China’s Plan To Relax Immigration Rules Spurs All Sorts Of Hateful Comments From Nationalistic Chinese
As the Beijinger pointed out, the new rules won’t “exactly open the floodgates” to immigrants. But regardless of the actual impact of the move, the news ignited a firestorm of angry posts on social media, providing an outlet for the crudest racist and xenophobic sentiments.
“I don’t wanna see China becoming a country like America in hundreds of years, a place where people of different colors live together. I hope that China’s territory only welcomes pure Chinese people to reside. We Huaxia people share a strong sense of patriotism. When one is in trouble, others feel obligated to help out,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese), adding that if the labor force is seriously depleted, China should completely abandon its family planning policies to boost its birth rate instead of easing its immigration restrictions.
The widespread xenophobia on the Chinese internet didn’t come out of nowhere. As a homogeneous country that thrives on a strong and sometimes aggressive sense of national identity, China, on the policy level, is traditionally hostile to outside influences and unwelcoming to immigrants. Even under the proposed rules, China offers no path to citizenship. In practice, the main benefit that comes with Chinese green cards is a prolonged residence period compared to work visas.
In a Weibo post (in Chinese) that’s basically a rant about “foreign trash” (洋垃圾 Yánglājī), a derogatory term used by Chinese people to describe who they think are barbarian expats, a person wrote, “If we really want to attract top-level extraordinary talent from other countries, why are we lowering our standards?”
The backlash was steeped in long-standing anxieties caused by what many Chinese see as preferential treatment for foreigners in China, especially international students. Last July, Shandong University came under fire over a study buddy program that paired foreign students with local students of the opposite sex. The scandal was so severe that it forced the Ministry of Education to clarify its stance, saying that Chinese students and overseas students studying in China should be treated nearly equally with minor differences.
The news, coupled with the outrage it stoked, also amplified a specific form of hatred toward black people living in China. One of the most outrageously racist comments on Weibo reads (in Chinese), “I’m strongly against introducing black people to our country. It scares me thinking about our offspring being mixed with black.”
In trying to absolve themselves from accusations of racism, many of those who wrote hateful messages about black people stressed that by no means were they racists. “Black people as a population group are lazy and unhygienic. Having them in China is bound to cause myriad problems. It’s not racist for me to say that because it’s a fact,” a Weibo user commented.
On the video-streaming platform Bilibili, someone shared a video (in Chinese) filmed by a young black man named Shawn. In the clip, the man, who lived in China for 11 years, tries to offer his personal counter-narrative in fluent Chinese. He says:
“I grew up watching Xiyangyang (喜羊羊 Xǐyángyáng). I eat Chinese food. I speak Chinese. Every step I make is on Chinese streets. I’m no different from you except my face. But many people on the internet told me I didn’t deserve to be here. Some even called me the n-word. This was probably just a joke to them, but it profoundly upset me.”
Since being posted on March 2, the video has been flooded with negative comments and straight-up racial slurs. “Black nigga go back to your country,” a typical comment reads. As of March 5, the clip has attracted almost 200,000 views and more than 6,300 comments, most of which are blatantly racist.
To make things worse, a litany of misogynists who feared that foreign males would “steal” Chinese women from them found a sneaky way to insert their agenda into the discourse. Gathering around the hashtag #中国女孩, they constructed an egocentric campaign where they made overly sentimental promises to protect Chinese women from what they saw as “intruders.” One wrote (in Chinese), “Don’t panic, Chinese girls. You will be protected by us. We are not dead yet.” Adopting the language of racists, another person wrote, “I’m probably not the best man in this world. But I will not allow those black stuff to touch our Chinese girls at all costs.”