I read your Singaporean reader's letter with much thoughts. Confusion of one's identity is a common issue among persons who live outside their cultural roots, be they Chinese, South Asians, Africans and the like, especially for those who are not first-generations. History has determined our fates. It is impossible to go back in time and amend, but there's time to understand, and with that to accept the unchangeable facts. By acceptance, I don't mean we should defy our cultural roots, but recognise and inherit the culture, while at the same time, acknowledge the country we were born and grew up in to be our homes.
As a fourth-generation Chinese from Malaysia, I can understand how she (I'm under the impression that that's a lady) feels. I myself was once confused, too. After all these years, I've come to realise that, over my adolescent years, I had never doubted my identity as a Malaysian and Chinese, and that I was part of the multi-cultural society, and Malaysia was my home. Here in Malaysia we have a unique Malaysian Chinese culture, which I embrace. Some might say the language, the cultural practices, the food, etc, are no longer authentic, but then, this is the authentic Malaysian Chinese culture! My confusion, however, came later during my university years and after entering society, when I became aware of the racial inequalities, and even became a victim of the unjust policies. It's the politics and the politicians that have confused us, not the country or the culture, and that is part of the reasons of your reader's confusion, as she mentioned of her disappointment at the Singaporean leader.
Today, here in Scotland, I can loudly declare that I am Malaysian; there's no doubt about it. I follow news from home and am closely in touch with friends in Malaysia who are fighting against political and social injustice, giving them support as much as I can, as well as trying to do my part through my writing. This way, I don't feel detached from the country - I would if I were to moan and completely alienate myself from it. I see Scotland is the place I work in, where I can acquire certain degree of freedom, which I will be never be able to enjoy in my own country.
Your reader has no reason not to be proud of the cultural displays at the opening of the Beijing Olympics - in fact I was in tears watching the ceremony. I, like her, a Chinese, recognise our root culture that was once, and still is, a splendour.
My thoughts might be quite different from most people, but I think after all these years, I have grown to see things more clearer. I hope your reader will be clear of her doubts. Accept and understand, these are the two things I wish to stress. In fact, writing my first book has helped me to understand the history and learned to accept it.
Hello, Ms. Eberlein,
I read the post about “
When I am overseas I am sometimes mistaken for a Chinese national but I am actually Singaporean Chinese. My family migrated to
Reading your entries, I feel that you still care very much about your homeland though you are an American citizen. May I know how you see yourself? For overseas Chinese whose family did not undergo the Communist period and is unfamiliar with life under the CCP, mainland
The government has banned all Chinese regional languages in the mass media in the hope of encouraging us to speak putonghua for business purposes. Since there was a lot of regional rivalry between different groups of Chinese in the past, this does have an effect of uniting the local Chinese community but I feel we are slowly losing our identities.
When I was growing up in 80s Singapore, the country was becoming a first world country and there was a sense of optimism and hope in the air. I literally witnessed tall buildings going up and I feel that there was a real sense of togetherness in those days amongst all Singaporeans. Since we were a brand new nation with a heterogeneous population composed of immigrants, the government tried very hard in schools to instill a sense of national identity. I believe that a Singaporean identity would have coalesced naturally but as I grew older, I realize that government policies have consistently led to its erosion.
I feel totally alienated from Singapore nowadays and so do many Singaporeans. As you may know, Singapore has a one-party rule system. As an ordinary Singaporean, I have no say in the way Singapore is run. The wealth gap is growing, we have no labor laws that protect employees and no social safety net. The people who run this country are paid high salaries but the economy is going down the drain. As a result stress levels are ever-increasing and growing numbers of Singaporeans are migrating. Singapore society is becoming increasingly more fragmented and true Singaporean culture is allowed no room to grow.
As such, I’m considering migrating overseas.
If I do succeed in becoming say, a New Zealand citizen, what should I call myself? A Singaporean New Zealander, Chinese New Zealander or just plain New Zealander??? Although I have never been to
So what am I? Someone totally adrift without any homeland, roots or culture? If I do go to a new country as an adult, I think I am too old to ever assimilate totally. Especially since I am a visible minority
Sorry for such a long letter but I liked your blog entries and can see that you are a thoughtful and intelligent person and wanted to hear your opinion about foreign-born Chinese. I am too embarrassed to discuss this with my best friend though she is aware that I hope to migrate. I have talked to many foreign-born Chinese from all over the world and a lot of us are quite confused about our identities. When we watched the 2008 Olympics, we were uncertain whether we should feel proud of
Postscript: After reading the letter, I asked about Singapore's political censorship. Drifting Leaf answered:
"In Singapore, there are 3 big taboos: race, religion and politics that no one dares to talk about.
"The internet in Singapore is also censored somewhat but not as comprehensively and severely as in China.
Unusual for a historical discourse, the book takes the structure of a photo album, collecting snapshots every quarter century over a period of 160 years. Such a structure has the benefit of tracing a clear, though rough, contour of the city's trajectory. The focus is on
A cosmopolitan city – what a celebrated label! Surely neither the Chinese nor Westerners have any objection against it. Yet within its historical connotation lies the water-and-fire contradiction in the ways different sides view and feel about it. Even today, reflecting on this history risks bringing out hasty jingoism from all sorts of people. Given the existence of such divergent perspectives, it is Wasserstrom's unswerving and non-judgmental treatment of the subject that interests me the most about the book.
The disparity begins with
Starting from there,
(Before going further into the later chapters, I must clarify that the above questions are not addressed by the author directly. Instead, taking an interesting stance, the author sides with neither the Chinese nor the Westerners. In other words, he displays more interest in factual accounts rather than interpretations. He lays out facts and different perspectives, and teases out interesting details, while leaving the conclusions to the reader. As such, another reader might see a totally different set of questions raised.)
Thus globalization, as shown in
Every coin has two sides. Globalization, then as now, isn't purely evil either. I was surprised to learn from this book that Shen Pao, one of the oldest and most prominent Chinese newspapers, was created by a Briton in 1872. The paper's historical significance is summarized in Baidu.com (the leading Chinese search engine for websites and a cultural discussion forum) as: "In Shen Pao's 78 years of history, it recorded from late Qing Dynasty through ROC all sorts of political, military, economic, cultural and societal information, whose very high historical value resulted in the name 'the encyclopedia of modern history." Furthermore, "Shen Pao's layout was divided into sections of news, commentary, art and ads, which laid out the foundation for the 4-section base structure of modern Chinese newspapers."
Another significant thing brought in by the early globalization was Western architecture. While the old Shanghailanders are long gone, their architecture remains. In fact today it is often cited by foreign residents that, one major attraction of
A major problem with globalization is that it forces the uniform development from the "advanced" economy's point of view, regardless the hugely varying conditions and cultures in the so-called "backward" nations and places. Ironically though, in
As we read on in Global Shanghai, Wasserstrom's chapters for 1950 and 1975 depicted a history more familiar to my generation of Chinese. The foreigners were driven out in early 1950s. Here, the Chinese were supposed to feel elated, having been librated from imperialist oppression. While the latter part was true (as
“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” So goes the opening of the Chinese classic Three Kingdoms. After President Nixon's visit in 1972,
Meanwhile, foreigners swarm in. According to the Chinese Wikipedia, at the end of 1843, the year
But Chinese media and academic publications still grumble about how few foreigners there are. It's only 0.67% of
On the other hand, a writer friend and
It turns out that the people the blogging monk accused of beating him up on April 21st were three officials sent by
Interestingly, ten days before the scuffle, it was the same official Yu who told
Yu spoke with absolute confidence that he was on the right side. However, he doesn't even have a common netizen's brain. On many websites, readers have been asking "Why should a religious position be appointed by the government?" Right on. If
So, whatever the real reasons were behind the
In the current situation, religious personnel are like a daughter-in-law with no husband but having multiple bossy (and sometimes even abusive) mothers-in-law: there's the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs from the government line (市政府民宗委); there's the United Front Work Department from the Party line (市委统战部); there's the Subcommittee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs from the Political Consultative Conference line (政协民宗委); there's also the government-controlled "mass organization" – Buddhist Association (佛协). What a big mess. Do the solitude-seeking monks really need this many mothers-in-law? And, when there is a conflict like this one, none of them help.
The monks of the
Yesterday I read on monk Dingrong's blog that the government has rejected their proposal to separate the temple from the spa area with a wall. However when I tried to revisit today the monk's blog has been removed. Dingrong (in the picture above) was reportedly a policeman before he became a monk four years ago.
I called a friend in
He told me during his five-year term, he was one of the few committee members who would speak their own minds. For this he became unwelcome in the committee. Before each committee meeting, the leaders in his work unit would forewarn him not to be so disagreeable. Most members are there for the social status. Though 政协 is supposed to be an advisory body to the Party and government, and should consist of different political parties and organizations as well as independent members, today's 政协 members are mostly government officials at various levels. It is now unlikely for a person who doesn't have any administrative position to become a 政协 member. This reminded me what a doctor friend (who I cited in the post titled "What Kind of Country is China Today?") said, "In the local Political Consultative Conference (政协), there may be one third of us [from other parties] and two thirds CCP members, so when taking votes they always win."
My academic friend added that there used to be a time when most 政协 members were knowledgeable professionals from all sorts of fields, and they had sharp minds and fresh ideas. I asked when that was, and he said it was before the June 4th massacre of 1989. "After the Cultural Revolution, those people had seen the future for