Hi Blog. Today’s post is about geopolitics and concomitant media attitudes. Here we have an American media outlet (CNN) publishing a Old China Hand’s fears about the “specter of xenophobia” in China because of a crackdown on “illegal foreigners”.
Fine, make that case. I would agree. It does encourage xenophobia.
But note how what China is doing (and for what has been announced as a temporary amount of time, but nevertheless the precedent has been set) is what Japan’s been doing for years, if not generations, to its foreigners: Random racial profiling street ID “spot checks”. Police hotlines to report “suspicious foreigners”. Preemptive measures during high-profile events to promote “public security”. Public funds for ferreting out “foreign criminals” through “foreign DNA” testing research (oh, wait, AFAIK that’s just Japan). The CNN author’s citations back to the Boxer Rebellion and public resentment towards “foreign devils” in Mao’s China may be a tad alarmist (and any historian could match those with Japan’s occasional ee ja nai ka anti-Christian demonstrations and the anti-foreign propaganda during WWII Japan (cf. Dower, War Without Mercy) — and then fear a backslide into bad habits), but the point is this:
Why does China get harshly criticized for this yet Japan once again gets a free pass? Well, geopolitics, of course. Japan is a trusted ally, China is an untrustworthy adversary. CNN, your bias is showing. But it would be nice if the media could see the parallels sometime and similarly admonish Japan away from its xenophobia. Given Japan’s ultrasensitivity to foreign media opinion, it might even deter. Arudou Debito
(PS: Note how China’s official media mouthpiece also treats non-citizens as “guests”. Why isn’t that made an issue of? Is the Guestism discourse that dominant and accepted even for our CNN columnist?)
China’s crackdown on foreigners raises specter of xenophobia – CNN.com
By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN
June 3, 2012 — Updated 0506 GMT (1306 HKT)
CNN.com, courtesy of MS and AJ
Editor’s note: “Jaime’s China” is a weekly column about Chinese society and politics. Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and was TIME Magazine’s Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000).
Beijing (CNN) — “Does this mean I must now carry my passport everyday?” my wife Ana wondered aloud with a mix of bemusement and exasperation.
She was reacting to news reports that Beijing had started a 100-day campaign to “clean out” expatriates illegally living or working in the Chinese capital.
Until the end of August the Beijing Public Security Bureau has decreed that all resident foreigners are expected to show their passports for “spot checks” of visas and resident permits.
Hinting at stern measures for violators, a campaign poster features an image of a giant fist.
Police have conducted a sweep of communities where expatriates frequently congregate, like the university belt and the Sanlitun district of the city, which boasts an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and bars.
But finding violators may not be easy. There are almost 200,000 foreign residents in Beijing on short-term or long-term visas, according to the Beijing Morning Post, which quotes police sources.
Mood darkens amid crackdown on ‘illegal foreigners’
The campaign has enlisted the help of the Chinese public, who can call a telephone hotline to report “suspicious foreigners.” Violators will be fined, detained or even deported.
However, the crackdown has made the expat community in Beijing uneasy, with many wondering why the authorities have decided to take action now.
China watchers wonder whether this is simply a preemptive measure to ensure security and stability months before the Communist Party hold its once-a-decade leadership transition later this year. A similar sweep was conducted several months before Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Others see the high profile campaign as yet another hint of the xenophobic tendencies in the “Middle Kingdom.”
Days before the police campaign commenced, shocking videos purportedly showing a British national sexually abusing a Chinese woman went viral on cyberspace. It prompted an avalanche of angry posts on social-networking sites.
Soon after the campaign was announced, Chinese TV anchor Yang Rui poured gasoline onto the fire when he posted scornful comments on his microblog calling for the expulsion of “foreign scum.”
Some observers say China has good reason to go after law-breaking foreigners. “The crackdown makes sense in the light of the large number of illegal migrants that have made it into China, some of whom may have been involved in illegal or violent activities,” said David Zweig, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Department of Science and Technology.
But he said foreigners should be treated fairly and equally, according to law.
Crucially, the crackdown seems to be popular with many ordinary Chinese.
“Of course we should send home those foreigners who have entered illegally, just as we Chinese won’t be allowed in other countries without legal documents,” one Beijing resident told CNN.
“To be a strong nation, you need not just a good economy but also strong diplomatic policies,” said another. “That shows a nation’s self-respect and dignity.”
Another resident was more blunt: “China as a big nation should get tougher. We’ve been too soft for too long.”
As China’s economic and military might grow, the people’s pride and nationalistic feelings rise.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting patriotism, experts say, but they warn against chauvinism. “The Chinese have to be careful about underlying chauvinism which can lead them to behave inappropriately towards foreigners in the country, and in their foreign policy,” said Zweig.
During the last century, China experienced how nationalism led to xenophobia during the Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s — when groups of peasants banded together to rid the country of foreign influences — and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when Mao Zedong attempted to reassert revolutionary values in China by purging what he described as bourgeois influences.
No one wants to experience xenophobia. I have seen how ugly it can be.
Like most foreigners who lived in China in the 1970s, I saw a closed, xenophobic society riddled with ingrained racial stereotypes. Foreigners in Beijing were virtually quarantined.
While we enjoyed special privileges, such as access to special “friendship stores”, train compartments, hospital wards and beach resorts, we were cut off from spontaneous contact with ordinary people. Diplomats and journalists were segregated in gated “foreigners’ compounds”, which we use to call foreign ghettos.
Local residents resented such special treatment. They often targeted foreigners with scorn and disdain. Foreigners were disparagingly referred “waiguo guizi” (foreign devils).
Although infrequent, I do remember an anti-foreign backlash that led to occasional altercations and even rioting.
To be sure, China has changed significantly since Deng Xiaoping launched his market reform and open-door policies in 1978. Over the years it has gradually integrated into the global village through diplomacy, trade, tourism, academic exchanges and the media.
But some expatriates in Beijing still detect anti-foreign tendencies. “I find it difficult to understand why resentment is aimed at foreigners in general rather than at those who break the law or behave badly, regardless of nationality,” said one.
“There is definitely an issue of Chinese having stereotypical views on foreigners, and a very clear us-versus-them attitude,” said another. Neither person wished to be identified.
China scholars believe many Chinese still harbor racist tendencies and lack the open-minded tradition of self-reflection when they feel or express such views. “This lack of self-reflection,” Zweig opined, “allows for anti-foreignism to lurk under the surface.”
That partly explains why, in its long and checkered history, China has capriciously swung from a sentimental love-affair with things foreign to angry rejection — and back again.
Is xenophobia rearing its head again?
“This is not xenophobia,” a recent China Daily editorial stated. “It is people’s desire to live in a civilized society. Our government is under an obligation to make sure citizens live in a law-abiding country. The ongoing action against illegal immigration in no way compromises our hospitality to foreign guests.”
That is the kind of reassurance that expatriates in China badly need.
Home / Opinion / Editorials
Foreigners are still welcome
Updated: 2012-05-25 07:54 ( China Daily) Courtesy of MS and CNN
Just as some in the West have wondered why most people here didn’t share their obsession with Chen Guangcheng, some people here have difficulty understanding the latest allegation that we are xenophobic.
Of course we feel wronged. We are anything but.
There are even some who feel that we have been friendlier to foreigners than to our own citizens.
If a few foreigners feel mistreated in China and conclude that we hate foreigners, or a few Chinese people feel that foreigners enjoy preferential treatment, it is only natural in a country with such diversity.
But when foreign media amplify such sentiments out of all proportion it is different, as normal public indignation at some foreign individuals’ misconduct is transformed into a “deep-rooted nationalistic hatred” for foreigners, and a routine crackdown against illegal immigration is castigated for being a crusade against all foreigners.
It is true the distasteful conduct of a couple of foreign nationals toward two Chinese women has provoked angry comments on the Web. And true, a nationwide action launched before the incident is still underway to clamp down on people who have entered the country illegally. But such occurrences are not unique to this country.
What is not true is the expat community in China is living in fear, as some overseas reports seem to suggest.
You would think that for those to whom the words “freedom of speech” come so readily to their lips would be tolerant of others’ words, even if those words seem less than friendly to their ears. But instead it seems such utterances are enough to incriminate the entire nation.
It is natural to criticize anyone who ignores basic social decencies and to prosecute someone who breaks the law.
And those countries accusing China of xenophobia for tackling illegal immigration should cast the beams out of their own eyes first as their immigration policies are a great deal harsher and stricter than ours.
Foreign nationals in China have nothing to fear as long as they have valid visas and do not break the law. Instead of receiving hostility or a cold shoulder as their home media try to suggest, they will continue to be treated as welcome guests.
China is not xenophobic, nor will it be because it aspires for more exchanges with others. Perhaps the overseas media’s portrayals of China’s hatred are really just a manifestation of their own xenophobia.
(China Daily 05/25/2012 page8)