Tag Archives: Racism

Yang Rui, etc.

For any foreigners currently living under a rock ((by which I mean not on Twitter)), I suppose I have to start by showing you this rant, posted by CCTV Dialogue host on Sina Weibo:

The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.*

There are a lot of things I want to say about this, and most of them are swear words ((I seriously considered titling this post ‘Yang Rui Can Go Fuck Himself’)). However, you’ve probably got some creative epithets of your own swirling in your mind at this point, so let’s move on to some slightly more constructive avenues of discussion.

On Integrity

On reading this post, the first emotion that struck me — after anger, that is — was extreme regret. I have taped two episodes of CCTV Dialogue with Yang Rui, although the first one was never aired ((I never heard why, but I was speaking pretty candidly about the Wenzhou crash and I suspect that may have had something to do with it)), and now I really wish that I hadn’t. Of course, I had no way of knowing that nearly a year later, he’d be spewing such hateful nonsense, but I wish there was a way to delete myself from the program retroactively.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Yang was quite rude to me when the cameras were off before and after my appearances on Dialogue. At the time, I chocked it up to the ego that comes with being a professional television anchor ((albeit on a show that I don’t think anyone has ever watched a full episode of)). In retrospect I wonder if perhaps there was something more going on.

Either way though, I want to make it clear that what I regret is the association with him, not my appearance on CCTV in general. In the past, certain people have suggested foreigners who appear in or work for state media — myself included — lack integrity. I think that is nonsense. Although I long ago stopped writing occasional op-ed pieces for the Global Times and I have no intention of ever appearing on CCTV again, I don’t think having done either of those things has damaged my integrity. In both instances, I spoke honestly and directly in defense of my own viewpoints, and eschewed self-censorship ((which is why much of my work fell afoul of ACTUAL censorship)). I don’t regret anything I wrote or said ((At least not for political reasons. I regret a few of my Global Times columns just because they were bad writing, but that’s a separate issue.)), and I don’t think appearing in State media is tacit support of the Party or the Party line if what you’re saying is just as critical as what you’d say to any Western media outlet. Nor do I think taking their money to write content that discredits their editorials and their bosses is doing them any financial favors.

Some may disagree with me on this, and I do understand that point of view. But if I have a chance to go on State media and criticize the response to the Wenzhou train crash, I think that’s just as valuable, perhaps more valuable, than only sharing my criticism here. ((That said, as previously stated, I’m done with Dialogue and probably CCTV as a whole.))

On Soft Power

It’s interesting that this outburst came from Yang Rui, who is in some ways one of the faces of China’s soft power push. Dialogue is an English-language program, which means it is targeted at foreigners in China and abroad by default. The fact that its host (one of them, anyway) is apparently a racist xenophobe is probably indicative of how successful China’s soft power push is likely to be.

But beyond that, it is rather incredible that someone who has been talking to foreigners for years — indeed, someone who is supposed to be one of China’s representatives to foreigners — apparently knows so little about us that he actually believes crazy shit like this:

Foreigners who can’t find a job in their home country come to China and get involved in illegal business activities such as human trafficking and espionage; they also like to distribute lies which discredit China to persuade locals to move abroad. A lot of them look for Chinese women to live with as a disguise to further their espionage efforts. They pretend to be tourists traveling around the country while actually helping Japan and Korea make maps and collect GPS data for military purposes.

It’s so shocking, in fact, that some have wondered if this isn’t satire. I suppose it could be, but if so, Yang seems content to let people continue to think he was being serious; he has updated his Weibo numerous times since that post but none of the updates suggest he was kidding, and some of them suggest he definitely wasn’t. Plus, he doesn’t really seem like the sort for that kind of sarcasm.

If this were any other country, there would be rampant speculation that Yang Rui was about to lose his job. But this is China, and I think we all know that he won’t. That being a rabidly xenophobic (and apparently extremely stupid) person doesn’t disqualify you from holding a post that is dedicated entirely to dealing with foreigners is as strong a sign as any that China has no real interest in soft power. Or perhaps is just utterly incapable of implementing it.

Xenophobia and Weibo Responses

Yang’s comments come at a particularly sensitive time for foreigners, many of whom are concerned about their safety after a British scumbag and a Russian idiot have stirred up a lot of nationalist, anti-foreign sentiment online (all foreigners are the same, so we’re all guilty by association). Probably related is the crackdown on illegal foreigners in Beijing that Yang was commenting on. This crackdown is perfectly fair in theory — every country has immigration laws and the right to enforce them — but the language and imagery that’s being used to promote it is sort of concerning, as is the idea that foreigners will now be required to carry their papers at all times ((technically this has been legally true for a long time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of it being enforced, and there’s no reason to enforce it because it’s pretty ridiculous)) and submit to random checks. Suddenly, Beijing is feeling a bit like Arizona (that’s not a good thing).

Anyway, the response to Yang Rui’s rant is comparatively heartening. Although there are some commenters who agree with him, there are many who don’t, and as usual, their sarcastic condemnations of his idiocy bring warmth to my twisted foreign heart. Some examples:

Host Yang, you haven’t gone far enough! We should bring back all the officials’ wives and children from overseas to help build the motherland, we must not allow them to be polluted by foreign trash, yes, and also we should close the borders/forbid international travel, so that there is no contact with overseas forces.

There is a reason fewer and fewer people are watching TV…

Yes, and we should close down all the TV channels that speak foreign languages! [Yang works for CCTV English]

At first I thought that it was just Mr. Yang’s English [abilities] that were disappointing, but now I see there are many disappointing things about him.

The fact that this CCTV host isn’t writing editorials for the Beijing Daily is truly a waste of talent.

Isn’t your daughter studying in the US?

Haha, so Yang Rui is really this big a dumbass. A dumbass pretending to be cool but actually a Boxer.

So this is the quality of CCTV? Anyway, where did you study your English? Do the people there think about you this way?

I want to ask, can you speak Chinese? How can someone so incoherent become a TV host…

This is exactly how the Boxer Rebellion started…

Of course, there are also comments in there that are serious and seriously disturbing. But it’s heartening to see that the sane people still seem to outnumber the racist xenophobes.

Stay safe, everyone.

ADDENDUM: This is probably obvious from the post itself, but I would strongly suggest that foreigners boycott CCTV Dialogue and decline any future invitations to appear on the program. There are numerous other ways to interact with the Chinese media; there is no need to support the efforts of a man who so clearly has nothing but hatred for foreigners.

*Note: I have switched out the Global Times translation for the better translation offered by the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog. (Click that link for their full post on Yang).

What an Idiot Foreigner Shows Us About Xenophobia and Sexism in China

This post has been translated into Chinese for our Chinese site. 请点此看中文译文

WARNING: This post contains explicit language. Put the kids to bed first.

This video was being passed around on Twitter a week or two ago. It’s embedded below, but in case you can’t see it or it loads slowly because you’re outside China, it’s a drunk foreigner, apparently married to a Chinese woman, making an idiot of himself. The video title says he’s “beating” his father in law, but no “beating” really occurs, just a little grabbing and shoving as Captain Drunkface is flailing around on the ground. Here’s the video:

Let me get this out of the way first: the guy is clearly a moron, and deserves most of the abuse netizens can heap upon him. But the reason he deserves a bit of abuse isn’t because he’s foreign, or because he’s married to a Chinese girl, it’s because he is a moron. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not operating from a neutral position here, since I’m a foreigner who is engaged to a Chinese woman.

Another disclaimer: I am aware that this kind of stuff exists in all cultures, and the internet is a prime breeding ground for xenophobic misogynists. This, as ever, is a blog about China. I’m not suggesting Americans, or the Dutch, or anyone else, are any better, just suggesting that the phenomenon might be worth looking at in China.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the comments netizens have posted on the video. I’ve selectively translated ((i.e., these comments are not representative of the whole community commenting on that video, just a part of it. That said, it did not take me much effort to find any of these quotations.)) those that I think connect to xenophobia and/or sexism and tried to categorize them, though many fall into both categories.

Xenophobic Comments

Most of these comments were chosen because they contain the term 洋鬼子, or “foreign devil”, which is probably the most derogatory Mandarin slur for foreigners.

“Worthless foreign devil.”

“The foreign devil should be detained; however, that police officer speaking some English isn’t bad.”

“Not all about foreign devils is good, many people who worship foreign things are just scared.”

“Foreign devils acting wild in China, it all comes from the Manchu period of backwardness and humiliation.”

“Foreign devils, bah!”

“In my life, I will not marry or even like a foreigner. And when I have kids, I will not allow them to marry foreigners.”

“Women who marry foreign devils are truly worthless. Women who marry this kind of guy are even worse.”

“Truly disgusting. When they’re drunk, the true evil in the hearts of foreigners is perfectly revealed.”

“Foreign garbage.” [A lot of people made this comment]

The fact that this video is even popular in the first place is evidence that foreigners are treated differently by many Chinese. After all, drunken idiots being hauled off by the police is something you can see on any street corner in China (or anywhere else in the world). And the fact that everyone feels the need to say “this foreign guy” instead of just “this guy” shows us that there’s a clear interest in keeping him separate from anything “Chinese.” He is the Other.

Fair enough. I must admit, I myself would be relieved if I had some proof this guy wasn’t American, because it’s embarrassing to be associated with his behavior. Furthermore, the situation is complicated by the fact that many commenters feel the man received special treatment because of his race and say he would have been dealt with more swiftly and violently had he been Chinese. We don’t, of course, know anything about the predilections of the police officer in question, so that assertion is impossible to evaluate conclusively, but it is certainly possible. No one would deny that on the whole, foreigners often receive special treatment from Chinese police.

But regardless, there’s a lot of anger directed at the man’s foreignness, rather than at his behavior or at his having received special treatment. The term 洋鬼子, a harsh enough bit of invective that very few Chinese people would say it to a foreigner’s face, is thrown around in these comment sections as though it were the proper term of “foreigner”. It’s a bit like reading comments on a news story about a black criminal that are full of the word “n****r”.

My concern here is not that the Chinese aren’t properly PC, because who cares. What concerns me is what’s behind the language choice, thousands of commenters taking one bad moment in the life of a single foreigner and using it to spread hundred-year-old stereotypes and apply them to the entirety of the non-Chinese world, i.e. around 5/6 of the planet. In using slurs to refer to the foreigner, many people seem to be implying what that one commenter made explicit: there is something explicitly different and evil about foreigners, and they hide it to trick us.

Old Chinese Drawing of a Foreigner

Comments Concerning Chinese Women with Foreigners

Many of these comments are inherently sexist and xenophobic.

“When you marry a foreigner, even your own father will get hurt.”

“How many Chinese girls are happy with foreigners? Chinese men are better.”

“Why would [she] want to marry a foreigner?”

“I don’t really get why so many women like being fucked by foreign guys.”

“In truth, it’s not [just] being obsessed with foreign things. I just don’t get women these days…”

“Our family has a coarse saying: don’t let foreigners fuck good cunts!”

“I once saw a group of Northeasterners beating up two foreigners, the foreigners were drunk and had been catcalling at a Chinese girl. Then three northeasterners came along and beat those foreigners till they were kneeling. One foreigner might have actually been unconscious, he was lying on the ground…”

“A loss of face? Chinese people have already lost all the face there is to lose. And this old guy? How could he marry his daughter to this foreigner? Is avoiding [another] loss of face enough? Just quickly divorce the guy, don’t lose any more face.”

“Don’t let the next generation of Chinese be mixed-race! This is not only tarnishing Chinese families, but it is a humiliation to the great traditions of the Chinese people!”

“Who raised this girl? All of her “benefits” flowing into the “fields” of a foreigner, it would be better to just have a dog instead of this kind of daughter.”

The issues here are complex. The concept of “face” being as important as it is in China, many of the commenters felt this woman had lost face for China by marrying such an idiot. Many more felt marrying foreigners in general was a loss of face, and wondered why she couldn’t just marry a Chinese guy. Love, or the personalities of the man and the woman, never entered into the equation. I didn’t see a single comment wondering what it was she saw in him in the first place, just a lot calling her “worthless” and comparing her unfavorably to a dog for having married a “garbage foreigner” and being someone who “worships foreign things”.

Of course, when a foreign girl offers Chinese men so much as a hug, Chinese men are clamoring over her. It’s not traitorous for Chinese men to drool over, have sex with, or marry foreign women. In fact, it is glorious, a conquest of sorts. But many of these comments imply Chinese women don’t have the same freedoms, even if the foreigner they’re with isn’t a drunken idiot, the fact that he’s a foreigner at all is enough to make them “worthless” in the eyes of their male countrymen.

Yes, I am aware the internet is an mostly-male, sexist place. I’m also aware that taking a stand against sexism and xenophobia isn’t exactly gutsy or cutting edge. But regardless, these comments are real, and judging by the number of people who’ve written things like them, people who actually believe this stuff aren’t rare at all, so I think they’re worth looking at and talking about, at least for a day.

What are your thoughts? (Hint: this is the part where you say I’m overreacting, trying to “force Western values on China”, or make conjectures about my personal life!)

Hecaitou on Race in China

A couple weeks ago, I sent out an informal survey on race to the emails of many of the Chinese people whose blogs I read. I got nothing in response from anyone (a few “mail delivery failures” was all) until a few days ago when I got a response from a rather unexpected place: Hecaitou.

I hadn’t expected a response from him because the two of us had a bit of a misunderstanding last year after I wrote this post, which he and fellow Chinese author and blogger Wang Xiaofeng took as an accusation that they themselves were racist. We eventually worked it out, but not before he wrote a rather scathing essay condemning me, one that prompted one of my Chinese friends to stop in the middle of reading it, turn to me gravely, and say “This is bad.”

Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful that he took the time to respond to my questions about race again despite all of this. What’s more, I think his responses are quite interesting. I’ve translated my questions and his answers below. For the first time ever, I’m also going to post the original Chinese text, for extra clarity’s sake.


(My questions are translated below in bold, the quoted answers to each question are Hecaitou’s responses.) 原文点此(汉)

1) Following China’s reforms and opening up and its economic development, the number of foreigners coming to China for travel and business is increasing. Because China’s relationship with some African nations is relatively close, recently there have been more immigrants from Africa. Do you believe that in the future, as there are more people of different races in China, there will be any kind of conflict? Is conflict possible or not? Why?

Your question implies something: will Chinese people have a conflict with black people? Obviously, you also know, the chance of there being a conflict between Chinese people and whites is very small. At the same time, you stressed that it’s immigrants from Africa, not Africa descendants from America, England, France, Germany, or other developed countries. So the question is already quite clear, you’re asking whether Chinese people have any particular attitude towards people of color from undeveloped nations. The question has [thus] already changed from race to an economic, cultural, and political question. What they [Africans] will experience in China isn’t very different from what poor people experience coming to a rich neighborhood, or rural children experience coming to the city.

2) Could you explain for us how we should understand the difference between “race” (种族) and “ethnicity” (民族)? What is the difference between a racial conflict and an ethnic conflict? Is “Han chauvinism” (汉族主义) racism?

Generally, “race” is understood to refer to different types of people: black, white, and yellow. “Ethnicity” is understood as a group that shares common culture, language, and customs. But China is a country where Han people make up an absolute majority, and it is at the same time quite separated from the outside world, so there is not a particularly strong conception of race. Instead, the concept of ethnicity is much more pervasive. In history, states founded by Han people have been defeated twice by ethnic minorities; the first was the Mongols, the second was the Manchus. The Manchus founded the Qing dynasty and ruled for 268 years until the modern China emerged. To overturn the Manchu government, the leader of the Han Sun Yat-sen [Sun Zhongshan] raised distinct slogans for minorities, demanded that Manchus and Mongols leave Han places, and China began to change into a nation-state. However, even though it was Sun Yat-sen who came up with the slogan “the 5-ethnicity republic” meaning that Han, Mongol, Tibetan, Hui, and Manchurian ethnic groups would build a republic together, [they] did not persist in following the path of nationalism.

In China, you can obviously tell from physical characteristics that Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Han people aren’t part of the same racial group [人种]. In the past two thousand years the mixing of different ethnicities is very obvious, so nearly all Han people also carry a little bit of the blood of other ethnicities. I understand that instances of refusal of employment, marriage, or school entrance on account of differing ethnicities are extremely rare.

3) Sometimes, foreigners in China receive special treatment. At times, it seems foreigners have more rights than Chinese. Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan once told me “Chinese law gives all kinds of special privileges to foreigners in China.” This is true, however, foreigners living in China are often cheated and encounter prejudices among the people. How should foreigners understand Chinese people’s attitudes toward foreigners?

1. Tell Chinese people you aren’t rich, you’re a fellow worker. 2. If you’ve been cheated, seek the police, they will be happy to help; in terms of their boring jobs, this would be something fresh.

4) Liu Xiaoyuan also told me, “Although much prejudice exists in China, there are no laws concerning racial prejudice.” Do you feel there ought to be? What kind of laws should there be?

Chinese people invented a term called “Chinese people” [中华民族], so all ethnicities fall under the term “the Chinese people”; therefore, there is no legal racial difference. Race has never been a problem, but after a law [about racial discrimination] was passed [hypothetically], people would probably suddenly start to be aware of racial differences, and perhaps discrimination would arise as a result.

Lou Jing
5) Have you heard of Lou Jing? Have a look at some of the comments netizens left about her, do you feel they indicate a prejudice against black people, or even constitute racial discrimination?

If her black father was Denzel Washington, I think the comments would be completely different. Although there are this many negative comments, the reason is she’s being seen as an illegitimate child, and the masses believe her father is poor. Chinese people may not be prejudiced against black people, but their prejudice against poor people is real.

6) There are people who say there is no racism in China, and Chinese don’t differentiate between black and white; they say that people who raise this issue are using foreign standards to judge China. But there are also people that say as China becomes a superpower, the people of the world will use international standards to judge China, not Chinese standards. Are these two “standards” [i.e., Chinese standards for what’s “racist” vs. foreign standards] really different? If they’re different, how do you think China should resolve this problem, or does it not need to be resolved?

This isn’t a problem. Chinese people don’t use race as a standard of judgement, they decide themselves if they should show respect or scorn. White people’s North American and European politics, culture, science, and economy are all very developed, but black people’s Africa always seems very backward, so Chinese people show more respect toward whites. At the same time in Asia, Chinese people’s attitudes about Koreans and Japanese are very different from their attitudes towards Vietnamese, Cambodians, and people from Laos. The reason is similar; Japan and Korea are developed, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos aren’t.

If race becomes a problem in China, the proof will be that Chinese people aren’t willing to shake hands with Tiger Woods simply because his skin is a different color. Obviously, this isn’t the case, people fight to be the first to get his autograph. If there is really some international standard, I hope it says: people are all equal, and people aren’t treated differently whether they are rich or poor.

7) If you have anything else to say related to this topic, write it here:

The first time I came in contact with people of another race was when I was 21. At that time, I was in college, and for the first time shook hands with a black student, Mark. I had already received a complete higher education, but after I shook his hand I couldn’t keep myself from secretly looking at my hand — to see if it had become black or not. Reason told me that this kind of thinking is absurd. But because I’d never come in contact with a black person before, my emotions led me to do this baffling thing.

Many years have passed, and I’m happy to say that I no longer look at my hand after shaking hands with black people, because in the intervening years I’ve seen many black people: tall, short, good, and bad. After seeing many black people, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t seem very different, they’re the same as me. It’s just that they happen to be black, as I understand it, it’s because the sun in Africa is too strong.

Africans protesting in Guangzhou

My Thoughts

First off, I want to express my gratitude again to Hecaitou for taking his time to respond. Throughout, he argues that what we might call “racism” is actually more like classism; prejudice against poor people. I’ve heard that argument before, but never expressed more convincingly, and I think he makes a great point. While I remain unconvinced that some Chinese people don’t make judgements based on race, he is absolutely right that in real life people’s behaviors reflect all kinds of prejudices at once. The harsh invective hurled at Lou Jing, for example, contains judgment based on class and also judgment based on cultural mores, not just judgment based on race. Does that negate the existence of judgement based on race? I leave it to you, commenters.

Source Docs: 访问和菜头(关于种族和民族歧视)

(Source Docs is a new kind of post. In the future, if we discover rare documents or conduct original interviews, transcripts will be posted under Source Docs for Chinese readers to enjoy, study, critique, etc.)


Read the English translation of this interview here!











5)您是否听说过娄婧? 看看网民留的一些关于她的评论,您是否觉得含有对黑人的偏见,甚至于种族歧视? (没听过您可以自己看一下:http://club.pchome.net/thread_1_15_4460806.html )








A Few Quick Links

This blog has, perhaps, earned its name in some small part due to our coverage of racism in China (even though we’re told it doesn’t exist). On that front, I point you in the direction of a few more drops in the bucket.

First, a popular Chinese social network game that allows players to enslave their friends (virtually; think “Happy Farm” but with more slavery) also allows them to punish their female friends by, among other things, forcing them to marry “an old black man”. From ChinaSocialGames via BendiLaowai:

Slave Manor copies the original Facebook game Friends for Sale! but takes the competition to another level. White-collar workers flock to the SNS Kaixin001 to hire their boss as their virtual slave—upon which they can make him shovel shit or marry an extremely ugly girl. Female slaves can be assigned to different hardships: serving as a “special hostess” or marrying an old black slave. The punishments on the original Facebook game were likely far tamer.

Another little bit of evidence popped up on Blood and Treasure in their analysis of the critical response to Lu Jiamin’s book Wolf Totem, which itself made some criticisms of Han culture. They also briefly discuss Hanwang, a site they say boasts over 100,000 members and compares to a Chinese StormFront.

Also of interest, perhaps, is this op-ed piece in the New York Times that compares Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh, then calls the two of them “Gods”:

These 70-percent Gods are interesting creatures. They no longer slaughter. They do not imprison en masse. They don’t try to fast-forward to utopia.

No, they build firewalls rather than walls. They fear peaceful protest more than violent movements. They ban Facebook rather than banish folk to camps. They’re less ruthless but more stressed. In short, they’ve gone through 21st century makeovers.

These makeovers have been successful. It’s hard, but not impossible, to imagine the survival of the one-party Chinese and Vietnamese states without the fabulous growth Market-Leninism has produced.

The thing is, however, that such dynamic societies produce more educated, wealthier people; and those people in time wonder about things other than getting a bigger apartment or a car. They start wondering whether they should determine who governs them. They wonder about freedom of expression. They get irritated by corruption. They wonder why they can’t Twitter.

And that is why — a great paradox — the custodians of the 70-percent Gods are so nervous at the very moment when things are going their way, when they have growth unimaginable in the West, when everyone’s talking of China’s rise.

There are some ideas in the piece that I agree with, and some I don’t, but it’s all couched in a rather crazy metaphor. Viewing Mao Zedong as a “God”, I think, does nothing to help us understand the effect he’s had on modern Chinese culture and politics, or why Twitter is blocked. The 70% doctrine (the idea that Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong) does not make him a “70% God”; rather, it was a conscious effort to humanize him. Roger Cohen obviously doesn’t agree with the 70/30 ratio, but calling Mao a “God” to Chinese people doesn’t help anyone understand why many Chinese people do agree with the 70/30 ratio.

Favoring Foreigners

There is a reason that when the topic of racism in China comes up, many Chinese think of the preferential treatment foreigners sometimes receive, rather than anything else. (including famous lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who told us “Chinese law gives foreigners all sorts of special privileges” when we contacted him for this post). In reading about the KaiEn English fiasco, I found a pretty good example.

The short version of what seems like a rather over-dramatized story is that the heads of a Shanghai English school ran out of money and left the school more or less overnight, leaving a trail of unpaid employees and untaught students who had already paid tuitions in their wake. I have absolutely no interest in entering into the speculation about whose fault this is, or how (if at all) it’s connected to ChinesePod. I did, however, find this sentence from the Shanghai Daily rather interesting:

Foreign teachers of KaiEn English Training Center, which closed suddenly earlier this week, will receive 20 to 30 percent of their lost salary tomorrow as the first batch of life aid, the Chinese partner of the joint institution announced today.

Chinese staff and students were told to wait until the financial situation of the school was figured out.


Foreign teachers said that they are owed at least 2 months of salary ranging from 12,000 yaun to 40,000 yuan, even higher.

Chinese teachers’ salaries were delayed even longer on average, though their monthly wage is lower.

Obviously, everyone involved deserves to be paid — in full — for the work that they did, but honestly examining the situation, wouldn’t it make more sense to pay the Chinese teachers before the foreigners? After all, the foreigners were making more money. If KaiEn’s payment works like many of the English schools in China, foreign staff were probably payed somewhere between two to six times the salary of the Chinese staff (and they probably worked fewer hours than the Chinese staff, too). Aren’t the foreign teachers thus more likely to be able to hold out for a bit longer without salary than the Chinese staff who were being paid less? And frankly, aren’t they going to have an easier time finding other work as an English teacher than the Chinese staff probably are?

Now, to be fair, I have no special knowledge about the workings of KaiEn English specifically, nor do I know anyone who worked there personally. Given that, perhaps it’s best to put the question to you: wouldn’t it have made more sense to pay the Chinese staff first, or to pay everyone a smaller amount at the same time? Why were the foreigners paid first?

Race and the Law in China

It was with some interest that we read this story in the New York Times last week. It seems South Korea, like China, has some issues with racism. And South Korea, like China, is a country where the number of foreigners (often people of other races) is increasing. What was interesting about the article, then, is that the South Korean government is starting to do something about racist incidents. For example:

On the evening of July 10, Bonogit Hussain, a 29-year-old Indian man, and Hahn Ji-seon, a female Korean friend, were riding a bus near Seoul when a man in the back began hurling racial and sexist slurs at them.

The situation would be a familiar one to many Korean women who have dated or even — as in Ms. Hahn’s case — simply traveled in the company of a foreign man.

What was different this time, however, was that, once it was reported in the South Korean media, prosecutors sprang into action, charging the man they have identified only as a 31-year-old Mr. Park with contempt, the first time such charges had been applied to an alleged racist offense. Spurred by the case, which is pending in court, rival political parties in Parliament have begun drafting legislation that for the first time would provide a detailed definition of discrimination by race and ethnicity and impose criminal penalties.

That led me to wonder, does China have any kind of law preventing racial discrimination? There are, of course, laws and policies safeguarding ethnic minorities, but what about people of different races, i.e. Lou Jing, who is ethnically Chinese but racially half African? Are there laws that could punish people for hurling racist invective at her in China?

I decided to ask three people who know way, way more about the law than I do. I sent them a list of questions, but the most important one was this: “What, if anything, does the Chinese law have to say about racial and/or ethnic discrimination?”

The first to respond was Dan Harris, of China Law Blog, an international lawyer based in the US. Dan replied:

I have to confess that I know very little about the questions you ask […] I have to tell you though, that I cannot recall a single instance where any race related issue has come up involving any of our China clients, which helps justify my ignorance on the subject.

The second person I asked was Stan Abrams, of the blog China Hearsay. Stan is a lawyer who’s been living and practicing in Beijing since 1999, and he had this to say in response to my query:

Not much help from my end either, I’m afraid. Never comes up for me either (not exactly a corporate or IP law issue) in practice.

That being said, the law here does contain certain preferences and protections for ethnic minorities. I have come across this in the area of university admissions, and I believe that various other laws/policies contain similar provisions (State and local). I doubt that there is anything in law that collects all these different policies, which means that you will need to look around in various places for this stuff. Beyond the usual keyword searches, I’m not sure where to find this type of thing.

For what it’s worth, I have not heard anything about legal reform in this area. If something was going to be changed with respect to labor law on this specific issue, I would have expected that to have happened in 2007/8, and I don’t think it did.

The third person I asked was Liu Xiaoyuan, the only Chinese lawyer whose name I know, whose practice runs the gamut from criminal defense to traffic accident compensation to marriage law. I didn’t really expect Liu to respond, as we’ve never met or spoken before, but he did. His response — which was quite brief — is translated below:

In China, although there is much prejudice, there is no law on the books about racial prejudice. In fact, Chinese law gives foreigners all sorts of special privileges.

Further searches of the internet also proved fruitless. Dan Harris’s partner at theChina Law Blog, Steve Dickinson, offered me one interpretation why that might be. “There is no concept of race in China,” Dickinson wrote,

…the concept of “race” is a European concept that has no application in China. There is, however, a strong concept of ethnic identity […] Whether they are the same or not is something that would require a careful set of definitions. My point is that the Chinese care about culture but they do not care about blood. Therefore, your basic identity is the culture you follow, not who were your parents.

He’s right, of course, in saying that the Chinese spend a lot more time talking about ethnicity (民族) than they do about race (种族). But the idea that Chinese care about culture more than blood doesn’t really seem to fit with what happened to Lou Jing, an ethnically Chinese but racially half-African Shanghainese girl who was abused by many Chinese netizens for her skin color and racial background despite the fact that she shared their culture.

If there are laws to defend Lou Jing, and those that will inevitably follow her as the number of foreigners and mixed-race couples in China continues to grow, even Liu Xiaoyuan doesn’t know about them. The next questions, of course, are: should there be? And if so, when will there be such laws?

The Netizen Bill of Rights and Ethnic Prejudices in Shenyang

Rumor has it this site has recently been unblocked! All glory to the hypnotoad! Still, many other sites have been less lucky. Facebook, Twitter, and other “web 2.0” sites remain hidden behind the Great Firewall.

Recently, some Chinese intellectuals published a “Declaration of Internet Human Rights”. As usual, CDT beat us to the story, but we’ve translated a few more details and background for you, from this post (via ESWN).

The Netizen Bill of Rights

[The declaration] demands the right to publish, edit, cover and report, etc., and puts forth that every October 10th should be China Internet Human Rights Day. One of the writers, Beijing scholar Ling Cangzhou, said in an interview, “Our society needs a greater plurality of voices. We hope that through this declaration policy makers can hear a different voice, and at the same time we hope our declaration will invite a variety of judgements/comments. We feel that this is more what a normal, free society is like.” The declaration has been widely disseminated, but has already been deleted on [many] Chinese web pages. [As a result] the declaration has bloomed as signatures are added [and the document is passed along] through email.

UPDATE: The CDT has now translated the student’s original blog post with even more details here.

“This ethnicity isn’t allowed to go online.”

From the same post, which is a general report of the stuff that’s been hotly discussed on the internet this week.

“This ethnicity isn’t allowed to go online” has recently become an oft-heard phrase. [The author then describes the experiences of one student from Xinjiang who was in Shenyang in the time leading up to October 1st:] He wanted to find accommodations but was frequently denied by many hotels, being told, “We don’t accept Xinjiang people as guests here!” He wanted to get online, but when he showed his ID to the Internet cafe worker, he was told, “I’m sorry, but this ethnicity isn’t allowed to go online.” The story was spread widely, and many netizens were confused by this Shenyang rule. Later, [the student] deleted his blog post and reposted it, stressing: “At that time I recorded my feelings using very moderate language, and after bringing it up I really couldn’t understand the attitude of those workers in Shenyang at all. This is just a mistake of their local government and does not represent the feelings of the entire country!”

Another one of the stories of the week listed in the blog post was this one.

Appalling Racism

In case there’s anyone here who doesn’t already read ChinaSMACK, check out this post (although be warned, this is a good mood ruiner). The short version of the story is that a half-Chinese, half-African-American girl who was the product of an extramarital affair went on TV, and Chinese netizens went crazy. Some comments, of course, are supportive, but many of them are deeply, disturbingly racist.

We’ve discussed the question of racism before here, most memorably last spring, when we accidentally touched off a bit of controversy and earned the ire of famous Chinese blogger He Caitou. He told me repeatedly that there is “no racism in China.” If you’ve lived in China, it’s probably a phrase you’ve heard before.

There’s no point in even discussing the question further; to my mind, anyone with a functioning brain can see that there is racism in China (just as there is everywhere else). What concerns me is the steadfast denial that such thoughts and feelings exist, even when presented with pretty damning evidence.

For the record, I’m aware that the USA has serious racial issues and that we once had slaves. My intention here is not to foster a shouting match about who is more racist (any comments that even look like they’re headed down that road are going to get deleted). Nor do I wish to suggest that China needs to approach this issue the same way the US has. I do believe China needs to admit that there is an issue, though (something the US has emphatically done). In fact, I think China has a unique opportunity here to head off more serious problems by addressing this issue now; on the flipside, continued denial this issue exists are going to cause bigger and bigger problems assuming that the number of foreigners traveling and moving in to China continue to increase.

Is this denial going to lead to massive social instability? Probably not (for the moment let’s set aside tensions between the various “Chinese” ethnicities). Is it going to affect a lot of Chinese people? Again, probably not. So is it worth trying to deal with this issue? Obviously, I think so, but I suppose there is a case to be made on the other side, albeit a pretty harshly realist case.

I look forward to reading all of your thoughts in the comments, but before you comment, I also want to note that I do recall the issues brought up previously regarding differing perceptions of the word “racism” in China and the West. An insensitive joke isn’t associated with racism in China, hate crimes are. Lou Jing’s case is racism any way you skin it, though. There may be no physical violence, but she is still suffering psychological abuse as a direct result of her race. If that isn’t racism, then…well, nothing. It is racism, period.

Beating Highlights Racial Tensions in China

Earlier today, ChinaSMACK posted a translation of a popular topic on several Chinese forums: “Hui Minority Beats Lanzhou Chengguan Onto Knees Crying“. Their translation is excellent, and we suggest you read it thoroughly, however, direct quotations on this site are our original translations unless otherwise noted.

The short version of the story is this: chengguan (presumably ethnically Han) came into a Hui minority area and started bullying street vendors, as they are wont to do. They threw food and tipped over stalls. A crowd began to gather, and when a few people started to attack the chengguan captain, most of the other police officials realized there were too many people in the crowd for them to deal with and fled, leaving the captain to fend for himself.

The captain was surrounded and beaten repeatedly. Food was thrown at him, and he was cursed by the crowd as well. Apparently several people said he should be beaten to death, and he began to plead for his life, saying, “Big brothers, grandpas, I was wrong, please stop beating me.” [translation via ChinaSMACK]

Apparently, the crowd kept growing and remained large as the original post’s author left the scene, so it’s unclear how the situation was resolved or if it even has been resolved. The situation in and of itself may well speak to some racial tensions as it appears to have been a virtual mob of Hui attacking a Han antagonist, however, it’s difficult to comment on that situation without further information. It may well just be a simple case of pent-up anger at the corruption and violence chengguan are internationally famous for.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the reaction of Chinese netizens to this story. ChinaSMACK translator Joe noted:

Many of the comments on Tianya are bigoted in nature which may highlight the ethnic tensions that exist within China. Negative perceptions exist toward ethnic Hui and Uygurs where they are often stereotyped to be thieves and con artists in China. In addition, many also question the ethnic differences emerge as to why ethnic minorities can resist against authority while most common Chinese submit to it.

Indeed, the Chinese comments are fascinating. Generally speaking, the Chinese internet has nothing but enmity for chengguan. Other recent popular topics about chengguan on the Chinese internet (for example, these two also translated on ChinaSMACK) netizens have compared chengguan to (among other things) the Japanese army and Satan. Here, though, they’re generally much more sympathetic, perhaps because it seems clear the man was beaten quite ruthlessly. And, as Joe reported, they’ve got plenty of bad things to say about the Hui people. Below, we’ve translated a number of the comments from Tianya. They’re not the same comments ChinaSMACK translated, we’re translation only comments with racial undertones (or overtones) here.

Translated Comments:

The worst ethnic groups:

  1. Tibetans
  2. Manchus
  3. Uighurs
  4. Hui people

Haha, there is a reason law in China is enforced differently for minority groups than it is for Han people.

Seeing a whole screen full of white caps [a reference to the white hats many Hui people wear]…perhaps this wasn’t as simple as the chengguan enforcing law through violence.

Lanzhou is a place where Hui people live. Hui people are indeed treated differently.

I still have doubts, the indomitable chengguan could really lose? Looking again, their opponents are the ‘white cap gang’. I suddenly realize I will support the chengguan this one time.

Minority groups are a little terrifying…Xinjiang people sell cakes, Hui people sell snacks…Speaking objectively, the government should be very strict in controlling them.

A crowd of white-capped pigs. Sooner or later we’ll kill you all off.

He ran into a savage/uncivilized ethnic group.

Dirty muslims vs. the Lanzhou chengguan

The Hui people and chengguan, two of our nations disasters! It’s dog fighting dog, just let them bite each other! The chengguan are all bandits, the Hui are all wild animals!

[In response to the above comment] You’re not even as good as a dog!

I’m a Han person. A brainwashed-for-thousands-of-years Han.

Ignorant, savage muslim heretics and shameless savage chengguan together!

[In response to the above comment] Please respect the beliefs of others.

…As to those of you talking about ‘the problem of ethnic minorities’, I have grown up with many minority friends and classmates, including Hui people, and except for their religios beliefs there is no difference between then and us Han people. They took eat, wear clothes, look for a better life, they’re not constantly restraining themselves to keep from stirring up trouble. They are all just common people, don’t turn this into some huge generalizing thing. Yes, some minority people from remote regions have low levels of education and skills, but isn’t that a universal phenomenon in all undeveloped areas? That this situation exists has nothing to do with race/ethnicity, if you think about it. People just strive to feed and support themselves, that’s it.

Regardless of what race they are, if they refuse to be slaves then they are heroes! I admire them.

Ethnic minorities are pretty good, eh? Of course, claiming independence would be unacceptable. Chengguan are dogs!

Our Thoughts

The above is a fairly good representation of the comments that address issues of ethnicity directly on Tianya, although there are so many that we barely made it halfway through the first page before deciding translating too many more would just clutter things up.

As you can see, there’s an interesting mix of overt racism and open-minded thinking. We opted not to translate many of the subtler comments, but they are more or less the same: some people support the chengguan and imply that they dislike Hui, some people curse the chengguan in a way that implies support for the Hui, perhaps, but it’s difficult to tell.

Some people will recall that we’ve covered issues of race in China here before, with rather explosive results, so let me say one thing very clearly: I am not in any way suggesting that all Chinese people are racist. Nor am I trying to suggest there aren’t racial tensions in America, however, this is a blog about China.

What I am suggesting, and what I was suggesting last time, too, is that this is an issue that should be discussed more openly in China before it leads to (more?) actual violence. From the comments translated above, as well as the comments on ChinaSMACK, it’s obvious that some people have gotten the message about equality, but it’s equally obvious that a lot of people haven’t. That strikes me as dangerous.

For an example of just how dangerous it can be, one need look no further than the riots that occurred in Tibet last year. Whatever you believe about how they started and ended, it’s difficult to deny that ethnic violence did occur, probably in large part because of frustration among Tibetans who feel they aren’t being treated fairly. James Miles, the only Western reporter in Lhasa at the time of the riots, described what he saw wandering around the city, temporarily forgotten by his handlers in the chaos:

What I saw was calculated targeted violence against an ethnic group, or I should say two ethnic groups, primarily ethnic Han Chinese living in Lhasa, but also members of the Muslim Hui minority in Lhasa. And the Huis in Lhasa control much of the meat industry in the city. Those two groups were singled out by ethnic Tibetans. They marked those businesses that they knew to be Tibetan owned with white traditional scarves. Those businesses were left intact. Almost every single other across a wide swathe of the city, not only in the old Tibetan quarter, but also beyond it in areas dominated by the ethnic Han Chinese. Almost every other business was either burned, looted, destroyed, smashed into, the property therein hauled out into the streets, piled up, burned. It was an extraordinary outpouring of ethnic violence of a most unpleasant nature to watch, which surprised some Tibetans watching it. So they themselves were taken aback at the extent of what they saw. And it was not just targeted against property either. Of course many ethnic Han Chinese and Huis fled as soon as this broke out. But those who were caught in the early stages of it were themselves targeted. Stones thrown at them. At one point, I saw them throwing stones at a boy of maybe around 10 years old perhaps cycling along the street. I in fact walked out in front of them and said stop. It was a remarkable explosion of simmering ethnic grievances in the city.

Whether you want One China or a Free Tibet, whether you support or condemn the beating of chengguan, and frankly, whether or not you’re racist, I think everyone can agree that ethnic violence isn’t in the best interests of anyone. It serves neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese people, and by Chinese people, I mean all of them, not just Han. Feudal attitudes about ethnic minorities (and foreigners) might seem harmless or irrelevant when many Chinese can go their entire lives without confronting anyone very different from themselves. Sometimes, they might even be harmless, but is it really worth it to take that chance?

And anyway, is it so bad a thing to admit that there is racism in China and begin taking some steps to deal with it?

Given his willingness to engage in reasoned debate the last time we talked about racism here, we’ve also sent this topic to popular Chinese blogger hecaitou for his comments. If he responds, we’ll add his response here, or perhaps make a new post.