The Contradictory Cultural Identity of Rural Children in China

guoby Dream Guo

Recently, a Chinese reality show called “X-Change” received widespread attention and initiated topics among Chinese people. In the show, two children from totally different backgrounds, one is from a well-off urban household, and the other is from an extremely poor rural family, exchange their lives for nearly thirty days.

The audience will see how the city boy changes his personality and behaviors from extremely traitorous, selfish and hedonistic to sensible, obedient and considerate of others during his thirty-day severe life in rural area.

At the same time, the rural child who has hard-working, observing all rules and regulations and honest high morals will first time see the outside world and adapt new modern culture and city life-style. The reforms of the city boys are always successful, since at the end of the show, the city children will turn over a new leaf and become good children at home and school. Meanwhile, the rural children will be judged by people and baptized by urban culture, and at last due to the public opinion, two kinds of identities of them which are contradictory will be constructed by the program.

Gao, one of the rural protagonists in the show is described as “backward” and “rude” when he first landed in the city. People made fun of him when he said he had never heard of Zhao Benshan (a famous Chinese comedian) and Liu Dehua (a famous Chinese singer); people laughed at him when he took a lift awkwardly; people criticized him when he wolfed down his food; people disliked and avoided him when he complained a lot and said he wanted to earn money. All these conducts give him a label – “backward”. Nevertheless, when we think about his background, which always makes him suffer from hunger, poverty, and information shortage, his conducts can be translated to cherishing food, curious about new things and fighting for life and easily be understood.

Thus we would find that people made comments actually based on a comparison, a comparison made by who has material civilization, consumer culture and himself is from urban city. As Gao was alone in the city, the dominant urban culture certainly became “advanced” while the minority rural culture became backward. Linking to reality, the urban population has always been dominant in cities, and therefore, the idea that urban culture is superior gradually became a national concept.

During the thirty-day-life experience in the city, when facing the concussive advanced urban culture, rural children will either adapt it or reject it. If the child adapts it, he will be considered as one who forgets the original source. If the child rejects it, he will be seen as a model of rural child, however, spending his entire life in the mountain.

Rural people are frugal in common. As a result, when Gao experienced the prosperous urban life, shopping, entertaining, he started spending money on snacks and amusement park by himself. Moreover, when he was asked whether wanted to go back to rural area, he hesitated for a moment and said “I don’t know”. Consequently, people blamed him, saying that he was lacking in will power when facing material life, and forgetting his roots and simple, thrifty characters. Yet, becoming a “spender” is the rule of urban cities. It is exactly what urban culture taught him and as well as what he needs to do to adapt to the environment, let say the development and rich resources would make him hesitate. Nonetheless, he was again blamed, just because that people saw his identity packed with frugality and they were not willing to accept him to adapt to their urban culture. People believed that going back to rural area and making contribution for his hometown was the right choice.

Seen this way, children like Shi and Luo were highly praised. Shi was always industrious and frugal. When he had time, he did not play or enjoy life, and instead, he did all the housework of the host family as he did at his home in rural area. Luo also refused the pocket money given by his host parents and refused help from school. He said he did not want to always rely on someone else, and he needed to struggle by himself. Then people praised them as having the self-discipline and being brave enough to challenge their poor fate. Nevertheless, more often than not, this praise would not appear if Shi and Luo did not refuse to stay in the city.

Hence, we can tell that rural people are welcome to experience urban life, however, if they stay in the city, enjoy spending, people will think they are affected by the temptation of materialism and addicted to material life. As a consequence, in the reality, it is hard for rural children to have both modern civilization as well as “high morality”.

Chinese as “honorary Whites” in Apartheid South Africa

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Krishna Vanstraelen

If assimilation theory seems to oppose the general trend for first generation Chinese migrant in recent years, it however sheds light and corroborates segmented assimilation theories for the second and third generations. The first wave of Chinese migrants in South Africa in the early 1900s has followed a so-called typical way of integrating a culturally foreign society. Though what drove Chinese migrants in South Africa to follow classic segmented assimilation theories is the succession of two distinct historical events, their entrepreneurship and desire to access the higher sphere of South African society, which is striking and somewhat unusual, given the political and social nature of the host country.

Much like current Chinese migrants to South Africa, first generation migrants tended to send their offspring to China, both to learn and preserve Chinese tradition and culture and to receive what parents viewed as a “proper” education. However, in the early 1950s, the Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act enacted by the newly established Communist Party, along with the strengthening of institutionalised apartheid in South Africa, made it increasingly difficult for Chinese to travel in and out of China, hindering thus education in the home country.

When examining the case of first, second, and third generations, Yoon Jung Park, the most cited scholar in this specific field, refers to them respectively as shopkeepers, fence-sitters, and bananas. Shopkeepers because these children born in the 1920s and 1930s usually received Chinese education, had little to no English proficiency, and typically ended up helping their parents as shopkeepers or working in unskilled or semi-skilled positions in factories, retail shops, or offices. Though second generation children as well, fence-sitters were born from the 1940s through the early 1960s, and were labelled as such due to an ambiguous identity.

Although growing in a climate separating whites and non-whites, Chinese migrants and their children were given concessions and privileges as their social status shifted progressively towards “honorary whites”. Hence, most Chinese children born during this time period attended private white church schools by means of a progressive loosening of discriminatory rules and heavy financial sacrifices made by their parents. Ineluctably, as children were gradually losing their Chinese language ability and increasingly conform to western culture, their identity and place in the South African society became equivocal.

Lastly, the bananas refer to the physicality of the fruit; yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Born in the late 1960s through the 1970s, these children had little to no experience of Apartheid-era discrimination, as Apartheid and its institutionalized rules were gradually fading away—at least for Chinese residents/citizens, who enjoyed a full primary and secondary education alongside white children in government and private white schools. As a result, most children of this generation developed a strong affiliation to western culture, low relations to China and its language, and an ever-growing number completing tertiary education allowing them to climb the social ladder (Park, 2009).

The crux of Chinese assimilation that trails segmented theories is found in the early 1950s, when regulatory rules hamper Chinese migrants to follow customary patterns in regards of their low integration and their offspring. When returning to their home country became less of an option, Chinese migrants generally estimated that providing their children with better/white education will facilitate and increase their social mobility. Through massive financial sacrifices and the withstanding of discriminatory rules and societal norms, parents of children born from the 1940s through the early 1960s (and onwards) were able to send them to white schools, allowing these children to access tertiary education and gain a foothold and recognition in the South African society.

Reference

Park, Y. J. (2009). A matter of honour: Being Chinese in South Africa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Learning in Hong Kong—in English or Cantonese?

English: Hong Kong colonial coat of arms ‪中文(香...

English: Hong Kong colonial coat of arms ‪中文(香港)‬: 香港盾徽 ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港盾徽 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

by Liz Ma

I am writing a paper on education system in Hong Kong and Chinese immigrants. I want to know how exclusive (or not inclusive enough) the education system is, especially the medium of instruction, i.e., Cantonese and English. Here, I recognize as Chinese immigrants those who migrated from China, in particular, those who migrated after 1997.

Hong Kong used to be under British rule, thus the official language of the public sector and government departments was English, instead of Cantonese or Chinese. The foreign language was highly engaged in the general public’s life. The language environment gives rise to two problematic issues. The first is that parents debate hard on whether they should send their children to EMI (English Medium of Instruction) or CMI (Chinese Medium of Instruction – here I mean Cantonese).

Back in the days of British rule, being accepted to EMI schools was a prerequisite for “the winning group”. The reasons behind parental preference, if not the child’s own choice in most of the cases, are multiple. However, the most powerful pull and push factor is that English was the official language in Hong Kong and outside the border. Positions in the government (still running the pension system) and foreign invested companies (highly paid jobs) were the easiest way to achieve promising career prospect. To get those keen competitive positions, the least requirement was high English proficiency. If you were able to master the language, you enjoyed a higher chance of promotion, and being appointed as an overseas manager.

Flag of Hong Kong (1959–97) ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港殖民地时期旗帜

Flag of Hong Kong (1959–97) ‪中文(简体)‬: 香港殖民地时期旗帜 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similar to the Chinese boom in many countries nowadays, English is a very preferable foreign language in Hong Kong. Not to mention how attractive going abroad is, most students holding a foreign degree (the United States and the United Kingdom are the top two choices for studying abroad) get a very sound job when they return. Some top government officials can speak very fluent English, Anson Chan was one of the well known ones. Therefore, we can see how people look towards English speakers (even if they are Asian rooted). People believe learning English means knowing how to achieve a successful life. In Hong Kong, Cantonese makes you normal, while English helps you to stand out of the crowd, to become elite.

We can see a discrimination created by government in silence, because of how the system operates, how discrimination is rooted and generated and confirmed by parents and then among students. EMI schools are desirable. It is true that most of the top ranking secondary schools are EMIs. The top university in Hong Kong puts more emphasis on scores on English subjects rather than Chinese subjects during their admission and interview process.

As for Chinese immigrants, most secondary schools do not provide support to them when they first come to Hong Kong. As I mentioned above, English is viewed as more important when compared with Chinese. Chinese immigrants in classroom therefore become the inferior group, and in term of attention from teachers, naturally less than their classmates. It might also because of teachers’ poor level of Chinese. It is a fact that Chinese has never been a must to learn. The situation has changed gradually in recent years, I believe.

I am still doing research on the subject, but it seems the first issue takes up the main part. Information now in my hands contributes, more useful for building up the first issue.

A counter-narrative to the Chinese exclusion policies of the US

English: Racist US political cartoon: Uncle Sa...

Racist US political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman, referring to the Chinese exclusion act. image published in 19th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

During the late nineteenth century, immigration to the United States from East Asia, particularly China, saw a massive influx, much to the surprise and eventual dismay to the American white population. For a population that were also inherently immigrants, built on the foundations of native population extermination before and after independence from the British, their indignation could be seen as quite hypocritical and in some sense, ironic. At the time, the Chinese were seen as a threat to ordinary, hard-working US citizens and “overlapped with domestic fears about American race, class, and gender relations and helped fan the fires of organized anti-Chinese sentiment … Chinese workers were blamed for competing unfairly with white workers. Chinese as a race were charged with being inassimilable, inferior, and immoral” (Lee, 2007, pp. 546-547).

Different states had different laws regarding the Chinese, and it is important to realise that at this time racism was rife in the country with the black population facing the brunt. In 1854, the State of California recategorised the Chinese to the same level as black and Native Americans, which meant that they did not have the right to testify against a white man in a court of law (Bancroft, 2005). In 1882, the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, country-wide, which severely prohibited the movement of Chinese citizens to the US, a law which was only repealed in 1943.

As all this went on in the foreground, there was other events taking place in the background. Seemingly at odds with the official stance of the US being “anti-Chinese”, there was however a few openings on the education front. Hsu (2014), in her work on educational exchange during this period of exclusionary policies, highlights what she calls a “counter-narrative” (p. 315) to the prevailing view of this time. She writes that “… even in the depths of restrictive fervor, Chinese students—seen as a leadership class that eventually shaped the future of modern China—were not only welcomed in the United States, but funded and protected by powerful American and Chinese interests”.

English: Editorial cartoon showing a Chinese m...

Editorial cartoon showing a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the “Golden Gate of Liberty.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Previous historical circumstances had made China wary of foreign influence, encapsulated by the “Boxer Rebellion”, a strong backlash against western Christian missionaries and foreigners in general. (At the time, China was the predominant country for US missionary work). In the Qing dynasty, there were worries that students sent abroad would become “denationalized” and China would see no benefit (Hsu, 2014, p. 319). Through the creation of the China Institute, however, the US saw a climb in foreign students from China, as well as an acceptance that China would face an inevitable decline if they did not attempt to familiarise themselves with Western education. Even during the height of exclusion, Chinese students made “were among the most numerous of foreign students on U.S. campuses” and such a exchange managed to persuade “Americans not only to invest in positive experiences of the United States for Chinese, but also to rethink racialist ideologies of exclusion against Asians.” (Hsu, 2014, p. 322). In essence, student exchange helped to counter-balance xenophobic attitudes towards China.

The Cold War threatened to undo most of these relations, however, with a communist China considered a threat. Plus that to today, with increasingly paranoid US afraid of losing their Number 1 status, economically and politically, could there be similar sentiments rising? This video echoes of the late nineteenth century. And the US currently operate an anti-Chinese exclusion policy for NASA, and do not forget the Huawei “national security concerns” story. Will more Chinese students studying in the US help to ease tensions, or have times changed too much?

References

Bancroft. (2005). ‘Anti-Chinese Movement and Chinese Exclusion’, Bancroft Library, The Regents of University of California. Retrieved from http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/chineseinca/antichinese.html on 8 June 2014.

Hsu, M, Y. (2014). Chinese and American Collaborations through Educational Exchange during the Era of Exclusion, 1872–1955, Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 83, No 2, pp. 314-332. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2014.83.2.314 on 8 June 2014.

Lee, E. (2007). The “Yellow Peril” and Asian Exclusion in the Americas, Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 76, No. 4, pp. 537-562. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2007.76.4.537 on 8 June 2014.

Skimming the surface of a little known migration

by Krishna Vanstraelen

When discussing international migration, many groups of immigrants came to mind; coming from Europe, I am myself familiar with a large immigration population being entirely or only partially part of the society I found myself in. Additionally, as I live in Japan, I am lucky enough to experience immigration from another angle, from the other end. In turn, the latter has helped me to understand to a greater extent issues and complains voiced by first, second, and even third generation immigrants back in my country. Yet, one particular group has peaked my curiosity from the onset; the case of Chinese migrants in Africa, and particularly in South Africa (as I have come to realise that the overwhelming majority of Chinese is found in South Africa (Park, 2009)).

The reason why the case of Chinese migrants in Africa caught my attention stems from my inability to have considered the latter phenomenon. As mentioned earlier, as a European, I viewed migration from a Western perception (i.e. Migration in Europe, United States, Australia, New-Zealand…). When I first heard about Asian migration to Africa, I was surprised. However, later, I found myself comparable to the narrow minded people I have encounter in my life having difficulties accepting or even considering international migration. My astonishment turned into frustration and I now believe it is a moral duty to increase my knowledge concerning the aforementioned focus.

South Africa has had 2 waves of Chinese immigration in the past and one currently happening. In the early 1900, Chinese families migrated to South Africa, approximately 10,000 individuals, followed by business motivated Taiwanese in the 1970s and 1980s (approximately 6,000). The current wave which has started since 1990s is sourcing from mainland China (over 500,000; Park, 2009).

Four categories can be depicted when examining Chinese immigrants to Africa: temporary labor migration linked to Chinese development and investment in Africa, small-time entrepreneurs, in-transit migrants, and agricultural workers (Politzer, 2008). The second group, small-time entrepreneurs, is currently gaining in popularity as an increasing number of mainland Chinese are migrating to South Africa in order to pursue self-employment dreams, experience a slower pace and comfortable life, an improved weather, and a healthier environment.

Though mostly found in urbanized area, Chinese migrants are increasingly settling in poorer rural areas where the economic sphere is minor or inexistent in order to maximize their benefits by taking advantage of further favourable economic situations. They tend to open shops where everything from clothing to travel accessories, from everyday household appliances to toys and games for children can be found (Park, 2009).

The Chinese migration to Africa and particularly to South Africa can be depicted likewise Edwin Lin’s analogy referring it to a “small pond migration” (2014). The analogy stems from the English idiom “Big fish in a small pond.” Though the idiom connotes a rather pejorative meaning, the small pond migration refers to migrants purposely choosing a lesser developed country where their human capital will foster their ability to take advantage of the social environment. The migrants’ ability to conduct unchallenged business through their comparative advantage confers them the title of Big fish in a small pound.

Chinese Migration to South Africa is characterised and made possible through social connections. Most recent migrants had relatives or friends present in South Africa that helped them accessing and facilitating their migration in the country

Reasons for Chinese to migrate to South Africa have been depicted as such: for adventure, for self-employment, and for a comfortable lifestyle. Perhaps the effect of globalisation, access to international media and contact with international parties have promoted a desire for adventure and experiencing a life outside China. Most Chinese migrants that have moved to South Africa describe lifestyle in China as chaotic and stressful. Hence, moving to South Africa not only allowed them access to a slower pace of life associated to their environment, but also to start a self-employment type of business that, in time, will grant them enough capital and resources to “sit back and relax”.

When discussing assimilation theory, the case of Chinese migrants in South Africa seems to oppose the general trend usually associated with migration. First, most Chinese migrants seem to move to South Africa with the clear intention to return to the mainland once their economic goals are met. Second, as their migration is firstly seen as temporary, most Chinese immigrants do not speak the local language and very few of them have English proficiency (most of them come from a lower social strata with limited education background). Time and motivation to learn a language that would ease their living in South Africa is hampered by their aforementioned assumption. Third, the crime rate and the Chinese target some gang seems to favour, has pushed Chinese migrants to adopt a life style with very little interaction with the local population and heavy withdrawal into their own community. Most of them do not go out after sunset, fearful of aggression and robbery. Chinese migrants do not see social structure as a medium or an alleviation of this issue as police seem to be corrupted and do not protect them as they should. Assimilation seem thus to be unlikely as very little social structure are in place to promote a safe environment. The premise most migrants hold in regards of returning to their home country after meeting their objectives is also an important drawback to their assimilation. Though Chinese South Africans have been living in the country for few generation (this will be extended in the second post), most recent Chinese migrants opt for sending their offspring back to china where family member would take care of them.

Transnationalism can be viewed and explained through a progressive migration of Chinese individuals following example of their relatives, friends or even clan and village members. Remittance, charity, and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are also part of the transnationalism phenomenon that reaches Chinese migrants in South Africa.

Racialization is common and affects immigrants in their assimilation endeavour. The label “Jews of the East” hamper Chinese to further commit to an assimilation progress as in most cases, they are treated as outsiders and often scapegoated as the reasons behind a society’s ills.

References

Lin, E. (2014). “Big Fish in a Small Pond”: Chinese Migrant Shopkeepers in South Africa. International Migration Review, 48(1), 181-215.

Park, Y. J. (2009). Chinese Migration in Africa. Occasional Paper No. 24, Johannesburg: South African Institute of International Affairs.

Politzer, M. (2008, August 6). China and Africa: Stronger Economic Ties Mean More Migration. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/china-and-africa-stronger-economic-ties-mean-more-migration

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Who needs a husband?

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Zhang Shiwen

Work is more loyal than a husband, I think. My ibasho will be my work in the future, as well as my ibasho is my university now. The reason is simple, because if I am not a student or a worker in Japan, I cannot continue living in Japan. Moreover, I can feel that I am valuable when I get a good grade in test or I am needed by my friends, such as having a party after school or going for a trip together. In fact, when I was a student in language school, I was living like a hikikomori (Allison, 2013). I felt pressure from teachers that they want me to go to a good university. On the other hand, I did not have good friends and could not have communication with Japanese. I preferred staying in the dormitory, but I felt so lonely and meaningless at that time. Due to that, being a university student really made me comfortable and my life meaningful. Therefore, my ibasho will be my work which will give me the same value, I hope.

However, if I work in Japan, my work will betray me if I do not have a husband. 10 years later, I will be 30 years old. According to Heikinchokonneirei (n,d.), it is known that 40 years ago in Japan, I should have married by the age of 24 years. However, will it be the best time for me, a 30 years old woman 10 years later, to get married, or it will be later?

What’s more, I have watched a Japanese drama that the main character, a 30 years old Cabin Attendant who was working in a big airline company, was fired at her best period in her career because the company would pay more money to new, young employees. It means that although the situation of women employees is becoming better, women and foreigners like me are the most precarious people in Japan, as Allison (2013) notes. Due to this, even if I want to continue working, from the view of company, they may get more benefits from hiring an unskilled, low-paid youth than me, who is high-paid and skilled. Also, unmarried is looked as irresponsible to the society. Therefore, for women working in Japan, it is hard for them to say “Who needs a husband”, because the society, where the shoshika (low birth rate) is advancing, need women to have husbands!

My other ibasho is my home with my parents, so I hope to have a job which can make me come and go from China to Japan. My parents have no wish to live in Japan, but I should take care of them after they retire. Due to this, I am not sure where should I live after I retire. Therefore, if I work for a Japanese company and pay pension contributions to Japanese government every month in the future, but I finally decide to go back to China, I cannot take back all insurance money I have paid, and also I cannot enjoy the Japanese welfare system. At the same time, the Chinese government will not provide me social security because I have not paid for the Chinese pension system, so how can I feed myself after I retire?

The situation will be better if I can take the right of permanent residence, while it is not very easy. However, a quick and easy way is to marry a Japanese man, which is also recommend by my parents. Therefore, is it good for foreigners to have a Japanese spouse? From Appendix A, it is known that the foreign wives are twice as common as husbands. I believe that most of them are married by love, but some Chinese wives I have known cannot speak Japanese well and seldom have Japanese friends. Caring for the children and their house are the only things they need to do.

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

In conclusion, it will continue to be hard for women in Japan to be independent from the social or familial role, as Allison (2013, p.22) notes. On the other hand, the pressure of managing both work and family became larger. Women are encouraged to work hard but precariously, and at the same time, they are blamed for not marrying.

I think it is very important for women to marry and have a family, but it should not be done for  the society or family. I means that we relay on our family for spirit,but not for pressure from parents, companies, and the society. Therefore, the government should provide an environment for women to make better choices for themselves and by themselves.

References

Allison,A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Heikinchokonneirei no Suii [The change in the average age of marriage]. Keikon Rikon deta.Net [Marrige and Divorce Net.] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.kekkon-data.net/marriage/cnt/heikin_shokon.php

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Yasukuni and Nationalist Identities, Japanese and Korean

English: Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lilia Yamakawa

In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan agreed to visit a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany to lay a wreath in honor of Germany’s war casualties. Reagan’s team of advisors did not do their homework, and it was later discovered that the cemetery contained graves of some of Hitler’s elite officers who had taken part in the massacre of Jews. Here was a president who always talked about “American values”, and he was going to pray for soldiers who had caused the Holocaust. There were strong protests by Jewish groups, US congressmen, US military officials, and regular citizens who all urged Reagan not to make the visit. He felt he could not cancel, however, and instead, a trip to a nearby concentration camp was also scheduled for the day of the cemetery visit. Reagan was not anti-Jewish, nor was he a Nazi sympathizer, and he himself had even served on the “right side” of the war. Although he had simply bumbled into the visit, the “Bitburg Fiasco” turned into one of the lowest points of Reagan’s presidency. He and his handlers had failed to see the powerful symbolism of the visit.

One German political editor noted the day after the visit was announced that Germany “had been able to become a member of the community of civilized nations after the war not by denying but by accepting its Nazi past.”

The Reagan-Kohl idea of a historic harmony is, therefore, an insult not only to those who suffered and died in the camps. World War II was not just another European war. It was the darkest hour of European civilization. Its end brought to an end the world’s most atrocious regime and the world’s hitherto most dangerous conflict. It also laid the basis for a democratic West Germany and a united West (Lou, 1991).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on 26 January 2013, made his second visit to Yasukuni Shrine, a powerful symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism. Unlike Reagan who had bumbled into his visit, Abe went on purpose. Unlike the Americans, who had fought against the German aggressors, Japan was the aggressor. Unlike many Japanese leaders who deny many wartime actions, the Germans have accepted their Nazi past. Thus, it is understandable that the Koreans and Chinese would be upset by visits to Yasukuni by Abe and other officials.

This post explores national identity and visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese government officials. I examine how the visits help to form and strengthen a sense of nationalistic, racist self-identity among some Japanese. I will also show how the visits help to form a particular identity of Koreans today. This paper is based on Benedict Anderson’s (2006) Imagined Communities.

First, with regard to Japanese identity, Yasukuni Shrine shows us a negative side of Japanese nationalism and patriotism. Twelve class-C war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. In fact, the government pressured the shrine to include the war criminals in 1978. The museum at the shrine, the Yushukan, does not show the atrocities that the Japanese army brought on its neighbors in Asia, controlling the way history is remembered. The shrine symbolizes the beliefs of ultra-nationalist right-wing groups today. Japanese officials not only insult Asian neighbors when they visit the shrine, but they also make the Japanese identity look bad to the world. Finally, while there is supposed to be a separation of religion and state, Yasukuni Shrine seems like a very political place that portrays nationalism based on “us vs. them.”

Love and self-sacrifice are important parts of a nation’s identity, and Yasukuni is a symbol of that positive side of nationalism and patriotism. Anderson points out that a love of nation is often expressed in its literature. Emperor Hirohito paid a visit to the shrine and wrote a poem that said: “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.” Because of this, soldiers who went to war would say “Let’s meet at Yasukuni.” These words signify loyalty to the emperor, to the nation, and to the Shinto religion. In this way, it was and remains a symbol of love and self-sacrifice.

People who believe it is the right or duty of Japanese, even government officials, to pray at Yasukuni argue that it is a spiritual place. To worship at Yasukuni is an act of love and gratitude to those who fought and died for Japan (John, 1991). Many Japanese also believe it is the right of the people of a nation to worship whoever and however they choose to worship.

Anderson discusses the roots of racism and says that in some cases it came from social class differences rather than nationalism. But in the case of the Japanese, is it possible that nationalism and racism were pretty much the same thing?

Koshino Kosaku is a sociologist who studies Japanese identity. He argues that “racialism” includes racism but is broader in meaning. He describes race as a socially constructed and imagined community because it does not have a real biological foundation, and because most members of the group don’t actually know each other. Although the Japanese are mixed, many of them imagine that they are a racially distinct and homogeneous group. These people believe that being Japanese is an unchosen result of nature. The Meiji leaders invented the idea of Japan as a “family-nation of divine origin.” All Japanese were supposedly related to each other and to the emperor. “Kinship, religion, and race were fused to produce a strong collective sense of oneness” (Koshino, 1998).

Koshino says that the notion of blood ties is still a part of the Japanese subconscious. The idea of Japanese blood makes the idea of “us v. them” stronger. Japanese culture is associated with a “Japanese race,” and Japanese tend to be possessive of their culture. Many people believe that no matter how long Chinese or Koreans live in Japan, they will always remain Chinese and Korean because they are different “minzoku”. He says the concept of “minzoku” can mean race, ethnic community, and nation. Anderson says that a nation is closed because it is something you don’t choose. It is, however, also open because through language and naturalization you can enter a nation. It seems that as long as the Japanese tend to think of themselves as a separate race and continue to feel racist toward others, Japanese nationalism is much more closed than open. Abe’s visits to Yasukuni only make this racist identity stronger. (Koshino, 1998)

Next, we will discuss Yasukuni and Korean identity. Whenever a Japanese official visits Yasukuni, the Koreans protest. It seems as Korean nationalism has been strengthened through protest against Japanese policy. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One Korean said that he can not talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Jukka Jouhki discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:

Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. (Jouhki, 2009)

Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as it was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are still trying to work through. Therefore, Japanese leaders’ nationalism, expressed through visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.

Amartya Sen writes that a sense of identity can be positive because it makes us closer to others in our group, but it can also be negative because it can cause a deep feeling of division with those who are outside your group. He talks about how Al Qaeda tries to create a militant Islamic identity so that the people will feel the West is separate and bad. In the same way, Abe’s visit to Yasukuni creates sense of division from both the side of Japanese and Koreans.

The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live. The descriptive weakness of choiceless singularity and … the illusion of destiny exacts a remarkably heavy price” (Amartya, 2006).

Visits to Yasukuni can cause certain groups, both Japanese and Korean, to get caught up in one identity, forgetting they have diverse identities, and this can lead to conflict. These visits cause some Japanese to identify themselves as Japanese in a nationalist, racist way. They can cause some Koreans to identify themselves as Korean and the former victims of Japanese imperialism in an overly nationalistic way.

Clearly, Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of patriotic love and self-sacrifice. It depends on your political beliefs as to whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing. I believe the people were used and sent to war by the Meiji oligarchs in their official nationalism, and they need to be prayed for. However, I believe, that we should pray for them in a place that is not so political and insensitive to the Koreans and others. It leads to a nationalist identity, on both sides, that is divisive and may lead to conflict and violence.

References

  1. Benedict, A. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism.
  2. Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology19, 211. 239.
  3. Lou , C. (1991). President reagan: “the role of a lifetime. (p. 520). Touchstone Simon and Schuster
  4. John, B. (1991). Yasukuni: the war dead and the struggle for japan’s past. (2007 ed., p. 56). C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
  5. Jouhki, J. (2009, May 8). The second invasion: Notes on korean reactions to the yasukuni shrine issue. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/179474/The_Second_Invasion_Notes_on_Korean_Reactions_to_the_Yasukuni_Shrine_Issue
  6. Koshino, K. (1998). Making majorities. (2007 ed., p. 19). C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
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Skin-Lightening Products in China

by Yuan Mingyang

Rondilla (2009) analyzed the influence of the advertisements of multinational cosmetics companies on the colorism in the Philippines. The company that Rondilla examined, L’Oreal, also has its market in mainland China. Therefore, this paper aims to do a similar study on the cosmetic advertisements of the multinational companies in mainland China, and to analyze whether these advertisements in China have a similar influence on the racial discourse in China as they have on the Filipinos according to Rondilla.

The method of this post is to analyze the websites and the advertisements on the websites of According to Dalal (2002), early definition and classification of race usually include the concept of skin color, and what’s more, “colour becomes synonymous with the notion of race” (p. 18). Rondilla (2009) also discussed about the colorism in the Philippines by analyzing the skin-lightening advertisements, but the cause of colorism is a little bit different from what Dalal discussed. The preference for light skin tone also has a long history in China. According to Leong (2006), there are many kinds of folk remedies to lighten one’s skin color in China, for example, drinking a small amount of pearl powder with water everyday (p. 167). Light skin tone shows “elegance and nobility” in China (Ibid, p. 167).

The desire for light skin tone still prevails in China, as well as many other Asian countries, while a favor of tanned skin appears in the West (Leong, 2006). It might be hard to argue that the contemporary desire for light skin color in China is a legacy from the past or a result of colonialism. Two factors may have great influence on the skin-lightening ideology in contemporary China. The first factor that should be noticed is the role of the Communist Party on skin-lightening before the economic reform in the 1980s. According to Hopkins (2007), the Communist Party at that time “rejected displays of difference of any kind, including gender” (p. 289). The uses of almost all kinds of cosmetic products are prohibited (Ibid). Therefore, skin-lightening products should also have been prohibited during this period, for decades. As a result, the recent desire for light skin might be a new one which emerged after the economic reform in the 1980s.

The second factor is the economic reform in the 1980s. According to Hopkins (2007), the cosmetic industry thrived after the economic reform, especially after China became a member of the WTO, which allowed more multinational cosmetics companies to invest in mainland China. Appearance became more and more important for women, and the cosmetic products started to entail new symbolic values (Ibid). Women use these products in order to “look modern and worldly” (Ibid, p. 302), which shows that the desire for light skin tone in contemporary China is representing some new values coming after the reform, which may be probably influenced by foreign countries and globalization.

Therefore, it is reasonable to discuss about the role of racism, as a result of foreign influences after the 1980s, on the skin-lightening fashion in China. Rondilla (2009) pointed out an ideal model of beauty to be Asian and global in the same time. Hopkins (2007) argued Chinese women use cosmetics to be global. This paper aims to prove the statements made by Rondilla and Hopkins in the context of China, with the concern of a potential racial discourse in China. In the first part, the advertisements of three multinational cosmetics companies on their websites in mainland China and the websites themselves will be examined with some of the criteria used by Barnes et al. (2004) in their research on cosmetics advertising in China. The three companies, Shiseido from Japan, L’Oreal from France, and Estee Lauder from the US, are from different parts of the worlds. Therefore, if they are using similar strategies to attract the costumers in China, a general identity of the dominant social values and criteria of beauty believed by most of the Chinese people can be drawn from these advertisements and websites.

In the second part, the findings in the first part will be compared to the similar researches on foreign advertisements in Hong Kong by Leong (2006), and in the Philippines by Rondilla (2009). The second part aims to detect the racial discourse in the advertisements in China by referring to similar researches in other Asian countries. The second part will also give a general image of the role that the multinational cosmetic companies plays in the ideology of light skin tone in China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Advertisements of Multinational Companies in China

At first glance, one could see from the layout of the websites of the three companies, Shiseido, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, that the main targets of these companies are women. Most of the products are for women, and if a product is for men, it will be put under a special genre. Products for men usually have the word “men” noted in the title, while there is usually no “women” in the title of the products for women. Also, the advertisements for skin-lightening products prevail in the section of skin protection. On the contrary, there seems to be no product for tanning in these websites. As for the best sellers of these websites, the products for skin-lightening have a place in the lists of both Shiseido and Estee Lauder, while L’Oreal does not have a ranking list. Therefore, the assumption of the multinational cosmetics companies in China, when they are making the advertisements and the websites, may be that women are more willing to buy their products, and almost all of them want light skin color.

As for the models in the cosmetic advertisements, Rondilla (2009) stated that using models “racially ambiguous” is very usual in Asia, since they “have global appeal” (p. 71). In the same time, mix-raced models can also fulfill the need to look Asian (Ibid). A similar phenomenon may be found in the websites of foreign companies in China. Estee Lauder seems to prefer to use western models in its website, which can be considered to be a sign of modernity and globality, which proved the statement made by Hopkins (2007) that women purchase cosmetics to look global and modern. On the other hand, that L’Oreal tend to use both Chinese and Western models, which reflects the statement made by Rondilla, shows that the advertisements are stressing both an Asian face and global feature of the products. The study of Barnes et al. (2004) also showed the similar result that the ethnicity of the models usually does not matter, but Asian models are slightly more preferred by Chinese than Western models are. Therefore, most of the Chinese people may accept both Chinese and global faces, but a little bit more prefer their own identities.

Perception of Skin Tone in China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines

This section aims to analyze the racial discourse in China by comparing it to that in Hong Kong and the Philippines. The reason these two countries are chosen is that China has posed some influences on the criteria of beauty in Hong Kong (Leong, 2006) and the Philippines (Rondilla, 2009). For the Filipinos, they use skin-lightening products not to look like westerners but to look like East Asians (Rondilla, 2009, p. 63), in spite of the fact that the image is influenced by Westerners. Rondilla also mentioned a rise of Chinese in the Philippines, which may further reinforce the notion that light skin tone is better and represents higher status. As for Hong Kong, Leong described it as a place where both Chinese and Western values exists.

The colorism in the Philippines that Rondilla (2009) analyzed may have been influenced by other Asian countries, but in the same time it may also influenced these nations in reverse, but as role of the discriminated ones. Leong (2006) noticed the “scale of whiteness” (p. 172) in Hong Kong. In this scale, the skin tone of Japanese and Chinese women are on the top, and the skin tone of Filipinos and people from some of other Asian countries is considered to be dark and is often described as “coarse” (Ibid, p. 172). Leong (2006) pointed out that “social groups such as the Filipinos and Indonesians were the target for much of the participants’ biases throughout their discussions of whiteness and skin tones” (p. 174). The skin tone of Caucasians is also not preferred by Chinese people in Hong Kong (Ibid). Similar phenomenon may also exist in mainland China, since Leong claimed the Chinese values in Hong Kong. With the findings of Barnes et al. (2004) that mainland Chinese people prefer Chinese models in cosmetics advertisements, one can draw a conclusion that in East Asia and Southeast Asia where China has a strong influence, Chinese or Japanese like skin tone rather than Caucasian like skin tone is on the top of the hierarchy, and people from Philippine might be the ones who are discriminated in the skin tone hierarchy in Asia.

As for the logic under the advertisements of the foreign companies and their role in the racial hierarchy, which is close to what Leong (2006) defined as the “scale of whiteness” (p. 172), Leong argued that they are creating “the myth of whiteness”, which emphasizes “purification” and “whiteness” (p. 171). Hopkins (2007) suggested the advertisements seek help from a pre-existing notion that whiteness means less working under the sun in China, which means high social status, in order to make a preferred model and let costumers believe the importance of their products (p. 302). Rondilla (2009) stressed a racial discourse which comes from the colonial period promoted by the advertisements of multinational companies. The existing racial discourse is merged with and reinforced by the colonial racial discourse promoted by multinational companies. The pre-existing preference for light skin tone, the skin tone hierarchy resulted from the interaction between different Asian countries, and the role of the cosmetics companies in spreading a colonial ideology may all have contributed to the construction of the racial discourse in contemporary China, which turns out to be a preference for light skin tone on the surface. The multinational companies are expected to stabilize, reinforce, and promote this racial discourse, when they “attempt to cater to specific markets” (Rondilla, 2009, p. 80), and “promote an ideal” (Hopkins, 2007, p. 302).

This paper aims to analyze the racial discourse in China influenced by the multinational cosmetic companies. The first section analyzed the advertisements on the websites of three multinational cosmetics companies, Shiseido, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, in mainland China. The result proved the statement of Hopkins (2007) that Chinese women use cosmetics to be modern and global. The result also contains a racial discourse that white skin tone is considered better by Chinese people. The second section stressed the role of multinational companies in reinforcing an existing skin color discourse as well as creating a new racial discourse as in China. Other factors are also discussed about in this section, while we can still see that the multinational cosmetic companies contribute much to the colorism in contemporary China.

References

  1. Barnes, B. R., Kitchen, P. J., Spickett-Jones, G, & Yu, Q. (2004). Investigating the impact of international cosmetics advertising in China. International Journal of Advertising, 23(3), 361-387.
  2. Dalal, F. (2002). Race, colour and the process of racialization: New perspectives from group analysis, psychoanalysis and sociology. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
  3. Hopkins, B. E. (2007). Western cosmetics in the gendered development of consumer culture in China. Feminist Economics, 13(3-4), 287-306. doi: 10.1080/13545700701439416
  4. Leong, S. (2006). Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin-whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong. Asian Ethnicity, 7(2), 167-181. doi: 10.1080/14631360600736215
  5. Rondilla, J. L. (2009). Filipinos and the color complex: Ideal Asian beauty. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 63-80). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Matrimonial Advertisements Reflecting Social Values

by Yuan Mingyang

Vaid (2009) researched matrimonial advertisements in India, and by immigrants from India. Values that are promoted in the society can be found in the matrimonial advertisements. For example, the advertisements stressed caste, class, education, appearance, and the one that is the main subject of Vaid, the skin complexion (p. 148).

Vaid’s study showed that the preference for light skin tone has a continuous influence on the perception of beauty and other behaviors of the Indian immigrants. The study also showed a clear gender difference between the importance of “fair” skin complexion for men and for women, which may prove that the skin complexion is rather a criteria of beauty for the females (Ibid).

There are some similarities between the situation in India and that in China. According to Vaid (2009), “marriage is a central aspect of societal functioning in South Asia” (p. 148). Marriage is also very important in China due to the strong bonds of and pressure from the family. Vaid also mentioned that arranged marriage is the major form of marriage in India. According to Zhou et al. (1997), arranged marriage is a long lasted tradition in China, and after the economic reform in the 1980s, people started to find their marriage partners on their own. Matrimonial advertisements also started to appear in newspapers and magazines after the reform (ibid). China also has a long history of skin lightening (Leong, 2006). Therefore, similar characteristics may be found in these matrimonial advertisements in China, as Vaid did in the study in India.

Zhou et al. (1997) pointed out that several terms are frequently used in the self-description, for instance, age, height, appearance, and education (p. 68). The social values in a changing society can also be detected in the advertisements. For example, Zhou et al. mentioned a discrimination against short people and an increasing concern with one’s financial status.

There is also a clear division in the roles of different genders expected in the matrimonial advertisements (Ibid). Not much about the skin complexion was mentioned by Zhou et al., and their study is quite outdated due to rapid changes in China.

Nowadays, people can post their advertisements online in some special websites (The website viewed by the author: http://www.r680.com/). These advertisements usually have photographs, which led to fewer people describing their physical features in their self-description. However, even though the advertisements are with photos, a small proportion of people still mentioned their light skin tone, and they usually relate their skin tone to youth. Moreover, photoprocessing to make skin color lighter has become a business in China (Anon, as cited in Leong, 2006), and the common use of photoprocessing software should also be noticed, for there is a possibility that the photos used in the advertisements have been processed, although there is no concrete evidence.

In conclusion, the preference for light skin tone can be detected in the recent matrimonial advertisements online in China. It should also be concerned that the use of photographs in the advertisements may also change one’s perception of skin color. One can also have a general image of the nature of matrimonial advertisements by comparing the situation in China with that in India.

References

  1. Leong, S. (2006). Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin-whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong. Asian Ethnicity, 7(2), 167-181. doi: 10.1080/14631360600736215
  2. Vaid, J. (2009). Fair enough?: Color and the commodification of self in Indian matrimonials. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 148-165). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  3. Zhou, N., Yau, O. H. M, & Lin, L. (1997). For love or money: A longitudinal content analysis of Chinese personal advertisements, 1984-1995. Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 19(2), 65-77.
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Globalization of Names

by Aki Yamada

Have you ever heard English names for non-English speakers? Or, have you ever introduced your friends like “Here are my friends, Christine, John, Sophia and Mason. They are all from China!!” Actually, this was my experience when I studied abroad in America and I wanted to introduce my friends to other friends. I did not feel strange about their names at that time, however, now I think it was greatly impacted by globalization. Globalization is the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries. As one of its influences, globalization has made huge impacts in cultural areas in countries, such as music, movies, radio, books, and also people’s and companies’ names. Therefore, I want to discuss why people (especially Chinese) can change their names to English names, and to compare to the Japanese case.

Firstly, in Japan, it is quite rare for Japanese people to change their names by themselves because Japanese names are so simple and easy to remember for English speakers. Thus, they do not feel necessity to change their names. In addition, if you want to change your name, it is possible, but you need to go to a domestic court to get permission for that. However, usually it is difficult to go through these processes because you need a clear reason to change your name. As another reason why Japanese keep their name is that they have own pride and honor of their names. We think this name was given from my parents so we should keep our name carefully.

On the other hand, in China, there are some reasons that why it is easy to change their names into English names. First, for English speaker, it is really tough to read and pronounce Chinese names such as Yeo Wern Xin and Yanxiao. Second, changing their names is a right and duty of Chinese people, which is defined by the Chinese constitution, article 99. They only require doing some paper work to change their name. So, I can say it is much easier and carefree things to change their names. Third, people change their names for their job hunting, which is deeply related to the tough pronunciation of their names. Above, those reasons, compared to Japanese, it is quite common to change their name in global society. And, possibly, it is good way to change their name to get used to global (English speaking) society sometimes. However, as Japanese, to know real name is most important thing to communicate other culture in global world.