Op-ed by Yan Xia, the chief editor of Vision China Times, an independent Chinese language media in Australia.
An article I published a few days ago, Don’t Stand Up If You Can’t Undertake the Responsibility, has received a lot of feedback. Some readers asked what was wrong with an open letter that “opposes ‘racism’” and supports “unbiased media reports”? My answer is, Zhuangzi, an influential Chinese philosopher, once said: “A man should not be judged as wise for only kind words.” It means, even when someone does well on the surface, he should not be considered wise if he has questionable motivations.
As a free and democratic country, Australia prides itself on the success of its multiculturalism. Australian society upholds justice and civilization, with widespread harmony among various ethnic groups. Australia is also a country ruled by law; therefore, any discrimination that involves insults, defamations, humiliations, and threats due to skin color, race, or religion is strictly prohibited by law. This also means the so-called “anti-Chinese” and “discrimination” in Australia will never become mainstream.
I’ve been the chief editor of a Chinese newspaper for many years. Until now, I do not believe that racism toward Chinese is prevalent in Australian society. April 8 is the day when Wuhan, the source of the pandemic, lifted its lockdown. Coincidentally on the same day, some “influential” members of the Chinese-Australian community chose to publish an “open letter.” The letter determinedly condemned an imaginary fundamental situation that never existed; it’s hard not to relate this coincidence to possible political motivations behind the scenes that may involve acting upon certain unsaid instructions from the Chinese government.
In recent years, there have always been groups of people peddling the narrative that Australian society displays prevalent “anti-China” or “racist” phenomena. Why? This question is worthy of further consideration.
When the Australia government enforced the new foreign influence transparency laws, the Chinese government was quick to point out the laws were directed at it. It claimed that this kind of law is “anti-Chinese,” “humiliating to the Chinese,” and is a form of “discrimination” by Australians toward Chinese-Australians. Putting aside the discussion of whether this law is implemented against China or not, the CCP’s statement has already intentionally bound Chinese-Australians with the Chinese government as if we are one.
Why would any Chinese living in Australia attempt to stop the Australian government from passing foreign influence transparency laws when the purpose of these laws is to resist foreign interference? Yet Chinese community leaders, such as Huang Xiangmo and Ernest Wong, who insist on “representing the Chinese,” continue to stir up the community with “anti-Chinese” and “racism” rhetoric to resist the Australian government from passing these laws.
Australian society is stable and misleading narratives will not become mainstream. Despite some persons with ulterior motives attempting to hijack the Chinese community to cause serious damage to Australian politics, economy, culture, and many other fields, the government and various ethnic groups in Australia have never conflated the Chinese community and the Chinese government. Australia may have some narratives against the Chinese communist regime, but there is no existence of “anti-Chinese” forces or “discrimination.”
The Australian “overseas Chinese leaders” and “elites” have issued many “open letters.” For instance, there was a request for the Australian government to support China on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and another demanding that the Australian government reverse its decision and allow Huang Xiangmo to return to Australia, just to name a few. It seems that every time when requests are made on behalf of Chinese-Australians, the reality is, the instigators are covertly helping out a foreign government. None of these requests affect Chinese-Australians personally and have nothing to do with the Chinese community.
Since COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan and spread to the rest of the world causing large numbers of death, the public has been criticizing China for concealing the pandemic to the international community. When Australian society is battling the virus, appalling actions from some Chinese businesses in relation to exporting personal protective equipment has truly caused discontent from Westerners toward Chinese. When mainstream media uncovered the facts, discussions are always confined to the incident itself. There was no exaggerated reproach on the topic. Since when did criticizing actions of certain Chinese individuals become an injustice to the whole race? At the same time, does condemning the Chinese government to equate to humiliating the Chinese?
This is similar to a few years ago when the Australian media uncovered Huang Xiangmo’s actions, they were labeled as “anti-Chinese”; how could an individual or government represent the entire Chinese community? I do not believe that Chinese elites cannot distinguish the relationship between the government and its people. However, these elites can only see the “complaints and dissatisfaction” of those on the receiving end, while ignoring the harm that some instigators have brought to Australian society.
While the media hypes on about the “open letter,” a video emerged on Twitter of a young Chinese exceeding the limit while purchasing milk powder at a supermarket. When another customer tried to stop him, this young man attempted to attack that customer. The person uploading the video wrote it with a tag line – “Australia has had enough.” The video went viral, with countless Chinese and English comments arousing intense debates, including extreme comments such as “Chinese, get out of Australia.” Faced with this situation, should these Chinese elites also protest against the Australian community for “insults” and “racism” toward Chinese?
Imposing an individual behavior on the entire Chinese community is just the same as elevating a few extreme comments to a widespread “racism toward Chinese”; this is not just biased, but also ignorant. Of course, it would not make any impact on the wider Australian public.
There is a Chinese saying: “A person without credit shall not be trusted; a country without credit shall diminish.” I will not discuss the rise and fall or the credibility of a certain major player, but I wish those elites who are willing to be a public voice for Chinese-Australians knew what is needed to make the world a better place. I truly hope they understand what is right and wrong and do not seek personal gains or discredit Australia without proper facts. When public opinion casts Chinese-Australians into the spotlight, we should not be deliberately conflating the entire Chinese community with wrongdoings of a government, and then use the discrimination rhetoric. This is not only dangerous but also morally wrong.