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Sunday, August 3, 2008

The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

It is thoughtfully essential to consider that much writing and literature that overseas-born Chinese such as myself are exposed to are written in English. For all the flower and endeavour of the language and its native writers, try as it might, it seldom captures the spirit of writing such as Chinese, known for weaving a rather rounded yarn instead of getting straight to the point. Fortunately the number of Chinese scholars well equipped to write in Chinese has bridged the divide rather nicely.

Extracted from a massively useful book I picked up from the Library.

"If we wish to discuss the contemporary Chinese experience in its broadest sense, we must take into account the "overseas Chinese" (huaqiao). Not only do they account for a substantial amount of the world's wealth - in 1992, the Economist listed their liquid assets to be roughly $3 trillion, eqivalent to "all of the bank deposits" in Japan" ("The Overseas Chinese, 1992) - but they live in a wide variety of nation states, retaining their Chinese identity in varying ways...

Concepts of Chinese and non-Chinese as the Chinese perceive them are complicated. The single English word Chinese not only misses certain meanings but may cause confusion. In Chinese, in both the spoken and the written language, many terms are used to reflect racial, cultural, ethnic and national attributes (Zhongguoren, Zhonghua Minzu, huaren, huaqiao, tanren, hanren, and so on.) These terms have evolved through time, some are recently invented, some originated from the Christian era but are still popular among the Chinese. Such singular terms alone, however cannot describe the complex situations of the Chinese identity. The modern cultural concept of Chinese, for example must be understood in the context of China's recent political history. In order to create a modern identity to cope with conditions created by China's confrontation with the Western world, the Chinese were obliged to deal with foreign concepts, including those of nation, state, sovereignty, citizenship, and race, and more recently, cultural and ethnic identity. Chinese officials and intellectuals have difficulty accepting these Western concepts, especially as they apply to Chinese living broad, who are often regarded as foreign nationals living under international law."

Blum & Jensen, eds. (2002) China Off Center - Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom. USA: University of Hawaii Press


The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
253 million Internet Users in China, and they've just recently beat the US in terms of internet users, becoming the new world number 1. And that's only 19.1% penetration of their total market.