China · Taiwan

We like your government but hate your kind

It’s not common, according to accounts I’ve read or heard, for Americans traveling abroad to meet people and hear things like “I hate your government but I have nothing against you or your people,” or similar words to that effect. Mostly heard in the Arab world and Middle East (they overlap but are not totally the same), those words reflect the ardent anger and even hate that many regular citizens in those and other places bear towards the US, whether for its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, its support for Israel in its struggles and treatment of Palestinians and the perceived stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists by US media and government officials. Yet many of these US “haters” are also careful to differentiate between their feelings for the US government and regular US citizens. Reciprocally, you’ve also got some Americans and other Westerners who feel the same way towards “enemy” nations which their own nations have problems with.

Unfortunately, this same distinction doesn’t apply to a lot of people here in Taiwan (nor Hong Kong for that matter but that’s another story). In fact, it’s like the opposite of the above scenario exists. There’s a lot of grudging respect, or at least acknowledgment of China’s might and progress, but there’s a lot of disdain and disgust with regular Chinese people or dah-loo yrun (in my own phonetic representation and not real pinyin). Apparently to many locals, “dah-loo yrun” are a lower category, or to put it more starkly, an entirely lower race of people, who have bad manners, unhygienic habits, scruffy appearances and are all liars, crooks, murderers and despicable villains. Yes, China, as a nation, may be strong and on the verge of becoming a world superpower, and the best place to do business, work, study and travel for many Taiwanese. But oh, the people of China- well, that’s another matter altogether.

Many people here are polite and gracious, and like other East Asians, act in a restrained manner in terms of behavior. I don’t think there’s lot of malice or true hatred concerning the negative perceptions of mainland Chinese by Taiwanese, but still it is ignorant and sometimes verges on racism, not that they are separate races, but by virtue of the fact one group sees themselves as superior just by virtue of being from a different place from the other group who they feel are inferior. Another thing is that I’m quite sure that some whites in the American South or even South Africa may not have malice in their hearts when they say offensive or discriminatory things against blacks, things that aren’t back up by concrete facts but are based on emotions; but it doesn’t make their statements any less offensive. So for instance, the recent anti-South Korean sentiments that ran rampant briefly in Taiwan a few weeks ago over the supposed unfair suspension of a Taiwan athlete in a taekwondo match in the Guangzhou Asian Games weren’t exactly hateful. However, to see front-page newspaper photos of Taiwan shopowners standing proudly, and smiling broadly, outside their stores with signs plastered proclaiming that no Koreans were allowed inside reeked of a blatant racism, made all the more worse by the utter childishness and immaturity of those shopowners, which probably reflect the attitude of many locals.

I know that things may be more complex than I could ever adequately describe or understand when it comes to cross-Taiwan Strait social and personal perceptions, but people here need to wisen up and be more open-minded when it comes to understanding their “cousins” across the Strait. Whether they be students, office workers, scientists or even peasant-cum-manual laborers, the dah-loo yrun are a more hardier, hard-working and resourceful people than Taiwanese (and Hong Kongers) understand.

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