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A Sinophobic cartoon appearing in the United States in 1899

Sinophobia is a consistent hostility toward people of Chinese origin, and may also refer to hostility towards Chinese culture, history or government. The term describes the actions and attitudes of individuals as well as the policies and pronouncements of governments and other organizations.

Sinophobic attitudes often have Chinese minorities outside of China proper as their target. This is true both in Asia (historically and in the modern era) and in the West. In this sense, the term essentially denotes an ethnic bigotry, often complicated by the economic and political exigencies of immigration and majority-minority relations. Where it is directed at the country itself, anti-Chinese sentiment may or may not qualify as ethnic or racial prejudice, as criticisms of the Communist Party of China are not necessarily meant to impugn the Chinese population per se. One obvious example is protests against the People's Republic of China government by supporters of Taiwan independence. However, due to the often blurred distinction between a country's government and its people, many Chinese are offended by such sentiments, much in a similar sense that some Americans take insult at criticisms of the US government. People's Republic of China thinks that Japan and the United States are two countries implementing anti-China policies.[citation needed]

Historical Background of Sinophobic SentimentsEdit

Largely drawn to the Chinese empire's persistent existence over a vast territory in East Asia employing a system of bureaucracy relying on self-efficiency (Confucianism) from plebeian, Chinese society has shown signs of declining vitality in both military ambition and individual creativity in the last millennium. Even though the Hans were a highly heterogeneous and ever-evolving ethnic identity, their major cultural identity was defined during its classical period before the 3rd century BC, thus casting a long shadow for other ethnic cultures within the territory to fertilize. A few major military successes in subduing China proper by Mongol (1271), Manchu (1644) and Japanese (1937) powers further consolidated subconscious fear in modern Chinese society. Industrial revolution had brought shocking impact for Chinese society under Manchu rule to find reasons to be perceived as a society living in the remote past. Growing resentment from the outside world against general values of Chinese society since the successful Western colonization or Westernization in the surrounding countries has left the large empire unconquered but deeply isolated. The pan-Chinese Sinosphere including Japan, Korea, Vietnam had successively taken opportunities to wean from Chinese influence as sign of their own national maturity; some nations including Japan had employed cultural repellent sentiments to quicken their own cultural advancement. By the end of the 19th century, the internal chaos of China in both civil life and the Manchu regime reached the point of dysfunction, giving rise to quick popularization of negative images of Chinese as representation of a corrupt and undesirable state of living. That was done both overseas by Chinese export of coastal farmers as labourers, and in China proper by quick adaptation of Western elitism.

The 20th century has seen China struggling to define itself in successive panic reactions to its social dysfunction and world isolation. Communism gained a stronger foothold in a series of nationalistic panic in mid 1930s. With the crumbling down of communist ideologies, social dysfunction resurfaced in 1980s, giving rise to another wave of negative sentiments in China-bashing. This time, it took the double-effect: communism bashing along with the tradition of Yellow Peril complex.

Southeast AsiaEdit

China had maintained little interest or influence over countries that are outside of the Sinosphere. However a small portion of Chinese population from the trading coastal provinces and Punti-Hakka Clan Wars refugees had made huge impact on the Southeastern economies. Population-wise they reached a majority in Singapore, a large minority in Malaysia, and minorities of less than 5% in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand amongst others. The strong tradition of trading and clan-style self-reliance did bring them into a tradition of controlling much capital and general economic activity in these countries, often compared to Jews in Europe, and in a similar sense encouraging a different kind of Sinophobic sentiments. One study of Chinese as a "market-dominant minority" notes that: "Chinese market dominance and intense resentment amongst the indigenous majority is characteristic of virtually every country in Southeast Asia." (Chua, 2003, pg. 61)[Full citation needed] In the countries with small Chinese minorities, the economic disparity is remarkable: with 1% of the population in the Philippines and 3% in Indonesia, Chinese controlled 60% and 70% of the nations' private economy, respectively, in 1998 (Chua, pg. 3, pg. 43)[Full citation needed]. Similar statistics hold in Burma.

This radically asymmetrical economic position has often created explosive anti-Chinese sentiment amongst the poorer majorities. This has led to violence, such as in 1969 in Malaysia and in 1998 in Indonesia, where more than 2000 people died in rioting [1]. In the Philippines hundreds of Chinese are kidnapped every year and often killed regardless of a ransom—a problem the poor, ethnic Filipino, police are often indifferent to (Chua, pp. 1-5)[Full citation needed]. The government of Malaysia is constitutionally obliged to uphold the privileged status of the Bumiputra, at the expense of but not limited to ethnic Chinese.


Sinophobia is especially common in Japan. Template:Cite neededWhile Japan was maturing under the Tokugawa Shogunate into a modern aristocratic society, a belief in superiority over Chinese was promoted, theorized as the contemporary Chinese society was not made of the Chinese blood of the classical period, from which Japan had founded the base of her own culture.Template:Cite needed

The Meiji Restoration of 1866–1869 had made Japan an industrial power ready for colonization abroad, whereas China was sinking into the deepest state of dysfunction. Japan's comtempt for China at this time can be seen in its official use of the word “Shina”, borrowed from the European colonizing powers, to refer to China, instead of the high classic and therefore more respectful name of “Chūgoku”. Bloody wars between the two countries provided further ground for encouraging racism among Japanese citizens. These Sinophobic sentiments helped to materialize the Imperial soldiers' atrocities in massive scale against the Chinese during World War II, culminating in the Nanking Massacre.

Openly sinophobic sentiments were stifled following the end of the Second World War and became a taboo topic in the mainstream media. Except in a handful of cases, such as the Japanese name for "South China Sea" and an alternative term for ramen, use of the word Shina all but disappeared. There was little contact between Japan and the People's Republic of China in the ensuing decades. There was little discussion of China until the relationship between the two countries were normalised in 1972, when there was a surge of interest in Japan about its neighbour. China renounced reparations for the war, partly to avoid appearing less generous than Taiwan which earlier did the same and to strengthen its position against the Soviet Union, and there was considerable gratitude and goodwill in Japan at the time. Sinophobia at this time was confined to the context of fear of communism among the still-strong pro-Taiwan forces in politics. Even though Japan and PRC were on opposite sides of the cold war divide, public animosity towards the PRC was minimal compared to those against the Soviet Union, and a friendly mood prevailed. [2] Improvements were also seen in social attitudes towards ethnic Chinese residents of Japan, along with other minorities such as Zainichi Koreans, Ainu and Burakumin, in the post-war decades.

However, in the past decade Japan has seen a gradual resurgence of anti-Chinese sentiments, particularly since 2000. One reason is feelings against increased levels of migrants and guest workers from China, whom the media frequently associate with the rising crime rate. These xenophobic sentiments are coupled with the effects of an increasingly tense political relationship between Japan and the PRC. The exceptionally rapid growth of the Chinese economy is a source of fear and resentment among Japanese, as some see it as a sign of the re-emergence of Chinese hegemony in Asia. In addition China's military build up and its stance against Taiwan has led some in Japan to see it as a potential threat to national security. There is a perception in Japan that the PRC is continuing to use the issue of history, such as the Japanese history textbook controversy and official visits to the Yasukuni shrine, both as a diplomatic card and to use Japan as a scapegoat in domestic politics. The Anti-Japanese Riots in Spring of 2005 and increasing hostility also caused more fear of China within the Japanese public. One of the effects is a political climate which is increasingly tolerant of anti-Chinese comments by right wing politicians.

In the WestEdit

Template:Unreferenced China has figured in the Western imagination for more than two millennia in a variety of ways: positively, as an inventive, well-organized alternative civilization and negatively as a monolithic and repressive society.

The dramatic change of western imagination towards China from the flamboyant Marco Polo's Travel (which was written under the deeply traumatic time of the Mongol conquest) to universal resentments happened during the unsuccessful expansion of East Indian Company in China Empire under the Manchu rule. Later successful attempts in exporting opium into China Empire and a series of other commercial success had shone light to Europeans that behind the glory of classics of Chinese culture, a dysfunctional state was completely exposed for manipulation for commercial and cultural gain. As it shows until late 20th century, China had failed to come back from the cultural disintegration and lack of originality and articulation in its plebeian level.

The Sinophobic sentiments popularized in the west further, with the presence of China as the outstandingly ambivalent immigration source for the west. The largest volume of pioneering immigrants to North America were attracted by western wages, offered by large railway companies in 1880s.

Sinophobic policies (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, the policies of Richard Seddon, and the White Australia policy) and pronouncements on the "yellow peril" were in evidence as late as the mid-20th century in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Central AsiaEdit

In Russia’s Siberia and the Russian Far East, a tradition of dispute over territorial rights is thinly woven under the conflicts between two largely competing heterogeneous cultures over the limited resources. Further than that, there is a fear of a demographic takeover by Chinese immigrants in sparsely populated Russian areas [3] [4].

In Muslim states of Central Asia where Han culture has taken little foothold, growing resentment towards Chinese culture is used politically for their own cultural maturation, and in some cases to encourage independence of ethnic states from the vast territory of China, most prominently East Turkestan and Tibet.Template:Cite needed

International PhenomenaEdit

Template:Unreferenced Internationally, China's booming economy and tremendous growth in power has been the subject of much speculation and apprehension with many believing that China could soon be in a position to challenge the United States as the sole superpower. Many are uneasy with the prospect of burgeoning Chinese hegemony as a country controlled by an unelected, single-party socialist state.

There is a new level of resentments from the other victim countries of globalization in competition of labour intensive manufacturing base. Many countries have experienced drastic loss of economic competitiveness as more manufacturing facilities are being relocated into China for its self-reliance, stable labour supply and favourable government policies.

Meanwhile, China continues to be a major source of immigrants into developing countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe, as well as major industrial nations. Their apparent difference from local cultures and often underdeveloped communication skills have encouraged local Sinophobic sentiments often to violence. A number of massive ransacking of Chinese business and personal attacks have been reported, causing the Chinese government to become increasingly aware of its nationals unsettling state abroad.

Sinophobia in Children's CultureEdit

Template:Unreferenced Sinophobia, like other forms of racism, is often passed down to newer generations as exemplified by the Spanish rhyme "Chino, Chino, Japonés, come caca, no me des" (approximately "Chinese, Chinese, Japanese, eat poop, don't it to me/don't give me that") and the English equivalent, "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these" during which the children pull their eyes up and then down (to mock the shape of Asian eyes), touch their knees (to imply that Asians farm all day) and pull the fronts of their shirts out (to satirise the fact that Asian breasts are perceived to be small).

Reactions from ChineseEdit

Template:Unreferenced Compared to the Jewish community’s recent reaction to anti-Semitism, the reactions of overseas Chinese are mixed; there has been little sign of unity or effort in combating the ethnic based stereotyping, however a significant portion of mainland Chinese do express resentment against such Sinophobic slights, though organized counteraction is rare.Template:Cite needed

Amongst the Chinese, there are those in the community who generally regard such prejudices as the result of a lack of understanding towards their culture, and thus take pride in its uniqueness, along with the belief that its long and enduring legacy as a people, and as a center of innovation and knowledge will win out over such petty racism; this sentiment is especially evident with the growing numbers of Chinese becoming conscious towards China's rise as an emerging superpower in the 21st century. Many also point to the eventual economic and political power enjoyed by the ethnic Chinese minority in countries where Chinese emigrants have come to dominate as a model for the Chinese communities in other countries. On the other hand, not a single country has not ever persecuted their ethnic Chinese under the said circumstance[5]. Other common coping strategies, similar to those adopted by early Irish or Japanese Americans are various versions of self-criticizing and inclining towards an attitude of "learning from the West”, resulting in popularity of western arts and mimicry of western emphasis of material life.

As an enormous population residing over vast territory under nontraditional Western rules, China has played by its own rules in the last two millennia and will continue to do so in the coming centuries. There is often a belief that the rest of the world will eventually communicate with China on its own terms. Interestingly, reciprocal understanding from current Western countries is often also absent. Likely there will be some time before a true integration of the East and West.

See alsoEdit


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