Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Gerald Segal, learn Chinese History before teaching It

Gerald Segal, learn Chinese History before teaching It
Bevin Chu
August 18, 1999

Letters Editor
Straits Times

Dear Sir/Madam,

Gerald Segal, in "Forgo blood politics or get left behind" asserts that "in the China-Taiwan dispute, the appeal from one side is that unity is imperative because of blood ties."

This will come as news to 1.2 billion pro-reunification Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits who demand eventual reunification not on the basis of "blood lines," but on the basis of territorial sovereignty.

China has never claimed, for example, that predominantly ethnic Chinese Singapore is part of China's territory. China recognizes that Chinese-Singaporeans emigrated to a foreign country. The same is true of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Nor have ethnic Chinese in these foreign countries ever been anything but "model minorities." They have certainly never demanded anything resembling the Austrian "anschluss." China does maintain however, correctly, that Taiwan and predominantly Tibetan-Chinese Tibet are integral parts of a multiethnic China.

Segal suggests "societies that stick closely to blood and ethnicity will now lose out in the globalised competition for ideas and talent." I for one agree with this 100%. But what does this have to do with rejecting Taiwan independence?

Even the most technologically advanced "borderless" Information Age nations refuse to tolerate the loss of sovereign territory without a struggle. If Mr. Segal doubts this, let him loudly demand that the United States, the home of the internet, allow Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas, each with an independence movement, to secede, and brace himself for the furious outpouring from American patriots.

Mr. Segal would do well to learn a little Chinese history before presuming to lecture others about it. His entire article confirms that "those who are unaware of their ignorance, will only be misled by their knowledge."

Segal seems blissfully unaware that several millennia of what Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis denounce as "mongrelization of the races" is the reason modern China looks so ethnically homogenous, not outmoded German or Japanese "blood-based instincts of identity."

Jews who centuries ago emigrated to Kaifeng are so thoroughly assimilated they are indistinguishable from "native" Chinese. By contrast Jews in Europe and even America remain physically distinct due to incomplete assimilation.

Yet it is China which Segal, writing from white Anglo-Saxon Britain condemns, and the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, four white Anglo-Saxon dominated former British colonies still plagued with anti-Semitism, which Segal lavishes with praise!

Chinese traditionally did not even think of China as a "nation" but simply as "Tien Xia" ("Under Heaven"). The very term "China" is a western neologism. China's universalist vision merged Hans, Manchus, Mongols, Moslems, Tibetans and 51 other ethnic groups, each at one time independent warring foreign nations, into an integrated multiethnic China. Ancient China was the original borderless economy, limited only by the era's primitive transportation.

If Mr. Segal wants to denounce "blood politics" in China, let him denounce Tenzing Gyatso, aka the Dalai Lama, who rejects his identity as a Tibetan-Chinese and instead demands Tibetan racial purity along the lines of his Nazi mentor, SS Captain Heinrich Harrer.

Segal's obsession with "dividing and conquering" China, well known to those familiar with his scribblings, merely reveal his own "dangerous and increasingly antiquated" Kiplingesque way of seeing the Chinese not as fellow human beings, but as an insidious "Yellow Peril" to be nipped in the bud. And Mr. Segal wonders why "solutions are hard to find."


Bevin Chu
Taipei, Taiwan, China

Observations on the history of Jews in China
by Ling-Chi Wang
Associate Professor Emeritus
Ethnic Studies Department, UC Berkeley

Jewish people have a history of about one thousand years in China, dating back to the 10th century and ending in early 20th century when they, excluding the newly arrived Jews in Harbin and Shanghai respectively in first two decades from Russia and from Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, disappeared completely due to their total absorption through generations of inter -marriages with the Chinese. Down the centuries, the religious, economic, and cultural center of Jews in China was at Kaifeng, Henan. Unfortunately, nothing is left of the Jewish community due to assimilation and frequent disastrous flooding in Kaifeng. No doubt religious and racial persecution reinforced Jewish identity and solidarity over time in virtually every country Jews settled into. In China, Jews encountered no such persecution and they eventually were absorbed by the Chinese. This is the Chinese exceptionalism for which all Chinese can justifiably be proud of. What we know of the Jewish community during the one thousand years in China comes mostly from written records in Chinese and some bits and pieces of Jewish documents in Chinese, Hebrew, and Aramaic seen through old photographs.

Several years ago, the S.F. Jewish Museum borrowed an exhibit on the History of Jews in China from the Ha'aretz Museum in Israel. I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the official opening of the exhibit, not so much because of my knowledge of Jews in China which was scanty and thin at best, but of my academic interests in Old Testament studies and the intellectual history of Jewish sages. It was quite an experience for a Chinese American to address a standing-room only Jewish audience.

Incidentally, a team of Jewish documentary film makers is now making a film on the history of Jews in San Francisco and I am helping the team understand the Chinese experience in S.F. and the relations between Jews and Chinese in the city, which had their ups and downs, as you can well imagine. Levi-Strauss, as you know, was founded during the Gold Rush by a Jew by that name and became famous for making the blue denim jeans. Like all garment manufacturing companies, it hired Chinese, hundreds of them in 1870s in order to compete with garments imported from East coast factories. Under pressure from the Workingmen's Party, it lay-off all Chinese except one. The one was retained because his skill was needed in the plant. Also, Rep. Julius Kahn was among the politicians who wrote the Chinese exclusion law enacted by Congress in 1902 which extended and expanded on the already punitive Geary Act of 1892, by including the exclusion of Chinese from the newly colonized Philippines and Hawaii and a narrowly defined exempt class of Chinese eligible to come to the U.S. as visitors. Unlike the east and midwest, Jews in the west coast experienced less intense anti-Semitism and were given opportunities to succeed and excel. The price of their success was joining the white racists in the oppression of Chinese.

Comments on America's Chinese Exclusion Law
by Edward Liu
Attorney at Law
San Francisco, California

My late father, Liu Chi Tien, was one of many adversely impacted by America's Chinese Exclusion Law, which was extended and applied to the Philippines after the U.S. annexed the islands in 1898, as spoils of the Spanish-American War.

The "yellow journalism" of Randolph Hearst incited public hysteria over the sinking of the USS Maine. It unleashed a public clamor for McKinley to declare war against Spain over the sinking in a Cuban harbor, then a Spanish colony.

When America declared war on Spain in 1898, Spain was seriously weakened and a failing colonial power.

America and Americans, the "Johnny Come Lately" to the game of Western Imperialism and Colonialism, suddenly became obsessed with selling "oil for the lamps of China."

The Philippines was then Spain's colony. When the war was won, Spain was vanquished and compelled to cede the Philippines to America, McKinley did not know what to do with America's new role as a colonizer the Philippine colony and Cuban colony.

The historical literature are full of stories about how the American government looked at the Philippines and Filipinos as "savages."

The pacification of the Philippines, by American troops, after the Filipino indigenous rebel patriots, led by a peasant Andres Bonifacio, was one of the most atrocious and brutal.
Americans are amnesic when it comes to their racism, brutalities, and atrocities committed against colored people in their colonial history and imperialist history.

My father, born in the Chinese village in Taishan, of an ethnic Chinese overseas father, named Lao Shing, was a child born when my overseas paternal grandfather went back on one of his trips from the Philippines back to his native village.

In 1905, when my father was born, the village had become a U.S. colony, and the Chinese Exclusion Law was already in force and extended to the Philippines, my father, even though born to a Philippines Chinese called Lao Shing, was barred from immigrating to join my grandfather.

Guess how my grandfather circumvented the Chinese Exclusion Act applied t the Philippines?


Just like the Chinese in San Francisco, my father went in as a "paper son." A member of the Loong Kong Family Association, for all surnamed Liu (Lao), Kwan (Guan), Cheung (Chang), Chiu (Zhao) had a Philippine-born son who died. His name was Chong Hin.

My grandfather took his birth certificate, then called a Filipino cedula, went back to China, and claimed that my father was born in the Philippines, as "Chong Hin", as the son of a Loong Kong Family Association member.

For many years, my father, although surnamed Liu or Lau (in Cantonese) was using the name Chong Hin in his papers.

It mystified me. It was only later that I learned that he was a "paper son."

Representative Julius Kahn then and Senator Charles Schumer now embody this very racism and "yellow peril" paranoia.

But for that, my father would not have had such a difficult time joining his own birth father in the Philippines.

This aspect of the "dark side" of Jewish history, apart from the good side, needs to be underscored.

There are good Jews and there are bad Jews.

Rep. Julius Kahn was an [expletive deleted].

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