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Kenyans Say Chinese Investment Brings Racism and Discrimination (2018) (nytimes.com)
108 points by deogeo 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 115 comments

With China being very homogeneous in terms of race, they never worked through those issues. I don't blame them. My grand parents, who lived in the countryside all their life would react in a similar way.

Small anecdote: I attended an English class at a Chinese business university. The teacher (young girl, never left China in her life) told us that everything "French" means "sex/porn/etc", i.e. "french book", "french movie". Funny, but tragic.

Also remember the racist ad for washing powder (girl washes a black guy and a Chinese jumps out afterwards).

They will probably need some slightly more tragic events and pushback to acknowledge it's a problem. Would be better if they learnt from the west's painful lessons, but my hopes for that are low.

> The teacher (young girl, never left China in her life) told us that everything "French" means "sex/porn/etc", i.e. "french book", "french movie". Funny, but tragic.

I think this is a typical example of stereotype rather than racism. But actually, I think that kind of stereotype is the exact major driving force behind racism in China.

From my own experience, I don't think we in China have received enough education about races or even our own ethnic groups. That eventually lead to ignorant and insensitive.

I once was in a dinner with my parents and their colleges. One of the college is identified as Hui, they don't eat pork (While us Han try everything edible). Somebody on the table got curious and ask why, before the Hui can answer, someone else intercepts and said "Because pig is their god" (when in the reality, they believe pig is filthy). Thankfully, Hui was very nice and explained it to us, and that someone was very embarrassed.

So, I think the solution of the racism problem in China is to encourage more interaction between different people.

Minor spelling note, "colleague" is an acquaintance or co-worker. "College" is an institution of learning.

Thank you for point that out. I should have checked the spelling before posting.

I thought you were possibly exaggerating. There really is such an ad. Pretty horrible. I never heard of this news almost 3 years after the fact.


Racism in China is a big problem, but the laundry advert alone isn't certainty not a big issue and is pretty over blown: being overly political correct around lighthearted comedy.

The skin pigment 'melanin' is what causes a black person's skin to be black, and is also the same as in a non-black person's tanned skin. It's a added pigment that the absence of causes light skin. Removal of melanin can happen (through non-laundry!) causes such as developing vitiligo, or being born with albinism (a genetic condition which exists in all ethnicities not just black people). Removal of melanin literally turns a darker skinned/haired person white (but obviously not changing other features).

The American TV show Everybody Hates Chris, based on comedian Chris Rock's childhood experiences made almost THE EXACT SAME JOKE more than once [1] [2], making fun of the very strict African-American mother trope of threatening a misbehaving child with 'slapping the black out of you'.

The laundry commercial may have some problematic connections with the ideas of 'clean' and 'attractive'.

America has a long history of minority TV shows aimed at mass audiences tackling stereotypes, Everybody Loves Raymond for Italian-Americans, Fresh Off the Boat for Asian-Americans, and a huge number of African-American cast shows including The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Belair etc. Comedy shows with characters with minority experiences are a good way to improve understanding. It will be unfortunate if lighthearted comedy dies because excessive political correctness.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44mTfEcP76o [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPmqVW_qLmk


Please don't post like this here, no matter how you feel about another comment.


Interesting that you select only one example from the parent to construct an ad-hominem attack, and conveniently ignore the example that was provided that started in the 70's. Such a sharp rebuttal of parent's thesis is sure to convince many readers.

You tell 'em, Grandpa!

"黑日牙膏" or "Black Person Toothpaste" is one of the top two or three toothpastes in China, English name "Darlie," used to be "Darkie," and the logo is basically an old U.S. blackface comedy picture, now changed a bit (similar to the name's slight makeover). This masterpiece is by Hawley & Hazel, owned by Colgate-Palmolive. The idea is that black people have very white teeth...

Seeing is believing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlie

You didn't hear about it because the majority of the West is too busy directing their moral outrage at the most ethnically diverse country on Earth, which, surprisingly, has problems with racism.

My pet theory is that this is because Americans are one of the few groups of people who are willing to accept the fact that they have problems with racism. Every other country mostly just denies the existence of any racism that crops up (or overreacts in the opposite direction) and is therefore not so easy a target.

If you think that country is US you are hilariously mistaken https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-ethnically-diverse-...

Africa and India are more diverse than US

If I'm not mistaken, that study doesn't take into account how similar ethnic groups are. It would assign the same diversity index to a 50% Catalan, 50% Spanish country, as to a 50% Finnish, 50% Ugandan country.


Measuring purely the number of technically different ethnicities is a silly way of calculating diversity. You need to look at the delta between the ethnicities if you want to talk about diversity that isn't purely on paper.

I probably should've just said "racially", but oh well.

Yeah probably US is most racially diverse

Well it's going to depend on your definitions. By American categories, India is 100% asian, and almost every sub-saharan country is 100% black. Of course local definitions vary.

But that aside, GP has a point that contemporary American culture spends a lot of energy worrying about this. The energy expended is a poor measure of the size of the problem.

==By American categories, India is 100% asian, and almost every sub-saharan country is 100% black. Of course local definitions vary.==

But the claim was about "ethnicities", not races. People frequently refer to their ethnicity as Irish, Sicilian, Catalan, etc. Rarely have I heard someone say their ethnicity is white.

==The energy expended is a poor measure of the size of the problem.==

Who gets to be the judge of the size of the problem? If a certain race or ethnicity is spending a lot of energy on this, maybe it is incumbent on everyone else to re-assess the true size of the problem.

I'm not defending that the US is the "most ethnically diverse", I think that's far from true, but pointing out that this isn't an unambiguously defined question. I'm not sure I've never heard anyone state an ethnicity, but have heard the same people state belonging to multiple groups in different contexts. The dividing lines between what's an ethnicity and what's a race or a language group tend not to translate accurately between different places.

Judging the extent of racial prejudice is also hard. But only crazy people think the US is more racist now than 100 years ago. 100 years ago the NYT did not devote many pages to white self-flagellation. Nor does China today. Nor does Liberia, for that matter.

Why would we compare the US today to the US 100 years ago? Should the Jim Crow-era really be our North Star?

Categorizing it like this could be viewed minimizing today’s prejudice by comparing to prejudice of 100 years ago. I think the goal is to get to zero prejudice, so let’s compare against that.

“Women don’t have it so bad today, 100 years ago they couldn’t even vote.”

I write pretty carefully, kindly try not to put words into my mouth.

My reason for comparing real things, not utopias, is that we can learn things from them. Because they exist, or existed. And what you learn here is that the volume of argument about a bad thing is a poor indication of the prevalence of this bad thing. Quite possibly anti-correlated.

Here's an easier example for you. The Guardian is full of articles of a feminist bent, decrying the wage gap, etc. Literally every day there are half a dozen. The Saudi newspapers are not like this. There are no snarky comments about the princes all being men of the same racial group. This difference in the volume of discourse does not indicate that women have it worse in London than in Riyadh. And observing this simple fact does not indicate approval of the situation in either country.

The easier example involves comparing a single, privately-owned British newspaper in a democracy to all newspapers in an absolute monarchy?

==This difference in the volume of discourse does not indicate that women have it worse in London than in Riyadh.==

This is a strawman, as nobody has ever claimed they have it worse. However, the wage gap in England effects women in London directly and they have the ability to change it through voting. Do you see how that is different from state-sponsored/controlled media in a country that makes no attempt at equality?

==And observing this simple fact does not indicate approval of the situation in either country.==

But using one country's scenario in an attempt to diminish the plight of people in another is implying that we have to choose one. It's a false choice because we can work on improving Saudi Arabia from the outside while actively voting for improvement in England from within. To clarify, I don't live in England, but this applies to any comparison of what another country is doing (specifically, a non-democratic country).

Um, there was this thing called Apartheid in South Africa, and it wasn't between 100% black people. Yes, America has some terrific difficulties with race, but no, its not the only country with these issues. Saying America is the most diverse is ignorant.

  *almost* every
The US is more racially diverse than SA.

Sure i am responding to africa being 100% black which SA certainly isnt

Right, except iguy didn't say "South Africa is 100% black" or "every subsaharan country is 100% black".

He said "almost every subsaharan country is 100% black".

Africa is a continent while India is a country. India is indeed much diverse than almost other countries.

The World Atlas link shows 16 African countries more ethnically diverse than India.

It's not surprising that a continent is more diverse than a country.

Sure, but that’s not what I, or the World Atlas, said. There are 16 individual African countries more diverse than India.

1 Guinea 2 Tanzania 3 Democratic Republic of Congo 4 Uganda 5 Liberia 6 Cameroon 7 Togo 8 South Africa 9 Congo 10 Madagascar 11 Gabon 12 Kenya 13 Ghana 14 Malawi 15 Guinea-Bissau 16 Somalia

Fair enough. I was thinking more in terms of the delta between the different ethnic groups, not in terms of the sheer number of technically different ethnicities.

This advertisement "takes inspiration" from an advertisement aired in Italy a few years before [1]. Even the music is the same. In that case though nobody complained since the person changes from white to black so it was more self-irony than racism.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-TsQIpK1Zk

Focussing on a single Ad in the entire continent of China is a bit weird. This only caused outrage in the US, where political correctnes seems a national political passtime; who can be offended the fastest and most often? Win TV time as a politician!

Here is the _exact_ same ad in Italy, but reversed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dntfod-Cbo

No one bats an eye.

The is a big problem in China regarding racism, mostly because of the simple fact they aren't multicultaral like the West; it's just iganorance really.

Not exactly reversed. A clean Chinese guy never comes out of the laundry. One additional note: you will not see a gender reversal for these ads, where a men gets himself a more attractive girl. At least in the West.

China continent ?

Horrible is a matter of taste. I thought it was hilarious.

> “If we just show laundry like all the other advertisements, ours will not stand out.”

He's right. I haven't paid as much attention to a detergent ad since Tide's Superbowl ad.

> “If we just show laundry like all the other advertisements, ours will not stand out.”

Very similar to the Gillette thing, in a way. Makes sense when you think about it.


That’s why it surprised me that over 50% of the ads in China often feature non-Chinese/non-Asian models.

Not only that, but if you go to the theaters, more than half the movies are non-Chinese.

Can you imagine turning on the TV in the US and seeing ad after ad featuring Asian models? Or going to the theater and seeing that over half the movies are Asian movies with—gasp—subtitles!

With how homogeneous China is, I’m surprised they are willing to consume such a diverse set of media, even Bollywood films can do well there!

About "French book" etc, I don't think this is particularly different in other languages - we have phrases like "french kiss" or "dutch oven" or "it's all greek to me" in English that have nothing to do with the country involved and everything to do with some historical stereotype or linguistic accident.

There is a vast difference between randomly labeling some things with a nationality, and labeling everything about a nationality the same way.

If I say 'French car' I don't mean 'sexy car', if I say 'that French dude with brown hair' it doesn't have any connotations about sex or something.

True. But I think "French" in particular was used this way for lots of things in English, maybe 100 years ago. "French letter", advertising "French lessons", etc. I guess it faded as the place became less exotic.

Considering how common french fries and french toast are, it's a fairly unhelpful generalization to teach to students. Aside from a french kiss, there aren't many common phrases in US vernacular that still make the association french=sexy.

For what it’s worth even non-homogenous countries like the US haven’t solved their racial-related issues either. For a while I had thought that Brazil was as close to color-blind as a economically-developed country can be but after reading and learning more about their internal politics and especially after their latest presidential elections it seems that I was wrong.

"For what it’s worth even non-homogenous countries like the US haven’t solved their racial-related issues either."

Problems with racism are global.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recently published a survey (Nov 2018) that examines the experiences of almost 6,000 people of African descent in 12 EU Member States.

The report includes survey results from Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Sweden and the UK.

The FRA state:

"While the survey results paint a dire picture of reality on the ground, they can serve as an important resource for policymakers committed to promoting the full inclusion of people of African descent in the EU."

Summary of weighted results across all surveyed countries (taken from the report): https://imgur.com/a/gcHR5dk

Report: Being Black in the EU


Can you point specifically to a racial issue related to the presidential election? I think the news you read are only repeating the slogans of his opponents.

it's always strange to see communities which have the least amount of foreigners being the most xenophobic (East Germany, US Midwest/flyover, Australian Western Territory, large parts of Eastern Europe etc ...). Not saying xenophobia doesn't exist in the other territories, but it seems exposure and mixing can help a lot.

EDIT: it seems the places where xenophobia doesn't exist are mere pockets in a vast ocean of bigotry.

Funny how you lump the Midwest "flyover" here, the one that elects minorities to Congress, that has giant populations of immigrants from Somalia, middle East, etc, and that doesn't live gated in or secured by a doorman. Maybe your xenophobia for the people of the Midwest arises because you fly over them?

I have spent time flyover country, and, I'm sad to say that IME, the parent's is characterization is much closer than yours.

Would be nice to hear your explanation. I've lived in Midwest and both coasts. Haven't noticed a diversity difference. There are fewer Mexicans is the only difference I noticed. Otherwise lots of cultural diversity. Certainly more than in, say, Portland, Oregon, where everyone is white or Asian.

The interesting thing is what you're doing is really the exact same thing that drives racism. These [1] are the crime rates in the US from the FBI, organized by race. The values are not normalized to population sizes, so if one group makes up e.g. 50% of the sources of a crime that means something rather different if they make up 10% of the population or 60%. You'll find there is a strong correlation between discrimination and aggregate behavior of a group. And this is not just a trend in the US but worldwide and throughout history.

And to be clear I'm in no way alluding to any specific group. For instance Irish were heavily discriminated against in the US. They were considered alcoholics prone to violence and criminality. "No Irish Need Apply" was a typical phrase seen throughout the US. However, this stereotype yielding to discrimination was not driven by fantasy. This aggregate behavior did exist. And as the aggregate behavior rates changed, so did views against the group. Now they're just another group lumped in by the amount of melanin in their skin as if that identifies their cultural or genetic roots.

So back to your example calling East Germans xenophobic is laughably untrue in some cases. Merkel is very East German and probably not the first person you'd list when speaking of xenophobes. Yet of course if you were somehow able to poll individuals in xenophobic tendencies, you'd probably find a substantially higher aggregate rate in East Germany than in e.g. Belgium. Yet by now just claiming 'East Germans' are the most xenophobic, you engage in the exact same behavior you'd hope to combat.

This is not picking on you, and I'm certainly not offended. I'm just pointing out a rather ironic point. Ultimately, I think we should focus on behavior. Asking East Germans to, collectively, stop engaging in as much racist behavior is probably a smarter choice than my asking you to stop referring to East Germans as xenophobes.

[1] - https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-...

My favorite example is Darlie toothpaste. It used to be called Darkie toothpaste, based on the idea that black peoples have exceptionally white teeth. The Chinese name is still “black person toothpaste.”

Kind of reminds me of Aunt Jemima Syrup.

Sounds like they have similar origins. Darlie/Darkie is just a bit more overt.

China is not homogenous. There are 50 something recognised minorities.

It's just that until recently the Han have been too busy attempting to subjugate them.

> With China being very homogeneous in terms of race

Uh, no.

> Don't be snarky. Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.


Uh, yes. For the country as a whole Han Chinese are 91.6%. The workers who go to Kenya are probably from coastal regions, where the ratio will be even higher.


Uh, no. There are fifty five formally recognized by the PRC including ones they're actively trying to exterminate (e.g. Uyghur). Within the Han community there is still a significant amount of diversity including countless dialects of the Mandarin and Cantonese languages. Your comment is a bit like claiming that with all the white people in Europe, it's not a very diverse place.

In contrast the Japanese government recognizes about four indigenous races.

I don’t think the parent commenter is far off here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China#Ethnic....

Granted, Han Chinese in the modern sense is a bit of a constructed identity (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/6e312e/is_th...), but it’s a construction that has held up in China.

With the exception of Guangdong and Hong Kong, you aren’t going to find many TV stations or newspapers that are carrying content in non-Mandarin Chinese. Yes, when I visit older family in the countryside, they may still speak their local dialect, but that is becoming increasingly rare: https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/06/on-saving-....

Unlike in the US where African and French influences produced creole, and American pop culture has strong African and Latin influences, I don’t think minority group culture in China has anywhere near the same pull. Yes, they may trot out ethnic minority performers once a year during the CCTV New Year’s Gala, but you will not find “minority” singers charting on best seller lists, or “minority” actors in leading entertainment roles.

A 90%+ majority ethnic group is on par with what we see in Western Europe. Do Europeans see themselves as primarily multi-ethnic states? The self-description of a “melting pot” that is commonly used in the US, Canada, and even Central America don’t seem to be nearly as prevalent in Europe.

>With the exception of Guangdong and Hong Kong, you aren’t going to find many TV stations or newspapers that are carrying content in non-Mandarin Chinese.

Just a quick clarification: Mandarin is a spoken form of Chinese, and therefore cannot be "printed" in a newspaper. In Guangdong, the newspapers are printed in simplified Chinese characters. In Hong Kong, the newspapers are printed in traditional Chinese characters.

Mandarin is 普通话, the common speech, standard Chinese. It is based to a very large extent on what the people of the Northern Plain speak, more specifically those of Beijing. The written form of it, which absolutely is also Mandarin is the form of Chinese which took over from Classical Chinese during the Republic of China.

Traditional and Simplified Charcters are only barely relevant to this. The only spoken varieties of Chinese with vernacular literatures are Mandarin and Cantonese. All writing in Chinese is in one or the other. Even in Hong Kong and Macau the overwhelming majority of writing is in Mandarin. It follows Mandarin grammar and vocabulary and can be read without any special difficulty by Mandarin monoglots. Written Cantonese is basically unintelligible to them. It’s used for songs, occasionally subtitling, a very small corpus of fiction and dialogue in court transcripts and scripts. This is orthogonal to the use of Traditional or Simplified characters. You can write any of the dialects of Serbo-Croatian in Latin or Cyrillic characters. That doesn’t make any of them Russian, or German.

It may be true that Mandarin is based to a very large extent on what the people of the Northern Plain speak, more specifically those of Beijing. I have no idea, but I've heard it said so many times that I'm willing to consider the possibility while waiting for an explanation to my question.

My question is: if this is true, why the heck is the pronunciation for standard Mandarin so different from the standard Beijing and northern accents? Seriously, especially with all the "er"s at the end of various characters. It does not sound similar to what is taught in standard Mandarin classes, and I speak as one who learned standard Mandarin for a number of years (in Canada and in China) and also lived in Beijing for a bit. I'd really like this explained to me, because the ear test tells me this is not true. But again, I've heard it said so many times that I am willing to consider it's possible.

Mandarin is based on the Northern topolect 北方话 but not identical with it. It’s a koiné[1] a dialect that emerged from communication between people who spoke mutually intelligible dialects, like Shamghainese for its river delta. That’s one reason it’s different. The other is the substantial influence from Nanjing Mandarin which would have been considered higher prestige than Beijing Mandarin into the 1800s. Beijing is the biggest influence but Mandarin is really the lingua franca of educated Inperial officials, many of whom would have come from areas where Mandarin doesn’t have retroflex r and of people for whom any variety of Mandarin was a foreign language, learned in adulthood. Lots of these people would just think the 儿话 is for peasants.


This is quite interesting. I'd like to do more research to confirm the veracity, but it would make sense, thanks.

I think you should form your opinion after hearing what Cantonese (and other regional "dialects") sound like. Then you should be able to appreciate just how close the Northern speech is to Standard Chinese.

I'm not sure why you think I don't know what other dialects sound like. I know what various languages and dialects in China sound like, and am most familiar with Cantonese, Sichuanese, Hunanese, Hakka, Shanghainese, and Yi. Yi sounds positively African and is not a fair comparison, given that it doesn't even share the same writing system and is probably an actually completely different language family. Sichuanese sounds fairly close to standard Mandarin in many respects, and I'm not confident that it's more different from standard Mandarin pronunciation than the northern speech is. My opinion stands after extensive travel throughout northern, southern, eastern, and western China.

Is this the Yi you speak of?


It appears to be a Tai Chinese creole or mixed language (like a creole but without the massive simplification in grammar).

Yi(Loloish) is definitely a different language family though that wouldn’t stop people writing in Mandarin if they really wanted to. Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese were all written as if they were Classical Chinese to greater or lesser extents until relatively recently.


I’ve heard Sichuanese described as Mandarin without tones. All of Sìchuān speaks different forms of Mandarin for the same reason Manchurians do, recent massive resettlement, though not as recent as in 东北.


No, it's the language of the Nuosu people to which I'm referring. Yeah, them being a different language family wouldn't stop them from writing in Mandarin. I know that, having learned Japanese and Korean. My point is that if the original written language is different between two languages, it is a strong indicator that they come from different language families. This does not stop them from starting to use the same writing system at some point in history, especially if one of the languages has no original written form.

If Sichuanese sounds similar to Mandarin due to migration, it would certainly explain a lot. Thanks for that bit of information. But I would say that the differences between Sichuanese and standard Mandarin would be more from pronunciation differences than tonal differences.

It looks like Nuosu and Loloish are different ways of referring to the same language (group) with Lolo being the Chinese name and Nuosu being their name for themselves.


> Nuosu is one of several often mutually unintelligible varieties known as Yi, Lolo, Moso, or Noso; the six Yi languages recognized by the Chinese government hold only 25% to 50% of their vocabulary in common. They share a common traditional writing system, though this is used for shamanism rather than daily accounting.

I bow to your superior expertise when it comes to the differences between Sichuanese and Mandarin but all of Sìchuān is definitely part of the Mandarin speaking area.

The book to buy if you’re interested in this is the Language Atlas of China.


As a native Hong Konger, I concur this is the most succinct and accurate description of the situation with Cantonese. Thank you!

Not sure why you're getting downvoted, this is correct.

Mandarin and Cantonese are regional dialects, Mandarin gained prominence because emperors from about the 1600s resided in Northern China and in Beijing which used a lot of Mandarin Chinese, thus it spread due to being a prestige language used by the royal family and their courtiers. Cantonese is prominent in certain areas of Southern China in the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.



Hong Kong and Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese, Mainland China and Singapore/Malaysian Chinese uses Simplified Chinese for their text.



I personally find fangyan as a better descriptor than dialect:


> Not sure why you're getting downvoted, this is correct.

No it's not, because it's fundamentally confused about what it means to write a language down.

> I personally find fangyan as a better descriptor than dialect

The literal translation of fangyan is "topolect", i.e. "the way people talk in a certain place". It only came to mean "dialect" due to some weird miscommunication when Western linguistic terminology was introduced in China. So that's the translation dictionaries give, and it's correct except when it's used to describe languages within China, where the traditional meaning of "topolect" continues to be used.

Um. No. Mandarin is a language. Cantonese, which in your example is used in Hong Kong, is grammatically distinct from Mandarin. Changing from simplified to traditional characters or vice versa is not sufficient to translate from one to the other.

We don’t really have an analogue to this in the West, but Mandarin and Cantonese are very similar in their written forms, yet mutually unintelligible in their spoken forms. There are some differences due to different history and some different vocabulary, but broadly speaking, Chinese characters maintain the same meaning across dialects (and also when they’re used in Japanese), while changing their pronunciations.

Simplified vs traditional is a different issue, and all dialects can be written in either simplified or traditional. Which is more prevalent usually depends on tradition, and relations with the PRC. Singapore and the PRC use simplified, while Taiwan, HK, and Japanese Kanji use traditional.

The situation is somewhat comparable to English and French, where a significant shared vocabulary with identical orthography allows making educated guesses. That's not enough for fluent understanding, since many words that are common in one language only appear as rare alternatives to more natural expressions in the other. For example, the Cantonese pronoun 佢 doesn't ever appear in Mandarin texts.

Except the average educated Macanese or Hong Kong person can’t write in Cantonese. They write in something much closer to Standard Mandarin, with its grammar and vocabulary, than Cantonese.

It’s much more similar to the sistuation with Arabic where the various “dialects” are as distinct from each other as the Romance languages, i.e. French, Spanish, Italian etc. but the only written standard is Modern Standard Arabic. Mandarin or something close to it is at least someone’s native tongue. MSA is about as close to Maghrebi or Mashreqi Arabic as Latin is to Portuguese or Romanian.

And if I understand right, the reason is that the written language is more distinct from the spoken one(s) than in the west. Perhaps more like written mathematics, is this a terrible analogy? Russians write the same formulae with the exact same meaning, but say them over the phone completely differently.

Interesting! Is it at all comparable to how Scandinavians can read each other’s languages but most have a hard time understanding the spoken languages?

Much more divergent, less like Danish and Bokmal (Dano-Norwegian) or Swedish than French and Romanian. But Romanians write in French which they can translate on the fly into Romanian as they read though a very different form of Romanian than what people speak. And written Romanian is used for scripts, songs, transcripts and under a 100 novels. French is Mandarin, Romanian is Cantonese. None of the other topolects have a standard written form that’s used much.

"And written Romanian is used for scripts, songs, transcripts and under a 100 novels"

You meant that there are only less than 100 novels written in Romanian? If yes, that's one of the most absurd claims I've read in my life.

I meant it as an analogy where Romanian is Cantonese and French is Mandarin. I’m not certain there are less than 100 novels in Cantonese but I’d happily bet 2% of my net worth on it. The Chinese language page for written Cantonese[1] lists one author and his English language Wikipedia page doesn’t mention his writing. Irish is a dying language and it both has more written in it and a more active literary scene.


Chinese characters are hieroglyphs: they don’t have any relationship to their pronunciations.

For example, 火, the character for fire, is a (slightly) stylized brushstroke picture of a fire.

Mutually unintelligible communications that use the same pictures are distinct languages, but there are political implications to acknowledging this, so they’re “dialects”. As the saying goes, a language is a dialect with an army and a navy.

Less than 500, probably less than 200 characters are like that. Most are composed of a sound component and a meaning component, except there has been over a thousand years for sound shifts to render the sound component misleading.

If you want to learn more the Wikipedia article is a great place to start.


I actually read both Simplified and Traditional Chinese and can read long novels in both. Understanding the speech is another business but translating and understanding the text is much easier.

China is racially diverse but culturally homogeneous. For reasons that are millennia-old, China has pursued a policy of promoting Mandarin language and culture; while it might celebrate the traditional clothing of the Hui or the music of the Uyghur, it makes damned sure that they all speak Mandarin in school and learn Han literature and Han values. Non-Han culture is tolerated, but only within very strict state-controlled parameters.

Europe is very much a melting pot, to a degree that would surprise many Americans. We don't necessarily have as many black or brown faces, but our cities often have very large populations of recent immigrants with strikingly different cultural values. Britain has about the same number of Muslims as the United States, despite having about a fifth of the overall population.

Fox News ran stories about "no-go areas for non-Muslims" in Britain, which is completely bogus and hugely incendiary but reflects the large and concentrated population of Muslims. The cities of Blackburn, Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester all have Muslim populations of over 20%; it's not unusual to find primary (elementary) schools that are >90% Muslim. There are neighbourhoods where the majority of women wear headscarves and the majority of restaurants and supermarkets sell Halal food. Choosing not to integrate is very much an option in most of Europe, so a lot of places feel very foreign.

I think you genuinely think you're right and everyone else wrong. I'm not sure how to explain to you the implications of over 90% if you don't understand already. China could have a million ethnic groups and it wouldn't change the specific situation being discussed when you have one group over 90%.

Your comment and the parent can be true at the same time.

A quick search leads me to this Wikipedia entry that claims exactly that:

As of 2010, the combined population of officially recognised minority groups comprised 8.49% of the population of mainland China.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_minorities_in_China

Coastal regions are 98% Han Chinese. They love to tell you about those 50 ethnic groups, but most of them live in the "wild west". Places, like Tibet that China annexed at some point. Normal Chinese don't have much contact with those groups. They don't work in the same office or date.


I don't understand why you're taking Japan as a contrasting example. Japan has roughly one tenth of China's population. According to your own numbers they have one tenth of native ethnicities. Thus that metric is not striking me as contrasting.

Perhaps a better metric would be the ratio of the dominant ethnic group to the whole population which Japan is perhaps is the country that has the highest one.

I think I posted this before but my old university buddy who's from Zambia, jokes with me that the Chinese are colonization 2.0

The Chinese government have no scruples which is why they are out-competing Western companies and governments in Africa, who are tied behind political and moral restrictions. Also the Chinese have a major resource in man power which they can deploy anywhere for cheap.

Globalization and colonization have been always linked and globalization usually starts with either with colonization or something that looks like it. Adam Smith himself argued that the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus accelerated the process of globalisation [1] (without using the word globalisation).

When Chines build roads to extract resources with questionable intent, those roads and electric grids are free for all and not all traffic goes to China. Some even question the net value of Chinese efforts for the Chinese.

[1]: https://www.economist.com/free-exchange/2013/09/23/when-did-...

> my old university buddy who's from Zambia, jokes with me that the Chinese are colonization 2.0

Lived there myself, can confirm.

Yup, China built railroads and other infrastructure at a relatively low price in Africa, they have no scruples. Not to mention died dozens of workers in 80s. Some Western companies are plumbing oil in Africa, they are moral heros.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/04/shell-ni...

For the most part, Chinese in China don't have a culture of condemning racism like the US or other western nations. As apparent in the video, he isn't even ashamed of being called racist.

That’s because China’s racism is more about stereotypes and less about physical KKK type violence.

If there was violence, it would definitely be condemned.

The best analogy I can think of is the current Harvard Affirmative Action lawsuit. There are people who don’t feel they are racist/biased, but somehow justify to themselves that having a quota on Asian American students is fine.

Google "uighur muslims china", and you will see its much more "physical" than you claim

The picture in this tweet is very timely and appropriate to this post.


If you think this picture is photoshopped, it's not. Check out the video: http://v.ifeng.com/dyn/m/video/32078215/index.shtml

Can anyone knowledgeable comment on the depth of Kenya's internal divisions?

From the NYT's perspective clearly Kenya is racially uniform, but I know that there was significant political violence at recent elections, to do with which tribe or language group candidates or parties represented. Do such distinctions matter only at voting time, or do they matter in everyday life too... like whether X landlords will be happy to rent to Y people, or employ Z? Can such distinctions be perceived immediately on the street (e.g. from accent) or only once you know someone's surname, or something?

A westerner who used to live in Kenya for about 6 months. The tribal divisions are very much present in Kenya. You can tell the tribe that someone belongs to by their surname and to a lesser extent by physical appearance.

People are definitely more happy to hire others from their own tribe or rent rooms to them but it's more just nepotism than outright racism, at least in larger cities.

The violence that happened during the last elections was also driven mostly by political factors first, rather than race. It just so happens that the president Kenyatta and the political elites of Kenya come mostly from the Kikuyu tribe, which then leads to tensions along tribal lines.

In my experience, the tribal divisions are more pronounced in the countryside. Until recently, in some parts of the country there has been open conflict between tribes, e.g between Turkana and Samburu in the north. I have witnessed numerous times the Samburu use racial slurs to describe the Turkana and vice versa.

Thanks, that's helpful.

This is almost certainly going to be an unpopular view but when you view the Chinese behaviour through the lens of a Western view of the world, you are insensitive to the fact that modern Chinese culture has a really different starting point, the nation is mostly ethnically homogenous and was not really involved in the enslavement.

I'm not necessarily out to defend the behaviour of this person - I think they were pretty callous, and some of the other practices also seem pretty horrendous but I also think some of the offence readers of this article may take come from projecting our own personal views onto the behaviour of others, ignorant of the different origins and cultural contexts of the offender.

When slurs such as referring to people as monkeys are used by the Chinese, they are not steeped with the kind of hatred and historical context when wielded by someone from the West.

---That doesn't make it any less hurtful or insensitive---

That said, it also doesn't necessarily carry the same intent as it may outside of China. Comparison with animals is far more normalized and entrenched in culture: for instance, everyone is assigned a zodiac by their birth month and the Monkey King is a household mythological hero.

This article made me think of a Chinese film called ‘The Wolf Warrior 2’ where the benevolent Chinese save an unnamed African country. I believe it’s one of the highest grossing Chinese films ever and might shed some light on Chinese attitudes toward Africa/Africans.

It feels like ‘Starship Troopers’ level propaganda and is completely straight faced.

The villagers constantly thank the Chinese hero for his over-the-tip acts of bravery, they celebrate when he wins local drinking contests, etc.


It doesn't help that in China down to Southeast Asia, the tanner your skin is, the less respect you get. That being that those who are more tan are people who work fields historically.

Why does the nytimes offer translations into Chinese? I've never seen that for articles to do with Russia for example?

> Why does the nytimes offer translations into Chinese? I've never seen that for articles to do with Russia for example?

I think it started because they tried to start a Chinese edition for the PRC, but that was eventually blocked after they published a story the communists didn't like.

Maybe continuing to pay for translations is not too expensive in the grand scheme of things, and keeps them well-positioned (with mind-share and the like) if there's ever a thaw and they're unblocked.

The ongoing Chinese colonization of Africa is one of the biggest stories the western news media has absolutely no interest in reporting.

The ongoing Chinese colonization of Africa is one of the biggest stories the western news media has absolutely no interest in reporting.

Perhaps because the Chinese are not (being allowed) to 'colonize Africa'. They may have a large presence in East Africa but are of limited significance elsewhere in the continent.

Yeah like every African colonizer ever. What is your point? Colonization doesn't happen in continent-sized chunks.

Eh? Comes up quite a lot in UK broadsheet media.

The BBC made a show about it as far back as 2011.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ykxg9

And here it is from the Chinese perspective:


I watched the video. It shows a Chinese site manager having a confusing interaction with several African workers. He then expresses somewhat racist views to the camera, eg: all Africans are well built because it is a survival of the fittest environment. But I could not follow what you meant by the Chinese perspective. Could you elaborate?

I do recommend watching the documentary in its entirety but there's also an interview with the director that addresses some of the themes in this thread.


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