China’s Changing Views on Race

The New York Times has run an online forum about race in China, featuring Yan Sun, political scientist, Ho-fung Hung, historical sociologist, Zai Liang, sociologist, and Dongyan Blachford, professor of Chinese studies. From Yan Sun’s comments:

When it comes to ethnic relations and perceptions, China is a paragon of contradictions: its majority ethnic group, the Hans, are non-racist in the sense that most are not aware of their own multiethnic background and care little about it.

The surname of the Chinese leader Hu Jingtao is multiethnic in origin, meaning “foreign, barbarian.”

But they hold prejudices, not only about China’s minorities and foreigners but also about members of their own group, in that those deemed more “developed” receive deference, while those deemed “backward” are looked down upon. If Western racism is about genetic dispositions, Chinese prejudices and racism are more about achievements and standing in the world as applied to individuals or groups.

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