    Marielle. #129

    ( did not read all the comments above so maybe someone already mentioned this:) First of all, African people in China facilitate the trade between the China and the African continent. that is why.

    Bigger picture is, China had favorable policies towards Africans in cold-war era due to ideological reasons. Even though Cold War is behind us, that feeling of friendship still lingers on, and it is strengthened by business and strategic considerations such as energy security or support in international organization for China, or access to capital and equipment for African countries. Among others, nowadays it is also a part of Beijing’s charm offensive to provide scholarship and opportunities to Africa and African people as a subtle way of bringing the continent closer to China.

    that is about sense. and I cannot imagine how this could bring about “utter downfall of China and what is uniquely Chinese in character”?

  131. Steve
    January 13th, 2010 at 04:00 | #131

    Dragan makes a good point. On the other side, China is managing about 900 projects in Africa right now, with Chinese workers involved in all of them so actually, many Chinese have emigrated to African countries, most to work on the projects but many others to open restaurants, shops and businesses that sell not only to other Chinese there but also to the local people. Marielle, your analysis isn’t accurate.

    There is no such country called “Africa”. There are many countries in Africa, each with a different culture and different values. Some are similar to their neighbors and some are not. To lump them all together indicates a lack of familiarity with the continent and a tendency on your part towards broad racial stereotyping.

    Who says all the migrants from African countries currently living in China are unskilled?

  132. ,,,,,,
    January 27th, 2010 at 03:44 | #132

    The problem is black people have a very bad reputation, they are making themselves as a whole look bad by doing all these crime craps, just look at America and see how bad the Jail population have gotten, its rediculous. Of course it is not about the color of their skin i careless who the hell they are if theirs a BLUE skin color race or RED skin color race or GREEN skin color race however they are they better stop doing shitty stuff in society because every shitty crime, rape, DRUG and crap that they do will bring down their reputation as a whole. You guys also do not know that in America Black people are very lazy and live off of government money and do nothing, and who SUFFERS? the taxpayers the one who works their ASSES off making a living and then the fucking government takes that tax and feed it to the fucking very LAZY who do not contribute to society and do nothing but drugs, crimes, and rape. This is a FACT of LIFE, you all can ignore it all you want but it will never go AWAY…..

  133. Dragan
    January 27th, 2010 at 06:18 | #133

    I assume the comment above (#132 by ,,,,,) will be deleted as it is derogatory for afro-americans and black people generally…i guess i don’t have to explain why. I just find it sad, very sad that there are still people that think this way.

  134. pug_ster
    January 28th, 2010 at 02:25 | #134

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-01/28/content_9388252.htm

    Well… I have no comment on that matter.

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