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Thread: Anti-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

  1. #1
    Gadjodilo
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    Default Anti-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Youtube is normally the preserve of light-hearted banalia: dogs and cats doing cute tricks, people falling off diving boards while the scene shakes to the laughter of the one holding the camera. Yet, in July 2007, it found itself at the centre of a nasty little ethnic row that split the Malaysian nation – the consequences of which are still being felt.

    A Malaysian guy of Chinese extraction calling himself Namewee uploaded a video of a rap song he wrote to the tune of Negaraku – the Malaysian nation anthem. In it, he mocks ethnic native Malays for being lazy and slow-moving; contrasting their demeanour with those of the hard-working, eternally busy Chinese. He has a go at Islam (the religion of the vast majority of ethnic Malays) too – complaining about being awoken by the ‘out of tune’ call to prayer and jokes that Malay women even put on their veils in a slow, lazy manner.

    Namewee was and still is living in Taiwan having been forced (he implies) to go there to find work. This appears to be at least a part of the source of his resentment. For most of the past four decades, Malaysian governments under the New Economic Plan (NEP) have been discriminating heavily in favour of the bumiputera (sons of the soil) as those communities indigenous to Malaysia are known; the term explicitly excludes people of Chinese extraction. This was intended to break the stranglehold which the Chinese minority had on the commercial and corporate sector in Malaysia. On the face of it, the Malays now have a much higher representation in business than before; however it has given rise to the so-called "Ali Baba" type business, where an ineffectual Malay greets visitors in the front room, while the Chinese run the shop and turn the profits in the back.

    The NEP was imposed after the seminal date in Malaysian history: May 13 1969 when Kuala Lumpur was engulfed in murderous ethnic rioting between native Malays and ethnic Chinese. Four years previously, Singapore had been expelled from the Malaysian federation due to fears that the city’s large Chinese majority would leave native Malays as a minority in Malaysia. Relations have improved a lot in the last few decades but remain sensitive as evidenced by the prickly reaction of the government who refused to accept Namewee’s apology and have charged him with insulting the country.

    Domination by the tiny Chinese minority of the business and corporate sector is a recurring theme in each country in south east Asia and is a source of much resentment. The economic disparity is in many countries remarkable: with 1% of the population in the Philippines and 3% in Indonesia, the Chinese community owned 60% and 70% of the nations' private economy respectively in the late 1990s. Similar statistics apply in Burma.

    In the Philippines hundreds of Chinese are kidnapped every year and often murdered regardless of whether or not the ransom is paid. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the police (which is predominantly ethnic Filipino) is largely indifferent to the problem and do little to assist the families of victims or to catch the perpetrators.

    Indonesia had its own May 13th moment in 1998 – curiously enough on the almost identical date of May 14th. Due to the collapse in the currency, the price of food had soared and protests against the Suharto régime were getting more and more vociferous. In the capital, Jakarta, these quickly degenerated into anti-Chinese pogroms in which over 2,000 people were murdered.

    Anti-Chinese legislation that was in force in Indonesia for decades has been repealed since the overthrow of Suharto. However, prior to 2000, there were serious restrictions on Chinese publications, Chinese religious practice, the display of Chinese script in public and the use of Chinese names.

    Burma has seen anti-Chinese riots with market dominance by the tiny Chinese minority being at the centre of local resentment. Things aren’t helped by the way in which the dictatorship has been armed by the Chinese thereby allowing them to expand the army hugely throughout the 1990s and prolong the oppression of their own people.

    Alongside the domination of the business elite, close ties to the ruling party (be they democratic or not) has long been another source of anti-Chinese resentment. From Burma to The Philippines, things follow a familiar pattern. The rulers tend to be ethnically indigenous but the Chinese provide the money to back them up. Marcos in The Philippines and Suharto in Indonesia both did very well out of kickbacks from the awarding of public contracts to Chinese owned firms. This cosy little symbiosis benefited both sides until the furious native majority rose up and overthrew their corrupt rulers. As mentioned already, this resulted in a huge backlash against the Chinese in Indonesia. While the 1986 overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines didn’t result in anywhere near the same level of anti-Chinese violence, the so-called People Power Revolution did have barely latent sinophobic overtones.

    Nowhere in south east Asia is the Chinese minority more assimilated than in Thailand. There has been extensive inter-marriage between the two communities and for decades now, Chinese business dynasties have been taking Thai names and seeking to integrate themselves with local elites.

    However, the rise of China itself is beginning to provoke alarm in Thai society. In the mid-1990s, the election of a Chinese-Thai to the position of Prime Minister and the perception that his cabinet was dominated by his ethnic brethren did whip up resentment. He is widely perceived as having been corrupt and is accused of mishandling the economic disaster of 1997 (which also led to the Jakarta riots mentioned above). The crisis led to widespread allegations of Chinese businesses speculating against the Thai baht which exacerbated the run on the currency.

    The Cambodians have in the past looked to China as a counterbalance to Vietnamese attempts to dominate their country. In any case, the ethnic Chinese community has been decimated over the last few decades (both by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent Vietnamese invasion) and recent estimates put the numbers at only around 60,000. However, there is more than a hint of resentment at the support Beijing gave to the mass-murderers of the Khmer Rouge. Also, recent Chinese investments in the country have been insensitive to the concerns of local people and since the authorities – desperate for foreign investment – have sided with Chinese big business, people see the same relationship developing between corrupt government and Chinese capitalism that has led to such anti-Chinese antipathy in other countries.

    In Vietnam, the Chinese were formally in a market dominant position but were decimated by the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of their number in the late 1970s – also known as the boat people. While this was ostensibly driven by a decision by the communist regime to abolish private trade, there is no doubting the racist undercurrents of the policy especially as relations between Beijing and Hanoi had been turning increasingly nasty and were eventually to break out into open warfare.

    These days, relations between the two countries are cordial on the surface. However, there is still anti-Chinese feeling amongst the Vietnamese population that expresses itself openly at times despite attempts by the government to keep it under wraps. The Olympic flame run in Hanoi was targeted by protesters highlighting Beijing’s policy on Tibet. However, a simmering dispute over ownership of the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea also stokes Vietnamese resentment.

    Indeed, it’s debatable whether those who protested against the Olympic flame in various south east Asian cities were really motivated by concern for Tibet and human rights in China or by baser prejudices. In each country, there were large demonstrations by locally based Chinese in support of the torch run and – in the current climate – such displays of Chinese power might very well be considered provocative.

    Even before the Burmese cyclone disaster, these were not good times in south east Asia. The price of rice – the staple food of the vast majority -has soared and the poorer sections of society are threatened with real starvation. People in the Philippines talk openly about how Chinese merchants hoard their rice stocks waiting for prices to get even higher while the Filipino majority go hungry. It doesn’t help that the government’s agriculture secretary, Arthur Yap (himself an ethnic Chinese) has provoked outrage by telling Filipinos to get by on less rice suggesting that most people waste the foodstuff by cooking too much and leaving it behind on the plate. Despite being told by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to hit the hoarders hard, he is widely perceived to be working hand in glove with “Chinese hoarders" allowing them to send their profits back to China.

    With food prices getting higher right across the region – there have already been food riots in Indonesia - and millions having been reduced to destitution by the cyclone in Burma, things are arguably as bad now as they were in 1997/8 if not worse. History has shown that when times get hard and the population gets pushed to the brink, people turn on the Chinese traders and merchants who are perceived to be dominating and exploiting them.

    “Why do you hate us so much?”, we asked.
    "No," you answered, "We don’t hate you."
    We don’t hate you either.
    But do you understand us?


    The nationalistic Chinese poem posted in the thread by thebrom is obviously directed at the West. But if the writer of that poem wants to address the main occurrence of anti-Chinese feeling in the world, he/she would do well to focus much closer to home.

  2. #2
    Starkadder
    Guest

    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    That's an interesting post, Gadjodilo . I always thought it was the Japanese who were the unpopular
    ones in Asia (I used to have a Korean friend who told me the older people in her country still distrusted
    the Japanese. I suggested "Like some of the people in Ireland are still suspicious of the English?". She
    said, "Yes, it seems like a good analogy").

  3. #3
    Gadjodilo
    Guest

    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Starkadder
    That's an interesting post, Gadjodilo . I always thought it was the Japanese who were the unpopular
    ones in Asia (I used to have a Korean friend who told me the older people in her country still distrusted
    the Japanese. I suggested "Like some of the people in Ireland are still suspicious of the English?". She
    said, "Yes, it seems like a good analogy").
    You'll find a lot of anti-Japanese feeling in Korea and China where the Japanese occupation was prolonged and brutal. In south east Asia it only lasted a few years and many locals were quietly pleased with the way their European colonial masters were humiliated by fellow Asians.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Its against Indians in Fiji, it was against Jews in London and other countries.

    Frankly its not new and has been happening for centuries where people assume that because they are from a country no one else should be able to come in and develop it.

  5. #5
    Politics.ie Member Thac0man's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Interesting post. In answer to the topic title, yes, it is going to happen. China is used to waving its nationalistic bits around in diplomatic circles. But ethnic Chinese are already not popular in South East Asia and integration and immigration are not diplomatic issues so the CCP has little control over the fallout.

    The ingrained tendancy of many Chinese to mix their nationality with their race is a powder keg when imported into countries that already have a volatile mixture of both. I do not expect these problems to confined to Asia alone though, Africa has a long history of turning on those who come to exploit that continent too.
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  6. #6
    Politics.ie Member Thac0man's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Quote Originally Posted by odie1kanobe
    Its against Indians in Fiji, it was against Jews in London and other countries.
    Actually in Fiji it did not seem to be a popular uprising, and the Fiji coups leader, George Speight was executed for his part in it.

    But the incident in Fiji did raise some interesting quesitons about the practice of cultural mass migration from major nations. Speight argued that the judiciary, the police and the government were all controlled by Indians. He was not far wrong, and ultimitly that ethnic indian power base in Fiji condemned him to death for trying to overthrow it.

    The ethnic Fijians have a tribal council that operates as a lower house, but this stood by and did not lift a finger to help or support Speight. To this day I am not sure whether Speight was wrong, or was simply silanced by the massive power behind modern ethnic colonisation by India throughout Asia.

    If the latter was the case, then maybe we should hope for strife, least unique and valuable cultures be wiped out of existance by larger neighbours without so much as a word of protest. There was certianly no protest against the killing of George Speight.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thac0man
    Quote Originally Posted by odie1kanobe
    Its against Indians in Fiji, it was against Jews in London and other countries.
    Actually in Fiji it did not seem to be a popular uprising, and the Fiji coups leader, George Speight was executed for his part in it.

    But the incident in Fiji did raise some interesting quesitons about the practice of cultural mass migration from major nations. Speight argued that the judiciary, the police and the government were all controlled by Indians. He was not far wrong, and ultimitly that ethnic indian power base in Fiji condemned him to death for trying to overthrow it.

    The ethnic Fijians have a tribal council that operates as a lower house, but this stood by and did not lift a finger to help or support Speight. To this day I am not sure whether Speight was wrong, or was simply silanced by the massive power behind modern ethnic colonisation by India throughout Asia.

    If the latter was the case, then maybe we should hope for strife, least unique and valuable cultures be wiped out of existance by larger neighbours without so much as a word of protest. There was certianly no protest against the killing of George Speight.
    Possibly because he is still alive in jail.

  8. #8
    Politics.ie Member Thac0man's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ant-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Quote Originally Posted by odie1kanobe
    Possibly because he is still alive in jail.
    Indeed he is, I stand corrected. he has even managed to get himself elected from prison...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/755130.stm
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Anti-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    The Malaysian chinese constitute a far larger minority in Malaysia than they do in either Indonesia, the Phillipines or Thailand. Yes, they do control key sectors of the economy, and are hard working and productive. You'll see many Malaysian chinese training to be doctors in Belfast or Dublin, generally because the ethnic Malays do discriminate in the allocation of college and university places.

    The Malaysian Government does not really have a sense of humour, and as far as parodies are concerned, they are not part of the Asian culture. Singapores dictator, Lee Kwan Yew was/is notorious at clamping down at any kind of dissent, usually through the use of legal procedures, and suing opponents into bankruptcy.

    As for Namewee, I agree with most of what he sang. Had I been a Catholic in Northern Ireland, the same kind of discriminatory rules would have been applied to me pre 1969. Many Malaysians emigrate to study overseas, because the educational and economic opportunities do not exist in Malaysia to the same degree, unless you are from a wealthy family, or are well connected. Had I been in his shoes, I would refuse to apologise. Heres how it is for him - I wanted education in my homeland. I wanted work in my homeland, but it was not there. I'd mock the rulers, and the system, and when asked to apologise, I'd tell you to stick your system up your backside. However, that leaves Namwees family open to persecution by the special branch, and it also prevents him from returning to Malaysia, because the moment he arrives at KLIA he gets arrested and interrogated for sedition and more.

    There has been an election there recently, so many of these discriminatory rules in favour of the Bumiputra are being questioned. Whether things change, thats another matter entirely.

    Lets put it in perspective. It costs up to a million malaysian Ringgit to educate a child overseas for a medical degree....thats 200,000 Euro over the course of 7 years. Families in Malaysia go into debt because of that, so that their child has a better future, particularly middle class Malaysian chinese and Malaysian Indian families. How do you expect them to feel, when ethnic Muslim Malays get the scholarships for free, on far lesser grades on their leaving cert equivalent. The sense of resentment and unfairness begins at the age of 17. Often, its the politically well connected who get allocated these scholarships. Its blatantly corrupt.

    Thats only one part of the story, there is a lot more. The problem is, that poor chinese families and poor Indian families are overlooked, while being Malay and Muslim is held up as being better. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

  10. #10
    Gadjodilo
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    Default Re: Anti-Chinese backlash looming in south east Asia?

    Imagine a scenario where most of the wealth of a country is concentrated in the hands of a small ethnic group. Because of their cultural and linguistic distinctiveness, they tend to work together and deal with each other almost exclusively.

    Imagine if these people looked different to the majority ethnic group and also married exclusively amongst their own kind for religious reasons. That group is not going to be assimilated into the majority and their wealth will remain concentrated in their hands while those from the majority are much poorer.

    Is there anyone here who thinks that this would be a recipe for a stable society? If not, what steps could be taken to prevent that society from disintegrating into ethnic strife?

    I’m not saying that’s exactly the situation in much of south east Asia but from what I’ve read it sounds pretty close. Obviously, not all of the blame can be laid at the door of the Chinese. For one thing, when it comes to marrying, it does take two (even before they get around to the tango) and Muslims are very touchy about mixed marriages if the children are not to be raised in Islam.

    Criticism has been voiced here about the policies of the Malaysian government but what else can they do? By all accounts, the 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur killed over 1,000 people and no-one wants a return to that poisonous atmosphere. Sooner or later, the positive discrimination in favour of the Bumiputera can be lifted. But everyone should be able to see that it’s not in the interests of anyone (indigenous peoples, ethnic Chinese or society as a whole) for such disparities of wealth to exist.

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