Racism in the People's Republic of China: Wikis


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Racism in the People's Republic of China is a complex issue influenced by Chinese history, Chinese nationalism, and many other factors.




Throughout the ages Chinese have had only one way of looking at foreigners. We either look up to them as gods or down on them as wild animals. - Lu Xun[1]
Westerners shown as pig and goat and being exceuted by Manchu officials, image from the Boxer Rebellion

Racial composition

China's racial composition is overwhelmingly homogeneous with 91.9% of the population being Han Chinese, which by itself is a convergence of people from diverse origins and races, other ethnicities includes the Mongols, Zhuang, Miao, Hui, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Koreans.[2] Of these, it is not ordinarily possible to directly identify a person's ethnicity, especially in large urban areas. Some ethnic groups are more distinguishable due to physical appearances and relatively low intermarriage rates. Many others have intermarried with Han Chinese people, and have similar appearances. They are therefore less distinguishable from Han Chinese people, especially because a growing number of ethnic minorities are fluent at a native level in Mandarin Chinese. In addition, children often adopts "ethnic minority status" at birth if one of their parents is an ethnic minority, even though their ancestry is overwhelmingly Han Chinese. There is a growing number of Caucasians, South Asians, and Africans living in large Chinese cities. Although relatively few acquire Chinese citizenship, the number of immigrants of from different racial groups have markedly increased recently due to China's economic success. There are concentrated pockets of immigrants and foreign residents in some cities - most notably the "Chocolate City" of Guangzhou, which reportedly houses around 100,000 people of African origin.[3]

Anti-African sentiment

Several clashes between African and Chinese students have occurred since the the arrival of Africans to Chinese universities in the 1960s.[4] A well-documented incident in 1988 featured Chinese students and the general in widespread against African students studying in Nanjing.[5] In 2007, police anti-drug crackdowns in Beijing's Sanlitun district were reported to target people from Africa as suspected criminals, though police officials denied targeting any group.[6]

Anti-Japanese sentiment

Much anti-Japanese sentiment exists in China, most of it stemming from Japanese war crimes committed in the country during the Second Sino-Japanese War. History textbook revisionism in Japan and the denial or whitewashing of events such as the Nanking Massacre by right-wing Japanese groups has continued to inflame anti-Japanese feelings in China. Allegedly, anti-Japanese sentiment in China is partially the result of political manipulation by the Communist Party of China.[7]

Anti-Japanese demonstrations were tolerated, if not approved by the Chinese government,[8] unlike other demonstrations or "mass incidents" critical of the Chinese government itself.

Han-Uyghur tensions

Some have accused the Chinese government as well as certain Han Chinese citizens of alleged discrimination against the Chinese Muslim Uyghur minority.[9][10] This was used as a partial explanation for the July 2009 Ürümqi riots which pitted residents of the city against each other along largely racial lines. An essay in the People's Daily described the events as "so-called racial conflict"[11] while several Western media sources labeled them as "race riots".[12][13][14]

In July 2009, a report in the The Atlantic highlighted a help wanted sign in the traditionally Uyghur city of Kashgar which explicitly stated that "this offer is for Han Chinese only."[9]

It has also been reported that unofficial Chinese policy is to deny passports to Uyghurs until they reach retirement age, especially if they intend to leave the country for the pilgrimage to Mecca.[9]

Ethnic slurs

Against children of inter-racial marriage

  • 半唐番 (Boon Tong Fan)- A tern used by Cantonese to describe offsprings of inter-racial couples.
  • 半菜 (Buai Chai)- A term used by Hokkian-Teo chew people in South East Asia to describe offsprings of inter-racial couples, literary Half vegetable.

Against Africans and Blacks

  • 黑鬼 (hei guǐ) - "Black devil"[15]

Against Europeans (Westerners and Russians)

  • 洋鬼子 (yáng guǐzi) - "Foreign devil", a slur for White people or Caucasians.
  • 鬼佬 (guǐlǎo) - Borrowed from Cantonese "Gweilo", "devil" or "devil guy", a slur for white people. The term emphasizes the skin color of Caucasians are very pale compared to the Chinese.
  • 红毛猴 (Ang mo kow) - "Red Hair Monkey", a slur used by Hokkian people to call white European, because many Europeans have red hair.
  • 红毛鬼 (Ang mo Gui) - "Red hair devil", a Minnan derogatory term used on foreigners.
  • 油炸鬼 (Yao Jar Guai) - "Oil Fried Devil", is a southern Chinese snack, made from a small piece of dough cooked in hot vegetable oil. It is supposed to have originated during Opium Wars era, when China was under the attacks of foreigners.
  • 番鬼 (Fan Guai) - a slur is used by people of southern China to describe foreigners, and 番 (Fan) means "Tribal people". The Minnan and Chaozhou people would used 山番 (mountain tribal people) and 生番 (raw tribal people) to describe natives and aboriginals.

Against Japanese

  • 小日本 (xiǎo Rìběn) — Literally "little Japan"(ese). This term is so common that it has very little impact left (Google Search returns 21,000,000 results as of August 2007). The term can be used to refer to either Japan or individual Japanese. "小", or the word "little", is usually construed as "puny", "lowly" or "small country", but not "spunky". In northern China and Manchuria, the phrase is often pronounced as 小日本兒 (xiǎo Rìběnr) and may have a stronger negative overtone, as a result of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and later China.
  • 日本鬼子 (Rìběn guǐzi) — Literally "Japanese devils". This is used mostly in the context of the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japan invaded and occupied large areas of China. This is the title of a Japanese documentary on Japanese war crimes druring WWII.
  • 倭 (Wō) — This was an ancient Chinese name for Japan, but was also adopted by the Japanese. Today, its usage in Chinese is usually intended to give a negative connotation (see Wōkòu below). The character is said to also mean "dwarf", although that meaning was not apparent when the name was first used. See Wa (Japan).
  • 倭寇 (Wōkòu) — Originally referred to Japanese pirates and armed sea merchants who raided the Chinese coastline during the Ming Dynasty (see Wokou). The term was adopted during the Second Sino-Japanese War to refer to invading Japanese forces, (similarly to Germans being called Huns). The word is today sometimes used to refer to all Japanese people in extremely negative contexts.
  • 日本狗 (Rìběn gǒu, Cantonese: Yat Boon Gau) — Literally "Japanese dogs". The word is used to refer to all Japanese people in extremely negative contexts.
  • 大腳盆族 (dà jiǎo pén zú) - Ethnic slur towards Japanese used prodominantly by Northern Chinese, mainly those from the city of Tianjin. Literally "Big Feet Bowl Race".
  • 黃軍 (huáng jūn) - Literally "Yellow Soldier(s)", used during World War II to represent Imperial Japanese soldiers due to the colour of the uniform. Today, it is used negatively against all Japanese. Since the stereotype of Japanese soldiers are commonly portrayed in war-related TV series in China as short men, with a toothbrush moustache (and sometimes round glasses, in the case of higher ranks), 黃軍 is also often used to pull jokes on Chinese people with these characteristics, and thus "appear like" Japanese soldiers.
  • 蝗軍 (huáng jūn)-Literally "Locust Army", a pun on the term 皇軍(Japan Imperial Army), because the Imperial Army burn and loot where ever they went.
  • 自慰队 (zì wèi duì) - A pun on the homophone "自卫队" (zì wèi duì, literally "Self-Defence Forces", see Japan Self-Defense Forces), the definition of 慰 (wèi) used is "to comfort". This phrase is used to refer to Japanese (whose military force is known as "自卫队") being stereotypically hypersexual, as "自慰队" means "Self-comforting Forces", referring to masturbation.
  • 架佬 (Ga Lou)-A neutral term for Japanese used by Cantonese(especially Hong Kong cantonese), because Japanese use a lot of "Ga" at the end of a sentence. 架妹 (Ga Mui) is used for female Japanese.

Against Koreans

  • 高丽棒子 (Gāolì bàng zǐ) - Derogatory term used against all ethnic Koreans. 高丽 (Traditional: 高麗) refers to Ancient Korea (Koryo), while 棒子 means "club" or "corncob", referring to how Koreans would fit into trousers of the Ancient Koryo design. Sometimes 韓棒子 (hán bàng zǐ, "韓" referring to South Korea) is also used. Additionally, 死棒子 (sǐ bàng zǐ), Literally "dead corncob", is used.
  • 二鬼子 (èr guǐ zǐ) - A disparaging designation of puppet armies and traitors during the Anti-Japanese War of China.[16][17]Japanese were known as "鬼子" (devils), and the 二鬼子 literally means "second devils". During World War II, some Koreans were involved in Imperial Japanese Army, and so 二鬼子 refers to hanjian and ethnic Koreans. The definition of 二鬼子 has changed throughout time, with modern slang usage entirely different from its original meaning during World War II and the subsequent Chinese civil war.

Against Indians

  • 阿差 (Ah Cha)-Ah Cha means "Yes" in some Indian languages, is a derogatory Cantonese term used against Indians. During the 1950s-1970s, there were many Indians working in Hong Kong as laborers, or doorman, especially doorman for big western hotels.

Against Russians

  • 毛子 (máo zi) - literally 'body hair', it is a derogatory term against Caucasian peoples. However, because most white people in contact with China were Russians before the 19th century, 毛子 became a derogatory term specifically against Russians.

See also


  1. ^ "A Chinese Pirate Unmasks". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2009/03/2.html. Retrieved 2009-11-10.  
  2. ^ "China". CIA. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html#People. Retrieved 2007-04-24.  
  3. ^ Guangzhou "Chocolate City": Africans Seek Their Dreams in China
  4. ^ "Anti-black racism in Post-Mao China" in The China Quarterly, No. 138 (Jun., 1994), pp. 413-437, Cambridge University Press
  5. ^ New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof
  6. ^ Beijing Newspeak :: Sanlitun saga update: anti-drug operation uncovers no drugs
  7. ^ Shirk, Susan (2007-04-05). "China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail its Peaceful Rise". http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/5425.html. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  8. ^ "China's anti-Japan rallies spread". BBC News. 2005-04-10. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4429809.stm.  
  9. ^ a b c ""No Uighurs Need Apply"". The Atlantic. 10 Jul 2009. http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/07/no_uighurs_need_apply.php. Retrieved 12 July 2009.  
  10. ^ "Uighurs blame 'ethnic hatred'". Al Jazeera. July 07, 2009. http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/07/20097761931298561.html. Retrieved 12 July 2009.  
  11. ^ Global Times (10 July 2009). "People’s Daily criticizes double standards in Western media attitudes to 7.5 incident". China News Wrap. http://chinanewswrap.com/2009/07/10/peoples-daily-criticizes-double-standards-in-western-media-attitudes-to-75-incident/#more-2398.   original article in Chinese
  12. ^ "Race Riots Continue in China's Far West". Time magazine. http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1908981,00.html. Retrieved 13 July 2009.  
  13. ^ "Deadly race riots put spotlight on China". The San Francisco Chronicle. July 8, 2009. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/08/ED3H18KD53.DTL. Retrieved 13 July 2009.  
  14. ^ "Three killed in race riots in western China". The Irish Times. July 6, 2009. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0706/1224250105483.html. Retrieved 13 July 2009.  
  15. ^ Hooi, Alexis (2009-07-31). "The disunited colors of prejudice". China Daily. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2009-07/31/content_8496740.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-24. "Even now, some Guangzhou residents might admit using the generic and derogatory term "hei gui" or "black devil" to refer to Africans in the community."  
  16. ^ Comprehensive Chinese-English Dictionary
  17. ^ mdbg Chinese English Dictionary

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