In modern western societies, the most common form of “prejudice” elites enjoy to highlight is often described as “Islamophobia”, a term which has gained viral usage in the wake of the European refugee crisis, the rise of ISIS and the spread of terrorism attacks throughout western nations by associated radicals. A so called “Islamophobe” is said to fear the influence of Islam, contends that the Islamic faith is not compatible with Western Values, accuses adherents of the faith of being terrorist sympathizers and anticipates growing Islamic immigration into the west will led to the imposition of a Sha’ria system on western nations. Regardless of the factual accuracy of what is being said with that, the point is that many feel Islam is misunderstood, misrepresented and many innocent adherents of the faith are targets of unacceptable prejudice. Many westerners enjoy tolerating the faith to signal their own moral virtue, giving its belief system a degree of acceptance that they do not give Christianity, whilst any socially intelligent and shrewd person would avoid openly stereotyping Islam to avoid being placed in the same league as Donald Trump or Britain First.
However, this article isn’t about Islam, but the discussion of apparent Islamophobia makes a good starting point. Although Western elites expect tolerance and fair judgement concerning Islam, that treatment is not applied equally across all cultures. Whilst it is true of course that some cultures receive “better” treatment than Islamic ones and more favorable perceptions, there are others too which receive worse treatment, where people can openly criticize that culture without being slapped with the social stigma or accusations of prejudice which come with talking about Islam. As someone heavily associated with Asia, my main point is to talk about what I call “Sinophobia“- A form of prejudice and crude stereotyping which is socially acceptable amongst westerners and even other Asian Nationalities, sinophobia being, prejudice, stereotyping and fear related to the Chinese (particularly that of “mainland china”- excluding Hong Kong).
Sinophobia has a long history in Britain and few people have made serious attempts to address it. Since people are so obsessed with Islam, I feel given my personal experiences and recent current events, especially those in Hong Kong, the Hinkley Point affair but as well as just political debate in general, I want to offer a strong rebuke of Sinophobic attitudes in western nations- it is time to stop stereotyping the Chinese as an uncouth, politically malicious, untrustworthy and unreliable culture. I will make it clear, we don’t understand the Chinese, we don’t understand their culture, their system and their society, it is time to stop forcing our values, ideas and way of life on their country in a sense of moral supremacy and treating everything they do as some form of sinister conspiracy or security threat, just like many do not accept that happening in the Islamic world.
What does Sinophobia consist of? It is both cultural and political. Although I acknowledge many people do view the Chinese positively, stereotypical and cynical attitudes, even amongst the educated (this is not something you can write off as “angry white bald men”), are rampant. China is portrayed as an untrustworthy, dodgy, dirty, backwards and disorderly nation where sinister businessmen invest in cheap junk which doesn’t last; everything apparently breaks, falls apart, lunges into disorder, disaster and chaos- “don’t buy anything from there”. Their government is portrayed as systemically evil, brutal, corrupt and without any regard for humanity, eager to export Mao’s revolution all over the world and oppress all of its neighbours.
In the eyes of Hong Kongers (who now like to separate themselves from being “Chinese”), those described as “Chinese” are jettisoned as dirty, unruly, foul, unsophisticated and even criminal. Hong Kong itself is portrayed as the victim of a mainland conspiracy whereby Beijing are continually out to crush the city’s “automomy” and turn it into a 1960s style, cultural revolution backwater; sparking protests, political tensions and even calls for independence. Anyone who dares even sport a positive impression of the Beijing regime with any authority is quickly derided as a collaborator or traitor to the people of the “Fragrant Harbour”. The Beijing government is in the eyes of Hong Kongers, an evil, alien, untrustworthy and brutal system, they’d much rather, ironically, be under British colonialism again.
But even beyond Hong Kong, westerners, more so liberally educated ones, enjoy taking the moral high ground against China. Whilst they marvel at Islamic politics, beliefs and culture, they love picking to bits the Chinese system, blabbing on about “democracy and human rights”, reveling in the endless negative hysterical stories pushed by the western-centric media whilst supporting the childish, red-scare nonsense advocated by Hong Kong activists who are racist towards their own nationality. On this matter, the western media, especially so the BBC, are often packed to the brim with negative, sensationalist and willfully ignorant stories on the matter of China, Hong Kong and Chinese affairs. This happens a lot of times with the Islamic faith, yes and people point out it out, but they seem to get off the hook when it comes to covering China. If Islam is portrayed by sensationalist press as something to be feared, then so is China (just without the counter-argument)
People who are fearful of China do not understand China, period. They view the country through a narrow liberal, western lens. Those who are obsessed with liberal values and claim to be open-minded are not open-minded, because as is often the case with Liberalism, people seem to be incapable of recognizing that other “ways of thinking” or alternative “worldviews” exist or can be tolerated. This becomes the number one methodological problem in perceiving China and the main motivator behind “intellectually” driven Sinophobia. We are not willing to tolerate China on China’s terms only on our own, when we assume that a nation can only be “good” or “successful” if subscribes to westernism, we are unconsciously being racist by asserting that our values are superior or triumphant, which is the same mode of thinking which drove 19th century Imperialism. Thus, many seem to be only willing to accept China if it becomes a liberal, western style democratic state instead of ruling a way which is best suited to Chinese culture- May I remind you, history does not have a good track record when it comes to forcing western systems on societies which do not reflect western ways of thinking (Iraq, anyone?)
Contrary to popular belief, a nation is not inferior if it does not subscribe to western ideas. Modern China, although outwardly a “Communist State” is in fact very much homogeneous in how it is run. The Chinese Communist Party is not an alien, foreign system which originated in Russia, rather it was constructed in a way very much coherent with Chinese culture. Despite all those people who whinge about “democracy”, Chinese culture and thinking was never about Democracy. Chinese politics has came from a different worldview, a different set of philosophers, a different perception of what is ideal in the world- particularly that stemming from the ancient thinker Confucius. Based on legacies of his thinking and millenniums worth of scholarship of it which has followed, the Chinese see order, stability, harmony, authority and hierarchy as the core values of emphasis in their society, Not western ideas like “democracy” or “human rights”. China has always been about maintaining order and stability- for them the state is not something to be “feared” and challenged (as in the west) but it is a positive thing, like a parent, a guardian- authority is good, not bad. For them, his is a formula which has succeeded. China has remained together as a civilization state for over 5000 years and created a culture which has been fluently continuous. Although China has been offset by turmoil in the past 200 years, namely due to western interference and ideological upheaval, the dynasties of the Ming and Qing created some of the longest periods of economic and stability in human history.
When you begin to understand these things, you recognize that Chinese civilization is something remarkable rather than to be treat with contempt. Sinophobia is cheap, it’s also ignorant. Although Mao Zedong did embrace a regime which was chaotic and made many mistakes, some which have indeed left scars on the modern nation, China is recovering rapidly from that legacy and has underwent one of the most rapid periods of economic change in human history. Modern China is a peaceful nation, all it is seeking to do is to defend its identity and heritage from western nations who are obsessed with forcing their own systems and way of life upon it. China does not seek “world domination”, it seeks equal footing, sovereignty and equality amongst nations- it is not “aggressively expanding” it has always been consistent and persistent in its territorial claims long before that of its rivals. It is the United States, not China, which is obsessed with throwing its influence, military and weight all over the world, meddling in the external affairs of other countries and attempting to force its way of life on others. America is a new nation, which only emerged in the 18th century, but China is a perpetuating civilization which was reaching glory before Western civilization was even thought of.
China is to embraced, not feared. It is to be understood, not criticized by a set of values which don’t consider their cultural position. Chinese people are a wonderful people, they have suffered a lot, through poverty, foreign oppression and the cultural chaos inflicted by the low points of Maoism, yet they are friendly, open, accepting, charitable, hard-working and tolerant. If there are bad or distrustworthy ones, then remember you get that everywhere, who’s to say I’m going to trust every person in Sunderland just because they’re of a similar background to my own? Sinophobia is common, it is sadly, left unchallenged, but it must be at every angle, from academia, to conversation, to the media. The Chinese are not a threat and nor is their government.