Racism is antagonism and prejudice based on race, usually precipitated by ignorance, hate, superiority complex, and insecurity.
Racists are typically denigratory and condescending to targeted groups, and blind to verifiable facts. They embrace and perpetuate demonising anecdotes, no matter how preposterous, to reinforce bigotry. Hollow accusations are enough to justify suspicion, despise, and hostility. Wars, even genocides, had been committed based on racially directed hatred.
Years of political correctness have driven traditional racism into the closet. Modern xenophobes no longer manifest prejudice through racial stereotypes; but the attitude and mentality have not changed, only evolved into neo-racism, or “clash of civilisations”.
Today’s China-bashers are neo-racists who may eat dim sum with an open-mind with Chinese friends who endorse their biased views. But a Chinese who supports China and the way the country operates, regardless of sound rationale, is to be suspected and derided, even caricatured. In other words, a person of Chinese ethnicity is okay, as long as he’s not really Chinese.
Neo-racists’ unprovoked animosity is due to the same mental disease which plagued their traditional precursors.
Though still very far from perfect, China has been improving at an amazing pace. Common sense suggests that the country must have done something right to have recovered from near-death, in just a few decades.
In 1949, the country had been robbed clean, reduced from historical prosperity to poverty, chaos, and over 90% illiteracy. Average life expectancy had sunk to just thirty-something. In the painful healing process that followed, the Communist Party initiated and endured many political movements, some drastic and brutal, to revolutionise millennia-old habits, and rid itself of an acute inferiority complex induced by a century of failures and humiliations. These struggles have provided plenty of raw material for neo-racist propagandists.
Miraculously, China survived, and lifted more people out of abject poverty than any other society in human history. It circumvented universal sanctions to become technologically advanced again, regained economic significance against severe odds, minimised military conflicts with remarkable tolerance, and earned the support of about 80% of its enormous population (according to independent surveyors such as PEW, not the communist party).
Unfortunately, historical facts and cultural considerations don’t mean anything to racists old and new. China has recovered using its own medicine. And “unorthodoxy” is akin to voodoo, difficult to even contemplate.
Neo-racists need a constant supply of demons, real and invented, to feed their animus. They see the world in only one light, one that is emitted from the narrow spectrum of their own beliefs, turning everything black and white.
There can be many explanations for their crooked outlook. Three main ones stand out: stupidity, bitterness, and the missionary complex.
Stupidity doesn’t require elaboration. The dumbed-down majority follow the sign, and chant, love, hate, fear, loathe accordingly. They are the main audience of demonising propaganda.
Bitterness is a historical hangover. Hong Kong is case in point. Condescending to the “poor and backward” mainlanders was a petulant source of gratification for many petit bourgeois in Hong Kong. But before these people could say Mao Ze Dong, they found themselves working for Chinese bosses, serving mainland clients. Stunned by the rapid shift of fortune, some became self-hate auto-racists.
Cheering the auto-racists on from the fringe, sharing their bitterness are many oxymoronic “permanent” residents who still call themselves “expatriates”. Once sitting at the top of the colonial food-chain by racial default, they now work for Chinese managers, grudgingly learning work ethics and Putonghua. Some even have to commute daily to Shenzhen where the good jobs are. Divided by social and language barriers, they have had virtually no contact with the Hong Kong mobsters, and know zilch about their misguided grievances. Yet they fervently support the on-going (thinly veiled) anti-China riots. (See “Angry Youth and cheering MADs”).
The third category, neo-missionaries, may actually have good intentions. But ignorance and self-centredness can turn benign intentions into bigotry.
The phenomenal success of past colonial powers had created a single dominating narrative for the entire world, inadvertently limiting their descendants’ worldview. Comparing with people from other cultural backgrounds, it takes an exceptional “Westerner” with imagination, exposure and courage to appreciate “unthinkable” alternatives. Most, including those disillusioned with their own political system, expect a new order to come from the only blueprint they know, just better execution. Revolting outside the box is unimaginable.
Furthermore, a long religious past, ostensibly over, had left a missionary complex on the psyche of many. God might have died, but the mission goes on. Unaware, they swarm the world critiquing everyone with astounding confidence, trying to enlighten the “natives”, frothing righteously like their Bible-clutching grandfathers once did.
Lecturing the Chinese has become a habit for neo-missionaries.
First and foremost, China must adopt ballot-box Democracy, and set free the power of money — a proven toxic combination which the missionaries themselves are victims of, but refuse to recognise.
China’s “social credit system”, welcomed by most of its citizens to be an effective means to maintain everyday order and fairness, is deemed authoritarian. The label alone makes them cringe (yet they won’t change it). Anyways, the Chinese don’t know better. Alas.
Re-education as a means to combat religious fanaticism is somehow more heinous than waterboarding to neo-missionaries. Yes, fifty countries, many of them Islamic, have officially endorsed China’s Xinjiang policy through the UN High Commission on Human Rights. But no, these “second-rate” countries are somehow not quite qualified to judge.
The list of China’s evildoing is incomplete without face-recognition surveillance. Most Chinese regard it a useful tool for everyday policing in a mega-community with low crime rates. But neo-missionaries, from the goodness of their hearts, beg to differ. They probably don’t see the point of face-recognition when everyone looks alike.
Obviously, the Chinese have been brainwashed by the government. Neo-missionaries know that well. Everything their government says is propaganda. How could China’s be different?
Neo-racist-missionaries cannot understand why most Chinese, including highly independent thinkers, trust their government when it’s working well. They cannot comprehend this seemingly contradictory mentality of one of mankind’s most experienced dynasty-changers and revolutionaries. So they assume benightedness. Reverend Democracy’s wife has run away with all the money. Therefore, anyone who trusts his own spouse must be naive, foolish, or brainwashed. Isn’t it obvious?
Our community of common destiny is facing many existential issues. People who reflexively reject the term because it was coined by President Xi of China should ask themselves why.
If we all pause and reflect on the rationale behind our priorities, and subdue the urge to meddle in the affairs of others, especially through unconstructive demonisation, patronising censures, and outright subversion, we’ll see a more colourful multipolar world with an expanded mental space, rather than a decaying order threatened by a new way of thinking.
James Tam 2019.9.4