The broken record

Vancouver Sun: Self-pitying poem tries to absolve China of any wrong

I’m a little reluctant sometimes to talk about these issues. Just that the pro-China sentiment is so strong outside of China right now, that any body who has a moderate or opposite view with respect to the pro-China view, that you are considered unequivocally anti-China, even if in your heart, you are not. I think it’s worst for those who are ethnically Chinese, but have a differing view. These people are sometimes treated like traitors.

Among the death threats to local reporters and bad grammar, there is this underlying superiority/inferiority complex that I sense in online comments. China has a proud 5,000 year history that some Chinese will point out. That is definitely a point of pride. No question about that. However, there is a lot of harping about how the West had once treated China as a savage backward nation, that the West had divided up treaty ports amongst themselves to gain access into China. Looks like old wounds really do have trouble healing. There is no question that there was wrong done during those times.

I actually really appreciate Pete McMartin’s article. It is nice to have an outsider’s view is needed to give some perspective. Sometimes there needs to be this sort of examination when self-examination fails.

Its tone is self-pitying, and sounds as if it were written by some mewling adolescent. Poor China, the West hates us, no matter what we do! (The barely unspoken reason in the poem for that hate is, of course, racism.)

I am sure that all these Poor China comments are starting to sound like a broken record to Pete. And he`s just pointing out the pattern he sees. However, it does unfortunately end up being a slap in the face for some Chinese. Pointing out a flaw or weakness is equivalent to the loss of face. However, I think it’s a refreshing wake-up call. It is time to move on. Sometimes the past is a point of pride and strength, but when if it is a hindrance, the rope must be cut and then it’s time to move on.

Editorialists have been characterizing this as an expression of a new fervent Chinese nationalism, only this kind of nationalism has arisen outside of China as well as in it. And that’s the most disturbing aspect of the poem, and not its oversimplified sense of injustice, or its deep-seated racial and historical resentment.

It’s the “we” in it.

It was written, supposedly, by a physics professor in Buffalo. It was sent to me by a woman who identified herself as Canadian. It has circulated widely on Chinese-interest blogs in both Canada and the U.S. to much admiration. The “we” in the poem not only purports to speak for China, or for the huge Chinese-diaspora immigrant communities in the West. It speaks for Chinese-ness itself.

It’s a very interesting point that Pete McMartin brings up. However, I would like to temper his observation by saying that the lady who wrote the letter by no means represents the huge Chinese-diaspora immigrant communities. It is true that most diaspora Chinese hope to see China do well, but the fervent Chinese nationalism is not part of always a part the overseas Chinese psyche.

The Chinese immigrant population is just as diverse as any other culture group. There are Chinese from different places. There are Hong Kong Chinese, Taiwan Chinese, Singaporean Chinese, and even South African Chinese, just to name a few. Chinese grow up in different geo-political and cultural backgrounds. Who can claim to represent this diverse group by saying that there is only one sense of Chinese-ness. There isn’t. Just ask a few overseas Chinese their take on current events surrounding China and you’ll get a huge variety of responses. I’m sure it would range from total indifference to engrossing passion. Especially if you ask somebody who is from the Mainland versus somebody who grew up elsewhere, you should get very different perspectives on the situation.

In the general Chinese culture, though, I would say that there is a very deep-seeded belief in the one-ness of all Chinese. That there is one Chinese people and one Chinese way. There is a portion of the current Chinese-Canadian population that would believe very strongly in this concept.


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