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Some Reflections of a Chinese American

Recently I read an account of a Chinese Uygur presently in U.S. from the Chinese edition of the New York Times. He talked about events while he was in school in China and how they mark and mold his world views. As a blogger I have been very positive about China and here I would like to share some of my reflections on where my views come from. I don’t pretend to be an expert and happy to exchange different view points with others.
My father was a mechanics working on an American merchant vessel when he was stranded with the liberation in U.S.. He eventually became a citizen and applied for my mother and me to rejoin him in N.Y.. we were granted an exit visa for family reunification and stayed in Hong Kong for 2 years until paper works were in order. I attended school in Shanghai until I left in 1959 after 8th grade. For me school in China was heavenly, others may consider it brain wash. I learned about the highs, the glorious history and philosophies, and lows, the Opium Wars, French park in Bond where Chinese and dogs were not allowed, and mocking title from Japanese as Sick Man in East Asia.
In U.S. I read Edgar Snow’s “Red Star over China” and Joseph Needham’s “Science and Civilization in China”. In over 50 years in U.S. I learned about strengths and weaknesses of American political system and hold no illusion about democracy. This is my self introduction and I hope I can share various topic with others in future. I would also like to thank Allen to open the blog.

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  1. curious
    July 18th, 2014 at 23:10 | #1

    I have been a long time watcher of world events in China and other countries. I am old enough to remember news of China when Mao was still in charge in China. Although the news here in the US was heavily filtered through the western Cold War and rabid anti communist US press for public propaganda and mass consumption the US realized that China would be a world power someday.
    I wonder if the Chinese generation of today realize the hatred of the western capitalists against China and the subversive activities carried out against what the West in those days called “Red China” with the general term of the Chinese population as “commies”.
    The US and its western capitalist servants are sworn enemies of any economic/political system that does not subscribe to their capitalistic principles.
    Assuming my point of view to have merit, how do you see Chinese and Western relations to play out in the future. Any comments/thoughts appreciated

  2. N.M.Cheung
    July 19th, 2014 at 02:29 | #2

    When I came to U.S. in the early 60s, Sino-Soviet rupture just came about. China was talked about as Yellow Peril, or Blue Ants. The economic growth of the last 35 years I think is both a surprise to U.S. and China herself. The Neo-cons were talking about the coming collapse of China for the last 50 years. They and George Bush were targeting China when the spy plane incident over Hainan occurred. I think 9/11 derailed any such plans. Now that China is becoming a real threat to U.S. hegemony, Obama’s pivot to Asia is a belated attempt for containing China. I think China is willing to compromise on the Spratly Islands if Philippines is willing to talk to China directly for joint development. There will be no compromise for the Paracel Islands with Vietnam. China is willing to talk to India for final demarcation of border by waiving any claim of Eastern areas for the Western areas even if it favors India for strategic reason. as for Senkuku China probably is willing to frozen back to status quo if Japan doesn’t push. In general China is not looking for quarrels with her neighbors. China’s ambition lies in outer space and the moon. China has no quarrel with Europe, as for U.S., the Pacific will no longer be her backyard pond. China will not directly challenge U.S. for any leadership role, letting U.S. continue to drain financially for maintaining the empire.

  3. Black Pheonix
    July 19th, 2014 at 13:51 | #3

    When I arrived in US the first time, I felt like everyone I saw was familiar to me. I could see my old neighbors, classmates, friends, in the faces of strangers in US. It was a strange but familiar feeling. That was how I would describe as the feeling of “humanity”.

    I was young, but I was under no illusions about the kind of corruption that existed between all people. I understood corruption, thus, I did not blame others for the usual kinds of corruption. I made a study of human nature at its raw basics. Politics is nothing but basic human jealousy with a fancier name.

    If I have too much money, I might be called a “miser” or a Capitalist.

    If I help the little guys too much, I might be called a “busy body” or a Commie.

    Despite what others have perceived in my words in the past, I have no hatred toward anyone, especially against nebulous political ideologies. I only wish to have people realize their own rather irrational hounding of each other over “politics”, which is no more than an excuse for letting on their own basic bigotry and jealousy.

    **

    How will Chinese and Western relations play out in the future?

    China is what some have called a “Civilization State”. But that is a Western term that basically denotes the fact that China has a “civilization” that does not fit into the “nation state” definition as Westerners understand it.

    But what is the Chinese “civilization”?

    It is a “civilization” that evolves and adapts to survive. It is a “civilization” that maintained its writing system of pictographs, that evolved through more than 3000 years of history.

    It is the ONLY “civilization” that managed to defeat the powerful Mongol Empire from within.

    The LAST part is perhaps the one thing about China that scares all others. That, even in DEFEAT, China can reemerge and reborn, where many other ancient civilizations fell and disintegrated.

    That is also basic politics, and basic human nature.

    That which China had, the West coveted and took away, through war and imperialism.

    That which China lost, China will regain.

    That is history and inevitable.

  4. danielxu
    July 20th, 2014 at 21:06 | #4

    @curious
    China must be always vigilant with the West; the urge to intervene other people affairs is in their gene. Maybe it is because in Judea Christian religion/culture, it is only one truth; any deviation from Western value is evil. In the old days they come with bible in the hand, now the manual booklet of Liberal Democracy. Samo samo.
    The USA in particular supports any groups opposing the PRC, wait for any social unrest and ready to jump and meddle/ stir up, hoping it can lead to the so called ‘colour’ revolution.
    If nothing happens, well Obama can still invite Dalai Lama, or maybe the duo, Anson Chan and Martin Lee?
    They won’t intervene directly when other is eager to do their dirty work, Japan and Philippine are good candidates. It is the reason you won’t hear any harsh criticism about the visit of Abe to Yasukuni Shrine. Tony Abbot, the Aussie PM. even prices the bravery of Japanese soldiers in WW2.
    Time is on Chinese side though, if they can manage/handle domestic issues successfully, let wait another 15 years what 1.3 Billion Chinese can achieve. On that note, let see how the polarization in US politic will manifest.

  5. N.M.Cheung
    July 21st, 2014 at 07:51 | #5

    @curious
    As Xi completes his 4 countries visits to Latin America, as with his previous visits to Africa and Europe, you can see the future Chinese diplomatic direction. China will strength trade and friendship with the third world countries in addition to investment with Europe. China will maintain a non-interference policy to internal affairs of other nations. Other than some participation in U.N. peace keeping missions China have never stationed troops outside China. Even in North Korea China withdraw all troops within a few years of Korean War, unlike U.S. still there after 60 years. While western propaganda portrayed China as an expansion power the fact of past 2 millennium shows otherwise. Some may cite Tibet and Xinjiang as contrarian examples, yet if you know Chinese history you should know the relations were more complicated. The title of Dalai Lama was bestowed by Chinese emperor and each re-incarnation needs the approval of Beijing. The exiled Tibetan and Uygur communities may still harbor unrealistic expectation of self rule, but history being what it is, it will not happen. Anymore than Native Americans can reclaim their ownership of their land.

  6. Black Pheonix
    July 21st, 2014 at 08:18 | #6

    @N.M.Cheung

    “The exiled Tibetan and Uygur communities may still harbor unrealistic expectation of self rule.”

    It is more devious than that.

    “Greater autonomy” now is being promoted as nothing but “racial segregation” and a form of neo-racism against Chinese people.

    *

    The fact of the matter is, Chinese people have proved over the last 2 centuries, that we Chinese can “integrate”, can “adapt”, to just about any culture.

    We Chinese are “multiculture”.

    But to many, that’s still not enough. That only proves that the “cultural bias” against the Chinese people was nothing but an excuse for raw racism.

    So, in Tibet and Xinjiang, the LESS integrated becomes the ideal, in the name of “cultural purity”.

    So now, we Chinese are the “unpure” who are encroaching everywhere in the world. Our “integration”, our adaptability is now our weakness, somehow.

    **

    Well, in such an upside down world now, I can only throw up my hand and say, I don’t give a crap about those who want “autonomy”.

  7. United Chinese Diaspora
    July 24th, 2014 at 01:03 | #7

    I was born in a small Northern Canadian town that was bordered by several Native reservations. My family farmed on 20 acres of leased land and the house that we lived in was a converted horse stable. Water was from an outside well with a hand pump. And we used old newspapers for toilet paper in the outhouse. My uncles, aunts, cousins and the Native kids were all living the same way. I didn’t know that I was poor. I learned trapping and hunting from the Native kids and we loved the long sunny lazy summers next to the rushing waters. We fished for salmon and when the game warden came around, I had no problems declaring myself as a member of a tribe since I blended in so easily. Only Natives were allowed to fish salmon out of season. Chinese people had always been bunched together with the Natives. And one of my uncles was married to a Native woman. It was not uncommon to see Native children with Chinese last names in that area because of the Chinese settlement that had been there since the 1850s. But mainly due to the Chinese Exclusion Acts that prevented Chinese women from coming to Canada that old Chinese bachelors began taking on Native women. No white woman would ever consider hitching with a Chinaman. I guess Natives and Chinese found meeting of the heart as second class citizens.

    The land was plentiful and life was good in the eyes of childhood innocence despite living in penury. My family and relatives were loving, my cousins and siblings were a clan, my Native friends were crazy. We were well bonded to enjoy our Huckleberry Finn adventures.

    China was a concept to me then. It was as foreign to me as the land of Oz. Perhaps Oz was more real to me since I watched the Wizard of Oz at least three times. Puberty and adolescent angst made me ashamed of being Chinese. Please God if I couldn’t be white at least let me be Native. I got a job working in a dude ranch because I wanted to learn how to ride horses. Chinese and Natives didn’t have horses; only white folks owned horses.

    My grandmother used to tell me stories about her village in China. So China was this dirt road being the main road and you could go from the beginning of the village to the end of the road in 10 minutes. And everyone in that village had the same last name. Interestingly enough that in the reservations there were always prominent last names that encompassed the majority of the tribe. So the image I had of China was that of a picture of a Native reservation.

    During the 1920s, my father’s uncle used to run bootleg to the US because of the prohibition. He was in his 20s and his partner in his 60s. The uncle was arrested at the border for smuggling and got sentenced to 10 years in prison. The uncle’s partner told him that because he was in his 60s, it would be better if he went to prison in his place and so the young uncle could continue smuggling. So the old partner presented himself at prison and in those days white people could not tell Chinese people apart even with over 40 years of age difference and allowed the old partner to serve the sentence. While the old man was in prison, the uncle took complete care of his family.

    Such were the unity and solidarity of the old Chinese in Canada.

  8. July 26th, 2014 at 06:11 | #8

    @United Chinese Diaspora
    Thanks for sharing your story. I myself is a Chinese Canadian but was born a 4th generation Chinese Malaysian.

  9. N.M.Cheung
    July 26th, 2014 at 06:35 | #9

    @United Chinese Diaspora
    I empathize and understand you completely. You may not believe me when I said that, but when I came to this country I suffered double culture shock, from Shanghai to Hong Kong and New York, different dialect and language. In addition from a communist country to hyper capitalism. U.S. under Kennedy administration passed immigration reform, and I was the first wave of Chinese allowed to enter with equal quota as Europeans. I was the only Chinese in a boy’s high school of thousands. As was most Chinese I have an accent which tend to miss the ending sound like “K”, “D”, “G”, or “P”, it made me unintelligible and I was self conscious and afraid to join in conversations or ask questions in class room. I also worked in Alaska for 5 years, next to ptarmigans and caribous, with northern lights as my companion. The important thing dealing with a sense of inferiority is to study history and your heritage. It will make you psychologically stronger and better deal with the outside world. I suspect the most crippling effect of slavery on African-Americans is the destruction of their heritage, but they do have the more recent heritage of struggle of the past 200 years to fall back to if they allow themselves to.

  10. United Chinese Diaspora
    July 27th, 2014 at 01:36 | #10

    @Ray

    O wow, great to meet a fellow Canuck on this blog. So cool

    The only Malaysian I know is Michelle Yeoh.

    Perhaps you have heard of another Canadian, Wanting Qu, she is a singer song writer from Vancouver.

    @N.M.Cheung

    The Kennedy era was a shift in paradigm for the US; the most successful colour revolution of all the colour revolutions orchestrated by the US actually happened on US soil, the black revolution. Never mind the rose revolution or the orange revolution, the black revolution took place during the Kennedy era and was the mother of all revolutions and the most enduring with the greatest impact on a society.

    Kennedy’s attempt to end segregation was a monumental human rights achievement that took guts; the first president that attempted emancipation for the black people ended with the same fate as Kennedy.

    The first black leader that spoke up for black people also ended up the same.

    Colour revolutions were supposed to have been achieved through non-violence as the way preached by Martin Luther King Jr. but this ideal succumbed to the burning of six US cities after Dr King was assassinated, so the black revolution did not achieve change through non-violence as same in the case of the orange revolution, look at what is happening in the Ukraine today.

    “The important thing dealing with a sense of inferiority is to study history and your heritage.”

    I guess if Canadians would study history like the way the Japanese wrote their history, then the Chinese Exclusion Acts and Head taxes never existed. Democracy, freedom of expression and human rights were not in the lexicon of the Chinese in Canada because their existence were never recognized due to the fact that they weren’t granted citizenship till after 1945. Every single Chinese will tell you that they have experienced some form of ill treatment from the white people.

    In my opinion, there is a difference between discrimination against Chinese in the old days and today. Up to the 80s, most Chinese people were farmers, restaurant or laundry workers; they were generally lower working class and poor. White people looked down on them. It was “might is right” for the white people, the Chinese didn’t have the power. The Chinese were ridiculed but rarely the white people would wish harm on the Chinese. I called this ignorant malevolence. A lot of the damages done to the Chinese were due to ignorance.

    In the 80s, rich Hong Kong and Taiwanese immigrants and then 90s on, the rich mainland Chinese changed the economic landscape for the Chinese in Canada. This influx of well funded and well educated Chinese scared the shit out of the white people. What was a sense of superiority by the white people against the Chinese turned into jealousy and hatred. What was a glass ceiling for the Chinese turned into a glass fist. In the old days, the Chinese were always the assistant no matter how smart or competent he was, but today, they would try to sabotage you or they wouldn’t even hire you. There is a certain nefarious intend against the Chinese today.

    People’s minds are poisoned today against the Chinese. The mainstream media made no secret about it that the Chinese were the enemy.

    In my whole life, I have never seen such acrimonious fervour against the Chinese before.

    So as a Canadian, this is not the type of history I would want to tell my grandchildren. I am hoping for understanding and reconciliation from the white people. That I can tell my grandchildren one day that Canada has proudly achieved harmony between the races through civil dialogue and not a coloured revolution.

  11. curious
    July 27th, 2014 at 21:22 | #11

    @danielxu
    I agree with your comment – “Time is on Chinese side though, if they can manage/handle domestic issues successfully, let wait another 15 years what 1.3 Billion Chinese can achieve. On that note, let see how the polarization in US politic will manifest.”
    In my mind there was no question years ago that China would be the economic power of the future. The US and its lackeys surely understood China’s potential economic power in future years when, in the 1970’s, they allowed Chine to interact with the West.
    My question is this – did the US accept China into its club with the intent of infiltrating China with its Western culture (McDonalds, KFC, Hollywood movies, democracy, human right, religious freedom etc etc .
    At the same time, pressure is applied externally in Tibet, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, militarization of Japan, military sales to Taiwan and Korea etc etc.
    This tactic has worked in many a country in the past in drawing the leadership of a country into the Western capitalist club with all its alluring perks for the upper 1 % in control.
    I guess I am wondering how close to the Western capitalistic model China will move to, or wether China can a truly follow an independent, socialistic model that it proclaims today. I think a lot of the world today is looking towards China to be a world alternative force countering the gone crazy US empire. The world just does not need another copy of Western capitalism ruling in the future.
    Any comments appreciated

  12. N.M.Cheung
    July 28th, 2014 at 04:41 | #12

    @curious
    As I noted before the neocons has been predicting the imminent collapse of China for the last 50 years. The business elites saw an opportunity to weaken labor while reaping profit. Yet the pace of globalization due to the revolution of microchips and the emergence of China was not foreseen by anyone, and 9/11 delayed the pivot to Asia by more than 20 years. As an atheist who consider Islam a medieval monstrosity I still have to be thankful for the hubris of U.S. to allowing OBL to succeed. For I have been doubtful of the policy of allowing hijackers free passage to Cuba and thought it’s only a matter of time before the Clancy’s novel of Japanese fanatical Red Army crashing a jet into Capitol become reality. The lack of foresight and imagination of CIA analysts is really appalling.

    As for China I am confident she will be able solve the pollution and corruption problems. The one child policy shows foresight despite all the criticism of human right violations. The 4 trillion dollars foreign currency reserve will be needed for the one project I think many Chinese are waiting for, the diversion of water from Tibet to northern China, turning desert back to green.

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