Is it liberally chic to treat the Chinese in a racist manner, just because China is a key investor in this country? The Port City Commission Bill, made into law recently, has brought on in its wake a steady stream of anti-Chinese memes and other posts on social media.
Mockery of the Chinese language, the worst kind of stereotyping of Chinese with references to everything from what they are supposed to eat, and how they will appropriate our national anthem, has been fodder for social media netisens.
If there is US investment on this island, there is no racial stereotyping on social media or on any other platform. There was nobody calling the Americans any racist names when the Google loon balloon project was unsuccessfully launched here by the previous government, for instance. There is hardly a ripple when a Sheraton or a Hilton is opened.
But the Chinese invest here on a couple of projects and the liberal intelligentsia comes out with all the Chinese racial stereotypes in what they write, and make public. Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, wrote, “When I see and hear Western political leaders vilifying China in the way that they do, I think that there is a dimension of Sinophobia, even racism, against the Chinese.”
That’s right. It’s racism against the folk that have been the subject of racial epithets in the West, from time immemorial. Of course it is legit to criticise China in the context of geopolitics. It is proper to criticise any country based on the way that nation is perceived to conduct its international relations, and whether any of that criticism is valid or not, is an entirely different matter for others to decide.
However, “Criticism of the actions of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) or the PRC is not racist in and of itself, but there is often a racist undertone in this public debate that is being mainstreamed and must be called out. It is a line constantly crossed by people who should know better,” writes Osmond Chiu in overland.org.au.
There is no doubt that the frontal attacks on everything Chinese that took place after the Port City Commission Bill was passed, had racist undertones. Chandrika Kumaratunga the former president said that the Port City is a Chinese colony.
Now, she is absolutely free to call the project a geopolitical risk or a money laundering outpost potentially, as some others have done, but even if none of those allegations are true, calling the venture a “colony” carries racist undertones.
But yet, most of the Western criticism on Chinese projects are replete with such racist innuendo. What’s rather disturbing though not surprising, is that this rather transparent racism comes from the so-called liberal broad-minded English speaking types who pretend that they are whiter than white and don’t have a racist bone in their body.
None of these people say it smacks of colonialism when those such as David Milliband descend here as he did during the end phase of terrorism, asking that hostilities be stopped forthwith.
Now, it is really a colonial hangover, that, because Milliband represents an ex-coloniser and he was patently attempting to interfere in our internal affairs.
Not a peep though from the likes of Chandrika Kumaratunga in the face of that kind of conduct, though she cries ‘coloniser’ each time the Chinese open a restaurant in Colombo.
“What we are seeing is the development of a narrative stripped of any nuance, in which an amorphous ‘Chinese’ threat infiltrates and encompasses everything from infrastructure, education, politics and agriculture.
This narrative merges into more benign Sinophobic ones such as property ownership and even baby formula. The propagation of these narratives on social media by individuals who self-identify as progressive should be cause for deep concern,” writes Osmond Chiu.
Now, that’s the point. The people who trash China in the most transparently racist terms, carry themselves with great comportment in liberal society, and are usually the champions of cancel culture, asking that anyone who crosses the line in what’s called polite liberal discourse is suitably chastised.
But yet they have no issues cheering in glee when there are memes suggesting “the chinks are taking over”, or when someone writes a version of the national anthem ostensibly in Chinese, but in fact in the worst form of race baiting mockery of the Chinese language.
But far from condemning such blatant racism, these self-proclaimed poster children for liberal values offer subtle support from the sidelines for this cheap and undiluted race baiting masquerading in various guises — sometimes as patriotism.
In Australia the new trend is that when this racism is highlighted the liberal elite so-called react by saying that China is playing the race card! This is one of the oldest tricks in the book of racists. When their blatant bigotry is identified, they turn around and blame the victim.
In this country, Sinophobic racism is not so much as even identified for what it is. The people who perpetrate the kind of China baiting that’s described above, do not seem to show any awareness that the Chinese are a race of people, and that there are several racist tropes that are customarily used against them.
They feel free to use any kind of slander or innuendo on the Chinese with racist undertones, because they consider the Chinese people a curiosity at best, while they consider the Westerners overlords.
This is of course part of the slavish post-colonial mentality that most of our liberal intellectuals have not got over. Even the so called serious discourse about China a la geopolitical threats are also racist in undertone, when especially these themes are overdone and when they contrast with how these writers treat Westerners when they write on similar topics. The reference is always to the China threat — rarely if ever is there a reference to any other major power with language containing the word ‘threat.’
“Since the eighteenth century, Sinophobia has become a dominant way for the West to conceive of China (Zhang 2008). Generalisations about China – a threatening, deviant, despotic, backward, and inferior other – are invoked to constitute the West,” writes Fang Xu in the Wiley Public Health Emergency Collection.
This is the location from where our so-called liberal commentators also operate. They are for the most part in thrall to the West, because of their English education and the resultant slavish mentality towards the West that such an education has imparted.
It’s indeed a pathetic reflection of their double standards and their inherent hypocrisy. On the one hand they can’t claim at the drop of a hat to stand for liberal enlightened values and simultaneously act so bigotedly towards the Chinese people who have been our friends literally for millennia.
The Sinophobia is almost in the genetic make up of these people. The memes about those who take the Chinese vaccine ending up talking Chinese for instance contrasts sharply with the reaction to the Pfizer jab or other vaccines of Western origin.
This type of transparent and flagrant racism has been the stock in trade of some of the rabble in Western capitals for instance, after the pandemic which originated according to the conventional wisdom at least, in China.
The virus helped all the Western liberal biases towards China find another brand new location. The Port City anti China narrative is more than liberally — pun intended — sprinkled with allusions to the virus, how it spreads, and how it is all associated with the Chinese people.
Make no mistake, the vast mass of Sri Lankans are aware of our good relations with the Chinese people whom they loved and respected as friends from the time of the ancient Sinhala kings. But, the Western educated so called liberal elements are in the main, carrying out the aforementioned thinly veiled racist campaign against China to further their own political ends.
Their grievances against the Chinese, some of which they may consider legitimate, does not give them the license to couch their theories in palpably racist language or idiom. That’s despicable and such elements should be called out for their unsavory tactics, whenever possible.