Embracing Your Chinese Identity in Taiwan

Hilton Yip.

When Diaspora went up on chinaSMACK, I really wanted to contribute. I read almost every single story and I could identify with most. Alienation among one’s own home country, self-identity issues, the pangs of guilt at not being too familiar with Chinese culture, being an overseas Chinese, all these apply to me. The trouble then became what I should write about. Well, I finally settled on an issue that should be familiar to readers but also offer a different take.

Basically, how do you embrace your Chinese identity when you’ve grown up mostly in the West? How does one merge different cultural and social values from various Western and Chinese backgrounds? Notice I use the word “West” instead of American or Canadian. That’s because I’m neither, nor am I from the UK or Australia or Malaysia. I grew up in the country of Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean island that is within touching distance of South America but whose first language is English, due to a 165-year-old British colonial legacy (Please don’t confuse us for Jamaica). Anyways I’ll speak more about my background later, but first let’s jump to the present.

Taipei from a hilltop.

I work and live in Taiwan, where almost every week is a challenge to me. Not because of language (though my Mandarin is barely intermediate) or cultural differences, but because I struggle with understanding my Chinese heritage here. I’ll spare people the historic and political issues between Taiwan and mainland China, but suffice it to say, the concept of Chinese is complex here, even in a cultural and societal sense. This is a place where pretty much everyone speaks Chinese (Mandarin, Hakka, Minnan), reads and writes Chinese, respects Chinese culture and values, and prides itself on this. But despite the increasingly “close” relationship at the higher-level business and bureaucratic arenas, there’s a lot of anger and arrogance, even paranoia, among the locals towards the mainland. “They have no morals and they lie and steal. They have no culture since they don’t use traditional characters anymore. They are dirty and rude.” These are just some of the common notions of mainlanders held by locals.

Giving a personal example, a Taiwanese relative of mine went on a trip alone to Sichuan, and when he was showing us his photos, his cousin was aghast that the relative was in some of them, meaning that someone else took the pictures for him. “You let a 大陸人 (mainlander) hold your camera?!!” he exclaimed, horrified that the relative actually handed his camera to a mainlander to take it for him. Yes, that is the level of enlightened thinking that some youths in Taiwan hold.

Of course, I understand that some of these stereotypes aren’t unfounded. I’m familiar with the fact that lining up to buy tickets or board a bus is often a contact sport in China and that spitting and shouting in public aren’t uncommon. A recent NY Times article on Chinese tourists to Taiwan noted how many locals “openly complain” about the tourists’ uncouth behavior and that the Taiwan media “gleefully recount stories about mainland visitors” engaging in rowdy behavior. Life in China isn’t a bed of roses and there’s a lot of rough stuff there. But you know, there are Chinese who don’t spit in public or steal or drive over pedestrians and who are educated and polite and generous. Yes, they exist and I’ve met them.

I found this patronizing attitude bemusing in the past, but steadily it’s become more aggravating. Only recently was I able to put what bothered me into words. The attitude of many Taiwanese goes something like: “We value writing Chinese, we value Chinese culture and history, but we hate actual Chinese people. Hell, we are Chinese and they’re not, except they live in China and we’d rather stay away from them, or they stay away from us.” I don’t know about you but this logic seems to have a bit of hypocrisy in it.

To be fair, it’s not just Taiwanese who hold this attitude, but also Hong Kongers. Despite having become part of China over 13 years ago, many HKers still hold a similar notion of mainlanders being dangerous and savage aliens from another planet.

Street market in Mongkok, Hong Kong.

Now some of you might wonder why does all this matter so much? Why am I going on and on? Also, am I so ignorant that all this is a shock to me? Well, no I’m not naïve and I know very well about recent Chinese history especially the middle of last century. And yes, I’m aware of the political complexities with Taiwan and the mainland. But this matters so much to me, because my parents are from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and my grandparents hail from the mainland.

Because my Hong Kong father, uncles and aunts grew up during a time when the mainland was going through a lot of turmoil, they harbored a deep sense of fear (and disdain) towards the mainland. This fear grew so much that when the British agreed to return Hong Kong to China, most of them left Hong Kong for other places in the eighties. So it was with much irony, that we ended up in Trinidad where basically 99 percent of the few-thousand-strong Chinese population was from the mainland, specifically Guangdong. To make a long story short, I grew up among these Chinese. Whether it was at home get-togethers, weddings, dimsum or New Year’s Day banquets at a Chinese association hall, my family interacted with people from places like Guangzhou, Taishan, Zhongshan and rural Cantonese villages. We weren’t particularly strong members of the community, but slowly I grew to regard them as peers. And slowly I began to dream about going to China (I’d been to Taiwan and Hong Kong but not the mainland back then). My Chinese interaction continued at university in Canada where I met more Chinese. This time, they were not from Guangdong, but from Beijing, Anhui, Hainan, Xian, Fujian and more. I made friends and they tolerated my constant questions about China. At one point, I had a Beijing dentist (my doctor was from Hong Kong though), a Beijing driving instructor (after 5 years in Canada getting used to the driving conditions, he was too afraid to drive in China anymore) and two Chinese colleagues at my student job, one from Harbin and one from Beijing.

Ironically, the years that I’ve been in Taiwan have been the only years of my life when I haven’t been in regular contact with people from the mainland. Taiwan is a nice place with some really pleasant people and a great environment to learn Chinese. Yet I know I cannot accept the ignorant and disdainful attitude many have towards the mainland. I can’t accept respecting a culture yet hating the very place where this culture is from and its people.

I feel that as a Chinese person who grew up with American, British, Caribbean and Chinese influences, speaking Cantonese at home and English outside, to be Chinese is to not limit your understanding of Chinese to any one place, but to embrace the greater Chinese world. I don’t know, maybe there’s a screw or two loose in my mind, but I feel that one can’t appreciate Chinese heritage without appreciating China. My sincere hope is that there can be a stronger sense of respect and open-mindedness towards China.

Shanghai's Bund.

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  • Daniel

    hmmm .. HK’rs definitely have a ‘savage’ perception of Mainlanders through my experience at HKU but .. SOFA!!

    • Daniel

      sorry, had too .. but seriously, I agree.. there is often a negative perception in East Asia and elsewhere that Mainland Chinese are rude, primitive, and shrewd. I studied at the University of Hong Kong and being from the U.S., I developed a different attitude towards the mainland students versus locals. Study habits, sense of collectivism and “bubbles”, and most notably academic tactics to becoming the best within the classroom. It’s hard as an international student – especially since I’m not an ABC – to compete with Mainland students. Gritting my teeth through a tough quota system, I find that when I’m in class with a 25%+ Mainland demographic the academic system becomes flawed.

      I just CANNOT compete with them. I understand that entrance into the university for Mainland students is very difficult, expectations remain high from family and friends, and most often GPA requirements motivate students to work hard in order to sustain their scholarships or external funding; and although unfair and my opinion a vice-grip against the HKU reputation, many of the Mainland students – and when i say many, almost 90+% – have been sensationally rude and eat bitterness to the bone to a point where others suffer and lose out while they achieve a personal gain.

      For example: An international shipping and policy class that I took has course material where the students could only receive materials from the library. It was an inter-loan process and students were expected to collaborate and study cooperatively. Yet, with a class of 13 and 6 being from Mainland, the materials disappeared just two weeks before the exam. I was the only international student and talked to the others, both local and non-local to ask what happened. What ensued was chaos as our professor found out that at least three of the Mainland students tried to “hide” the materials to sabotage the grade curve. Vicious and intentional.

      NOT RIGHT and create a cold personality for the group of Mainland students. It’s tough to adjust the perceptions but like all other sorts of judgment, there are two sides and if the good wishes to prevail then he or she, or the group should enact. Innocent until proven guilty? Well .. I’d suggest in today’s day and age, and with many quick to judgement, it’s guilty until proven innocent.

      • Thanks for the long and interesting comment, Daniel.
        I can understand why you are wary of the mainland students. I can see why their hypercompetitivity might be a threat, but ironically this is something that happens in the US and Canada as well with Asian students. Yet, these Asians aren’t for the most part, mainlanders, but ABCs, CBCs and HK Chinese. Here’s a controversial article from the Canadian magazine Macleans about how Asians are seen as a threat in universities. (It was actually originally titled “Too Asian” but this was changed.)

        Things like hiding library materials that other classmates need to use are definitely not cool, yet this also happens in Canada.
        When I was in university in Canada, we were warned about depending too much on books from the library because apparently there were people who did things like what you described- borrow books and never return them or hide them so other students couldn’t find them. Again, the students who did this weren’t mainlanders but Canadians.

        I’m not belittling your experiences though, my point is that this has occurred elsewhere and involved Hong Kongers. I appreciate you writing about your personal experiences and you do seem to have an openminded attitude.

        By the way, maybe these mainland students as being really rude and cliquey, but how are they treated by local HK students? Is it that when mainland students are approached by other students (HK, Western) to talk or socialize, the mainlanders often act coldly? I’m not asking this to be argumentative, I really am curious.

        • I remember reading that article in McLean’s a long time ago and just shaking my head. It’s about privileged white girls growing up in upper-middle class homes in Ontario complaining about how going to university is “super hard” now. It’s always been hard in Canada, at least for people who get there on their merit rather than their parents paycheques.

          I grew up and went to university in Vancouver. My husband is from Shen Zhen and grew up with the disparity between HK and mainlanders, watching HK natives come into Shen Zhen to do business and treating his city like crap because of this assumption that all mainlanders are dirty, rude, and don’t care.

          We went to university together and never really had a problem with library materials or overly competitive mainlanders trying to sabotage the grading curve, as it would be so simple to get the whole situation resolved through the professor. I had an excellent and very multi-cultural experience in post secondary, mostly by avoiding the people who acted out their stereotypes rather than critically analysing them. It wasn’t hard to tell, a 30 minute conversation can be very illuminating.

          I find this is true for most stereotypes… people either use them as a guide to live their lives and judge others or they stop and think about it. I’d like to think that it’s not that hard to just step back and say, “Hey, why am I making these assumptions? What purpose do they really serve?”

          • Thanks for the comments, Anise.
            That article was really controversial, and the thing is, that mindset towards Asian students wasn’t limited to Canada, it was also shared by people in the US. It’s funny to wonder if HK students who fear brilliant mainland students would appreciate the irony about how their counterparts (HK or ABC/CBC) are perceived in North America in a similar way.

            I went to university in Toronto (not UfT though) and while profs and TAs warned us of potential problems with library materials being purposefully misplaced etc, that never really happened to me either.

            Toronto also has a very multicultural, diverse makeup and when I look back, I really appreciate it more and more.
            I agree with your view towards stereotypes. While sometimes they may have some truth in them, it’s never good to let it guide how you live and think, and unfortunately many people can’t get past that.

            Unfortunately, Chinese do treat each other like crap sometimes, and even as inferiors compared to whites. And that this happens not only among mainlanders, between HKers and Taiwan towards mainlanders, and even HKers towards Taiwan in the past just makes it worse.

            It’s interesting in that even in Taiwan, you can see this attitude regarding English teaching. Many afterschool tutorial centers (buxibans) specifically seek native-English speakers from countries like the US and Australia, but they often prefer whites over native-English speaking, American or Canadian-born Taiwan/Chinese.

  • Nice sidestepping of the Taiwan/China “issue” :)

  • dm

    Judging by the title of the article I was hoping it was written by someone from Taiwan as the disapora that it is. Unfortunately, your observations are rather trite and simplistic. Although some people in Taiwan have the opinions you stated, they are not as commonplace as you make it seem.

    Judging by your article, your family members are recent migrants to Taiwan (post-1949) since they still use words like mainland (大陆) and also from their well to do/la-de-da attitude.

    Many, perhaps most, people in Taiwan have little understanding of life in China or people in it. However, most people I know there were more curious than condescending. Spitting, not lining up, and what, in Europe and the Americas, is generally considered rude is much more common here and they stereotypes taken by some Taiwanese of Chinese tour groups may be aggravating, they are not based only in fantasy.

    Finally, what this article brings up, but does not really confront, is the question of what are people taking about in China or in disapora communities (and yes, Taiwan counts in the latter) of what on earth do people mean as ‘Chinese.’ These term is certainly used in a variety of different ways, often largely depending on what one’s parents consider as ‘tradition.’ I would really like to see future Diaspora.Chinasmack article that deal with this in a more thoughtful way.

    • Judging by your article, your family members are recent migrants to Taiwan (post-1949) since they still use words like mainland (大陆) and also from their well to do/la-de-da attitude.

      Uh, no. I’ve never heard anyone from taiwan call a country China (中国), only mainland (大陆). This is young, old everyone says mainland.

      Actually plenty of Taiwanese people know what’s going on in China, including just how hard lives are.

      • J B

        This is false. Many people here do call it “China”. I guess you haven’t noticed it before but it does happen.

      • Andrew

        Usage varies, but both were common in my social circles. Many Taiwanese refuse to say “mainland” 大陸 because the implication is that Taiwan is just the non-mainland portion of China.

  • JSakamoto

    Chinese people always fight amoung themselves and put each other down. I know all ethnic groups do this but it seems to be especially bad amoung chinese. “United we stand, divided we fall” definitely applies to chinese people, which is one reason why they’ll never become a dominant world power. They just can’t see the big picture. Sad really.

    • Interested

      Totally agree. It is often very frustrating to see Chinese more interested in fighting, hating, contempt at their own people. Most people, especially Jews and Europeans, know how to promote themself. It is skill of good salemen to promot group interest.

    • I remember when my husband returned to the mainland to try his hand at international business. I went with him and we both went through his family connections to try and find some good work. I got a job in a day, making 250RMB an hour… but everyone kept on trying to get my husband to work for free or very little pay.

      Finally he got fed up and asked one business owner why he was being treated this way. “Your Chinese,” he told him, “All Chinese are treated this way. If you looked white, I could pay you more, but because you look Chinese I can’t justify paying you more.”

    • no brainer

      I have to disagree with ur comment, it is true that in china competition is strong and sometimes unbalanced and fighting between each other is common. however in western countries and probably all over the world it is also very common. Ive been working overseas for good 4 years now and how others fight is more vicious if not cruel using back stabbing and sabotaging. especially europeans trying to make false complaints

  • Axis M

    There are definitely well educated, good people from Mainland, but they’re a rare breed in comparison to the ‘savage’ ones. Most mainlanders grew up in a communist environment where corruption, bullying, bribery and injustice is everyday business. My friend who’s from China said when you grow up there, you basically can’t trust anything there, so most learned to become ignorant. The “I cheat you first before you cheat me” mentality. Society like this do corrupts the soul and hearts of most human beings, especially given for Chinese people’s self preservation nature. Most average mainland people have to become ruthless, cruel, selfish and barbaric in order to get what they want.

    It’s scary, but understandable that Hong Kong people started to refer to Mainland people as ‘locust’, for their mass reaping of HK’s benefits and resources, without much contribution. Hong kong and Taiwanese who’re born and raised locally just don’t have that same fierce desperation and savageness. It’s too naive to think of ‘can’t we just all get along’.

  • dim mak

    But Taiwanese are race traitors.

    No I’m just kiddin’, we all bros.
    How come your last name is Cantonese though?

    • anon

      Didn’t he say his father is originally from Hong Kong?

  • Linda

    I read all the comments here and I agree with some of their points, but there is one lacking:

    Well written article Hilton!!

    Really, I agree with your encouragement of being more respectful and open-minded towards Chinese people from the mainland. Yes, there are definitely rude and deceitful people in China, but aren’t they everywhere, not just China? Why are “we” (those not from the mainland) so quick to generalise and antagonise everyone from the mainland? “We” are always very quick to share a story of mainlanders who have wronged us but “we” tend to forget instances when a mainlander has done good.

    Before you ask, yes, I am from the mainland. Whilst I don’t agree with a lot of the social dynamics and the political that are prevalent now, I’m proud that I have come from a people who are very resilient and battled the odds.

    • Thanks a lot for the compliment, Linda.
      Mainlanders seem to be the favorite target of many people, often excessively so. Even worse though is that many of the same people in Taiwan who disdain and look down on mainlanders have never met, had a real conversation, or known a single mainlander, or even been to China.
      I agree, mainland Chinese people are very resilient and I have a lot of respect.

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  • nihaoma

    This is not just limited to Hong Kongers and Taiwanese but also here in Singapore. As a Singaporean chinese, we also have a general consensus that Mainlanders are cold, manipulative bastards who are over nationalistic in nature. They want to migrate here so they can use Singapore as a springboard to migrate to US or Europe.

    Because of out govt recent pro immigration policy, Mainlanders now make up a significant numbers of our workforce and this has caused some resentment among the locals.

    For example, when a tabloid newspaper reported that China amended a law that makes it harder for a woman to get maintenance support in the event of a divorce, many female mainlanders then come to Singapore to search for Singaporean husbands since our Woman’s Charter protect woman more in the case of a divorce. This gives the impression that ML woman wants to marry Singaporean men just to get easy access to citizenships and then divorcing later on just to get their maintenance support. We also think that ML women dun shave their armpits.

    Mainlanders also have other disgusting habits like spitting everywhere and knowing how to quene. I have personally witnessed such events myself.

    There also have been recent cases of Chinese Mainlanders spewing seditious remarks about non-Chinese Singaporeans which have given the impression that Mainlanders do not understand the local culture here. Here in Singapore, racist remarks are taken seriously and a person that is caught making seditious remarks can be jailed. Unfortunately, since these Mainlanders were not citizens, they can escape back to their to China if anything happen.

    Some Mainlanders also look down on us since Singaporeans speak English rather than Chinese as English is our official language. Some ML think we are not pure Chinese since we speak English more than Chinese. Some ML also dun like to speak English as they feel it is irritating, giving us the impression they dun bother to assimilate into our culture.

    Another thing is that Singaporeans Chinese are descendants of southern Chinese, mainly from Fujian provinces, so some northern ML feel they have the right to look down on us.

    I can provide endless horror stories from ML, but yes, there is a friction between locals and MLs.

    • Thanks for telling us about how things are in Singapore regarding your experience of mainlanders. Don’t worry, I am aware that negative perceptions exist of our mainlander brethren in places beyond HK and Taiwan.
      It’s unfortunate to hear about the tension in Singapore but I think regarding immigration, if there are problems, then this should be something taken up with the authorities. Singapore is a small country with a tiny population so immigration is a vital issue; however I wonder if the government prefers to boost the number of ethnic Chinese so that’s why so many mainlanders are coming. Do you know if these people are educated professionals or sons and daughters of extremely wealthy people?

      I don’t know much about Singapore so I’m curious if there’s much interaction and do you have much mainlander colleagues or friends? I’m sure behind the haughty attitudes, there’re some who respect Singaporean society and way of life. Of course, there’s always going to be biases and you can never have perfect harmony, but it’s always better to try to work towards reducing tensions instead of nothing.

      Are you serious about racist remarks being considered sedition though? Not that I support such behavior, but I’m curious if this includes private conversation or if this only refers to things spoken in an official or formal environment?

      • nihaoma

        Perhaps I used the word seditious in the wrong context. In Singapore, making seditious remarks just simply means making racist. Singapore govt takes racism very seriously and a person can be jailed if caught making racist remarks whether verbally or in written form.

        It is just that in the past few months, we had a quite a few Chinese nationals making racist remarks. Not all was intended as racist though. It is just most local Singaporeans have enough common sense not to say it out loud because they will know they will get in trouble. It may be that some Chinese nationals do not understand the local culture well enough and may make casual remarks that can be considered racist by majority of Singaporeans.

        • Interesting, I didn’t think things were so strict. From what you said, I assume that making racist remarks in a casual setting can get you put in jail if someone overhears you and reports you to the police. Thanks for the explanation. I would think that the Chinese who make racist comments openly do not know that law, and they aren’t tactful enough as you said, but do many visitors or recent immigrants know that?

  • annie

    As a mainlander, the local’s attitude toward mainland China the writer mentioned in Taiwan and HK is quite understandable to me. China is now going through a very tough transformation of economy and politics. And, during this period, it’s normal to see that the quality of people in mainland is uneven and varied. I guess just like, some years ago, many Chinese people still regard Tibetan people as savage and rude. We are lack of communication and objective and comprehensive media to really understand each other without one’s own imagination which is breaking away from the local history. Well, this kind of awkward situation will definitely last for years, anyway, I believe that at a very point, there will be some kind of accommodation between us. It is just a matter of time, but which is necessary for us to improve ourselves. Of course, I guess, after we could become democratic, the chance is greater.

    • I think it’s a matter of time too as China keeps progressing and tries to sort out its issues, though the size and scope of China makes this difficult to predict.

    • Southernorthener

      Yeah you can imagine america was not a pretty place during the Industrial revolution!

  • @ JSakamoto
    Exactly, Chinese people everywhere love to put each other down and we often don’t seem to get the big picture. One of my main points is that it’s hard to appreciate my Chinese heritage without appreciating the mainland and its people. Some people, such as in Taiwan, are still living in the past and are unable to realize that China is a country that is still progressing and trying to move past the tough events of the near past.

    @dim mak
    Yes, I think we’re all bros too.
    Actually my father is from HK (I mentioned it in the article).

    @Dave Hodgkinson
    Not so much that I sidestepped it, but my article isn’t about politics.

    Pretty much everybody in Taiwan and Hong Kong use the word “大陆.” My family is from the mainland, but only one relative has a “well-to-do” attitude and that’s the one I described.
    My experiences in living and working in Taiwan for several years is that many young people don’t really know much about mainland China, don’t want to know, and have a very disdainful attitude towards mainland Chinese, which unfortunately is shared by a lot of adults too. If anything, condescending is too slight a word to describe the attitude of many Taiwanese.

    @Axis M
    I agree that life in China is really tough. My mainland friends also told me similar things, about how much competition there is, how much you have to watch out for, how you need to be aggressive to get ahead etc. However I don’t agree that this means many of them are bad at heart because many of them had to be ruthless out of necessity.
    You’re right that HK and Taiwan people don’t have the same desperation. I’m not calling on everyone to hold hands and sing songs, but I just feel a little more open-mindedness and consideration is needed. What’s naive is for HK and Taiwan people to remain ignorant about the mainland and continue to think they’re intrinsically superior. Sooner or later, they’ll find themselves bypassed and irrelevant.
    While there’ve been events like the milk-powder buying frenzy and the hospital birth beds, in general mainland Chinese have not acted like “locusts” at all. If anything, HKers have benefited immensely from all the tourist visits and shopping done by the mainlanders.

    • dim mak

      Btw I think your political correctness comes from being raised in the West

      I’m from HK and I visit the mainland all the time. Most of the stereotypes ARE true. By comparison they ARE rude, uncouth, selfish dickheads. Not all, but more than enough to justify the sentiment. I chalk it up to being poor, crowded, and having to go through the cultural revolution. I’m sure they’ll be more civilized as the middle class grows, but a spade is a spade. They have their own stereotypes about us too, with varying degrees of truth.

      And guess what, none of us really care. We’ll talk and flame but it’s really only Westerners that get up their own asses over things like this
      You’re either ethnic Chinese or you ain’t, it’s that simple

      • samfora

        I guess the mainlanders just care too much about others’ opinions toward themselves. SEE how hardly people perform in each event in front of the foreigners?

      • I wish it were really so simple, but I see a more complex picture especially in Taiwan. To see what I mean, just scroll down to Gargantuan’s post. Now I don’t know if he’s a Westerner or an overseas Taiwan person, but the sentiments in his/her post are definitely shared by some in Taiwan. There’s also a movement by some ABTs to explicitly classify Taiwanese as separate from Chinese in the US census and I think they were successful.

        Yet my essay was mainly about expressing my views as an overseas Chinese with links to Taiwan and HK. What I feel is about more than political correctness. It’s not about being nice and considerate though that’s also good, but it’s about understanding and appreciating your roots and history better and being empathetic to the very land our ancestors came from. To give you an example, Taiwan is famous for the National Palace Museum 故宮, which has a lot of China’s imperial treasures. Yet when I see them, though they represent thousands of years of Chinese imperial history, it doesn’t really mean much to me given that these treasures are all from mainland China.

        You seem to understand how tough life is for most Chinese and I commend you on that. I also agree that some of them are rude, uncouth, selfish etc.
        However I’ve been to China a few times myself, including just a few weeks ago. I saw people acting rude, I saw a person being chased by cops in an airport, and I saw beggars and hustlers. Yet I also saw people waiting in lines, people not pushing, and people, generally, being normal and not rude, uncouth, selfish dickheads. That plus the dozens of normal, decent mainlanders I’ve met throughout my life make me perceive them in a more empathetic, balanced light.
        We have differing views towards them and that’s ok.

        Regarding the fact that nobody really cares about interChinese prejudice, it’s funny because a few years ago when I came to Taiwan to work, one of the first comments I got from a few family acquaintances when I told them my father was from HK was how when they used to go to Hong Kong in the nineties, people used to treat them rudely and look down on them for speaking Mandarin. Nowadays, HK people don’t look down on Taiwanese. The fact that 10 or more years after those acquaintances experienced bias in HK they still brought it up, shows how deeply disrespected they felt.

        In addition to rudeness towards Mandarin speakers, many HKers, including my own relatives, were extremely frightened when they realized Britain was going to return Hong Kong. “They’ll slaughter us all, the PLA will wipe us all out,” was what I heard how many HKers felt. Hundreds of thousands emigrated and while many didn’t regret their choice, there were some who did. Even now, you’ll see 20-something-year-old HKers who’ve been in Canada for years and years and still don’t speak proper English. Yet the point is that these HKers took drastic action based on fears and prejudice that turned out to be false. You can also apply that to Taiwan now.

        • dim mak

          Don’t see what your point is, the facts are still facts

          There’s just as much retardation coming out of the mainland over HKers, Taiwanese and overseas Chinese, you gonna lament that? They’re partially right on many counts, but so are the stereotypes about mainlanders themselves. So what’s the problem? They’ve got stereotypes for every region on the mainland. Making it solely about HK/TW reeks of political differences. The important thing is that Chinese people overall rise to prominence in the world, inter-Chinese butthurt should be saved for dealing with foreigners.

          Here’s what I think: your piece is a not so subtle effort to hide your political bias by throwing all your pity behind one side. There are just as many mainlanders who will rattle off all kinds of bullshit about your HK/TW heritage before you even get a chance to tell them how much you sympathize with them. You just don’t realize it because they won’t say it to you directly, the same way Taiwanese talk shit about mainlanders behind their backs.

          The bit about prejudice or something is the spitting image of political correctness. Chinese aren’t Westerners, we’re gonna talk if we feel like talking. Are you gonna go around China telling people not to bitch about Shanghaiers being arrogant or to stop looking down on migrant workers? They’ll just laugh in your face. Whether or not the gossip is true is irrelevant. I might think them a dirty peasant and they might think me a rich elitist, but most of us will favor another Chinese over an outsider. The moment someone brings the whole barrel of “tolerance” horseshit to China is the day moral, regional and political lines are drawn. Westerners don’t even realize this because they’ve lived their whole lives that way. Think about it.

          • We obviously differ in some respects.
            Making it HK/TW doesn’t “reek about political differences,” it’s my background as I keep mentioning. If I wasn’t part Taiwanese, I probably wouldn’t be in Taiwan and I would not have written this article.
            And what is my political bias? I’m a secret Communist? What’s your preoccupation with political differences?
            I admit I sounded as if I were calling on every HKer and Taiwanese to change their mindsets about China, but given I was writing in English and about my background, it’s more a piece to tell my story and to raise an issue for overseas Chinese and other readers whoever they be to think about.

            In response to your other post, I’m an overseas Chinese raised in Trinidad who’s lived in the West for all but the last few years. I speak some Mandarin and Cantonese, but besides 500 characters, I can’t read Chinese so obviously the things I read and the way I write are Western. Your English is obviously good, and is your Chinese as good? Do you read and write Chinese regularly?

            Taiwanese don’t say things about mainlanders behind their backs. They say it whenever they want. They’ll see mainlanders and point and whisper frantically.

            I would like it if you were right, that the only thing plaguing Chinese is just minor stereotypes and “political” differences. But it’s more than that. The point isn’t about prejudice, it’s about people not learning to overcome prejudice or whatever you want to call it and instead being ruled by it.
            The same way how many HKers let their fears about mainlander soldiers coming to slaughter them and demolish HK drive them to flee HK, it’s similar now to how some Taiwanese feel.
            By the way, what’s your background?

          • dim mak

            I’m an HKer living in Canada when my parents immigrated because they thought the PRC would ruin HK after the takeover. I speak Cantonese fluently and read traditional/simplified at native level. My mandarin is passable with a moderate accent. Does this make a difference to you?

            I’ve lived in the West for half my life and I haven’t drank their kool-aid or bought into their PC idiocy. Either you’ve only lived in Taiwan or you don’t realize that mainlanders spew more or less the same generalizations about pretty much everyone else. The only difference I see is that middle class HKers/TWers/SGers tend to have some level of courtesy, whereas mainlanders just sorta blurt things out. The way I see it you do sound like a closet communist sympathizer. Hey, that’s fine. But why not just say it? I’ll tell you what I feel: The CCP isn’t perfect, but they do many things right and put China back on the map. Sure is better than nothing.

            Fact remains that all Chinese anywhere will have stereotypes about other Chinese elsewhere. On the mainland northerners and southerners could bitch at each other all day over tired old stereotypes, but should anything threaten China or Chinese-ness as a whole, they’ll stand together. These days HK will be there too. Will Taiwan? Not as likely. Why? Political differences. That is the preoccupation, because it’s extremely important.

            I’m sure they’ll “point and whisper”, but how many knowingly say it in direct conversation? Not even the boisterous mainlander will do that. The point is there is no such thing as “overcoming prejudice”, especially not in East Asia. Have you lived for any significant length of time in other parts of Asia? Most East Asians hold prejudices that will make a Westerner howl with moral outrage. Yet despite what they think, we haven’t torn each other apart. We’re too pragmatic to let the stereotypes go too far. You bring the Western style of political correctness in here and it pushes people too far. No one will appreciate the preaching, but everyone will take it as an offense. Take that shit back to Trinidad. Frankly I’d respect you more if you’d just come out and openly flame HK/TW/Mainland, at least then we’d have an honest conversation.

          • “should anything threaten China or Chinese-ness as a whole, they’ll stand together. These days HK will be there too.”

            I definitely don’t think that happened during the Japanese invasion in the 1930s which only got worse until the US defeated Japan. That also didn’t happen during the Qing dynasty for over 250 years. Many Chinese revolts occurred but none were successful. The Taiping Rebellion almost did, but it was a civil war that led to the deaths of around 20 million Chinese (much worse than the US Civil War which took place at around the same time). Also, many HKers didn’t exactly stand together with China in the runup to 1997 (as you and I both know from personal experience). While you seem to be very optimistic about Chinese unity, but the lack of such unity is actually a common criticism.

            I may be sympathetic to mainlanders, but I am not a supporter of the CCP. They’ve done quite well to keep the nation together and boost its economy, but there are a lot of things they haven’t done well and I’m often critical of them for.

            I’m familiar with Asian prejudice, don’t you worry. You’re referring to Japan-Korean (and vice versa), Japan-Chinese (and vice versa), Japan-Asians in general, Taiwan-Korean, HK-Filipino, Taiwan-SE Asia right?
            Then you’ve got inter-China animosity such as towards Shanghaiers for their arrogance or for Sichuan or Henan for their poverty or duplicity. Those aren’t my concerns right now.

          • anon

            dim mak, I think what you’re overlooking with regards to why a lot of people, including Hilton here, demand more “political correctness” or “tolerance” from the Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, or foreign born Chinese than the mainlanders is precisely because they boast themselves as being more educated and developed and thus more civilized than mainlanders. Therefore, they are held to a higher standard, with greater expectations, and thus get more vocal feedback when they fail to live up to such…usually by their own kind. You may very well call these latter “communist sympathizers” but that’s just name-calling all the same. Hilton falls on the side of promoting more and you fall on the side of not resisting more but simply getting annoyed by the call. That’s always the situation. You have people who advocate and those who aren’t against it but just hate being reminded of it.

            You present yourself as a no-nonsense sort of guy on chinaSMACK and it is refreshing in many ways but I still feel you’ve reacted in a strangely confrontational way to Hilton’s post when I don’t see his post as being very confrontational in the first place. That you interpret it as “preachy” suggests a measure of personal offense taken as well, and I really didn’t imagine you to react this way.

            The way I see it, Hilton’s points are just as obvious as your points are. He shares his impression of how many Taiwanese and Hong Kongers regard mainlanders and advocates more open-mindedness and respect. Maybe those are indeed more promoted in Western “political correctness” and maybe you’re right that Asians do band together against foreigners despite all their stereotypes and prejudices against each other, but even in Asia, the ideas of promoting respect and open-mindedness isn’t THAT foreign for it to be fashioned as the sort of dangerous cataclysm you seem to be fashioning it (“moral, regional and political lines are drawn”). As much as political correctness can be taken too far in many situations, I’m just uncertain why you’re reacting so strongly to what is a fairly common observation.

          • dim mak


            Because political correctness is a massive danger to Asian societies. People just don’t realize it because it comes off all nice and preachy and virtuous. By the time you find yourself living in a country where discussion on any subject is dominated by social mores and not the actual subject itself, it’s already too late. See: America. That’s why I come on hard against this. I’d rather someone flame my native Hong Kong with all sorts of stereotypes than “hurr durr let’s all hold hands around the campfire”. At least that’s an honest expression of his feelings.

            There will never be a time where there’s no prejudice, not even close. We need to live in reality and vent it accordingly. As far as I can tell Asians respect when someone’s earned the respect. HKers used to look down on TW because it was backwards, low-class and poor. Now they’re not, so we stopped. Same deal with the mainland. What am I supposed to do, pretend it’s not true?

            Anyway it doesn’t matter now, I read Hilton’s blog and he’s not really what I thought he was. See the post below. I’m sure he’s got the old pragmatism any Asian should have, so there’s no problems.

          • dim mak

            Btw you sound like Kai Pan

            Kai, dat you?

    • piao

      Hilton wrote: Not so much that I sidestepped it, but my article isn’t about politics.

      Seriously? An essay about Taiwanese-Chinese perceptions of each other isn’t about politics? I’m not convinced.
      From my experience, most Taiwanese people with Chinese ancestry don’t hate Chinese people, but they are suspicious. That may be because of old KMT propaganda, new DPP propaganda, memories of post-WWII FOBs and 二二八, 大陸 generals who still like to talk about a violent reunion, or all the easy corruption/contamination stories the media love to report. Fair or not, what about that ISN’T political? Ignoring political reality of the situation is deeply flawed and… and… very Taiwanese. Welcome home, brother.

    • TAKE5

      Sooner or later, they’ll find themselves bypassed and irrelevant.

      100% correct.
      China is the ugly duckling that grew up to be a sawn. Now China is Sexy Chic!…. she is the Hott Girl! I bet money more people are vacationing in China than HK, Taiwan and Singapore combined.

  • Gargantuan

    This is great, putting down Taiwanese for their stereotypes of China, while propagating stereotypes of your own about Taiwanese. Maybe your lack of appreciation for the Taiwanese viewpoint stems from your categorization of Taiwanese identity as a “greater Chinese” identity. I would say a huge chunk of Taiwanese harbor no affinity for China (or the “mainland”) because they don’t see themselves as Chinese. Regardless of the origins of the culture, it’s not inconceivable that a separate identity has formed. After all, nobody asks Americans or Australians or Trinidadians to embrace a “greater British” viewpoint. France doesn’t demand of Belgium and Switzerland to embrace a “greater French” identity or heritage. Could it be possible that Taiwanese see the threat of Chinese annexation doing away with their democratic way of life, and therefore the bitterness and wariness towards the mainland? Could it be that Taiwanese attitudes are a response to arrogant Chinese imperialism and hegemony?

    • dim mak

      Because political division = ethnic division = moral division = regional division = identity division = cultural divisions

      Any one will affect the others. I’d rather have an iron-fisted hegemon ruling a united Chinese people under one nation than all these diasporas. But hey, more Chinese around the world is still better than no Chinese.

      • Gargantuan

        “I’d rather have an iron-fisted hegemon ruling a united Chinese people under one nation than all these diasporas.”

        Couldn’t disagree more.

    • It’s true there are Taiwanese who harbor no affinity for the mainland. But a lot of these are people who still refer to themselves as Chinese (中國人) in Chinese, refer to Chinese culture as their culture (這是我們中國人的文化), and have a lot of pride in Chinese culture. I’m not just referring to waisenren, because I’ve met bensenren who also think like this.
      Secondly there are hundreds of thousands of Taiwan people living, working, studying and running businesses or factories in China. I’m pretty sure many of them (and I know a few myself) would not be quick to disassociate themselves from Chinese heritage. I agree there are DPP fanatics who feel the way that you’ve described, but I disagree on the numbers. Almost every single poll done in Taiwan on people’s preference for independence or status quo always shows an overwhelming support for the status quo. While part of this is due to practical reasons, a lot of this is because people may not want to reunite, but they also don’t want to let go of their Chinese roots.

      As to why nobody asks Trinidadians or Americans to embrace a greater British viewpoint, they never claimed to be British nor claim to be upholding British values. But the main thing is that when the KMT came to Taiwan, they were given control of Taiwan due to their then being the government of China. Since then Taiwan has progressed and become democratic, with Chinese culture, language and heritage being fundamental.

      Many Taiwanese are indeed wary towards the mainland, but shouldn’t they first be wary of their own businessmen, professionals and students who flock to China? Shouldn’t they first be wary of their own industry leaders, regional governments and universities who are all desperately chasing Chinese investment and relationships? In fact, on a recent trip to China, the train schedule booklet I bought had a fullpage ad for apartments in Taipei on the inside back cover. Who put it there and who is selling these apartments? Mainlanders or a Taiwan company?

      • Just John

        Actually, living in Taiwan and married to a wife who is part Han Chinese and part Aboriginal Taiwanese, as well as her brother marrying a full aboriginal Taiwanese who is a reporter for the aboriginal channel here, I would say you perhaps do not understand the WHY behind Taiwanese views.

        Think about it. There are fights internally about Taiwan’s sovereignty. If you actually have good enough friends that will discuss it with you, you will find out that Taiwan still uses the “Taiwan Shang” instead of the “Taiwan Guo”. Why? When I ask my friends and Taiwanese family, they say “We can think it, but we aren’t actually allowed to say it because China will attack us”.

        When you have a fear of the retaliation for daring to be free from a bigger country, then of course all perception is jaded by this very fear. Of course they are afraid of mainlanders.

        I could pass on many stories I have heard about about this persons co-worker disappearing , that persons co-worker getting robbed, blah blah blah. Not all fears are founded in reality, but the fears that are make it easier to believe the fears that are not.

        As for their Chinese heritage, I would argue that Taiwan has kept a more traditional adherence to the culture itself, while China has eroded that very culture over time (Great leap forward, cultural revolution, etc). Remember, it was KMT that was the ruling party. The communist party was an “ideal” invasion, that was different from what China had become over time, because it disrupted the very evolution of its government and changed it completely, while Taiwan was granted democracy by the leaders in power, not by overthrowing the leaders in power. Chinese democracy. Not imposed, but chose.

        Basically, I disagree with almost everything you say, possibly because you only paint a small portion of the picture and leave out other issues, even though you might have only done so in order to avoid writing a novel. Ultimately, I think you still do not fully grasp the actual reasons behind the very things you complain about.

        • Just John, being married to a local, regardless of who she is, does not give you special insight into Taiwan and its politics, at least not enough to use that as a reason to justify why you think someone is wrong.

          You’re talking about Taiwan’s international name issue right? That it uses Chinese Taipei or similar terms in the international arena is not unknown to me. Yes, this is a consequence of Chinese pressure and there are many locals who don’t like it, understood. Locals may even fear Chinese military intervention, (my personal stance is the possibility is very low) but whatever your opinion on this, why should this make them “fear mainlanders”? This goes back to my point in my article about hoping for more understanding about the mainland and its people. I’ve brought this up already, but I’ll do so again- back in the 80s and 90s, there were many HKers who were aghast at China reclaiming HK, hundreds of thousands ended up leaving. Yet, 14 years onward, have their fears of bloodshed and slaughter come true?

          I’ve heard a few stories similar to what you said and I don’t doubt it’s true. But I can also bring up stories of people who’ve worked in China for 15 or 20 years (and are still there), people who’ve retired to China and people who’ve moved their whole families to China.
          But your point that “Not all fears are founded in reality, but the fears that are make it easier to believe the fears that are not” is good.

          As for Chinese heritage being preserved better in Taiwan, the Cultural Revolution and other turmoil (Great Leap Forwrd and so on) really damaged society physically and inwards. But to think that nobody in China practices religion, respects their parents, or cares about ancient traditions is kind of nonsensical. Culture isn’t something that’s only meant to be preserved in museums or shown in “cultural performances,” it’s about regular life and something that’s fluid and evolving.

          Another problem with the Chinese culture argument is that it perpetuates the myth that China was great up until 1949. There were immense problems and tragedies including the Taiping Rebellion, the Opium War defeats, the warlord years (can you tell me who was the leader of China in the early 20s for instance?) and so on. There were a lot of reasons of course, but culture should be considered one of them. Why
          do you think Western ideas and systems were being implemented or considered both before and after the 1911 Revolution? Why did China not produce any significant invention or works of literature during the 18th or 19th century?

          Basically I don’t mind that you disagree, but just don’t jump to assumptions and think that my written words express everything I know. You are indeed correct that I left out stuff so as not to write a novel.

          @ Gargantuan

          I’m not an expert, but I thought that the main concern with ECFA in Taiwan was the fear of cheap Chinese imports flooding Taiwan and Chinese white-collar workers “flooding” Taiwan.

          About this “arrogant and presumptuous to assume that we should all be one happy family, as if our very real differences don’t exist,” please take it up with someone else like say, dim mak. I’ve never claimed we were “one happy family”.

          • mr.sausage

            With respect to Just John’s opinions about Taiwan how are they in anyway less valid than yours? Could it be *gasp* because he is white? I know John has spent a considerable part of his life in Taiwan , so the way I see it is you are both Johnny come latelies. I suspect you’ve got a little bit of a chip on your shoulder about this topic so I’ll turn of the sarcasm now.
            If I’m going to make any additional point I would suggest you look at the way Europeans view each other and the steriotype they cherish about other nationalities [and indeed about themselves] . Innacurate and prejudiced as they are you will never snuff them out, and as long as people are not prepared to lob missiles at each other , say for example the French being rude, snooty bastards and the Germans wearing socks with sandles, then maybe it is just better to let them be, as I think at a personal level everything usually works out between different folks.

          • mr.sausage
            Please reread my post replying to Just John. I never said his opinions were less valid than mine, instead he said mine were wrong and then used his wife’s brother’s relative occupation to justify that. I don’t care who your wife or relatives are, if you want to state an opinion, just state it.
            You said Just John has spent a long time in Taiwan, well your pal could have Just said so in the first place. Excuse me for the pun.

            Regarding the French and Germans, they are free to work and live and travel in each other’s countries, plus Germans don’t claim to be French nor do French Germans. Lots of Taiwanese (both bensenren and weisenren, both DPP and KMT supporters) work, study and travel in China. How many mainlanders can do so in Taiwan? I remember even allowing a few thousand (2,000?) mainland students to come study in Taiwan universities was a big problem for the DPP.

            Of course I know arrogance and stereotypes exist, but the problem is when this prevents people from really understanding each other and instead creates paranoia and continued social and political tensions. Anyways whatever I say here, in English on an English-language website, does not impact the people in Taiwan. But it doesn’t mean I can’t make criticisms if I see fit.

      • Gargantuan

        Status quo = independence. They just say “status quo” because otherwise China will get its panties in a bunch and invade.

      • Gargantuan

        And who says Taiwanese aren’t wary of “their own businessmen, professionals and students who flock to China” and “their own industry leaders, regional governments and universities who are all desperately chasing Chinese investment and relationships?” Either you haven’t been paying attention, or you’re being really dense about these issues. What do you think all that debate and controversy over ECFA was about? Or those regular reports of Chinese intelligence agents infiltrating Taiwanese institutions?

        Recognizing your Chinese ethnic/genetic/heritage roots does not have to also involve selling out your own Taiwanese identity/politics, and it also doesn’t mean you have to stop worrying about the CCP. It is arrogant and presumptuous to assume that we should all be one happy family, as if our very real differences don’t exist.

  • redmini

    i enjoyed reading this article, Hilton!

    i’m an ABC, brought up by Hong Kong parents, and initially, when i was younger, i harbored the same condescending thoughts about mainlanders. why do they spit? why do they talk so loud everywhere, like they own the place? why are their public bathrooms all just holes in the ground? why do babies and toddlers walk around airing their bums and frontals in public? why do they have such poor manners and morals? i said to myself that i would never ever date a mainlander, as we would have absolutely nothing in common. i was above them.

    later in university, after becoming interested in learning Mandarin, i spent a year in china to study the language. while there, i met a lovely beijing boy, who turned out to be the love of my life. when we got married, my parents endured endless gossip from their HK ‘friends’ who said things like “your daughter is marrying a 大陆仔? what’s wrong with her?” or “she’s setting her standards too low” even before meeting him. it made my parents very distressed (myself included) but i told them to let time prove to everyone whether my 大陆仔 hubby was ‘worthy’ or not.

    although it’s still early days, after three years of marriage, i can say that my husband is incredible, and so wonderfully different to the guys i know and dated back home. through him, i have learnt that there are good apples and bad apples everywhere, regardless of race/ethnicity. stereotypes are stereotypes. you should never universally apply it to a whole population.

    who knows, you might just marry a mainlander one day :)

    • That’s a really encouraging story. You were able to overcome your past biases and just accept and love somebody for who they are. It’s good that you (and your parents) were able to ignore other HKers’ prejudice and went ahead with your marriage. Unfortunately, paranoia and prejudice often play a big role in Chinese culture, ESPECIALLY towards mainland China, and I’m glad to hear that you didn’t let that hinder you.

      There’s also a growing number of mainlander-HK or mainlander-Taiwan marriages where the husband is a mainlander, as opposed to before, and it’s a good sign.
      I have a Taiwan friend who’s married to a mainlander (also a friend) and they’ve been happy for over 10 years now. Granted they don’t live in Taiwan, but in Canada, yet I’m sure she had to overcome ignorance from Taiwan friends and acquaintances too.

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience!

      • dim mak

        Replete with western buzzwords, friend
        Would you like a cherry latte a copy of the NYT?

        Are you sure you remain Chinese, in your head?

    • dim mak

      Doubt it, the only difference between mainland girls and HK girls is that they squeal louder during sex. They may have even picked up some shitty habits from HK, being pouty 24/7,acting like little girls and somehow managing to make it seem even more artificial

      If more mainlanders were like your husband then the stereotypes will fade away. But as it is they’ve got a long way to go before that happens.

      • Philip

        Hey Dim Mak,

        your last comment here seems uncalled for, but I do agree fully with your intelligent comment last OCT 7:
        “…lived in the West for half my life and I haven’t drank their kool-aid or bought into their PC idiocy. Either you’ve only lived in Taiwan or you don’t realize that mainlanders spew more or less the same generalizations about pretty much everyone else. The only difference I see is that middle class HKers/TWers/SGers tend to have some level of courtesy, whereas mainlanders just sorta blurt things out … The CCP isn’t perfect, but they do many things right and put China back on the map. Sure is better than nothing.

        Fact remains that all Chinese anywhere will have stereotypes about other Chinese elsewhere. … The point is there is no such thing as “overcoming prejudice”, especially not in East Asia. Have you lived for any significant length of time in other parts of Asia? Most East Asians hold prejudices that will make a Westerner howl with moral outrage. Yet despite what they think, we haven’t torn each other apart. We’re too pragmatic to let the stereotypes go too far…”

        This coming from a more ‘complex’ background than our friend Hilton (3rd generation BBC (British Born Chinese) father from HK, grandparents from mother side Guangzhou who left in 1930s to UK, moved & grew up in Belgium speaking Flemish/French. Did my studies in the US & worked in HK for 3.5 years and now in Taiwan for 14+ years with a Taiwanese wife. Living, speaking Mandarin in Taiwan with frequent trips to HK/China, it is easy to stereotype, but feel Taiwan a good country among ‘Chinese ethnic territories’ (CN, Macau, HK, Singapore) to raise a family where authentic ‘Chinese culture’ is upheld which to me are basically the ‘Confucius virtues’ [仁 is the virtue of benevolence, charity, and humanity/義 of honesty and uprightness; 忠 doing one’s best, conscientiousness, loyalty; 恕 reciprocity, altruism, consideration for others and Confucius’ early version of the Golden Rule, “what you don’t want yourself, don’t do to others.” 知識 knowledge;
        信, the virtue of faithfulness and integrity; and,禮, correct behavior, or propriety, good manners, politeness, ceremony, worship.]

        Among those lines, Taiwan seems to be on the right course, as I see these virtues on a daily basis here…less so elsewhere. It is not perfect here but I can’t complain. As my grandma once told me, we are ALL Chinese in the viewpoint of ‘Westerners’ (overseas, FOB, Mainland, HKer, Malaysian or Singaporean) thus you should always present ‘our’ culture in the best light to them. My two Taiwan cents here :)

  • J W Cruse

    I understand where you are coming from, but these negative views are common everywhere. I hear the same complaints from outsiders living in mainland China. Especially, if the outsider is dark or Black. This is nothing new, and been this way since the beginning of time. The only way to change is to change at home.

  • D

    The ironic thing is that while the western-educated mainlanders are often the more civil of the lot, they are the ones who are more likely to be labelled uncouth, rude etc….the typical HK/Taiwan dude will never see a true blue mainland peasant in his life

    But as Dim Mak puts it, prejudices are everywhere….even amongst mainlanders themselves, southerners look down on northerners, northerners look down on ethnic minorities, and shanghainese look down on everyone else

    I remember when a family friend (he did a PHD in Canada) visited us last year, and my parents were quick to alert us to the fact that he used to be from the countryside in Shanghai….”don’t be blinded by his PHD, he’s still a country boy at heart”

    there is always two sides to a coin, as a mainlander HK/Taiwan may be closed to you, but what you get in return is a 6 trillion dollar economy and 600 million members of the opposite sex….i’m quite happy being a mainlander =)

  • @ Philip
    Thanks for sharing your opinions, Philip. You definitely have a complex (and interesting) background. It’s cool to work in both HK and Taiwan and I’d like to achieve that in time.

    Taiwan is indeed a very nice place. It’s got a lot going for it and qualities like what you described certainly exist.
    However I’ve encountered too much negative things that make me have a perception of Taiwan that is not so rosy as yours, for instance with the notion that honesty, consideration of others, propriety and integrity are prevalent.
    That’s good if you feel Taiwan is the best place to raise a family in the Chinese “world” and I’m not trying to change your views.

    @ JW Cruze
    Thanks for your feedback.
    Don’t worry, I do know that prejudice exists everywhere. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it, but sometimes it affects you and I think in the case of Overseas Chinese (and people in Taiwan), it’s beneficial to try to be more openminded of the mainland.

    @ D
    Keep your head up, mainlander. Thanks for commenting. I’m aware that prejudices are present everywhere including within mainland China but it’s worth an effort to deal with it whenever possible.

    • dim mak

      I got you all wrong. I should’ve just read your blog first. You’re not a Westernized PC drone, you’re just using that to cover for nationalism. That’s much more common, and not nearly as bad.

      Hilton, there’s no shame in being a nationalist. On many Chinese issues I breathe as much fire as any mainland 愤青.

      You don’t need to be from the mainland to be a Chinese nationalist. A lot of people are. You can be openly pro-PRC and anti-Taiwan without crooning about ‘tolerance’ or tempering it with “well then again I grew up in a democracy….” or complaining how your impression of Taiwan was ruined because a store clerk looked at you the wrong way (?) etc.

      You grew up elsewhere, so maybe your concept of China and consequent cultural/ethnic/political allegiance to that China is one of China proper, not China by region. That’s understandable and forgivable. But people who grow up in their homeland have regional identities as well as broader ones. That doesn’t mean we don’t share interests or won’t come together under duress. The examples you gave above ARE times when Chinese came together. Both parties did try to work together against Japan. The same is true of collective efforts against Manchu/Mongol rulers. True division amongst Chinese is always political, like during HK’s handover or modern Taiwan.

      Pragmatic Asian societies will not suffer the deep political divisions Americans do when it comes to public opinion. Western style political narrative and moralizing needs to be kept far away from our brutal, but honest views of each other. If you can do that, then we’ll have no extra problems.

  • @ anon who posted on Oct. 11
    Thanks for the understanding. You are right that as people who are more educated and wealthy, people from Taiwan and overseas Chinese should have a bigger onus to be more understanding or at the least, less insulting. Oftentimes it seems that people forget the fact China is still a relatively poor country, went through a brutal past 150 years, and that the majority of its people are peasants and uneducated, so they often think the worse whenever they see something negative in China.
    It’s alright, it was interesting having the exchanges with dim mak, even if he got a bit overexcited at times.

    I’m glad you also think having more open-mindedness and respect is good. It is important, not just in itself but for understanding the current state of affairs and adapting to it. This way, for instance, you won’t have a bunch of HKers running away like in the 80s and 90s over paranoia over the “terrible” mainland coming to reclaim HK.

    @ dim mak
    Glad I seem more pragmatic; I can’t convey everything I know or feel in one article or in these comments. For instance, see the pro-Taiwan commenters who felt that because I did not write everything I know about Taiwan, I don’t know the whole picture or I am unaware of this or that.

    You could say I’m a nationalist, but I’m don’t cover it.
    However I do have empathy for mainlanders and I am genuine in the points I made in the article.
    I don’t run around waving the red flag and picking arguments but many of my relatives and friends (even in Taiwan) know my sympathies. Of course, I don’t advocate unity anytime soon (or forced annexation). Whether I am nationalistic or not, I still say being more openminded and knowledgeable is good rather than paranoia or deliberate ignorance.

    Regarding WWII, I’d say you should read more about China during that time. Specifically, look into the Xian Incident of 1937 where the leader of China Chiang Kai-chek was kidnapped by a warlord to force him to stop fighting the Communists and focus on the Japanese. Even then, both KMT and CCP did not really cooperate- the CCP dug in but exaggerated their actions against the Japanese, the KMT kept retreating whilst losing battles and being inept. As soon as the Japanese were defeated (by the US), the two parties were at it again, and much more ferocious in fighting each other than they were against Japan.
    I also think Chinese people should come together, but in Taiwan, it’s perilous to take that for granted. That’s why my call for more understanding isn’t just about being nice, it’s also about breaking past fear and paranoia.

    • dim mak

      Well ineffective effort is still an effort, it’s the mentality that counts. And the Sino-Japanese wars were during yet another era of political divide, see what I mean?

      But it’s fine, as far as HKers go I’m pretty sympathetic to the mainland myself

      I just don’t want people obscuring the plainly obvious with political correctness, the way they do here in Canada. It’s stifling and unbearable. Sure there’s undue paranoia, but much of the stereotypes are true. Overall mainlanders ARE ill-mannered, self-serving assholes. HK is a gangster-harboring plutocracy where people judge you based on your income. TW is stagnant hole filled with Japan-worshiping metrosexuals. All true enough to warrant the stereotypes IMO. Will being open-minded make these things untrue? Should we avoid the truth because feelings might be hurt? Hell no.

      • D

        I find it seriously annoying that HK people cant speak Mandarin properly. Don’t even get me started on Apple Daily or the Canto TV/Radio stations. Whatever crap you wanna make out of regional/cultural heritage, I’m fine with that. I’m talking about basic Mandarin proficiency.

        Its been almost 15 fucking years since HK returned, don’t you think its about time HK behaved as part of the country and spoke a common language? Besides, the only reason why the financial centre is doing so well compared to the likes of Singapore, London etc. is because of its big ass mother hinterland. Time for a little 饮水思源.

        And as to stereotypes, I’m not going to waste my time. The only people who harbour them are the peasants in HK/Taiwan, I have never had trouble from the typical Western-educated upper-middle class HK/Taiwanese person. I’m not gonna let a fucking 蛊惑仔 affect me, and neither should you Hilton.

        • dim mak

          Butthurt much?

          Mandarin isn’t the only dialect in China, we’ll speak whatever we want. What are you gonna do about it?

          People like you are exactly why stereotypes exist. Thanks for being part of the problem.

          • D

            I don’t give a damn whether you moan in Canto or fucking Punjab in bed.

            Its fine to keep your own dialect, but if you belong to a country, you should speak its official language. You people just think you’re too good for Mandarin.

            You guys bitch about Mainlanders all the time, so why can’t I bitch about all those poor mother HK peasants? Gave you guys 50 years of freedom and you guys don’t appreciate it. Then don’t blame us for buying up all your land.

          • dim mak

            Cantonese IS the official language in HK, and even this far south most people understand mandarin than the other way around. If anything it’s the chauvinists up north that think their dialect is superior. HK is anything but peasants compared to the mainland, if you wanna bitch about something truthful then we’ll talk.

          • D

            So many people bitching about not Mainlanders buying up their property. If you peasants have the money, your HK developers would have sold it to you.

            Sorry for breaking your fairy-tale bubble, but there are tons of peasants in Hong Kong. Ever watched 窮富翁大作戰? A Hong Kong peasant is as bad as a Chinese peasant, I don’t discriminate =)

          • dim mak

            Except peasants on the mainland are the majority and therefore the stereotype fits better. Property is still controlled by the tycoons even if part of it is owned by people on the mainland. Since the hukou system locks mainlanders in their places, we’ll be just fine here until their GDP rises and the people become civilized.

          • Hey D
            I definitely agree with your stance about HKers blaming mainlanders for buying up property.
            I blogged about that a while ago because I thought it was a bit extreme. The fact is that wealthy mainlanders buying up expensive apartments in HK are NOT the reason there aren’t enough affordable housing or that a lot of housing is too expensive for many young HK professionals.
            The blame needs to be put on HK developers, and the government, who focus too much on superexpensive, extravagant apartments and ignore the growing socioeconomic issues that many face in HK.

            In terms of Mandarin, it’s true HKers should try to speak it better. I mean, they don’t need to, but that will be to their disadvantage. Actually, the fact that some HKers speak some Mandarin is better than a decade ago.
            HKers then mostly didn’t give a damn about Mandarin and looked down on anybody speaking it, even those from Taiwan (and which I got reminded about a few times from people in Taiwan who were still annoyed over negative experiences in HK when they went to visit in the 90s). Well, it seems HKers know better now, even if many don’t speak Mandarin well.

  • Danny

    Hi Hilton
    The main reason why many Taiwanese people discriminate people from mainland is because their brain have been programmed to hate mainland Chinese by the japanese. The japanese don’t want China and Taiwan to be friends. According to a Hong Kong radio show, the school history book in Taiwan, is published by the japanese! They are changing history little by little and year after year and promoting separation!

  • Steve Huang


  • Steve Huang

    I live in Shanghai. I’ve been here for 4 years and i hate the people here. Rude, loud dirty.
    honestly these people have no concept of personal space. when ur lining up for something MAYBE U SHOULD BACK THE FFF OFF for a moment! its like ur humping me of something! MAYBE its cuz they’re soooo damn used to people budging in line that they think u HAVE to anal the person to stay in line

    • D

      If you can afford it, pay for your share of palatial comfort, convenience etc. If you can’t and are truly a peasant, learn to live like one.

      I’m fucking sick of ABCs/White trash complaining how they arn’t getting the attention/lifestyle that they deserve. Grow up, you’re not gonna escape your peasant lifestyle (in whatever god-forsaken country) and become a King just by stepping into China. Can’t take the heat? The Communist Party won’t stop you from leaving.

    • Steve, calm down, man!
      I’m guessing you had a few really devious or malicious incidents? Because I don’t think bad manners by itself is enough to cause all those negative feelings you have right?
      As D said, if you “freaking hate” mainland people, why are you still living in China?

      But, that’s hilarious how you described the line-up problem.

      @ D
      Yeah, I should try harder not to be bothered by stereotypes.
      It’s kind of hard when you hear these things a lot, however it doesn’t stop me from believing what I believe and voicing my opinions when appropriate.

      In terms, the mainland is in the more advantageous position and people in HK and Taiwan have a bigger need to try to adapt and be more open-minded. This includes, in HK’s case, learning more Mandarin which many are, or, in Taiwan’s case, figuring out where they stand and trying to be more aware about the mainland.

      @ Danny
      The Japanese “worship” by many in Taiwan is probably one of the main reasons why there’s a lot of anti-mainland feeling. It’s been said that some older Taiwanese hold some strong, warm feelings towards Japanese colonialism so it’s not just the youth who feel that way.

      • A.

        I kind of don’t blame Steve- I’ve lived in Shanghai for 3+ years and I can tell you that while I wouldn’t necessarily put it the way he did, I can see why he came to that conclusion.

        For the record, I’m not of Chinese ethnicity at all, but I’m mixed Japanese/Caucasian. My major in undergrad was Chinese studies, and I’ve studied extensively in both Mainland China and Taiwan. That said…

        Living in Shanghai is honestly a struggle more often than not unless you have your own car or private service, merely because the appallingly bad manners and habits of the *millions* of people who live here DO grate on you. There have been days when I would take a taxi even though it meant not having enough cash on me to grab lunch just so I could avoid dealing with the mainland Chinese public. I witness at least one fight a week here (yesterday’s was a fantastic screaming match in Shanghaihua in Carrefour and I was seriously waiting for punches to be thrown), and a couple of weeks ago I saw a full grown woman take off her pants and urinate in the metro randomly. She was at least twice my age, and clearly from the countryside. I’ve been punched in the back of the head for not “getting off the metro” fast enough (I couldn’t move and there was a massive crowd) and I’ve almost been severely injured at least twice, barely avoiding getting trampled to death or shoved into oncoming traffic.

        This kind of thing happens *all the time* here. Some people would like to conclude that it’s because it’s a major city and major cities with so many people inevitably draw in rudeness. This is true… to an extent. However, I have never been punched in the back of the head in Taipei, and will probably never see a full grown woman urinate in Osaka, and was never shoved or have seen a fight in Paris. So, I have to come to the conclusion that despite the millions of RMB that the Shanghai Public Transportation agency spends on making videos telling people not to push, shove, spit, or fight that no one cares, and this is going to continue for a long time.

        • A.

          Also, before anyone asks, “Well, if you hate Shanghai that much, why do you still live there?” I’m going to grad school here and I graduate next year. I’m looking forward to not living in Shanghai anymore after my graduation.

        • dim mak

          All the time? Every city has its own flavor of dickery, and Shanghai is comparably nice in my experience. Suburban/rural areas on the mainland are rude in a I-don’t-know-any-better hillbilly way, but Shanghai is a me-first-screw-everyone-else way, and HK is like You’re-poor-don’t-talk-to-me. You should count yourself lucky you’re not doing school in Chongqing or something where it’s like Mind-your-own-business-or-I’ll-fuck-you-up.

        • Hey A, thanks for giving us the lowdown on the Shanghai transit experience. I know it can be rough but I didn’t think it’d be so bad. You’re right, being a big city should not be a big factor for rudeness. I’d think poverty, lack of education and the sheer amount of people accounts for a lot of uncouth behavior in China, including that of the woman urinating in public. When I was in Shanghai last year, I saw two physical altercations in one day and this year, I actually saw police running down a guy in the airport.
          Of course, poverty is no excuse for hitting strangers just to make them move out of the way and if it happened to me a lot, I’d have to try hard not to retaliate.

          It’s ironic though as I was in Nanjing for a few days this year and I took the subway several times. I was preparing for the usual rowdiness but it was a smooth experience throughout and I couldn’t help thinking it was just like being the Taipei MRT. But of course, I was only there for a few days and maybe if I was there longer, like 3 years, maybe I’d have some horror stories like you. Or maybe Nanjing is just more pleasant than Shanghai :D?

  • Jack

    Hilton, while I appreciate your candor, I can’t help feeling you’re embroiling yourself in a fight that isn’t yours.

    There seems to be an obsession with Chinese identity among people who are, like it or not, second-generation Chinese with no childhood experience of the “motherland” they so regularly stand up to defend. I’d honestly have been more interested in your experiences growing up as a minority in Trinidad-Tobago (choose one, it’s allowed. Unless you’ve got impressively long legs, you weren’t born in both) than your views on your Chinese identity. What’s your Trinidadian/Tobagan (?) identity? It’s your birthplace, it must mean more to you than two sentences!

    I have a suspicion that your friends in Taiwan will see you as pretty much a foreigner, much as my friends here in Beijing instinctively divided their Asian acquaintances into real Chinese and overseas Chinese. You just have to read the reactions to Gary Locke to know that having an Asian face no longer makes you “one of us” in the eyes of Chinese people, anymore than a white face makes you a New Yorker in the eyes of New Yorkers.

    We attach such importance to these indefinable constructs we call “countries” without ever stopping to consider the very real possibility that maybe, just maybe, we share absolutely nothing in common with the people we so effortlessly term our “brethren” because we happen to share an ethnicity with them. I might as well start calling myself Danish just because my ancestors were Vikings.

    Stop wondering about where you belong in the Chinese diaspora, and instead find a place in this world in which borders, like governments, economies and cultures, are constantly changing. The sooner we all accept that where we came from, while interesting, doesn’t determine where we’re going, either individually or as a species, the sooner we’ll stop fighting.

    • D

      Jack I appreciate your insightful views.

      Having spent most of my life outside of China, I feel pretty much the same way as Hilton. While it doesn’t affect me that much now, I think it is natural for human beings to want to feel a sense of belonging, either to a place, a country or an ethnic group.

      Its a sense of acceptance. And nothing can come easier than being able to connect with another person verbally, being able to fit in with ease into a certain environment.

      Some try to sidestep the issue and blame it on insecurities or having an identity crisis. But even they cant deny the fact that at the end of the day, everyone will want to have a place that he/she intimately identifies as home, to be able to mingle with one’s neighbours at ease, to feel like a local rather than an outsider.

      Sure, where we came from doesn’t determine where we are going. But no matter where I go, I want to have a place to call home. And that is not the place where I feel like an outsider.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jack.
      First, I just need to clear up that Trinidad and Tobago is
      the official name of the country I’m from. It’s actually two islands, with Trinidad being the much bigger one and by itself is often used as the country name. Ironically I used the official name because I figured most people here wouldn’t know it.

      You make good points about people, often overseas Chinese like myself, identifying strongly with their ancestral country and the challenge of finding bonds beyond just physical appearances with people in their ancestral country.

      It might seem like an obsession but it’s an important part of our background and for many people, it’s not surprising they’d want to connect more with where their parents or grandparents were born.
      The fact is that people often want to reconnect with their homelands for different reasons; maybe they feel lost in some way or uncertain about themselves in the West, maybe they feel more comfortable or accepted, or they want to embrace their ancestral heritage. Or it could even be for easy money or opportunities like many mixed or Western-raised celebrities in HK or Taiwan.
      Whatever the reason though, seeking to return to your ancestral homeland whether to learn about the culture or work or study is often a good, or at least an important way, of understanding and embracing your own identity. The world is becoming more diverse and globalized, and if you’ve got mixed backgrounds, whether ethnic or national or cultural, it’s all the better to try to understand them.
      For me personally, if I wrote about my Trinidadian identity, a big part of it would be about my Chinese background speaking Cantonese at home, eating Chinese food, having to deal with Chinese attitudes and values that sometimes differ with existing ones in the outside society.

      I didn’t expect to just fit in or have a lot of things in common when I first came to Asia. If anything, my own background makes me as different here as it would in my original country.
      Even if I go to the very places where my grandparents were from, I would still find things really different.
      As a Chinese person though (I admit having roots in different parts makes this easier), I’ve found it really good to appreciate my Chinese heritage better by being more openminded about the mainland, HK and Taiwan.
      While I might come off as picking on Taiwan or being too sympathetic to the mainland, the main point of my article, besides talking about my background, was about my hope for more understanding, not just for Taiwan people, but also overseas Chinese.
      One reason that I think some overseas Chinese feel disappointed or confused when they come to China or Taiwan is they focus their understanding of Chinese heritage on their specific background and place (Taiwan, specific province or region etc) instead of broadening it. Chinese history and culture, not to mention the place itself, is so vast.
      If anything, I know where I belong in the diaspora and where I belong in the Greater China entity, it’s just there’s still a lot of things to figure out and experience.

      • Jack

        Hey Hilton

        I’m aware that Trinidad and Tobago is a single country (as a Brit I’m more than familiar with the complexities of our colonial legacy) – I was merely asking which island specifically you came from. Now I know :)

        Again, I appreciate all that you say about your ancestral homeland, and I admire your persistence in uncovering your identity by returning to China to explore this. However, I feel that your worries over “acceptance” of your overseas Chinese identity are a little too pronounced. China moved on a great deal in the time your family was in Trinidad, and the country (countries?) you’ve returned to is (are?) markedly different from the one (ones?) your ancestors left. The notion of an unchanging China is complete rot – today’s China would be unrecognizable to one of the countless Chinese who left for the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries, just as modern Britain would confound the sensibilities of my ancestors.

        In many ways, the culture you grew up in on Trinidad was unique. There’s a reason no two Chinatowns on the planet are the same. Once you remove something from its natural habitat and place it elsewhere, its entire composition changes – just look at tropical fish taken from the Amazon and raised in tanks in Manhattan. They may look the same, but their world has transformed beyond recognition.

        I don’t mean to compare you to a fish, mate. I merely want to point out that you’re unique, among the Chinese diaspora and in the wider world. The likelihood is you have far less in common with your Chinese “brethren” than you think. You may not “belong” in the Greater China entity at all, Hilton, any more than I do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy living in it. :)

        While the old cliche is that Chinese people are all the same – one mind, one heart, one China, it’s simply not true. The sooner the diaspora frees itself from this belief that for some bizarre reason Asians are culturally rooted in Asia, and can’t assimilate elsewhere, the better!

        Interesting piece though, fella!

  • J B

    I don’t think there’s anything hypocritical in being proud of Chinese culture and looking down on mainland Chinese. In my experience Taiwanese people distinguish between culture and nationality- they are ethnically Chinese, part of a greater Chinese culture. This is what people mean when they say Zhonghua. Many Taiwanese people, including those who vote KMT, will reject being called Zhongguoren while at the same time embracing Zhonghua. In other words, they feel they belong to the same cultural sphere (or civilization, whatever), but are a different nationality. Some people feel that it is China that has drifted away from Chinese culture, so that even though the mainland is the “source” of the culture of which many Taiwanese are so proud, they feel that the source has lost the culture.
    As for negative additudes, these are quite common when people of different cultures meet, especially when there’s an initial expectation that the two are similar. Taiwanese and Chinese cultures are now quite different, and this causes tension and misunderstanding, because many behaviors that are acceptable in China are not acceptable in Taiwan (and vice versa). Finally, the fact is that many Chinese get in Taiwanese people’s faces about the unification issue, and even justify the use of force against Taiwan to their faces.

    • J B

      I should add that I don’t think looking down on other people is ever a good thing, but I do think it’s unfair to single out Taiwanese for a common human trait. Mainland Chinese are often equally bigoted towards other peoples, including Taiwanese people.

      • Thanks for your comments, JB.
        I can obviously tell you have a lot of sympathy for Taiwan and I respect that. However I differ strongly with some of your points.
        I am definitely aware that some people, whether Westerners or people in Taiwan, feel that China has drifted away from their culture. For a time, during the madness during the 50s to the 70s, yes, that did happen. But to say the source has lost the culture is ridiculous. As I mentioned earlier, culture is not something you bottle up and preserve, it’s something that’s always changing and evolving. Taiwan has a lot of elements of Chinese culture, but this does not represent the only remaining traces of Chinese culture. There’s still culture in China whether it be art, ancestral worship, strong family values, cooking, and so on. As China develops and more people’s lives get better, you’ll see a greater awareness and more efforts to preserve the past (though these efforts may be combined with propaganda sometimes).
        My experience has been that many people, whether it be my relatives, friends or colleagues (at my old and current companies), do refer to themselves as Zhongguoren and their culture as Zhongguoren wenhua (文化- culture) or Zhongguo wenhua. Conversely I’ve never heard anybody say Taiwanren wenhua or Taiwan wenhua.

        I agree that Taiwan people aren’t the only people who bash mainlanders a lot, many HKers also do, and of course, some mainlanders also criticize Taiwanese as well. But for me, as an overseas Chinese living and working in Taiwan and observing the attitudes many have towards the mainland, I felt it was time I spoke out about it. In general, it’s not just Taiwanese, it’d be good for other people, like HKers or overseas Chinese, to try to be more familiar or understanding of the mainland, I’m pretty sure most of them would be able to get beyond stereotypes or fears and better appreciate their Chinese heritage. Same goes for non-Chinese who are interested in Chinese as well, don’t just stick to Taiwan and think that’s all Chinese culture is.

        By the way, I also responded to your comment on my blog.

  • No Brain

    Good article by the way, but I have some points too:
    While I do believe that there are some Chinese Mainlanders who are hardworking and honest, but out of most of the ones I know from my college in Vancouver, they’re either suspiciously super rich or just plainly rude. As a Chinese from Taiwan, I got love for China, its culture and history, but whenever I hear these so called “2nd Rich Generation” always talk down on Taiwan calling us “Japan’s dogs” I get really ticked off, especially when China right now is more “Westernized” in the major cities and more white worship than ever. And some ignorant Chinese Mainlanders always have a saying “what is Taiwan anyways? a tiny spec of island in the ocean where all we need to do is spit and we can flood that miserable little island.” so yeah I don’t deny the fact that there are educated Chinese Mainlanders, but for the most part, the ones in Vancouver have the money-inflated ego and “I’m the best and you guys are nothing compare to me” kind of swagger to them.

    • Andrew

      First of all, thanks for the article. I enjoyed reading it.

      I think, unfortunately, that any attempt at understanding this issue without looking closely at political attitudes will fail to deliver much insight. I do agree that there are, obviously, many wonderful people in China and that a refusal to move beyond stereotypes is unfortunate.

      However, you only have to speak to maybe, like, two Chinese people before you realize just how scary the situation is for Taiwanese. After decades of struggle and oppression, they are just now beginning to come into their own. Having finally restrained one set of brutal nationalists, they are not about to let a new set arrive to do it all over again, 炎黃子孫 or not. They’ve just taken too much shit in the name of China to feel great about any nation with that name. (Check out this interesting discussion with 林濁水 http://www.thenewdominion.net/1908/guo-yukuan-part-1/#more-1908). The Taiwanese corollary to your feeling about 故宮 is to say, “pretty to look at, but it’s certainly not ‘my culture'”. Changes your appreciation of the stuff.

      The level of ignorance about Taiwan among Chinese is shocking. But what is really dangerous is the combination of this ignorance with a fanatical belief in the truth of their perspective and complete disinterest in any solution other than an eventual reunification. Add in a trigger-happy PLA and quite a few greedy Taiwanese willing to overlook obvious danger in order to make money and the situation is very, very precarious.

      I don’t blame Taiwanese for being nervous, and I think the critical attitudes to some extent stem from this nervousness. I think they should be more vigilant, given the deterioration of their military establishment and the number of Chinese spies looting the country of whatever is left of its secrets.

      One more point: I think it is important to compare China with Britain. If you look at the American colonies prior to 1776, you’ll find a really, really intense debate about their identity and rights. Right until the very end, Americans were still arguing that as British citizens and loyal subjects of the Crown, their rights were not being respected. Separation was a political ideal that did not require disavowal of culture, and I think the race-culture-language-nation-state-party complex in China is in serious need of deconstruction. It just makes things more difficult. It’s ridiculous, and insulting, that most Chinese will openly admit that they don’t view Chinese living abroad as real Americans, or Canadians, or whatever. They’re just Chinese temporarily abroad, which will return in the end (corrupted to varying degrees by the experience) to the embrace of the motherland.

      Looking forward to any future posts, and I hope you enjoy your time in Taiwan.

      • dim mak

        Eh it’s not that serious, there’s no real “danger”. The “race-culture-language-nation-state-party” complex in China is precisely what makes China strong and enduring. Unity matters. I’d rather have a bit of fascist nationalism than a divided people.

        Which is why Taiwan is shamefully overaffectionate to Japan, even more so than HK – that’s saying something. I’m all for Asian friendship, but c’mon people.

        • Time for Soul Searching

          Friendship is built on mutual trust and respect. It is earned, not coerced through bullying. Does China really expect to win the hearts of Taiwanese people by pointing missiles at them, by interfering with the Taiwanese democratic elections, and by denying Taiwan a place in the international community at every opportunity?

          Ask yourself who your friends are, and why you are friends with them, and if any of them ever pointed a gun at your head while demanding your subservience?

          The bottom line is, be the kind of person you want to befriend and people will flock to you on their own volition. If people are running away from you, it’s high time to ask why.

          True, many Taiwanese people have ancestry that trace back to Fujian, but the same holds true for many overseas “Chinese” people in Southeast Asia and even in the rest of the world. Is China planning to occupy forcibly every corner of the world populated by people with Chinese ancestry? What’s next on the PRC agenda after Taiwan? Singapore? Malaysia?

          Speaking of “divided” people, is the USA still part of the British empire? Is Quebec ruled today by the French? Heck, the human species originated in Africa, why do people in China call themselves Chinese and not African?

          [Note: Please do not post under multiple names.]

          • dim mak

            No, but it’d be a hell lot better if we all identified as one country, one people. Gives us one less thing to fight about.

      • @ No Brain
        Thanks for the comment.
        I’m not so sure about China having more “white worship” than ever, but yeah, those mainlanders you know in Vancouver who act really negatively, “super-rich” probable explains the reason. I’m sure a lot of them don’t have to work hard for anything and unfortunately, their luxury makes them full of themselves.
        I had the opposite experience as you as the mainlanders I met in university in Toronto were humble, diligent and really decent people. Most of them knew my mother was from Taiwan and they never said anything negative.

        @ Andrew
        Thanks for the comment.
        You give some reasonable points, but there are a few things I have very different views on. I’ve spoken to a lot of Chinese (I assume you’re referring to mainlanders, not HKers, Taiwan waisenren or overseas Chinese) and I had the impression that they have positive perceptions of Taiwan. Many of them like listening to Taiwan pop or watching tv shows, and the few who have actually visited thought it’s a really pleasant place. A couple of my acquaintances were seriously perplexed as to why some Taiwanese seemed so frightened about closer relations with the mainland. None of them would want any violence or malicious event to happen to Taiwan. In fact, I have a strong feeling that many mainlanders like Taiwan people much more than HKers.

        Second, is that far from quite a few Taiwanese, there’re over 300,000 (Taiwan media have even said a million) Taiwan people living and working in the mainland. Add to that, those who are studying, traveling or have retired to the mainland (I personally know a few) and you have a ton of Taiwanese enjoying the mainland for various reasons.

        But, your viewpoint seem to be mostly taken from strong DPP supporting bensenren and I understand the thing about martial law from the 50s to 80s and the repressive elements of it. I admit I don’t know much strong DPP bensenren supporters personally but one thing is I’m not sure that the number of people who share their strong anti-China, Taiwan-centric cultural and political views is a lot.
        Many Taiwanese appreciate and respect their Chinese heritage and ancestry, and this being a common trait of East Asian cultures, is something that is difficult to be compared directly to Western societies. For instance, the average white Canadian or Australian doesn’t care too much that his ancestors came from Britain or wherever a few hundred years, but there are Taiwanese bensenren whose ancestors came from China 200-300 years ago who still remember their ancestral region and perceive Chinese history and culture as their own as well.

        I know that with the US independence war, there were indeed Americans loyal to the British king, but the main thing is that most Americans were for independence. I just don’t see that as true for Taiwan. Many of the people who “hate” China or oppose closer relations with China, I wonder if they get beyond their fear of China and really try to be more open-minded, would they still feel the same way?

        Fair enough you think the race-culture-language… complex needs deconstruction, but that has been what has maintained China as a united entity for so long and allowed it to withstand so much tragedies and defeats and I don’t see it as nefarious or negative.
        I also think the fear of the military action by China is overblown. A lot of HKers also felt similar fears before 1997 (including some of my family) about the PLA coming into HK and slaughtering people and destroying buildings and so on and they turned out to be wrong.

        • Andrew

          Hilton: I guess I gave the impression that Taiwanese were afraid of individual Chinese, or at least the individual Chinese have negative feelings towards Taiwan or want to attack it.

          As you say, this is generally not the case. Everywhere you go in China there are Taiwanese things, or things which are at least advertised as Taiwanese. Taiwanese food, Taiwanese music, Taiwanese tea, Taiwanese tour group packages, etc., etc. As you mention, there are many, many Taiwanese people that go there for business and travel.

          The issue is more that China is obsessed with Taiwan to the degree that any suggestion that it might actually not want to unite with the China triggers furious jealousy. The underlying assumption behind all of China’s interactions with Taiwan is that union is inevitable. When no one contradicts this, everything’s a big love-fest (except for the 1,000-and-counting missiles off the coast, the new aircraft carrier named after Shi Lang 施琅, the admiral tasked with reconquering Taiwan from Ming-era holdovers, and lovely tidbits like PLA General Xiong Guangkai 熊光楷 telling an American official that China would be willing to nuke America to prevent the US from defending Taiwan after it announced independence). This level of fanaticism about a place that, in the last 106 years spent about 4 being directly ruled from China is kind of insane.

          Ironically, I think that this intensity is largely the KMT’s fault. Mao’s early pronouncements were in favor of Taiwanese independence and the Taiwanese Communist Party (which was actually the Taiwan branch of the Japanese Communist Party). It was only after the KMT occupied Taiwan and began spear-rattling and blathering on about retaking the mainland that the CCP became quite sure it had to retake Taiwan no matter what.

          The unfortunate part of about all that is that the wishes of the people living on the island were unheeded by anyone, KMT, CCP, Japanese or American. Whether Taiwan wants some form of political union with China or not should be up to them, and not anyone else. Especially not people who think that the more you want something the more legitimate your claim to it is.

          I think that something to keep in mind is that the 15% of the population which is descended from or is part of the wave of refugees which arrived after 1945 was given the vast majority of power on the island for so long that most people’s ideas about Taiwan are irrevocably warped by these refugees’ own biases. Similarly, most people in China only view Taiwan through the lens of their own memories of the Civil War, whereas this is not at all the way Taiwanese think about it.

          If you get a chance, I hope you will read Peng Ming-min’s autobiography (http://homepage.usask.ca/~llr130/taiwanlibrary/peng/freeframes.htm). Skip the forwards and such and start straight with Chapter 1. Reading the book, I found it addressed many of the points discussed here. I would really like to hear what you think.

          P.S. Obviously, I have a big problem with authoritarian governments, which affects how I view China as a country. But I live and work in China and enjoy it. I thought it worth mentioning that I agree with you that there is a lot of value in China and that Taiwan could benefit from acknowledging the good going on in the country. I just don’t think that requires Taiwan replacing its own identity with one subordinate to a Greater Chinese framework.

          • Andrew

            Thanks for your good reply. I think I understand better what you meant in your previous post. I agree about the KMT stirring up animosity in the past, which is ironic given the present circumstances though not surprising given that the KMT was always China-centric. It’s also true that Taiwan has had a lot of outside “masters” and the locals (Chinese and indigenous) have not always benefited.
            However in the present, Taiwan has become quite prosperous, mostly under a regime with a mainland-centric stance. It’s been heavily criticized but this regime (the KMT) brought about a lot of positive achievements like the high-tech revolution and democratization. For instance, something like the imposition of Mandarin at the expense of Minnan/Taiwanese as an official language, however harsh it seemed, was largely beneficial. It’s allowed Taiwan to enjoy advantages over Hong Kong, Singaporeans and other Asians in China, and to dominate some sectors in the Greater China region which it wouldn’t have been able if it was just Minnan-speaking.

            One thing is I think a lot of China’s threats are posturing, especially threats to nuke the US. I’m not saying China wouldn’t react adversely if Taiwan declared independence just like that (and I don’t support China sounding so belligerent at times), but I really believe that those missiles aimed at Taiwan and threats are mainly for deterrence against Taiwan and to warn other nations off, but not for serious offensive action against Taiwan.
            Even if not, a lot of Taiwanese are not really worried, at least not worried enough to not go vacationing or study in the mainland.

            In the end I agree that a union should not be forced, especially by war. Anyways I will take a look at that book and thanks for sending it. I’m glad to hear you live in China and enjoy it and I hope you continue to enjoy it.

  • Paris

    It shouldn’t be so hard. US, UK, Canada and Australia all speak, write English, have the same heritage, but all developed their own unique identity while seeing the others funny or “uncivilized: in some level. African Americans see themselves as American, and different in many levels from residents or immigrants from Africa.The same happened to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and many cultures in the global world, new identity evolves based on the old heritage.

  • no brainer

    I do agree with most of the issues in your article. it is true that misconception is common among TW and HK people towards the chinese and sometimes it is biased and totally unjustified. Ive been living oversea since I was 4 and with the HK and particularly TW peers I have i always sense this biased judgement towards the chinese. I do agree that most of the bad habits are true but I believe its because China is still finding its feet in the world. With the whole cultural revolution thanks to MAO it has changed traditional chinese values and affected many peoples lifes, thats why I believe so many people have become selfish and greedy due to the hardship they experienced during the 60s to 80s era.

  • Linda

    I agree with you about the hypocrisy on some of the Taiwanese people’s parts. I have classmates whose parents originate from Taiwan, and they call themselves the “Real China”. I feel very offended as my parents are from the mainland. I’ve visited my grandparents who live in the countryside and I don’t see any reason why they would assume they are the real China. I’ve met tons of Chinese families who maintain their culture and morals. Sure there are a lot of evil and bad Chinese people, but there are many more good and proper ones who believe in being ethical and moral. I was amazed at the strong familial ties and traditions. Being an Americanized-Chinese, I also had a hard time adapting to my relatives’ way of living in the mainland. I can tell you though that I’ve asked them about their position during the war between the Communists and the Kuomintang, and they tell me they weren’t on any side. They just wanted to continue on with their living and not be a part of these politics. I don’t see why they aren’t considered the “real” Chinese just because they didn’t choose to go to Taiwan. But yeah that’s been an issue with my peers, their condescending attitude towards mainlanders.

    • Linda

      I was just offended especially because I had this one peer, whose parents are from Taiwan, and I respected him (he’s our newspaper editor). I respected him because of what i thought was an “open-mindedness” towards relationships between China and Taiwan. He used to make comments on how they were all one people and should get along, etc. However, I recently saw one of his posts, and another student from Palau commented “But isn’t Taiwan the original China?” and he replied “Yes it is. And for that I’m sure Taiwan and Palau will have a great friendship for years to come.” (Obviously praising the fact that he said they were the real china) I was deeply offended and found him to be a big hypocrite. How could he advocate for peace and compromise between Taiwan and China, when he’s setting a divide between the who is the real Chinese and who aren’t. That’s so stupid and hypocritical because my family members are good Chinese people. They know what’s ethical and what isn’t. They have shared with me so much about the Chinese culture that I did not know much of since I grew up in Guam, USA.

      • Observer

        I don’t quite follow your logic. How does your peer’s claim for being the real Chinese imply that your family members are not good Chinese people? Are you saying that only real Chinese people can be good and the rest are bad?

        Your peer’s parents may be from Taiwan but that does not necessarily mean they are Taiwanese. Most Taiwanese people I know do not call themselves Chinese, let alone the real Chinese. Like your relatives in China, the Taiwanese people wanted no part in the messy politics between the communists and the Kuomingtang. It is the mainland Chinese in Taiwan who think of themselves as the real Chinese and therefore superior to everyone else.

        Why do you care so much about the opinion of people you claim are condescending to you? Why can’t mainland Chinese people just be proud of themselves and stop seeking validation from everyone else?

        [Note: Please do not post under multiple names.]

        • Linda

          Why do I care? It’s natural to care, I’ve been to Taiwan and met many great people there too. It’s natural to be hurt and feel offended when they make offhand comments about Chinese people. Obviously I would feel bad because I know some people who are truly honest and good people at heart. I’m not saying they implied that specifically my family wasn’t real Chinese, but what they said was hypocritical to their point of view. Maybe the Taiwanese people you know don’t call themselves the real Chinese, but the ones I do do. And there has been some incidents where others have claimed this too: http://www.spcnet.tv/forums/showthread.php?28100-Is-Taiwan-the-Real-China. I am not mainland Chinese and I don’t seek validation from everyone. It’s not even a matter of validation or wanting to be accepted, it’s a matter of hypocritical views.

        • Linda

          “Are you saying that only real Chinese people can be good and the rest are bad?” Please stop putting words in my mouth. This post is only about some of the people I know, I am not referring to the Taiwanese people as a whole. I had acknowledged in my first post that in China, many people have a lack of morals and ethical values. And yes they do make me slightly ashamed to be from that ethnicity. However, I was not born in China and my point of view and beliefs differ in great contrast from my mother’s (a single parent), as I had grown up in the US and regard English as my best language. She was born and raised there and she shares with me a lot about her history. Is it not natural that I would feel offended for her too? And it’s not like those peers are condescending towards me, but more of the mainland China. I respect these peers, which is the only reason I would feel sad about their comments. I have had many racist and prejudice peers before, but I have learned over the years to disregard their comments.

    • Thanks for commenting, Linda
      Yeah, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that. In Taiwan, there are a lot of people who have that condescending attitude on mainland Chinese. They feel that people in China are not Chinese or have any real culture. And it’s not even some Taiwanese, there’re also some Westerners, most likely in Taiwan, who have taken up this attitude as well (just scroll up a bit and read a few of the comments).
      Unfortunately a lot of people cannot differentiate between the Chinese government and the people and they want to treat them all as one and the same, as if everybody in China is some party fanatic. What you said about most people in China just wanting to live their lives is true.

  • Naive Attempt at PC

    You are basically a guest in Taiwan, and yet you criticise your gracious hosts when you have not personally experienced what they experienced at the hands of the mainland Chinese.

    Good for you that your interactions with mainland Chinese have been mostly positive. But keep in mind that your experiences are individual, not universal.

    It is true that not all mainland Chinese fit the negative stereotype. There are decent and not so decent people everywhere you go. You urge people not to stereotype mainland Chinese, yet you stereotype the Taiwanese. There are over 23 million people in Taiwan, how many have you spoken to before drawing your conclusions about their view on mainland Chinese?

    Your article does not contribute to cross-strait tolerance if that is your goal. If anything, you are putting words into the mouths of 23 million Taiwanese and adding to the tension that has been brewing since the Chinese civil war, which by the way did not involve the Taiwanese until the KMT fled to the island.

    You said you are aware of modern history so please tell us, who taught the Taiwanese that communist China is evil and that mainland Chinese cannot be trusted? Isn’t it ironic that the mainland Chinese in Taiwan turned the Taiwanese against the mainland Chinese in China? What’s more ironic is that today the CPC and KMT are collaborating with each other in their efforts to dominate the Taiwanese.

    Taiwanese or Chinese, most people just want to live in peace and carry on with their lives. The haters are mostly government puppets who have swallowed KMT or CPC political propaganda hook, line and sinker.

    Instead of preaching to anyone harbouring uneasy feelings toward mainland Chinese, ask yourself why you are unable to respect the sentiments of others. So what if some people dislike mainland Chinese? They have their reasons. A lot of mainland Chinese bash Taiwanese or other overseas Chinese, what are you going to do about that? What about the mainland Chinese who dislike each other? Are you going to preach to the Beijingers to embrace their compatriots in Shanghai?

    You may have good intentions, but your article reads like a naive attempt at political correctness. If you truly dig to the root of the problem, you will see that it is political in origin. By side-stepping politics in your rhetoric, you appear not only naive but ignorant as well.

    By the way, why are you living in Taiwan and not China?

    [Note: Please do not post under multiple names.]

    • dim mak

      Because he wants to BAAAAWWW over anything he feels is against his political bias. So does everyone else, except most Chinese will just out and start bashing each other directly (like me and D) instead of hiding behind PC and trying to make off-hand remarks in unrelated comments.

      What are you 14, Hilton? You got something to say about me or HK feel free to address me directly. Right here.

    • Naive Attempt at PC aka Observer aka the author of several other posts here

      First off, you’ve been posting under different names here and either you want to give off the impression you are several different persons, OR you just like to be creative with usernames. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter.

      Taiwan is not a person or a family, and certainly not “gracious hosts.” I get that you like Taiwan, but no, criticizing Taiwan could never be “criticizing your gracious hosts”.
      I reside and work here legally, I obey the laws and I pay taxes. I’m not a guest. Do you go around your country thinking that immigrants, (legal) foreign workers and foreign students are guests?

      There’re good things about Taiwan. There are good things about the people too. But there are negative things too, and it’s not a crime to point these out and criticize. That’s true that not everybody has the same negative attitudes I’ve criticized towards the mainland. However there are many, whether bensenren or waisenren, who feel this way, whether it’s paranoia or arrogance or even hate, yet have no personal experience of interacting with mainlanders. There are many in Taiwan who don’t like the idea of mainlanders coming to study in universities or travel individually or work. Yet are there not hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million, such Taiwanese in China living, working, doing business, studying?

      It’s obvious why many don’t like the CCP, but this dislike also extends to the people (whom many Taiwanese have never met or interacted with) as well which is irrational. I mean, I may not like the leader of North Korea, but I don’t hate or dislike North Koreans.

      In one of your other posts as “G”, you try to make a clear distinction between “Taiwanese” and “mainland Chinese in Taiwan.” While these two groups do have obvious historical differences, things are not as simplistic as you put it.

      It’s interesting to say the root of the problem in Taiwan is “political in origin,” I would have thought the problems go merely beyond political differences and tensions.

      You disagree with some things I’ve said, fine, but let’s not get too dramatic or jump to conclusions. You want to talk about politics, well then be specific, and maybe we can discuss them.

  • G

    Hilton are you really part Taiwanese as you claim? You said your mom is from Taiwan and your grandparents are from China. Could it be that you are actually the offspring of mainland Chinese refugees who fled to Taiwan in the mid-20th century?

    I have lived in Taiwan and my experience is this: Not all, but a lot of the mainland Chinese in Taiwan and their offspring consider themselves superior to the Taiwanese natives. They refuse to learn/speak the Taiwanese language and look down on Taiwanese people who speak Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent. They complain about Taiwanese people and their culture, but prefer to live in Taiwan in relative comfort and enjoy their privileges as first-class citizens, rather than move to China and live among their true brethrens.

    Here is the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese who discriminate against each other:

    * The Chinese people who bash Taiwanese people are either living in Taiwan or threatening to take over Taiwan by force.

    * The Taiwanese people who bash the Chinese live in Taiwan–their own land, and have no interest in taking over China.

    True, some Taiwanese people dislike mainland Chinese, and you obviously do not care to understand why they feel the way they do. You are entitled to your opinion, don’t impose it on others. Live and let live.

    [Note: Please do not post under multiple names.]

  • Hi Hilton, I got hooked reading your post. I learned a lot from your article. I believe we do need to embrace our Chinese culture wherever we may be, and having lived for half a year in China, it is true that they spit and squeeze like hell boarding a bus but you will get used to it. Being from the Philippines, there are plenty of worst things around. And to embrace one’s culture and heritage goes with it the respect for the motherland.

    Cheers man!

  • Jim

    Just curious…

    So how do the overseas chinese in this discussion group think of themselves?

    1) Zhongguoren
    2) Han Ren
    3) Hua Ren

    I’m a Singapore born chinese(Hua Ren). Both my parents are chinese.

    I’ve studied, lived and work for over a decade in Canada.

    I speak English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hainanese, Cantonese, Malay, Hakka, Teochew in decreasing order of competence.

    My Caucasian friends in Canada don’t think I’m Chinese. I don’t have slant eyes and I speak English like them.

    The HKers in Canada and in HK don’t think I’m Chinese because they can’t speak proper English or Mandarin with me and my Cantonese is different from theirs(not up to their standards probably).

    The Taiwanese and Mainlanders/China in Canada are totally OK with me although our Mandarin and Hokkien(Fujian) are different.

    So… food for thought?

  • typingfromwork

    I found this to be a lovely article about the negative perceptions of mainlanders by people from Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Chinese diaspora is very diverse and differences in opinions are obviously going to come about, especially since mainland China has been such a fenced off place not so long ago. There is also a certain amount of snobery as the economic situation on the mainland is below that of Taiwan, though it is catching up fast.

    I remember talking to a friend from Shenzhen about her experiences in Hong Kong. When she went there as a kid just after the reunification people would look at her funny in the subway for speaking in Mandarin. However things have improved over the years and now no-one gives her dirty looks anymore (at least openly). I guess getting used to your neighbours takes time. There is a lot of similarities with Taiwan and that of the mainland- language, history, culture, etc. I don’t see why the people of these places cannot get along better- even if their governments are at constant loggerheads with each other.


    One year ago during the interview for my current employer in mainland China I was asked about how I would feel about relocating to ‘小湾湾’ and I almost bit the interviewer’s arm off at the prospect of getting the hell out of here.

    I arrived in mainland China four years ago with few preconceptions and a strong base of Mandarin. I was rewarded for my diligence and forward thinking, with daily bouts of China induced RAGE and intermit knowledge of a broken culture.

    Mainland culture is a throwback, based on fairytales designed as a tool to manage the masses. Conversation has been dumbed down to the basics of weather and food, popular culture is a joke and sport a catalyst for breaking barriers with the locals is nothing but a political sop.

    I long for Taiwan; if I go for a drink with a local its for the reasons of friendship rather than guanxi, face or playing the white monkey. Conversation goes beyond that which a five year old can muster. As a designer I benefit personally from the creativity which exists and flourishes on the island.

    Taiwan’s genuine evolution of the Chinese culture has everything to lose from rolling over to the mainland’s wishes as such I fear the day that the mainland’s cancer which is slowly engulfing HK takes ahold in Taiwan as well.

  • @ Allan
    Thanks for the kind words.
    As overseas Chinese, I think it really helps to know more about and appreciate the mainland. I’m quite sure that there are worst things in many developing countries, whether it be the ones caught up in serious poverty or the ones that are considered upcoming powers, like Brazil (violent street crime is much, much worse than China’s) or India (which lags China in areas from literacy rates to economic). Being from a developing country myself (not that Trinidad is poor), I know there are some aspects where China’s problems aren’t unusual or monstrous.

    That’s an impressive range of languages you speak. How’d you learn Hainanese? Anyways, it’s possible to not be exclusive and fit into more than one of those categories.
    I see Han as my ethnicity, Hua Ren as my direct background as an overseas Chinese, and Zhongguoren in a more vague self as I know culturally, I’ll never be full Chinese.
    And don’t worry about those HKers who you’ve met. Some HKers still have a superiority complex from the past when they were the most advanced part of Greater China, but in this day and age, that’s a foolish mindset. In fact, just see the post below yours, from “typingfromwork.”

    Thanks for the compliments. There’s certainly a lot of differences in opinions and a lot of snobbery. Unfortunately, this snobbery sometimes cuts really deep and I think this warps some people’s perspectives.
    That’s a good example you gave as I’ve heard several stories of situations like that from the past. Nowadays in HK, many people try or are learning to speak Mandarin, so it’s a sign that things are improving, like you said. I have older relatives who can’t speak a single sentence of Mandarin, but send their children to take Mandarin lessons every week.
    As the mainland gets more prosperous, especially certain cities, more people from Taiwan (especially those who’ve actually been there) will have a better view of the mainland, and vice versa.

    • dim mak

      Someone call tech support, Hilton’s stuck on permanent butthurt mode

      Guess what, the most vocal people are the ones who travel to the mainland all the time and see the savagery firsthand, i.e. me. You’re in a zone of confusion where regional bashing = hating all Chinese-ness, hence your passive-aggressive reactions.
      That wishful crap about mutual love or some shit will fall apart once everyone gets a chance to meet each other… and confirm the stereotypes for themselves. Most Chinese people anywhere have realistic outlooks on life, Hilton. That would be a good step to becoming ‘fully Chinese’ .

  • @ Big Cad
    Thanks for sharing about your rough experience in the mainland. I’m not surprised by some of the problems you listed; life is really tough, there’s a ton of people competing
    for everything from jobs to hospital spaces, and you had the turbulent events in the past.
    I sympathize with you (I take it you’ve been in China so long just for your career?), but I’ve experienced half of those things you talked about in Taiwan. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that Taiwan is much more comfortable and there’s more public trust and there are some nice people, but Taiwan is also many times more developed than China yet it’s got a lot of inanities. I’ve had more than my fair share of insipid conversations and exchanges (Black man! Black man!, I once had an acquaintance point out to me excitedly when we saw a black guy- just one example), random public rudeness/nosiness, roundabout communication, and I don’t think the pop culture here is that great or mature; too much cuteness and Hello Kitty worship for instance.

    @ dim mak
    Hey, nice to have you back, where’ve you been? You and your “Chinese pragmatic, Westerners/non-Chinese idealistic” message have been missed.

  • Baas Babelaas

    It’s true what the Taiwanese say, it’s all true. Mainlanders are their country bumpkin cousins, with all the appalling manners to go with being just that.

    I’ve lived in (the country of) Taiwan and the Mainland, and the Taiwanese are streets ahead of the savages in China.

    Fact. Straight and simple.

    • Chuckymecca

      Hi i’m a Trinidadian and just stumbled on this blog.

      Hilton you are Chinese by ancestry but Trinidadian in Nationality. There is nothing funny about sticking up or rationalising the way of life for people in China. It’s just that many people would never understand or agree with your point of view even though they really are your observations.

      Coming from a minority Chinese demographic in Trinindad, you do not hail from some westernised country, but from a unique one, comprised of many cultures. You have seen many cultures (Indians, Blacks, etc) carry their culture and religon with them. China isn’t a religious country so this isn’t an identifying trademark of the disapora.

      China’s strength is it’s history and culture and you are just trying to highlight this at a time when so many lives in China are being made to labour so hard for the world’s goods. Let’s not lose sight that China has 1.3 billion people to support, more than any other.

      Fact is China has completed task 1 that is to unify the people. Now it’s wealth creation. You are bound to have poor people on a mass scale. The thing is i suspect that you will just have an elite in China that do not care about its’s people and sadly i think it’s long happened.

      China is a quiet machine that will tolerate nothing, just look at Tibet and Xinjiang. So you have to understand the perceived fears of HK and Taiwan peoples and the general mistrust.

      You see peple shouldn’t be bitching at each other but at the leadership and Institutions inability to craete a life worth living for your brothers and sisters

      • Thanks for stopping by, it’s good to hear from a Trini.
        Don’t worry, I am more than aware of China’s huge population and its many problems. It’s just I feel 1/ many people are too paranoid and 2/ many people don’t differentiate between their dislike for a government and for the people of that country.
        Certain people go into a vast country like China, see all the poverty and the crowds, get pushed around a bit, hardly get to know any people, and then they want to go around carrying on about Chinese people being savages and so on. Would they go to India or an African country and say those things so freely? I mean, you can look at the Chinese in Trinidad. Do they act like uncouth, violent peasants or are most of them hardworking people who mostly go around their business?

        I strongly agree with your point about people not bitching at each other and instead focusing their criticisms on governments or elites.
        Hong Kong has been reunited with China since 1997, and even though there’ve been a few problems, it’s still been much better and stable than what many people thought would have happened.

        I’m not sure that Trinidad isn’t Westernized, rather I think it’s both Western and has its own special Caribbean-Trinidadian character. The Chinese diaspora in Trinidad is small so it may not have retained as much culture as say, the Indians, but there are families who still speak Chinese languages, like mine, or practice some worship.

  • chinese

    Really enjoy your article. Very inspiring. Thanks

  • ProudChinese

    Really glad to see this fantastic article here; glad that everybody here (mainlanders, HKers, Taiwanese, SGer, or ABC, blablabla) can calmly and truthfully express ideas regarding this interesting, yet complex cultural problems.

    I’m a very very common, ordinary Chinese from mainland China. (Actually from a poor family; not so-called “rich-next-generation”) And I’m now receiving PhD training in America like many other mainlanders do. I first need to point out, why we have soooooooo many Chinese distributed across all around the world, leading to this cultural/political problem? Just because the old China in past 200 years WAS weak, and then bullied.

    Then let me talk about some of my funny experiences in America with Taiwanese before my analysis. Once we were talking about “ancient Chinese study”, I said I had very difficult time learning those ancient poems(唐诗宋词); then the Taiwanese girl was very very surprised to say: You guys still learn 唐诗宋词 ? Hasn’t all ancient books/recordings been destroyed during some unparalleled revolutions (She refers to Cultural revolutions)? I’m really really NOT angry; but just feel funny !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughable !!!!!! How can Taiwanese be so ignorant !!! But I said nothing to this girl, just with a smile; because I know she’s ignorant. This is how we Chinese are so resilient.

    I would say, many Taiwanese, or HKer, or other overseas don’t know what is cultural revolution. Is it literally the revolution of culture, destroying Chinese culture? NO. Surely it’s somehow destroying the Chinese culture; but here “culture” means those knowledge(知识分子), or elite of Chinese; while those one billion farmers/workers are barely affected. Frankly speaking, this is the most “democratic” time of China when farmers/workers can do whatever they want just like barbarians. Again this shows, before most Chinese are turned into well-educated, so-called democracy is stupid and will only bring chaos.

    Ok this little story can start my points on this problem.
    It’s very very common that people hold stereotypes; and being brainwashed. All people are brainwashed by the governments. It’s YOURSELF who determines if you wanna be brainwashed or have your own independent thinking. But I would say, today’s mainland Chinese are much much less brainwashed by Taiwanese, though they think they are less brainwashed. Mainly because KMT, then DPP propaganda, and just look at their stupid/low-quality TV programs in Taiwan. While in mainland, though it’s also propaganda praising CCP, but since still with lots of censorship, very very few personal comments are allowed in mainland political TV programs, which makes it much more objective. Also political discussion programs in mainland/HK are much more thoughtful/high-quality because people there are really discussing political issues (for example, Diaoyudao disputes/South China Sea)while Taiwanese political programs are pretty much like entertainment.

    I would say: mainland China and Taiwan/HK/SG are NOT comparable. There should be NO comparison. It’s totally totally different things. What China seeks for or China’s responsibility is to build a powerful Chinese nation with dominant economy/military/diplomacy in world, getting rid of the history of being bullied. Just look at Eastern Asia history, it’s been Sino-centric for thousands of years except the last 200 years. Not to mention Taiwan, even Korea/Japan will be affiliated country around a powerful China. This is the reality due to the sheer size/power of China, either you like it or not. Also, because China has 1.3 billions people. Taiwanese, please have a visit towards China and have some basic concepts of 1.3 billion. So everything has to be in large-scale; and people are much less rich with less resources; and wealth are much less equally distributed. Plus complicated minority-group problem and also thousands of years of Sino-centric/unification culture(统一), a powerful central government which can unify this country is needed. In western culture, government is regarded as enemy, or intruder of personal life, kind of product of compromise (we HAVE TO have a government); but in Chinese mind, government is the head of family. And family can only have ONE head, otherwise there’ll be internal conflicts (Actually this is where Chinese are good at). It’s kind of sometimes you have good family head; sometimes bad (So is the president produced by so-called democratic voting). If the head is too bad, then people just overthrow the head. KMT was overthrown because it’s too bad; and if CCP is also very bad, it’ll be overthrown too ! In my eyes this is very very natural.

    So not offensive, just to tell Taiwanese: Current model works quite well in China. Maybe someday China will be democratic, but we need Chinese-style-democracy(maybe like Singapore?); but not America-Taiwan style! I know quite a bit about Taiwan politics; and I’m now living in America so know this western hypocrite. Just look at the conflict between Republican and Democratic, leading to the loss of interest of the nation! China with CCP already has lots of internal conflicts; so right now one-party is the best model.
    Also either America/Taiwan laughs at China saying China lacks of democracy/human rights is kind of silly joke to me. Have you been in starve? If not, you have no rights to talk about democracy to me, because I’ve been in starve before. In China, still tens of millions of people are in starve; what we need now is wealth, is to get rich, instead of voting/democracy. Anyway I think today’s China has become really really practical the government is quite flexible and internationally-sighted, and full of strategic diplomatically; no more play with ideology. Whatever government brings wealth, peace, stability will earn support from mainland Chinese. (But seems Taiwanese today is more political? cares more about ideology?)

    I think China knows more about Taiwan, than Taiwan towards China. I don’t know why. Probably because eventually we will reunite Taiwan with a rising China, so we are quite confident. Taiwan reunification NO DOUBT will happen; what is unsure is how, when or in what forms it’ll be reunited. Why China needs Taiwan? For OCEAN, which is related to 1.3 billion people. So 1.3 billion people share the same opinion in this issue (like Tibet). People could hardly imagine the power of 1.3 billion people reaching an agreement. Even CCP is overthrown, whoever in charge of China will eventually take over Taiwan. While Taiwan really FEARS to be taken over.

    I would admit my words are quite pro-China. Yes. And I think most mainland Chinese will agree with me. But I’m really really telling the truth. And I’m not here to insult or offend Taiwanese.

    For HKer, it’s been reunited for 10+ years; I would say it’s already been mainlandised a lot; you could see many people speaking Mandarin in HK; and unprecedented communication. One thing, all HKers strongly think they are CHINESE(even before 1997); while Taiwanese won’t think due to political issues. You could see this from Beijing Olympics. HKers all are quite happy(Because Chinese Hkers are also host); while some Taiwanese will feel very sour. lol

    In summary, all those overseas Chinese, esp. Taiwanese: please grow up. Stop being short-sighted. Your short-sightedness just looks laughable to me. Please pay a visit to China and see what is really going on in mainland China. You’ll be surprised. China is way too large, complicated and unique; tons of wealth people you’ve never seen; tons of poorest people you’ve never seen. Communism propaganda TV programs trying to brainwash people; while many western-style entertaining programs going on with the strong smell of capitalism. But one thing is certain: China is rising; and all Chinese celebrate this. I’m really proud of being Chinese today. And being a mainland Chinese. Hope Taiwanese can know more about a true China, either you like it or not. Otherwise it’s dangerous for you. (Same words to westerners)

    • TAKE5

      I heard this story from a chinese student studying in USA. Taiwan students were in class arguing against students from mainland China. The Taiwan boys were insulting Chinese women. They were yelling back in forth in class putting down the culture and politics of China. All the while the Americans were just mocking and laughing at them both. I wonder if either of them knew how unimportant their difference were to most Americans? Most don’t understand and even fewer are concerned, so why air their dirty laundry out in class. I think this forum is a much better place but in the classrooms of America.

    • mr. weiner

      Wow Hilton I think this guy is your biggest fan, well good luck with that, he frightens the bejesus out of me. That last sentence was particularly sinester [in a jokey ha! ha! kind of way].
      Back to my comments on Europe [sterotypes and that] I think the Germans, French. English and every other nationality and ethnic group there can get on with one another because they don’t have missles pointed at one another. The same unfortunately can’t be said for Taiwan and China…Have to be careful of that because as someone said…”it can be dangerous for you” [subtext :Westerners, you’re next!]

      • ProudChinese

        Germans, French. English and every other nationality and ethnic group there can get on with one another because they don’t have missles pointed at one another

        Germans, French, Italians have been split for 1000 years and everybody thinks they are different races.
        But China and Taiwan have only been split for 60 years; and Taiwanese are Chinese ethnically.
        Also, UNIFICATION is the core spirit of Chinese politics; either you like or not.

        About missles towards Taiwan: do you think China will bambard Taiwan?
        No. Why?
        Taiwan doesn’t deserve.
        Only economic constrain will take over Taiwan without harming anyone.
        Missles are only threatening and showing of power; and they are ready for Japan and America, not Taiwan.

        Also, by “danger”, I mean if westerners are kept being brainwashed by your media, and cannot fully understand China, knowing a true China, you cannot win the competition against China. You’ll lose your priority, your power, and your leader position of mankind, isn’t it dangerous ?

        • mr. weiner

          Umm..I think you’re A little confused on the “race” thing. Europeans are not different races [like, blacks , whites and Asians] .Their borders are mainly composed on linguistic or religious divisions [hint: think cantonese speakers, fukkin speakers etc]. They have most certainly had a turbulent and bloody history in the not too distant past , but that all seems to be in the past now as good borders make for good neighbors wereas a first strike capability does not.
          Question: Why is unification the core spirit of Chinese politics? Because someone said so? Can’t this change? China has changed so much in the last 20 years it is now unrecognisable [and greatly improved for it I might add]. My real fear is that Taiwan reunification has become a political football that Chinese leaders have staked far too much on. Does a shared ethicity mean that there has too be a reunification with china? What about what the Taiwanese people want
          Of course I have been listening to far too much Western propaganda wereas naturally the vast majority of Taiwanese want nothing more than to be reunified with their motherland, except for a few trouble makers and bandits no doubt in the pay of Washington and London right? You must be shaking your head and smiling at my ignorance right now.
          For myself I think maybe a Chinese comonwealth might be the best alternative. China, Taiwan, Singapore. Special concideration given to Chinese Disporas in other countries maybe?
          I truely hope we here in Taiwan are never “deserving” of your missiles as a historian I find there is a little too much stridency and “Zhongguo Ubber Alles” in the whole reunification debate at the moment.
          Anyway good luck with the pHd.

          • ProudChinese

            Well, I think I just need to point out the final, ultimate reason why China will take over Taiwan:

            This is ultimate answer. Game over. OCEAN is the core of “national interest” of China; not interest of politics, party; that being said, unification is required by all 1.3 billion Chinese. Even CCP is overthrown, whoever controls China will take over Taiwan.
            And taking over Taiwan is merely the very FIRST step for Chinese power expansion. Real targets are China East Sea(Japan) and China South Sea.

            All issues like: politics, democracy, human right, ancester, culture, language, history ALL fade away in front of NATIONAL INTEREST.

            Why is unification the core spirit of Chinese politics?
            This “unification” political thought has existed for 2000 years since Qin Dynasty. Yes, this may change; however, for the sake of OCEAN, China won’t give up Taiwan, even someday Chinese become “democratic”.
            That’s why China never claim Singapore as part of China, though a majority of SGers are Chinese; simply because we have no territorial disputes.

          • mr. weiner

            China already has pacific ports, I still think you are fixating a little too much on the reunification thing , you just have to say it to a chinese person and in many cases they’ll start salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
            Economic considerations have already made some sort of monetary or cultural/business union between China and Taiwan a forgone conclusion. My only fear the the amount of “face” China has staked on this will lead some unscupulous people in the Chinese govt to one day kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
            The “Chinese century” could after all turn into the Chinese decade.
            I’m NOT hoping for this and trying to offend you. I’m just bring this up as another long term possibility that needs to be considered. After all China has been very critical of the behaviour of Britain and the US as super powers. Now that China has reach this level will it act any differently? Your words and attitude so far are not making me optimistic.

  • KennyM

    Interesting article. But I wonder what is the “survey group” of Taiwanese you get the general feeling that they have “ignorant and disdainful” attitude towards the mainland. Mostly young (18 to 25) and never had to work and live in China?? The example you gave about the camera seems to suggest that.

    As I live in China, the Taiwanese I know usually work and live in n china either long term or on regular business trips. Sure, they have biased attitudes, a good example is that most Taiwanese run factories on the mainland have segregated living and dinning quarters for the mainland and Taiwanese employees, but their entire outlook on china is far more complex – to be fair on the Taiwanese tho, I would say most foreign owned factories are like this, which is totally wrong of course.

    They understand Taiwan’s future rests with the mainland through geography, economics and politics. They do feel proud that China is more recognized in the international stage, a Chinese can run a short distance event and break the world record and sending spacecraft to the moon. On personal levels, many forge trusting and long friendships with mainlanders, after all, Taiwanese speak the same lingo and share many of the customs.

    They have also have this fear, as you have mentioned, where the biased attitude comes from. They fear through more and more economic integration with the mainland, Taiwan will lose its autonomy and values that they deem important but are lacking on the mainland, political freedom, a more equitable and fair society etc.

    Overall, I don’t think they dislike the mainlanders per say, rather, the mainland system. So they are unfairly concentrates on the social ills of china as a proof that the system creates bad products that the system is to be rejected to have any influence on Taiwan.

    • Thanks for commenting, KennyM.
      You are about right that the Taiwanese I refer to are younger people who have never been to the mainland or know any mainlanders personally. I’m not surprised that the ones you know in the mainland have a more nuanced and complex view. Most Taiwanese I know who work, live or travel to China share similar views and seem to have a more empathetic, or
      in a few cases, friendly, attitude towards mainlanders.
      I think that it is natural to feel some fear regarding loss of autonomy and values (as opposed to blind paranoia), but I would look at Hong Kong. I know there have been problems though, but it comes down to the fact that things are still much better than a lot of locals expected, as well as that Taiwan has a military and the strait.

      • I am interested in reproducing your article on Slum Tourism. Could you please contaxct me re copyright

  • Andao

    Very interesting article. Don’t necessarily agree with everything you say but it’s definitely food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m a foreign devil who has lived in China for a few years, and one thing I’ll say is that I think it feels significantly safer for a foreigner in HK or Taiwan than in the mainland.

    I’ve traveled with my mainland girlfriend to HK, Macau, and SE Asia with no problems. In Indonesia and Vietnam I’d there’d be kids trying to speak English to us, but it was all friendly.

    But twice in China I’ve had guys call her a “hanjian” while I was standing right next to her, and another guy start yelling “fuck you!” while walking with her in the shopping mall. I had some guy throw a metal card thing out of a bus window at me a few weeks ago, and some guys were yelling all sorts of shit at me last week when I was jogging by my house. They threw a Pepsi bottle too, but accuracy was not so good.

    Yeah, this certainly happens in every country towards every race, but why so much hostility in the mainland, but none in Taiwan, HK, or SE Asia? Even in Vietnam, where my country bombed the crap out of them for 10 years, people at least treated me like a person. It didn’t used to be like this either, which is worrisome.

    • ProudChinese

      This is silly. Mainland Chinese are actually racists, unfortunately. Simply because we’re NOT open-minded as Hongkonger or Taiwanese. Also, we have very very very strong nationalism.

      However, just because many Chinese are “racists”, we do respect or adore WHITE people a lot but at the same time hate the dominance of west, and determined to work hard to surpass the west. Are you white?

      If you are white, then problem is not you are white; is: you are a white “stealing” a Chinese girlfriend. (Again, nationalism)

      If you are Japanese, you are hated by everyone from the very beginning, though we never directly say that. (Mainland Chinese have very very strong bias towards Japanese)

      If you are black (or even Indian), we show sympathy; and we can be friends. But will never marry a black person.

      Also, don’t easily generalize your personal experiences. Because I know many many foreigners in China and have NEVER come across your problems. China is simply too large, too populous, too complicated; ie. we are extremely diverse (individualism, various local culture), as well as extremely conform(strong nationalism, unified nation/culture).

  • ProudChinese

    Well, my final post:
    We discuss a lot seemingly-complicated, vague issues regarding China here.
    But seeing from a big-scale perspective, this is pretty much an extremely simple topic:

    When China is strong, all other countries(Korea, Japan) are affiliated country.
    When China is weak, all other countries hope to keep away.
    All nations are trying to survive, for the maximum of their national interest.

    For thousands of years, East Asia is Sino-centric/dominant.
    And it’s time for the arrival of Sino-centric age; either you like or not.

  • Jedi

    “I can’t accept respecting a culture yet hating the very place where this culture is from and its people.”

    LOL I think you’re a little behind on your sociology studies here. Why does it matter WHERE the culture is derived from?

  • Uberche

    Well written but absurdly silly. Mainland Chinese do nothing but spout stereotypes about everyone, to act insulted because someone has stereotypes about them is just foolish.

    Yeah, the stereotypes are wrong, Americans aren’t all crazy gun loving nut jobs. Chinese aren’t all spitting, greedy idiots, French aren’t all romantic cheese eating pussies.

    Articles like this don’t make you look unbiased or intellectual, they make you look like a child who got his feelings hurt and went on a rant. Of course we all rant but try to make it a little less one sided next time and people, other than mainland Chinese, might actually care…

  • @Andao
    I don’t doubt that HK and Taiwan are safer than China, however I don’t think the negative experiences, as nasty as they might be, that you’ve had are common. Also, if you live in anywhere in Asia for a while such as Vietnam or even in Taiwan, chances are you might experience some form of anti-foreigner abuse or discrimination. Do you live in a rural area or small town/city, or a major city in China?

    You make good points, except that actually there are quite a lot of HKers and Taiwanese who have racist views, especially towards nonwhites like SE Asians, blacks, etc. It’s just generally, they’re more polite and restrained about it. Even whites sometimes experience a little bit of racism here, whether it be getting into confrontations at bars or being gawked at and pointed out in public.

    If that’s all you got from the article, you didn’t understand the main points, I’m afraid.

    Of course, I know stereotypes are common and exaggerated. Anyways, it seemed a lot of people, including yourself, and not just mainlander Chinese, cared enough to write in and share your valuable insights, thanks. Don’t worry, I’m not as indignant about this issue as I sounded.

    @mr. weiner/sausage
    Glad to see you and ProudChinese having a nice little discussion. While I don’t think things are as extreme as he stated, he does make some good points. While many Chinese do want reunification with Taiwan, mainland people who I’ve talked to about this issue have often been rather reasonable.
    Also, it’s difficult to believe that if Taiwan reunites, that China will do an aboutface and subjugate Taiwan. The leaders aren’t stupid, (see Hong Kong for instance), as well as the strait, and Taiwan’s military, it’s not possible.

  • quicksand

    I am from mainland, went to high school in Canada and had been here for 7 years. What I see today is that the topic of hong kong and Taiwan is becoming less of an issue today. My experience in China gives me the impression that it’s a society made of several succession of generations of vastly different experience and social alltitute. The older generation cares more about family and wealth and much less about social behavior or personal image etc. while for the generation born after the 1980s life has always been plentiful personal enjoyment has become the priority. Also being devoid of memories of a turmoil China, this generation and the ones after has only good experience of a prosperous society therefore displays the highest level of nationalism.

    China as a whole is a quite homogeneous society bounded together by tradition, family value and a sense of belonging to a unified nation state. The billion strong population as a whole is cut of from the world outside its boundary for half a century and had very few influence from the outside world. I can safely say from my personal experience that up until 15 years ago, many people from inland cities still think that all the people on earth look the same as Chinese. Given those vastly different social experience, no wonder mainlanders and other ethnic Chinese community nowadays demonstrate vastly different social tendency and behavior. One of the most prominent moral priority of the mainland population is money driven, but I am not worried about the issue of unity in Chinese society in general.

    When it comes to unity, there are indeed the issue of hong kong and taiwan, but considering this two region makes up only 2% of the ethnic Chinese population their overall impact is not so significant. Actually the collective experience of the mainland Chinese over the last half century, although unpeaceful, is quite beneficial in strengthen the unity of Chinese nation as a whole. The iron rule and culture indoctrination has pretty much evened out the cultural difference and regionalism throughout different provinces, which is the one of the biggest plague to the nation as a whole and caused lots of unrest in the last two centuries. If one travels throughout China today and meet people from different areas, you will find out that the sense of one people one culture one shared memory has never been as strong as it is now. This should be a good enough preparation before Chinese fully opens up its door and step out towards all parts of the world.

    Last when it comes to the altitude and perception of the younger overseas mainland generation towards hongkongers and taiwanse, from my personal observance, the most appropriate description is indifference. This generation overall is fully aware of the friction and animosity from certain specific Chinese speaking populations, yet again due to the sheer size the mainland oversea population, those animosities are generally ignored since it does not really affects their life. Yes there are hongkongers and taiwanese participating in their circle of life, but of some others don’t feel like associating with mainlanders then let it be. It’s their personal choices and should be respected. The population of mainland group is big and diverse enough for these few missing participants to be negligible. Overall for me and friends around me, China seems to be on the right track and things looks very promising.

  • quicksand

    Well another two cents I want to add after browsing through a few more comments is that I really don’t see how the so called more authentic Taiwanese Chinese culture that different from the ones on the mainland. I spend my childhood in mainland growing up learning calligraphy, traditional Chinese instrument, paintings, poems, literature, all essential parts of Chinese tradition. Now that I look back to it, the Chinese culture and experience is really so vastly different from anywhere else. I have some Taiwanese high school friends here in Canada, and from talking to them, the childhood experience seems quite similar. So when those Taiwanese netizens are claiming on daily basis that mainland has no cultural anymore as if the two side are from different planet, I will have to say from my experience, the small cultural difference across the strait is so negligible compared to even say china’s close neighbor, say Vietnam or Korea. Yes, after the two side were separated for 50 year some differences accumulated, yet if one side insisted on putting on the alltitute self isolation then the difference is bound to gets even wider until the point of no going back. I really don’t see how is this beneficial the so called Chinese culture the Taiwanese are so proud of claiming to inherit. Taiwan by it self is a small island with few resources. I don’t really have any problem with Taiwan being independent since its none of my business. Just simply from a logical point of view, I don’t see how Taiwan being on its own can goes on forever, especially if in the future the two sides indeed become vastly different culture identities totally separate from each other. Given taiwan’s geographical position as a barrier right in front of china’s doorway to the sea, I really can’t forsee China stay tolerant forever once it become an immense nation at all front given its size and population.

    • Hilton

      Thanks for your comments. It is true, that to claim that mainland has no culture is erroneous, as if everything was wiped out during the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately that’s what a lot of people like to think and do, such as in Taiwan. I’m glad you’re very positive about China though I feel worried by some issues. Sorry for the very belated reply; I haven’t come back here in a long time.

  • wacky

    can you share your experience being an overseas chinese in T&T, since most of the article and comments here talk about taiwanese HKers and mainlanders.
    i am interested to know about overseas chinese community in T&T

    thank you

  • mainland chinese are more biased anyway, due to school taught nationalism. and can you blame taiwanese for saying they lost their culture when something as retarded as the cultural revoloution actually happened. blame the communists.

    • Eugena Lieu

      Mainland Chinese are not as open as Taiwanese when it comes to accepting other people. During the 1600’s, there was Dutch, and Spanish settlement in Taiwan. This made Taiwan more Westernized to accept Western Europeans even till this day.

  • Jenna

    I sympathize with being irritated at stereotyping and unfounded paranoia of individuals (i.e. saying they’re “dirty thieves”) from China by Taiwanese. That’s not right no matter what races or nations are involved.

    If anything I’d say mainlanders are arrogant towards the Taiwanese – thinking they have a right to take over Taiwan, that Taiwan is theirs no matter what the Taiwanese say. So some of the paranoia is founded – how would you feel if another country thought it had the right to take over yours and treated you, your freedom, and your national identity like it was meaningless? I’d be paranoid too.

    It comes through a little in your post as well – they all “speak Chinese” – except the Taiwanese spoken in Taiwan is notably different from its origin, the Minnanyu spoken in southern Fujian. They are dialects now, they are not the same. The Taiwanese spoken in Taiwan is not spoken, in that form, anywhere in China. You call it “Taiwan” and “the mainland”, implying that you do not think of them as separate countries – do you realize how offensive this attitude is to many Taiwanese who want recognition of their nation’s sovereignty?

    And yet you say the Taiwanese are arrogant and condescending towards Mainlanders? Refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of another’s nation, implying that their national identity and freedom to self-determine is meaningless, is the highest form of condescension and arrogance.

    And you ignore the fact that Taiwanese culture was just as influenced by Japanese as Chinese…it’s not a purely Chinese culture, it’s a unique culture that arose from unique circumstances.

    I’m not saying it’s right for Taiwanese to be so mean and…let’s say racist…towards Chinese.

    But you do have to see where they are coming from – you can’t dismiss the history between the two countries (COUNTRIES!) as “I understand the political complexity” and then really say nothing more about it. That is the absolute crux of the issue – don’t dismiss it so lightly.


    I am Chinese, born in the mainland,continental really need to improve their quality,as for the original:[“They have no morals and they lie and steal. They have no culture since they don’t use traditional characters anymore. They are dirty and rude.” These are just some of the common notions of mainlanders held by locals.]

    This misunderstanding can be really big,not everyone is like this.Traditional characters?This [國]is traditional,but that [国]is not? I think so funny.(I’m sorry, my English is not good, I hope you can understand)Finally, Taiwan is a good place, I wish you a happy!

  • ELTO

    Chinese identity is a lie invented to brainwash populations of people into accepting the evils of their governments. Taiwan doesn’t have to be a part of China if its people don’t want to be and they sure as hell do not have to embrace any notion of greater Chinese culture that was shoved down their throats by the Nationalist Chinese.
    You are correct in that people ought to lose their prejudices towards others BUT, this attitude should be out of general respect for human beings, not through any love or sense of brotherhood with the Chinese.

    Chinese identity doesn’t make any sense, people throw around the concept of “huaren” as if it is self evident and it isn’t. AND if the concept of same people means same nations, why don’t we have similar debates with American and England (being that America IS England).

    Nationalist China is done, Zhong Hua Ming Guo is an illegitimate government which does not properly represent its people. Taiwan deserves to be independent. The issue of China and Taiwan is not a leftover from the Cold War, it is the issue of a people being oppressed who must assert their own will as a nation.

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