Good People

China Has NO Racial Discrimination, So Says China’s Government Press

racism in China

Never had so much trouble deciding in what category to put a post before. We started this blog with six categories and they have never changed. They are as follows:

  1. China Business. Anything remotely business related (and not legal) goes in here.
  2. China Travel.  Like it says. Not terribly common.
  3. Events. China seminars and the like.
  4. Good People. China people we want to rave about.
  5. Legal News. The heart and soul of this blog. Written for China lawyers, international lawyers, just plain lawyers, and non-lawyers.
  6. Recommended Reading. Somewhat of a catchall. Usually used when to refer briefly to another post or article.

This is the first time I have ever written about our categories because this is the first time I have been nearly completely nonplussed as to where to put a post. The post this time is on an article I just read from Xinhua [link no longer exists] proclaiming “all ethnic groups in China are equal and no racial discrimination exists.” Not sure if this is the Communist stage of which Marx talked about or what, but certainly kudos are in order.

But there is more:

“China’s ethnic groups enjoy equal status and live in harmony. There is no discrimination (directed at any ethnicity),” Dainzhub, who is of Tibetan origin, said at a press conference in response to a Reuters reporter who asked whether racial discrimination existed in Chinese society.

China has 55 ethnic minority groups. The Han people account for more than 90 percent of the country’s total population.

People from different ethnic groups often help each other and their relations are harmonious, and the central government is investing more money to alleviate poverty in some ethnic minority groups.

The 56 ethnic groups are like brothers and sisters living in one family.

I am going to put this one in the good people category, but if China keeps this up, I am going to have to add a new category for fiction.

140 responses to “China Has NO Racial Discrimination, So Says China’s Government Press”

  1. Of course, absolutes never stand up to testing.
    However, it seems reasonable to suggest that there is far less discrimination between ethnic groups in China compared with many (if not most) other nations. One may even go so far as to say that there is little discrimination between ethnic groups in China.
    Perhaps that was the spirit and intent of the original proposition.
    Can anyone suggest another nation that stands comparison? I can’t think of one.

  2. Legally speaking, China has “No Racial Discrimination.” No law counting Tibetans or Urgurians less then Han. Minorities actually enjoy exempts from certain Chinese laws such as not limited by the one child policy.
    The article is really about affirmative actions to level the gap between minorities and Han.
    With that said, even if it’s not in the law, it’s in the mind. Don’t expect a non-Han Chinese president (and for that matter, female one) anytime soon.

  3. The most evident aspect of discrimination seems to be against dark skinned people and pretty much all of China’s minorities are dark skinned…and shorter than the average Han.

  4. Terence —
    I have found that it sometimes really takes an almost insider’s knowledge to know the internal prejudices of a country. Take Korea for instance. I have been going to Korea maybe 4-6 times a year for 15 years and at the beginning, I made no distinctions among “the Koreans.” It was only when I started becoming friends with people there that I started learning of the huge prejudices between the regions. Not sure if this is really racial discrimination, but skin color does play a role.
    Unfortunately, I think there is racial discrimination in every country in the world with different races (whatever that means). Reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book where even the tiniest differences were used as a basis for discriminating. I could not even venture a guess as what country has the least and I am not even sure one could even guess. Perhaps the better question is what country has the least in relation to what it actually has on the ground in terms of differences. Again, I do not even have a guess.

  5. “The most evident aspect of discrimination seems to be against dark skinned people and pretty much all of China’s minorities are dark skinned…and shorter than the average Han.”
    Is there any law in China against shorter or darker people?
    Mongolian, Manchurian, Korean-Chinese living near the NK boarder, and Urgurians are all major minorities groups and they are on average lighter skins and taller then average Han.
    Plus, Han as a race is really a myth. Northern Hans are close to mongolians while southern Hans are close to tibetans. The Chinese genome project is unraveling more interesting fact about the race relationship in China.

  6. Most of the minorities in China are exempted from one child policy, which is kind of reverse discrimination against the majority. The discrimination against rural migrant workers is a serious social issue getting worse and worse. It may not be called a racial discrimination, but definitely not a good thing in the Harmonic Society.

  7. When I first arrived in China, a chinese co-worker who had lived in the US for a while told me “in China there is no discrimination because everyone knows their place”.
    A readily noticable sign of discrimination against dark skinned people is on TV and advertising. All white skinned people, and the skin is made almost paper white. In the movies and TV shows, no dark skinned actors/actresses. And certainly no love scenes involving dark skinned people.
    You won’t see the Chinese version of 1950s and 60s Sydney Poitier or Bill Cosby roles for quite some time.

  8. We all know that the law often doesn’t reflect reality in China. Chinese people have a completely different concept of racism from Westerners, and it’s almost impossible to discuss the topic with them because of this. In fact, many Chinese have difficulty defining what ‘racism’ means to them – they know the word, but don’t really have a concrete idea of what it means.
    The worst racism (by any definition of the word) I’ve seen is against black friends of mine, who are called “hei gui” (which I’d translate to “black bastard”); told that they have AIDS; have grandparents tell their grandchildren they need to wash otherwise they’ll end up with skin like ‘that’; and have food and chopsticks thrown at them. This is obviously less common in more progressive cities like Shanghai and Beijing, but those cities represent a tiny part of the total Chinese population.
    Maybe it’s time for that new category.

  9. China has no racial discrimination
    So, good news: There is no racial discrimination in China. Right…

  10. According to Jonathan Unger, prejudice against minority groups in China is similar in style and prevalence to old South bigotry against African-Americans. Nevertheless, he credits the government for honoring its commitment to ethnic minorities as evidenced by the presence of ethnic minorities in seats of local government. JONATHAN UNGER, THE TRANSFORMATION OF RURAL CHINA 189-192 (2002).
    Of course, minority groups have certain advantages (analogous to affirmative action) in that they are exempt from certain financial pressures (still subsidized by the central government–which has cut down on the authoritarian capitalism, i.e., marriage between local government and corporations, seen in many Chinese cities and villages) and are exempted from the one child policy.

  11. Apparently that chinese official meant to say that there’s no discrimination against chinese minorities, which is true.
    The Xinhua translator used the wrong word ‘racial discrimination’
    Indeed there are many serious discrimination problems in china ,like discrimination again female, poor. There is also discrimination against people from other regions, like Shanghainese tend to look down on people from other provinces

  12. nanheyangrouchuan,
    What were you watching in your stint in China? Ever seen the show “Three Kingdom?” Zhang Fei is dark skinned and good while Cao Chao is white and evil. For dark skinned love, China has imported quite a bit of Bollywood movies and Indians are sex symbols.
    If you were talking about the Chinese girls trying to have white skin, it’s a legacy. White skin used to mean the girls are from rich families and the fair skins signal they never have to work around the house. Chinese girls are less obsessive about white skins then either Taiwanese or Japanese. If you went to Thailand, the girls covering their entire bodies on the beaches are most likely to be from Taiwan or Japan.
    Regarding to Cosby, do you want to see a show of Tibetans living happily like Han? I think that’s already on the CCTV.

  13. atthecoalface ,
    Getting food and chopstick throwing at him? Would you like to name the city/town where this happened and what was your friend doing there? Not to dispute your story. I am really curious about where this backwater town is.

  14. Just some clarifications on terms, the term “Hei Gui” is mostly a Southern Chinese one. A typical person in Beijing would refer to black folks as “Lao Hei” literally meaning “Old Black” to which very little if any discrimination is attached. You know that Westerners in China are called “Lao Wai.” (Yeah, in Southern China, it’d be “Gui Lao” yeah which is a different “Lao” in Chinese Character). And Mainlanders in the U.S. often call themselves as “Lao Zhong.”
    Still, I’d say among the all Lao Wai in China, black Lao Wai would more likely run into discrimination. Ever play a soccer game with Chinese in Beijing? The Chinese dude is like “Cao, you’ve got Lao Hei on your side,we’re not gonna play.” And the Caucasion dude is like “Cao, we’ve been cousins back in the States, you guys are sick.”

  15. Well, there may be no legal discrimination, but legislation does not remove it from the population. It almost always happens when I’m with Chinese friends when there is a black person visible, whether on TV or on the street, that they don’t have some negative remark about “hei1 gui3” which they translate as “black ghost.” It seems their view of blacks is directly related to the movies and shows that are imported portraying them only as thugs, drug dealers, or some type of negative stereotype.
    I’ve noticed discrimination against people of minorities with darker skin, both in the hiring process as well as in the education system. Its difficult for me to distinguish whether it is ethnicity alone, or also somehow mixed up with the feelings of the more educated city dwellers with the poorer farmers from the countryside, usually with some negative classification of “uneducated” or “country-bumpkin” attached to their comment, but almost always in reference to a person of darker skin, whether from ethnicity or the tanned skin of a laborer.
    I’ve noticed discrimination against people from different regions, particularly from the NE peoples about those in the SE, usually tied to their “impurity” of accent or pronunciation of “standard” Mandarin. For those “outside” Chinese, who immigrated to Malaysia, Indonesia, or the west, I’ve noticed a great deal of discrimination by mainlanders. As to the Japanese, well the comments I’ve heard are rather hair-raising sometimes. (Yes, I know the history, and the secondary history books.)
    What is missing were the follow-up questions by the reporter (so frequently missing in these “news” interviews) about discrimination by the population against not only ethnic minorities, but based on education, economics, social class, and geography, as well as toward other non-Chinese races.
    I also agree, there is a totally different understanding of prejudice in China. Whether it’s the number of eye-folds or the whiteness of the skin, or the educational levels, or the accents, or countless other non-relevant characteristics, China is not immune to discrimination. The only thing that I’ve consistently been bothered by across China is the widespread stereotyping for non-Chinese races, both good and bad.
    Racism exists in every country, and the neutrality of the law has not changed that one bit, in China or anywhere else.

  16. Is that the only south park example you can come up with David Li?
    There are so, so many others. US has racism among everyone, even non-whites, but we can talk about it and it is on the media. As for your happy Tibetans on CCTV, that is just silly propaganda, how about all of the unhappy ones with PAP boots on the backs of their necks? How about a prime time CCTV show or movie with a dark skinned man and a famous chinese actress “getting it on”? Oh, yeah, will never happen. How about university students throwing things at black man/chinese woman couples on campuses?

  17. atthecoalface —
    I know. I have had Chinese insist that Africans and African-Americans are dark because they are dirty. I remember many years ago sitting on a Russian ship in Sapparo, Japan, listening to the captain tell me, in front of his crew, that “blacks don’t work.” I asked him how he knew this and he proudly proclaimed that he had spent two weeks in Seattle and had seen blacks out on the street during working hours. I asked him if he hadn’t also seen whites out on the street at the same time and if this didn’t mean that whites also don’t work. The crewmembers laughed, but this idiot, with a completely straight face said that was different.
    How does one even begin to handle racism like this?

  18. meiguo —
    Of course. Yet at the same time, laws are absolutely essential. Laws cannot instantly change a populace, but they can let the populace know what will be considered right and what will be considered wrong. Without a doubt, the Civil Rights Act in the United States has had a tremendous impact on reducing racism here. To China’s credit, it has the laws. Now, it just needs to change the minds.

  19. nanheyangrouchuan —
    And that’s the point. There is, unfortunately, enough racism to go around, virtually everywhere in the world, and certainly in the U.S. But its like any problem in that the first step toward a solution is facing up to the problem. I like good news as much as anyone, but articles like this can be harmful.

  20. David Li,
    That particular incident happened in Wuhan, a city of over 8 million but still rather backward in its ways.

  21. Well, Iam a Chinese lawyer working in the one of the top 3 lawfirms in southern China. Our law firm is located in Guangzhou. In this city, there is an commercial area in which many black people are living. You can see them everywhere.Most of them are doing trading bussiness in China. As far as I know, they are living a happy life in Guangzhou.And some of them even have their whole families move to Guangzhou.You can often see lovely little black babies on the street.In the building where my office is located, many black people are go in and out everyday as others. I don’t hear any unfriendly conversations on them.

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    This month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats is dedicated to the importance of management. Nothing is more important to bureaucracy than periodic restructuring of management, along with associated renaming of business divisions. In a well-functioning bur…

  23. Joe —
    Thanks for checking in. Are you really saying that you think Africans and African-Americans are really treated equally in Gauangzhou and that they are also viewed as being pretty much the same as the Chinese there?
    I have heard far too many racist comments in China to not be very skeptical.

  24. I wasn’t going to comment here, as others have said what I would have said, but it seems that someone else who has my (very common) name has said something completely unrepresentative of what I would say.
    Of course there are many people in China with racist predjudices. I worked in a Chinese company (English school) in Xinjiang which was extremely unwilling to hire Uighurs, which I think is quite normal. One of the part-time Uighur teachers they did have was once asked by her students (children) where she came from. She said she was Uighur and their response was “but you don’t smell.”
    And fellow name-mate Joe, even the Chinese media had a piece about racism against black people in Guangzhou a few months ago. (On QQ -sorry I don’t have the link, but if you’re interested you could just do a search)

  25. and another thing-
    sepa, do you think the southern term ‘hei gui’ is racist? Also can I check that the ‘gui’ in this case is ‘ghost’ (?). (In Sichuan, and maybe some other places, there is some potential for confusion here as ? is sometimes pronounced gui, which makes their term ‘yangguiren’ ambiguous -unless you know Sichuanese tones.)

  26. Condi Rice really stirs up the racist feelings when she comes to China. The blogs are full of comments containing “monkey”, “gorilla” and “coal”.
    And you’ve got to love the Chinese name for Africa…?? which means “lawless land”.
    And those black people in Guangzhou only get subtle insults hurled at them, just wait until some young black man and a cute local girl decides to hang out together.

  27. Thank goodness for that! What great news!
    There I was starting to think that China was a proto-fascist country, with an alarming increase in unreasoned, off-balance and crazy racism and prejudice which is justified on the basis of nationalism, and is in danger of going out of control.
    After this news, all Japanese people can go about their business in China without any fear of unfriendliness or bad feeling, Xinjiang people will no longer be accused of stealing (incidentally, the only people who have never cheated me in China are Uighurs, and that includes Han Chinese, Europeans, and Americans), and foreign teachers will be recruited on the basis of their English speaking ability and teaching experience, not their caucasian faces (someone should tell the school where the russian guy I know works – he told them he was a native speaker, and sadly no-one there knows any better. But he has a white face, so everything is fine.)
    I can’t imagine what a celebration there will be when the news reaches Tibet! Fantastic!
    Just shows how wrong you can be.

  28. The way I see it there is a sort of discrimination against Africans or African-Americans by calling them something else behind their back. They habitually won’t get treated equally in China as Chinese people. Most people respect them superficially on social occasions, but many say words with prejudice or bad privately without their presences. This is an open secret in there. I believe they should know about how they have been called privately.

  29. well, haha, I am happened to be a Sichuan people.Actually, we do have a word “heigui”.The last generation may say this word sometimes.But in our generation,I hardly heard people say”heigui”. For we have been taught that “heigui”is an unpolite word since we are very young.
    Reply to The original Joe, what I said is what i have seen in China. I couldn’t deny that there might be racial discrimination in China.But I can say without any hesitation that USA have more racial discrimination than us. I just got a news a few months ago that a black young man just was killed by polices in a city in USA before his wedding night. Simply because he drived a car after drinking some beer.The police shot him with more than fifty bulletes.Well, was he a monster or something? If he is a white man,how about the behavior of the policeman? Could you answer me, another Joe?

  30. It’s easy to pointing out example of prejudices in any country as modern evolutionary psychologists would argue that prejudices (and the fear of different looking people) has a evolutionary advantage to be selected for. Behind closed doors and among our own people, we all have made politically incorrect comments about white, black, yellow, red and brown.
    However, if we are examining a culture or a country, we should look at how they deal with such prejudices as a whole. And most importantly, do prejudices get institutionalized? Here is a quote by an influential American writer in the 16th century in the justification of slavery.
    “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.”
    I’d challenge anyone to dig out a quote by any Chinese writer in the scale of racism expressed in this quote.
    Condoleezza Rice is a fine example of how fast discrimination can disappear when it is not institutionalized. A girl attending segregated school is now the Secretary of the State.
    I’d be interested in reading the blogs calling her “monkey” and “gorilla.” nanheyangrouchuan , care to post the links? The only one I can dig out is with Rice and monkey in the same page is a blog post calling the Bush administration a bunch of monkeys.

  31. hahaha. i just read through all of the 48 comments and i can say that while a lot of people are accurate in their accounts of China, only a handful is actually addressing what the Xinhua article was talking about.
    There is no doubt that China has discrimination. Every culture does. However, China’s discrimination (remember, this article is talking about the Chinese population itself ,within it’s own people, not with westerners…because Chinese people are probably the MOST racist people when dealing with foreigners) is based on physical, socio-economic, educational (kinda socio-economic) and regional attributes.
    The beauty of Chinese people is that it is incredibly difficult to tell by skin color what race a person is. For example, my aunt is Manchu. A 2nd uncle of mine is Mongol. I didn’t know that or would have ever guessed it until someone told me specifically.
    Many people have qualified their statement that since Chinese people like fair skin, and most minorities in China have dark skin, this is basically racial discrimination. I can tell you that I probably have the one of the darkest skin out of any Chinese in Shenzhen, and I’m made fun of for it from my colleagues, family and friends. However, since I’m tall, i get acclaim for that. No one knows what ethnic group i am.

  32. Joe —
    I will answer. There is racial discrimination in the US. No doubt about it. None. It’s a shame, but it is true.
    Is there more or less than in China? Who knows? How can they even be compared?
    The point of this post is that when a problem is said not to exist, solving the problem becomes more difficult. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any country wholly lacking in racism.

  33. Mike —
    You are right that the article focused on within China, but the statements are so broad as to have universal applicability. You are also right that prejudices in China (and everywhere else) go well beyond just race.

  34. I was at a ski resort in Dalian doing a spot of snowboarding in Febuary. Anyhow as I was going up a ski lift with a small Chinese kid beside me. The kids english was incredible but I was more amazed at one of the questions he asked me.
    Are there many black people where I am from? You know – black people – niggers!!”
    My jaw dropped, this was at the end of the ride and I didn’t have a chance to reply. This was coming from a kid aged 8 or 9. Personally I blame the parents.

  35. Vlaehru —
    I have a 9 year old and I would agree the blame lies with the parents. But, one also has to wonder if the kid/parents really know the true meaning of the words. Could you tell?

  36. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t know the meaning of the words, their true meaning at least however I’m sure that he knew it was a bad word. I just wonder if he would have repeated it in front of his parents. If I was in his place and said anything remotely similar in front of my parents I don’t think I would have been able to sit down for at least a month.
    People back home would have blamed MTV for this language, since when did MTV play music videos anyway?

  37. Fair enough, but it is more recent that the quote from the unnamed 16th century (?) American writer that David Li gave us. I would be very interested in hearing if anyone here could point us to any work by a PRC academic who has taken Kang Youwei to task for his attitude. The absence of such literature would indicate that there is much left to be done as regards racial prejudice in China.
    Anyway, here is a more recent quote from a letter from a student organization in Nanjing, dated 1986:
    “We are walking towards our great aim on a broad road opened to [the] advanced and civilized world. It doesn’t mean, however, that we will feed the whole uncultured Africa with the results of our efforts and we will allow any Negro to hang about our universities to annoy Chinese girls and to introduce on our academic grounds manner[s] acquired by life in tropical forests, offending our traditional hospitality and broad mindedness. If .. . there will be no correction in [the] behaviour of idling black students, new and even harder lessons of ‘friendship’ will follow. They [i.e. these lessons] will be based on the experience of Americans, who know very well what to do to curb the Negroes in their country….”
    Quoted from Michael J. Sullivan, “The 1988-89 Nanjing Anti-African Protests: Racial Nationalism or National Racism?” _The China Quarterly_, No. 138. (Jun., 1994), p. 445f.

  38. “I just got a news a few months ago that a black young man just was killed by polices in a city in USA before his wedding night. Simply because he drived a car after drinking some beer.The police shot him with more than fifty bulletes.Well, was he a monster or something? If he is a white man,how about the behavior of the policeman? Could you answer me, another Joe?”
    Black cops committing violence is a more prevelant thing in US cities than with white cops these days. A couple of rap artists wrote songs about this between 1985 and 1995 (KRS-1’s “Black Cop” comes to mind).
    And those cops got punished for shooting that guy.

  39. Joe (and possibly some other posters)-
    I think it’s pretty meaningless to compare different countries and try to find out whether America is better or China is better. I don’t know much about the States, I come from New Zealand, where a lot of people hold a cherished belief that ‘our’ race-relations are better than anywhere else in the (anglo-saxon) world, and certainly better than Australia’s. True in some ways, but also a fairly pointless discussion as it doesn’t erase the nineteenth century NZ government’s cynical impoverishment of Maori populations, and the prosecution of a war against those who wanted more autonomy. And if the debate is just about which country is worst, why don’t we all just say ‘Nazi Germany’ and call it quits?
    What I would love to see in China, and what I think is absolutely needed to maintain that cherished ethnic harmony, is a broad and realistic campaign against the real racism that really exists here. It should be possible for, say, Uighurs or Tibetans to cases of racial discrimination to indepedent courts. And it should also be possible for them to discuss in an open manner other injustices that they perceive to have happened in the past.
    What do you think? Do you agree with that or not?

  40. Amban,
    Thanks for digging out the quote. Kang Youwei was a reformist inspired by Meiji Restoration in Japan. He was an advocate of aggressive westernization. I think he could have been influenced by the writer I quoted in his tour of America. The quote is from “Note on the State of Virginia” by Thomas Jefferson under the the “Law” section.
    Kang was turned from a reformist to a political outcast. His reputation got equally trashed in both ROC and RPC for his political orientation toward the monarchy.
    I’d be curious for anyone to find other possible origin of Kang’s attitude toward black from Chinese literatures.

  41. Valehru,
    Interesting story. I’d be curious in what context a 8~9 years old Chinese boy could have learn about the word Nigger. Could he be a fan of hip-hop and use the term in a friendly way much like Jackie Chen saying “My Niggers” in Rush Hours?

  42. David Li:
    The question of to what extent Chinese ideas about race and ethnicity have been influenced by Western notions is extremely interesting. I do recommend you look at some of Frank Dikotter’s work in this area.
    But how relevant is it here? If racist Chinese people were influenced by Americans, Austrians or Manchus, does that make them any less racist?

  43. David Li,
    Why does it matter where Kang Youwei got his ideas from? Does his ideas have to have a pure Chinese bloodline to qualify as genuinely racist in a Chinese context? If you carry that argument to its logical conclusion you could pretty much exonerate any racist in Europe or America on the grounds that his ideas contain foreign influences. Wherever Kang got his ideas from, he made a choice to adopt those very racists ideas.
    Yes, Kang’s reputation is tarnished in China by his monarchist ideas. But has his reputation suffered in China because of his blatant racism? It would be interesting if you could find a quote to that effect.

  44. David Li asked “I’d challenge anyone to dig out a quote by any Chinese writer in the scale of racism expressed in this quote.”
    So here it is:
    “Kang Youwei (1858-1927), one of the most acclaimed philosophers of the late 19th century, judged that Africans, ‘with their iron faces, silver teeth, slanting jaws like a pig, front view like an ox, full breasts and long hair, their hands and feet dark black, stupid like sheep or swine,’ should be whitened by intermarriage, although he feared that no refined white girl would ever agree to mate with a ‘monstrously ugly black.’ Whites and yellows who married blacks as a contribution to the purification of mankind should therefore be awarded a medal with the inscription ‘Improver of the Race,’ whereas ‘browns or blacks whose characteristics are too bad, whose physical appearance is too ugly or who carry a disease should be given a sterilizing medication to stop the perpetuation of their race.'”
    Quoted from Frank Diktter, “Racial Identities in China: Context and Meaning,” _The China Quarterly_, No. 138. (Jun., 1994), pp. 405.

  45. “. It should be possible for, say, Uighurs or Tibetans to cases of racial discrimination to indepedent courts.”
    Yeah, when China has independent courts. You are more likely to see a really incouragable chinese director choreograph a sex scene between a minority and a very good looking, very white Han girl ala “Jungle Fever”. It will be banned, of course, then turn up in the blogosphere.

  46. I would have to say that any discussion about race with Americans creates a level of fervor. Just look at how many comments there are here…

  47. “I would have to say that any discussion about race with Americans creates a level of fervor. Just look at how many comments there are here…”
    The US has quite a caustic mix of ethnicities and religions. Everyone makes a big deal out of a defaced mosque, temple or church now, but that is nothing compared to 100-200 years ago. The US was founded as an english colony but settled and built by ethnic groups who had nothing but hatred and suspicion towards each other. Big race and religious riots were common and the police in the big cities were often first generation native born citizens in their families, so LOE felt the tug of ethnic and religious loyalty as well.
    But those silly villagers eventually had to work things out, especially when their kids and grandkids were marrying the people they hated.
    The race riots of the 1960s were nothing in comparison, but thanks to mass media were highly visible around the world.
    Ethnic relations has been a constant front burner subject in this country for well over 100 years and will continue as the newest wave pours in from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. They’ll all have to learn to get along AND to fit in. They will have to bury their silly village hatreds and superstitions just like the European immigrants had to.

  48. The other Joe,
    I will definitely check out the books by Frank Dikotter. His top two books in Amazon are histories of Sex and Drug in China. I am definitely checking them out!
    As for your question, “But how relevant is it here?” Dikotter works may answer better then I can. In his book “The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” it states the concept of races in China were developed in later 1800 and early 1900 by the reformers. Most of the reformers were likely to develop the concepts according to the established contemporary views of the time which is 1900. Eugenic was popular in the West. America have several states passing eugenic legislations. Not to blame America of anything, just to illustrate the social background on the issue at the time.
    If racism isn’t native to China, it may simply go the way of Marxism and Communism easily. However, if it’s indigenous, it may be take much longer. Also, it’s also helpful to see how it has been developed over the past 100 years and see what direction it is going. Was racism getting worse or better in China? And more importantly, currently, China has no discrimination stature but it is possible for it to develop such if racism is a concept on the raise here.
    Plus, if we were talking about getting rid of racism, what do we used to judge the level of racism in a country? Foremost, whether it has statures that institutionalize discrimination. Then, it’s the level of hate crimes. Then, how the society deal with such in the social norm, e.g. tolerance of politically incorrect speech.
    With all the horrible stories mentioned here, I don’t see an institutionalized racism in China. Also, there are random harassments but nothing systematic or organized.
    So, the next is politically incorrect speech. Well, there is a difference between Chinese trash talking all others or just toward single groups. Enough has been said that Chinese from just about every region have something bad to say about people from other regions. It’s hard to hear from a PC speaking countries but this is simply part of the culture here.

  49. Amban,
    Thanks for digging out the link. It’s disturbing if you read it as an racial attack on a black woman. But the attack is directed at the Secretary of State of USA who happened to be a black woman. Same kind of trash talks would happen if Rica was a white man. Would it be as offensive if he was called a stupid white pig on Sina? I think Bush has been called worse on Leno.
    Not to justify what the people are saying on Sina but it is kind of racist to think the Secretary of State of USA should be more protected from stupid verbal assaults because she’s a black woman.
    Now, I really love to see an Clinton/Obama vs Giuliani/Rice for 2008. That would definitely overshadow the entire Olympic. 😉

  50. David/nh/others —
    I think you are right about the need to distinguish between institutional racism and racist incidents. I also agree that history is important in determining the “stickiness” of present day racism. Mr. Li raises an interesting question as to whether racism has less sting if it is directed at all others, not just some others.
    I wish my Chinese history were better so I could speak to that here.

  51. David Li,
    No. You simply cannot explain away the attacks on Condoleezza Rice this way. (And just to set the record straight, I am just as angry with her policies as I guess many Chinese are.) I never said that she should be protected because she is a black woman, but when you refer to her as an “orangutang”, “black devil”, “whore”, etc., you are crossing a line. If you don’t get that, don’t expect any sympathy when your racial features are singled out for attack. And I would be very curious if you could find Leno abusing Bush this way, please give me an example. For more on the Condi affair, you can read here:
    And why does it matter whether racism is “native” to China? If a Japanese claimed that Chinese are inferior by referring to a German racist ideologue, would you consider that an exenuating circumstance? I don’t think so.
    As for institutional racism, could anyone on this blog show me any law in China that explicitly bans racial discrimination when foreigners are concerned? Can I sue a taxi company that charges me more because of the way I look? Can you sue an employer that won’t let you teach English because you are black? Can I take a landlord to court because he refuses to rent me an apartment because of my national origin?

  52. David Li,
    Firstly, on the genealogy of ideas of race in China. I would caution against claiming they were entirely a nineteenth century import. In the early Qing dynasty (Han) scholar Wang Fuzhi compared the differences between Han and Manchu to the differences between men and horses (Prasenjit Duara ‘Rescuing History from the Nation, p.59). Sure, he was probably upset about the Manchu conquest, but if this isn’t racist, what is?
    Secondly, I don’t think that the potential foreign-ness of Chinese ideas about race makes them less likely to last. Buddhism was initially a foreign religion. Modern stock-capitalism is a foreign idea. The first lasted a long time, the second looks like it will. Also the Leninist idea of a Party-state doesn’t seem to be loosing ground. But when you say “Also, it’s also helpful to see how it has been developed over the past 100 years and see what direction it is going.” I absolutely agree.
    Thirdly, I agree that (simple) racism against minorities not institutional in China. But I do think it’s extremely widespread in Xinjiang society at least, in a way that goes way beyond ‘un PC speech’. Have you ever been there? I don’t think it’s just ‘un PC’ to rule out employing someone because they’re an Uighur (to be fair the chances of a Han person getting a job in an Uighur owned and operated company are close to zero.) But I can only give you stories about what people tell me, because as far as I know, nobody has ever done a systematic investigation into racism there. Allowing someone to do this might be a good way to judge the real extent of the problem and serve as a first step to thinking of some ways to get rid of it. What do you think?
    Finally, when I went to Xinjiang, I didn’t go looking for racism. To be honest I’ve always been more interested in ways that Han and Uighur interact and influence each other in more complex fashions than simply despising each other. But I think people would ignore the real widespread racial prejudices there at their peril.

  53. Amban and Dan,
    I have the same disgusting feeling as you reading the words. However, we really have to put this in a context so we don’t overreact to this.
    First, this is Sina chat room and it’s famous for verbal assault and personal attacks. Sina has been known to flame the fire in the chat room to keep up the traffic. If you read across the chat room transcript, the level of nastiness of that discussion is about normal for Sina. Foreigner politicians (well, not the RPC officials for Sina has aggressive censoring practice), movie stars, successful politicians, writers and celebrities have been attacked this way on the Sina. It’s nasty but all I am trying to say here is Rice was not singled out for such nasty attack because she’s black woman. It’s not like those on Sina chat room spare others. There is a big difference between everybody get flamed the same way and just her. Sina chat room is the slum of Chinese Internet and what do you expect from a street fight in a slum?
    Second, there is really no historical baggage for Chinese not to use nasty terms on black (and for that matter white, brown and yellow). Black has not been singled out for discrimination here and for that matter, any minority in China. Calling a white man pig sounds just about as bad as calling a black woman monkey. There are no historical meaning to those terms in China. Try to explain to a Chinese why Michael Richards’ use of the N word or Mel Gibson’s comment on Jew got them in trouble while Chris Rocks are making a bundle making fun of white people.
    Third, the street fight nature of the Sina char room discussion is to drag celebrities in focus down to their level using whatever mean available. It gets nasty but that’s how it is in a street fight.

  54. Amban,
    For your comments on institutional racism, the first question to ask is whether or not anyone has the right to do so regardless to their race or country of origin under the law.
    There is a difference between everyone get screwed the same amount or me getting screwed more because of my race, country of origin or whatever. Well, excluding me being an ass and deserve it.
    Also, your examples are not easy to prove in court. Not expert but, even in the US, those cases are hard to fight. How easy is it to prove those cases in the US court? A little helps from the lawyers here. 😉

  55. The other Joe,
    Interesting on Wang Fuzhi. He lead a militias against the Manchu invasion. Dehumanizing the enemies is one of the common military tactics. We still have the pictures of Iraqi captures haunting us now. Not to justify what he wrote; just an alternative explanation to the context of his writing.
    As we examine the history, I think a trend to look for is how the prejudices lead to philosophies then to policies. I like Jefferson’s writing on the subject not because it shows how racist the American founding fathers were. Jefferson was progressive for his time, even on the subjects of races. It shows how fast a society can change in its views and concepts.
    Your references on the subject in China are great. What get you interested in the race in China?

  56. David Li,
    You make it sound like the attacks on Condi are just something normal that only happens on Sina and nowhere else. I have given you a lot of evidence of racism in China, but nothing seems to be good enough. Did you read the article I posted? It is very easy to dismiss racism when you are not the target! You should take a walk with a black friend down the streets of Beijing and observe what happens around you. I have done it a couple of times, and it is shocking what you see and hear. As a person with European looks, I do get my fair share of abuse too, but it is nothing compared to what Africans have to put up with. I have visited China regularly since the late 80s and this is something that has not changed.
    I think it is shocking that there is almost no debate about this in China and there is a great risk that the Beijing Olympics will be ruined by racist incidents. A number of sports riots recently have given us a taste of what it might look like. Perhaps it is only when the Chinese government realizes that the reputation of China is at stake that something will be done about it, but it is too late to do anything about for next year.

  57. David Li,
    Again, it is very easy to dismiss something you have not been subjected to. As for now, the question is whether it is possible at all to take legal action against racial discrimination in China. The lack of any legal provision against racial discrimination is a pretty good measure of institutional racism by itself.
    Remember that a lot of racism in the English-speaking world did not take the shape of government laws that explicitly excluded not-whites. There were a number of racially neutral laws and constitutional amendments, but gerrymandering, literacy tests, regional quotas, etc, raised several stumbling blocks against the inclusion of minorities. Chinese immimgrants have played their part in fighting discrimination in the US – when will it be legitimate to even raise the issue of racial discrimination of foreigners in China?

  58. The other Joe,
    It’s interesting that your bring up Uighurs. The autonomous region laws have exempt them from certain restriction of Chinese laws. The most important one is the right to own lands. Most of cotton farms in Xinjiang are owned by Uighurs and they are importing Han labors from Sichun and other regions to pick cottons because they can’t find enough Uighurs wanting to do the jobs.
    I agree that good studies into the issues would be great. I think I saw a couple published by People’s university professors in the bookstores. However, I think it’s hard to do at this point because race isn’t the only dividing line. There are also wealth and religions.
    You mentioned “get rid of it.” What exactly is the “it?” we are talking about here? There are no discriminatory stature, no organized racist group, and no hideous hate crime. How dangerous for a Han to walk into a Uighur village or a Uighur into a Han?
    All we have now is some random incidents and very annoying usage of racial slums. But do we really want to see China pushing more policies in the restriction of expression and speeches?

  59. David:
    It is amazing that the Uyghurs live so well, so far from Beijing when minorities and peasants across the rest fo china are losing their lands and their “right to have mulitple children” comes into direct conflict with village birth quotas meant for Han but imposed on Uyghurs by local authorities…all of which are Han. Uyghurs are denied jobs and access to education not just out of racism but to drive them out of E. Turkmenistan. The education system, banking and transportation are all Han controlled.
    Why would it be dangerous for a Han to walk into a Uyghur village? Because the Han is an invader and pillager?
    Then there is the Gulua massacre:
    This incident reflects the true nature of Han China.
    Amban: David would never walk down the street in China with a black person. Light skinned latino maybe, but no dark skinned people.

  60. David Li says that there is “no discriminatory stature, no organized racist group, and no hideous hate crime.” Wow, I guess that the Uighurs must be very happy then.
    Well, I quote from an UNPO report
    “More than 90 percent of administrative and economic bodies in Eastern Turkestan are occupied by non-Uyghurs.”
    “Whereas the Chinese authorities are creating new jobs in Eastern Turkestan, these jobs are largely reserved for Chinese settlers.”
    “Official educational policy entails that, at present, almost 70 percent of schools in Eastern Turkestan have classes taught in Chinese. It is further estimated that 60 percent of the adult population in Eastern Turkestan is illiterate. Very few Uyghur students who graduate from higher educational institutions are able to find jobs apposite to their qualifications.”
    “Despite Eastern Turkestan’s natural wealth, the Uyghurs live below the poverty line. According to a report released by the “Xinjiang Provincial Government” on 28 November 2004, the average income of the Chinese in Eastern Turkestan is 3.6 times higher that that of Uyghurs.”
    To me this sounds more like a colony than an autonomous region. Here is some more reading:

  61. David Li
    Firstly, on the Manchu conquest, I can understand why race might have figured in Wang Fuzhi?s understanding of the world. It certainly seems to have existed in the world-view of the Qing conquerors, who set about constructing what one scholar likens to an apartheid system (Mark Eliot). I raised this as an example of a pre-nineteenth century Chinese racial world-view, not to specifically attack Wang, a man I never knew. If the Qing system can accurately be called Manchu apartheid, then this would explain the violent anti-Manchu racism that characterized the thinking of some of the main figures in the 1911 Revolution, including, to begin with, Sun Yatsen (see Edward Rhodes ?Manchus and Han?)
    Secondly, the ?it? that I would like to see disappear in Xinjiang is the widespread and I think largely justified feeling among Uighurs that if they send their CV to a Chinese manager or school headmaster then no matter what is on it, it will end up in the trash can. This can?t be put into the category of ?random incidents?. You?re right that racist violence is happily fairly limited. But believe it or not jobs are important to people.
    I understand that nothing is simple in Xinjiang. I didn?t know about the cotton fields you mentioned, but I was already aware that we can?t understand Xinjiang in black and white. But again, discrimination in employment is creating a large sense of injustice in there, and if it isn?t addressed I believe it will find some expression in the future. I hope it won?t be a violent expression.
    I would be hugely interested in the studies that you mentioned of racism in China by Chinese scholars. I have one Chinese anthropology book on my bookshelf, about an extremely small ethnic group in Qinghai. I find most of the book extremely good, although the book?s theoretical chapter, about community and ?race? in modern China would seem way too politicized to most foreign readers.

  62. David Li/Amban/Joe/The Other Joe —
    First off, I want to thank each of you for contributing to this serioius discussion. You all have done a great job with the issues, so I have very little to add. I will note the following, however:
    1. We do need to consider the context of the Condi Rice comments. They come from a Sina forum and there are certainly extremelly racist forums here in the US and I would hate for someone to pull a few racist quotes from those and ascribe those views to the entire country. Yet, these quotes are in response to a challenge to find such quotes. Also, they do show there is some racism in China.
    2. Employment discrimination is serious discrimination. It is more than un-pc speech.
    3. I do not purport to know terribly much about the present day relationship or the historical relationship between Uiyghur and Han, but it I know enough to know that religion and politics are also critical factors. I do know enough, however, to know there is real hatred there.

  63. Amban,
    I know racial slums are common in China, targeting at people from different regions and minority groups. It annoys me, especially when I first moved here from L.A. where I spent a decade living through L.A. riot and O.J. trial. I do understand what racial tension can lead to. However, I was trying to put them into a context so we can analysis the situation more objectively. Simply applying a US standard would certainly make it look much worse then it actually is.
    I do read the article you mentioned. It starts with discrimination against black and ends with author’s personal experience (Asian looking but no Chinese language skill). You mentioned your experience of abuse with your European look (white, blonde?). I can also offer my own stories in Beijing which can be interrupted as mistreatment of a Taiwanese who speaks Mandarin with accent.
    Is there a discrimination here? Yes. Is it targeting at specific groups? Not really. Is there an insensitivity with racial slums? Yes. Is it just rudeness or hatred and fear? Beijingren are known to be cooky and look down on anyone outside of Beijing. There is a Chinese saying for it: “Living at the foot of the Emperor” which make them feel superior to anyone else. It’s annoying but harmless.
    On the other hand, I was in a bar in Changsha, Hunan with a couple Dens. We were with a black student in Hunan Univ from Kenya. Several locals in the bar were buying all of us drinks for no particular reason other then to welcome us.

  64. “The lack of any legal provision against racial discrimination is a pretty good measure of institutional racism by itself.”
    How about the existence of preferential treatment toward minorities? e.g. Exemption from one child policy and special provision for college entry examine.
    “I think it is shocking that there is almost no debate about this in China and there is a great risk that the Beijing Olympics will be ruined by racist incidents.”
    Let’s look at the numbers. There are 2.6 millions Tibetans and around 8 millions Uighurs. Plus the other 50 minority groups. There are probably around 15 millions of them. That’s 1% of the population, most of which live in the remote areas. It’s not like Beijing or Shanghai has inner city slums packed with impoverish minorities.
    1% is the percentage of Native Americans in the US. When was the last policy dealing with their issues out of Congress or White house?
    How would you see Beijing Olympic get ruined by the racial incidents? Some bars fights? Riots?
    The worst scenario is really Uighurs suicide bombers in Beijing but that can’t end well for the Uighurs with the potential international casualty counts during Olympic.

  65. The other Joe,
    I agree that equal opportunities are important but that can’t be done overnight and by government policy. There are many researches in this area showing that names along would create unequal status. Roland Fryer of Harvard has published some pretty interesting papers on the subject of black in the US.
    If Fryer’s study is to be believed, the best suggestion for Uighurs is to act Han, adapting a Han name and start speaking good Mandarin to avoid the problems with employment for the short term.
    I don’t think Uighurs have problem with school headmasters for the college entrance as under the current system, they are treated preferentially. However, this does turn against them on the CV for a job. Being both Peking U. graduates, Uighurs would suffer from adverse adverting effect of the preferential treatment they received in college entrance because people would tend to assume they are in Peking U. because of their race, not their talent.
    It’s a complex problems without simple solutions. All we really can do is to ensure the discrimination isn’t manifested in policy and statures. Taking it out of people’s mind will take a long time.

  66. David Li:
    It is very clear that you apply one standard to China and another standard for the rest of the world when you discuss racism and discrimination. I think that I and several others have provided you with quite a lot of evidence that racism is just as widespread in China as elsewhere, but you keep dodging the issue. The fact that Chinese also are discriminated against does in no way vititate the fact that foreigners and ethnic minorities suffer discrimination too – in fact this is part and parcel of the same problem. Is racism worse in China than in other countries? Hard to tell. But I think it is worrisome that there is little or no discussion about this in China.
    You seem to think that the fact that Chinese law offers minorities some special privileges invalidates any claim that they suffer discrimination too. In fact, the exemption from the one-child-policy is just an example of the fact that the Chinese government knows how to apply good colonial policy in the minority areas. The British did not impose all their own laws in India, but that did not make them any less colonial.
    It’s kind of interesting that you single out “Uighur suicide bombers” as a threat to the Olympics. Why should we be particularly worried about that? Why do you assume that Uighurs are prone to violence? Correct me if I’m wrong, but many “suicide bombs” in Beijing are actually peasants blowing up themselves in desperation. I remember when a couple of “suicide bombs” went off when I was in Bejing a couple of years ago. Everybody assumed that it was Uighurs, but in the end it proved to be ordinary Han Chinese blowing themselves up in public parks and the like. A tragedy in itself.

  67. It’s interesting that he says “There is no discrimination”. There might not be direct discrimination, i.e. “I hate XYZ minority group”, but when I had my camera pickpocketed all my Chinese friends immediately said “it was a XinJiang kid. No second thoughts, no questions. Automatic assumption.

  68. Amban,
    Yes, the standard I am applying for China is difference from the rest of the world because there is a significant difference in the historical legacy of racial relationship. Race is actually a very recent innovation in human culture; the concept of human race wasn’t really developed until the modern biological taxonomy in the 17th century. You referred to Frank Dikotter a couple times. I was reading his books on Amazon and one thing he wrote is that before the concept of human race was introduced into China in the 18th century, the main concepts in China were Zhu (families) and affiliated tribes through marriages. The recognition of “races” in China didn’t really happen until the establishment of ROC and RPC and there has never been racially discriminating statures and policies. There isn’t really much difference between Chinese calling Shanghairen greedy, Beijingren cooky or Uighurs lazy until you look at this through a racial glasses.
    The West has had racial statures and policies for centuries: slavery, Nazi, Eugenic movement of the early 20th centuries and colonization of the world. A lot of tragedies happened in the name of the races and pretty aggressive measurements have been instituted to compensate that in the past half century.
    As I have said, it’s not the level of racism it is at this point but which direction it is going. And most importantly, whether it will lead to a racial discriminating statures and policies.
    The more important discrimination in China is happening along the wealth rather then the race. You have mentioned the suicide bombers peasants in Beijing. They are not really bombers but public suicide in the protesting of the local governments’ land grab. The local governments are corrupted against poor and in Xinjiang, it manifest into the Uighurs tourism revenue sharing problems you mentioned earlier.
    The discrimination of poor is a more serious problems in China and these are institutionalized: the statures for migration workers in social security benefit, health cares, and children’s educations. The problem of rural poor are at like 400 millions in head counts and it’s a much more pressing issues then the minorities problems which are really a discrimination against the poor rather then the race.
    The PRC has tried once to level the wealth gap and it archived the equality by making everyone equally poor. That didn’t work too well, did it?

  69. David Li,
    Firstly, you write: “If Fryer’s study is to be believed, the best suggestion for Uighurs is to act Han, adapting a Han name and start speaking good Mandarin to avoid the problems with employment for the short term.”
    I can’t resist firstly asking how you think most Han people would feel if they were told that to get a job in China they would have to act Japanese. But what you say is probably true. It’s certainly the case that nobody would get anywhere in New Zealand speaking bad English, even though the Maori is also an official language. But this kind of assimilation process is not a short, easy and painless one. Apart from the fact that some people feel proud of their culture, cultural assimilation to another group can cause all sorts of social problems. To give just one example, I once read a excellent piece about problems of Maori families during the 1930s -1950s raising their kids to be ‘pakeha’ (white) but really knowing exactly how to do that, or what it meant to be pakeha because the parents themselves were from a completely different cultural world. It created a generation of kids who grew up disconnected from their parent’s generation, without a sense of belonging, which led to communities without focus or leadership. It’s not difficult to understand that under such conditions crime, alcoholism and violence all increased. What’s this got to do with you, I and the Uighurs?
    I think Chinese could draw on the negative experiences of European colonial history, and be aware that these kinds of problems ARE likely to arise in China’s minority populations. If more people understood what I have just outlined, perhaps crude stereotypes which portray Uighurs as dirty, uncultured and criminal might be less common.
    I more or less agree when you say this: “The discrimination of poor is a more serious problems in China and these are institutionalized”. But one difference I see is that discrimination against people from the countryside is vigourously reported among certain sections of the Chinese media. I’ve never read anything about racism. If you could direct me to any articles or reports I would be very grateful.
    Again it’s the lack of awareness that disturbs me.

  70. “I can’t resist firstly asking how you think most Han people would feel if they were told that to get a job in China they would have to act Japanese.”
    We have enough of those fake Japanese in Shanghai already. I do consulting works for Japanese companies and I encounter interesting discriminations in the companies all the time.
    Speaking of borrowing experiences from Western society for minority issues, there are good collection of researches on Asian Americans. Asian Americans are model minorities. They were suffering from discrimination, even more under the affirmative actions. While the quota benefit other minorities, highly qualified Asian Americans are being turned away from schools and jobs at a higher percentage then white. There are few if any political groups of Asian Americans and thus few policies for their benefits but they still manage to archive the same level of prosperity of white. There are generations of bananas (yellow outside and white inside) but there is very little outcries of losing culture heritages in the community. There are very little problems with crime and poverty in the Asian American community.
    How is this relevant? We are talking about solving racial problems. Skin colors are less relevant then the color of money. Minorities can lift themselves by the bootstrap if they work for it and Asian American provide an reference for that. You wonder why the problems of minorities issues are rarely discussed in China?
    First, it’s not serious. Second, the number is simply small: 1% of the population. Third, for Chinese stand point of view, they are not well because they don’t work hard enough. If Chinese can make it around the world as minorities, why can’t the minorities in China? I don’t support the third but just try to see it from the eye of Chinese.
    The problems with poor are more pressing. The migration workers are numbered at 250 millions and simply assume one migration workers are supporting one relative back in the rural area. They walk among the urban elite, to some extent, urban elite can’t function without them. That’s a problem of 500 millions, almost half of the country’s population. I don’t think the media coverage are near the level of importance of the issues. But again, that’s a touchy subject not only because it’s big but also CCP ran KMT out of China on the support of the workers and peasants. The issues are shocking the very legitimacy of the party.
    Anyway, there is a anti-discrimination in employment bill in the people’s congress committee waiting to be rubber stamped. As for the researches in racism, there are some reports from People’s University which is the think tanks for the government. Racism is mentioned but the content is still politically charged.

  71. Amban —
    I agree with you that “The fact that Chinese also are discriminated against does in no way vititate the fact that foreigners and ethnic minorities suffer discrimination too – in fact this is part and parcel of the same problem. Is racism worse in China than in other countries? Hard to tell. But I think it is worrisome that there is little or no discussion about this in China.”
    In fact, that was why I did this post in the first place. Not to go after China for racism. Not to argue that any country has this issue covered. Rather, it was to go after the idea that there is no racism in China. Hate to bring in a corny line here, but truly, the first step towards resolving a problem is to admit there is one.

  72. David Li wrote:
    “You wonder why the problems of minorities issues are rarely discussed in China?
    First, it’s not serious. Second, the number is simply small: 1% of the population. Third, for Chinese stand point of view, they are not well because they don’t work hard enough. If Chinese can make it around the world as minorities, why can’t the minorities in China? I don’t support the third but just try to see it from the eye of Chinese.”
    I don’t have the time to respond at length, but you talk like a bully. I am aghast. I really, really hope that your views are not representative. Perhaps you should try to understand how the minorities feel like, rather than throwing about the numerical weight of the Han Chinese population?

  73. David —
    I disagree. I agree that minorities must go out and make money like everyone else and that hard work can overcome many things, including, much of the time, racism. But, just making money is not enough to end racism and one can be rich and still feel the pain of racism quite strongly.
    Talk to a well off African American parent with a 16 year old boy in the United States and ask them if they think their money insulates them from racism.
    I am as big on bootstraps as you are, but that solves only one part of the problem.

  74. Dan,
    How about asking the same question to a Chinese American parent in China town or Beverly Hills? I think Americans have put too much in the heads of African Americans about racism. Seriously, what kind of question is “Is Barack Black Enough?”
    Wealth may not solve the whole problem but a large part of it and a good first step.

  75. David Li,
    For all the talk about historical legacies, it seems that you forget your own argument when it is most relevant. The difference between the historcial legacies of African Americans and Chinese Americans is huge. The former were brought to the US against their will and the latter are mostly voluntary immigrants.

  76. Thanks for the links, by the way, David.
    I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve had a chance to read over them.

  77. Is China racist?
    Name ten rich & famous or high placed gov’t officials (as in provincial governor or higher, no “minority representatives”) who are non-Han in China today.

  78. David Li,
    “There are generations of bananas (yellow outside and white inside) but there is very little outcries of losing culture heritages in the community. There are very little problems with crime and poverty in the Asian American community.”
    Asian American’s (as far as I know) have done very well. But you can’t really compare being an immigrant to being a native. Immigrants should expect to have to change their culture. They should expect that when they go to school they won’t speak ‘their’ language or learn ‘their’ history. They should expect to become those ‘banana people’. People living in their own native place don’t expect (or necessarily want) any of these things.
    Also how active are they in politics? How active are they in cultural fields outside a relatively narrowly defined “Asian-American” cultural field? The answer in New Zealand is “not very”. So despite all their success, there are still substantial prejudices and barriers. So a minority group can’t just “get on its bike”, get itself a job and work its way to success. Of course maybe Asian New Zealanders don’t really care about politics (although one wonders why not). If so, fine, but it we can’t expect Uighurs not to care about politics in their own native place.
    Also the Chinese minority population is closer to 10%. A report here suggests that by 2050 one third of the total population will come from a minority.

  79. “Name ten rich & famous or high placed gov’t officials (as in provincial governor or higher, no “minority representatives”) who are non-Han in China today.”
    Off the top of my head :
    Na Ying (Manchu) – Female Chinese singer
    Yang Liwei (Manchu) – First Chinese astronaut.
    Lang Lang (Manchu) – Hottest pianist on the planet
    Cui Jian (Korean) – Needs no introduction
    some googling yielded :
    ??? (Miao) – pop singer
    ?? (Tibetan) – pop singer
    ?? (Xibe) – China Vanke co founder
    ??? (Mongolian) – CCTV anchorman
    ??? (Manchu) – Chinese football player
    ???? (Mongolian) – Chinese actress – Best Actress (3rd Golden Rooster Award), Best Actress (6th Hundred Flower Film Award)

  80. David Li,
    Thanks for the link to this article, from the Centre for Studies of Sociological Theory at Renmin University. After I got past the inevitable first two paragraphs about the dangers of Tibetan and Uighur terrorism and separatism, I found the article to be well written and in agreement with my own opinions. I would have liked more examples and a bit more clarity in parts, but the writer largely confirms what I and others have been saying: i.e. that, contrary to the original Xinhua article Dan read, China does have serious problems with ethnic conflict. The article points out that clearly that discrimination and racism has something to do with this. For the benefit of those who don’t have time to read it, I wrote some quotes in English below.
    None of this makes me think China is worse than other countries. These are very common and difficult to solve problems. One thing that does disturb me, again, is that while everyone in China knows about the Uighur terrorists, very few people seem to be aware of other aspects of ethnic tension, especially discrimination.
    Issues of employment, cadre recruitment, education and language use can often cause conflict between ethnic groups.
    Research has proven that the relative disparity in economic development between different ethnic groups is an important factor threatening political stability.
    Changes in relative economic power [between different ethnic groups] also result in corresponding shifts in political power.
    Some enterprises and locations, in order to further their own interests, undertake actions that are harmful to the interests of minority regions, causing ethnic relations to deteriorate.
    Disputes over economic issues frequently occur between national enterprises local ethnic groups. [The writer gives an example of one such dispute in Hainan.] Furthermore, whether or not local minority ethnic groups are taken into consideration in questions of land-use, resource extraction, employment and cadre recruitment, ecological protection and the distribution of profits and products directly affects the relationships between ethnic groups and can easily cause ethnic conflict.
    Most startling to me, the writer also says that publications, cultural products and recordings that are insulting to the feelings of minority ethnic groups and religious groups have been increasing in recent years. The writer gives an example of something blatantly offensive to Muslims that was published in Baoding in 1998. It is difficult to say that the media is deliberately attempting to create disturbances, but some inappropriate content definitely exists.
    The reasons for the ethnic disparity, conflict and violence include: recourse distribution; feelings of injustice and discrimination caused by economic and political competition; and reactions to prejudice and belittling identifications.
    Our country’s ethnic conflicts are increasing.
    Finally: One important reason for conflicts and disputes is that a very large number of cadres and ordinary people lack knowledge of other ethnic groups.

  81. Dan,
    I don’t mean racism isn’t there but there is too much emphasis on it. Some of Fryer’s researches on the subjects are interesting read or for more entertaining, Chris Rocks.

  82. Amban,
    Chinese immigration to US started in gold rush, mostly poor peasant males lured by the dream of gold. However, few found gold and some scholars argued that Chinese immigrants at this post civil war period move in to release some labor shortage created by the freeing slaves. At one point, Chinese were 25% of workforce in California doing jobs even freed slaves don’t want. The worrying of Chinese immigrants had US Congress created the first racial discriminating legislation “Chinese Exclusion Act” in 1880 lasting until 1950. McCarthy’s purge of communists also targeted at Chinese Americans. Qian Xuesen the father of Chinese aerospace was deported to China even though he was an US citizen, professor Cal Tech and a US army officer.
    The Chinese immigration to the US wasn’t smooth and subjected to just about the same discriminations all minority groups suffered. But there are few Chinese Americans talking about these.

  83. David —
    I do not think it is overemphasized. I think, if anything, it is not discussed enough.
    The reality is that if you are Black in America, you will face subtle racism just about every day. I have a black male friend with a nice car who every once in a while gets stopped by the police at night for “driving while black.” I have never once been stopped.
    Teachers expect less of their black students. Sometimes this is concious, sometimes it is not, but I have no doubt it is often there.
    Watch how a store monitors a 16 year old black male compared to a 16 year old white male. It is this sort of thing to which I was referring when I told you to talk to wealthy blacks with a 16 year old kid.
    And what about Blacks on TV. Until only around ten years ago, Blacks were either pimps, drug dealers, or absolutely perfect human beings. God forbid that any of them should actually be like 99% of the Blacks I have known, i.e., with both good and bad traits. Homicide: Life on the Streets was the first TV show I remember that portrayed Blacks as human beings. Again, what if your kid were Black?
    Now I am actually opposed to Affirmative Action based on race (for reasons I will not bother going into here), but is it fair for Whites to have “legacy” at so many of the top colleges and Universities, when that is so much more unlikely for Blacks, whose grandparents were pretty much blocked?
    I love Chris Rock (Has he been getting soft of late? Do all successful comedians eventually lose their edge?) and I love how he sticks it to people, including Blacks, but I think it wrong to base one’s views on race in America on Chris Rock.
    I would urge you to talk with Blacks YOU respect on these issues and really listen. I think you will be shocked that the really successful Black guy you know who absolutely never talks about racism will have countless stories of racism to tell you.
    I had a White friend from law school who was married to a Black. My friend took a summer job at a prominent huge international firm and then found himself one of very few people from the summer program who did not get a permanent offer. None of us could understand how this had happened to him because he is the last person who would ever offend anyone and that was pretty much what one had to do not to get an offer. Maybe five years later, one of my friends told me he had been at a party with a lawyer from this firm and they started talking about their law schools and when this lawyer realized that my friend had been a friend of my friend who had not gotten the offer, he apologized. He apologized because he said that my friend had not gotten the offer because a very senior partner had the firm had made very clear that so long as he was at the firm they would never hire a lawyer who was part of a mixed marriage. I will not reveal the name of the firm, but just so people don’t try to pigeonhole this incident, I will say that it is NOT based in the South.
    I am not calling for affirmative action. I am not calling for government intervention. I am just trying to point out that skepticism is appropriate when a non-Black starts talking about how Blacks should see things. I am not saying we Whites need to keep our mouths shut on these issues because I believe the exact opposite on that, but I am saying that it is very difficult for us to understand. I don’t claim to and I am very skeptical of those who do. You seem to make that claim and so I have to wonder on what basis you can feel you know so much about this.

  84. Ok, hanfei got me. To a point, all of them are light skinned.
    “The worrying of Chinese immigrants had US Congress created the first racial discriminating legislation “Chinese Exclusion Act” in 1880 lasting until 1950″
    That act has a couple of roots, one is racist, another root is that railroad bosses would send ethnic groups they didn’t like into tunnels to plant TNT. The casualty rate was pretty high and Chinese laborers among those groups.
    “McCarthy’s purge of communists also targeted at Chinese Americans.”
    McCarthy targeted everyone and I have first hand knowledge of baby-boomers who studied eastern european culture and languages out of interest and were visited by the FBI. There are a few famous directors in Hollywood today who actually operate under pen names because they are still on “the black list”. McCarthy gave the US its “cultural revolution” because he was otherwise an unnoteworthy, bland name in Senate history.
    “The Chinese immigration to the US wasn’t smooth and subjected to just about the same discriminations all minority groups suffered. But there are few Chinese Americans talking about these.”
    Pre-WW2, all immigrant groups were treated like crap, often by other immigrant groups as much as by anglo-saxon Americans who touted their Mayflower heritage. At least chinese immigrants didn’t have get off the boat and into the draft line to fight the US civil war, spanish american war or WW1.

  85. Dan,
    I pledged an engineering fraternity with a couple black guys. I got rare chance to have very frank discussion on the subject living with those guys. We exchanged some stupid racial insult jokes. Hey, we were young, drunk and frat boys. 😉
    It’s quite interesting that there are several calls in this discussion for me to get to know some black persons and no one ever consider this as a type of prejudice. I am Chinese and sound like a bigot; thus, I probably had never known a black person in my life. Pretty good rule of thumbs but don’t apply here.
    The race issues are overemphasized because there are really more then one identity each person holds. Most of us probably get identified by our professions these days. However, it’s not really so for the black. The more racial issues are discussed, the harder it is for a society to look at a person behind their skin color. Isn’t the root of racism resting on judging people as group rather then individuals?
    I think Chris Rocks got soft because the issues not as serious. Do I have to mention the elephant in the room? There is a black guy running for president for 2008 and he’s treated seriously. The idea of serious black candidate made pretty good skit in Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” only twenty years ago.
    Things like Driving while black is annoying. However, I often wonder if there is statistic to back it up or it’s one of the issues mostly in the head. I drove a nice sports car in college and I dated a girl who lived in a not so nice neighborhood in L.A. I got stopped once a while in her neighbor.
    “You seem to make that claim and so I have to wonder on what basis you can feel you know so much about this.”
    That’s really a point to have a frank discussion on this without people having to shut up for politically correctness. I don’t claim to know it all. Just my opinion and my rational for it. My interest on the subject has more to do with how politics of racism has started to interfere with advance of researches in genetics and biology.
    “I am just trying to point out that skepticism is appropriate when a non-Black starts talking about how Blacks should see things.”
    And we are here to discuss how Chinese should see its minorities? Anyone holding Chinese passport here? Everyone is entitled to his opinion as he sees it. Political correctness just got in the way of open discussion. Telling people not to use the N word doesn’t take racism out of them, just more creative euphemisms.

  86. The problem with statements like “Our country has no racial discrimination” is that usually they come from people/institutions who are discriminating. Discrimination is an inalianable (albeit unfortunate) part of being human, and denying its existense provides the perfect breeding ground for it to continue. Look at the US for example. Our country was created on the premise that “All men are created equal.” This was of course in an environment where slavory was legal, women couldn’t vote, and the Indians were being systematically exterminated.

  87. David —
    I find it very interesting that you complain of Blacks complaining of racism and yet you essentially do the same thing, and quite unjustifiably I might add. You call it prejudice that there have been several calls for “for me to get to know some black persons and no one ever consider this as a type of prejudice. I am Chinese and sound like a bigot; thus, I probably had never known a black person in my life.” I can tell you that the fact that you are Chinese had nothing to do with my calling on you to talk about racial issues with Blacks. I never thought one way or the other as to whether you knew Blacks or not, nor do I really care. What I did think was that your views on their situation in the United States belied a lack of understanding of what it really means to be Black in the United States. Solely for that reason did I call for dialogue. No other.
    Yes, the root of racism does rest on judging people as a group rather than as individuals and that is exactly why I find it so ridiculous. But until there is no more racism, we need to discuss it. I disagree that the “more racial issues are discussed, the harder it is for a society to look at a person behind their skin color.” Does talking about the Holocaust create more anti-Semites?
    I also disagree with your explanation for why Chris Rock has softened. He has softened because he has aged and age does that to people. He has softened because he has gotten incredibly wealthy and wealth does that to people (Steve and I were just talking last night about China’s new property law and how giving peasants greater property ownership rights is the best way to stop riots that we know). Chris Rock has softened because he has gone mainstream (kinda a chicken and egg thing on that). I seriously doubt Chris Rock’s softening has anything to do with some massive decline in racism in the last ten years.
    It is a great thing that “there is a black guy running for president for 2008 and he’s treated seriously” and I would be the first person to brag about racial relations in the United States. I am in awe of how far we have come in the last 40 years and I would match our record against anyone’s. But, the fight isn’t over and claiming it is will impede future progress.
    There are actually statistics to back it up. There was even a study done not all that long ago in Seattle to back it up. But even without those studies I KNOW it is there. My old law firm did the legal work for a number black professional atheletes and they would tell us how they would get picked up for driving while black and then once recognized, be immediately let go. Again, this sort of thing just does not really happen to whites. Yes, if you are a professional athelete, “annoying” is probably the right word. But if you are a 17 year old, it goes beyond annoying and veers into a lesson on where you belong in society.
    I certainly never told you to shut up and I don’t want you to shut up.
    I don’t even know what you are talking about when you say the “politics of racism has started to interfere with advance of researches in genetics and biology.”
    Your trying to use my statement that “I am just trying to point out that skepticism is appropriate when a non-Black starts talking about how Blacks should see things” as a basis for claiming I am not entitled to discuss Chinese racism is a non-starter. There is a huge difference. What I was saying was that unless one is Black in America, one cannot truly know what it is like to be Black in America and so skeptism is appropriate when a non-Black starts talking about how Blacks view things.
    One does not have to be Chinese to know that there is some racism in China and one certainly does not have to be Chinese to speak out against that racism. Are you really contending otherwise.
    And I absolutely hate your last paragraph: “Political correctness just got in the way of open discussion. Telling people not to use the N word doesn’t take racism out of them, just more creative euphemisms.”
    First off, I hate political correctness. Hate it. It came along after my college days and it is bull. Nobody who knows me would call me politically correct. But equality and the respecting of others have nothing to do with political correctness. Hell, these things are right in our Constitution.
    And your sentence about “the N word” is just bizarre. Are you saying people should be allowed to use that word? I don’t think you are saying that. So I guess I just have to ask what was the point of that comment?

  88. Ben —
    I was 100% with you until you said “All men are created equal.” If you are saying that statement has somehow contributed to racism in the US, I will say you are completely wrong. That statement is an amazing statement and it is amazing because it is a statement both of truth for the way things were when made and for the aspirations of this country.
    When made, all men were created equal. It says “created equal,” not treated equal. And by saying it at all, it is saying that the laws need to be changed to reflect this and that is exactly what eventually happened. I love (yes that is the right word) the U.S. Constitution and I probably love that sentence most of all.

  89. Chiming in with my two cents on this long thread…
    I would not lump together all 55 minorities when talking about discrimination. Ethnic Koreans are physically indistinguishable from Han Chinese and their names are not always obviously Korean since many surnames are shared between Korea and China. The ethnic Koreans I knew in China did not feel they suffered any discrimination. They did, however, complain about South Korean expats’ condescending attitudes towards them, their fellow Chinese, and China.

  90. I haven’t finished reading all the comments on this thread, but I see a lot of attempts in saying “Racism isn’t that bad in China.” Allow me to enlighten you. I am a Caucasian American, On august 31st, 2006 I went into the public security bureau at An Ding Men in Beijing (Beijing An Ding Men Gong An Ju) to renew my visa, which was expired. Either because it was expired for more than a month or because someone in the Gonganju wanted to make some extra money, they arrested me and placed me in the Beijing West Detention Center for 27 days (until August 26th.) I was never charged with a crime, or even accused of one, I offered up front to pay the maximum fine for an expired visa (5000 RMB) but, after they detained me they started asking my girlfriend (also American) for 30000. This however is all irrelevant for the topic.
    I was one of two caucasians in the beijing ji liu suo, every other person in the prison was African or Middle-Eastern. All of these people were arrested for similar reasons – expired visas. None, except for myself, was allowed to see or speak to their embassy during the 27 days I was there. When I was detained, I was given a piece of paper which said I would not be held more than 30 days (I’ve come to find out that this is actually in violation of their own law, it should only be 10 days for an expired visa pending a criminal investigation, which they got around by saying ‘we think he’s committed a crime’ but never charged or accused me of.) None of the other inmates received this paper. In fact, there were some Kashmir refugees who I did not meet until two days before I left who had their UN Refugee papers confiscated and destroyed by the Gonganju when they arrived in Beijing. They had been detained for several months by the time I arrived. The Africans and Middle-Easterners were all treated worse than I was during my detainment. I was allowed out of my cell more often (which I shared with 8 other people,) the Doctor checked up on my health, and I was given more food (as inedible as it was) than the other detainees, which I gladly shared with them. (I ended up losing about 12 lbs during this ordeal.) If the other inmates were insubordinate they would be beaten. It would never happen in the cells as there are cameras to document everything. Instead, they would be taken to the adjacent ‘solitary’ wing and beaten, which everyone could here.
    Since I have left, I have been attempting to contact the governments of some of these individuals that i befriended, the UN and Amnesty international. The latter being the only responsive party as of yet.
    My point is this: Racism in China is systemic. And is indeed government sponsored (Anti-Japanese TV programs about wwII for example, as all media is state run in China.)
    For those who debate it, read my story. For those who doubt it – feel free to check with Congressmen Dennis Moore (Kansas), Grassley (Iowa) or the American Embassy in Beijing.

  91. Nick Tallmon —
    That is an incredible story and I thank you for posting on it. Obviously a lesson to everyone not to leave China before the visa expires.
    But was your treatment due to race or to politics/power?

  92. To everyone who has posted a comment so far –
    I am currently writing a research paper on racism in China, against both ethnic minorities and foreigners. Many of you have some extremely valuable things to share, and have indeed already said much.
    I would like your consent to quote your comments in my research paper. If you are ok with this, please shoot me an email: (so as not to flood dude’s blog with irrelevant “ok”‘s). Also, if you have time or interest, I would like to ask a few of you some questions!
    My two cents? Well, I have hundreds. I just know that living in China there is definitely discriminatory behavior against people who do not look Han Chinese. It manifests in all different forms, depending on the person’s skin color, and depending on the economic, regional, education, and social background of the person discriminating.
    There are so many negative comments here, I thought I’d say something at least slightly hope-inspiring. I have a few close Han Chinese friends here who are avidly against racial discrimination. I have also found a good number of ethnic minorities who do not feel discriminated against whatsoever, at least in Kunming and LiJiang. There are many people willing to learn, listen, and open up in many places in China – which I think is the best way to quell racism. It’s just a matter of like-minded people finding each other and perhaps passing on knowledge to those who wrongfully view other races and skin colors as inferior.
    So much to be said. I can’t say enough.
    Love and peace to you all.

  93. Very interesting topic. Well I am an African, living in China for the last eight years, coming here first as student. To be brief, I would call anyone saying there is no racism in this country a moron. Us blacks are associated with ugliness, poverty and stupidity (by that I mean, lacking intellectual capabilities, sorry I am not a so-called “English native” 🙂 ).
    There is also a lot of hypocrisy going around here, when they know you speak the language then whatever they said changes 360 degrees. But I had cases where I pretended not speaking the languages or them not knowing that I heard some comments I would not dare share on this nice blog.
    Racism against Blacks is highly prevalent when it comes to jobs, visas (I have friends asked upfront by the police officers why they won’t just return to where they came from), relationships and more. But to be fair, there is also a great number of Chinese who are genuinely open minded and throughout my several years here I have been blessed to meet a couple of them. Also another thing I have noticed when you are well off the racism is not that obvious so sometimes I think the racism is mostly in the terms of: you are poor, I can’t get anything from you, why should I bother…
    Finally, if the admin will allow, I would like to share my link, a site I created for Blacks living in China with another African friend of mine. If you want to have more insight on what is the real life of Blacks in China browse the forums.
    And yes, Julia, if you have some questions, I will be glad to help for your paper which is much needed, you can also post a topic in the forums 🙂
    Best wishes to all of ya,
    Pat in Shanghai

  94. Pat —
    What you describe is pretty much what nearly every black person I have known who has spent time in China has described and, strangely enough, it is very similar to the way Blacks are viewed in Russia.
    I will definitely check out your site.

  95. Yes, China has no discrimination against minorities. No minorities in any other country other than China enjoys so many privileges. The only people subject to discrimination is the majority Han.

  96. Anon —
    Well then all China need do is end its discrimination against the Han and it will have achieved the status of the first truly and fully enlightened nation and people in history.

  97. My detainment was due to politics (or rather some mid-level person wanting to increase their paycheck for the month by extorting someone instead of letting them pay the required fine and leave the country…) But my story is irrelevant, what IS important is that 90% of everyone else in the Beijing West Municipal Detention Center was African or Middle-Eastern and they were treated horribly, and most of them were detained for reasons similar to mine. Not to mention that I was one of very few people allowed to see or speak to their embassy or had any idea when they’d be released. All the africans I encountered in the detention center were incredibly friendly, and while I can’t say they weren’t up to anything illicit while in China (because I don’t know their entire backstories) nothing warranted the way they were treated in the jail.
    Peace guys.

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