The Problem with the Idea of 'Han Chinese'I read with a sigh, the report entitled, ‘First 'Genetic Map' of Han Chinese May Aid Search for Disease Susceptibility Genes’. I doubt many noticed, and most probably not the more than a billion of the Chinese populating s.e.Asia, that this title serves to maintain a genetic-cultural link by implication. To some, and perhaps in the west, it may just be a group descriptor, but to others, and many Chinese, it serves as a cultural-race descriptor as well given that there is quite the congruence in perspective and ‘race’ amongst all that I have encountered.
Han? Doesn’t that validate their cultural point of origin and the ensuing perspectival trajectory that sees its reach permeating from the past to the present? And given the way things are going in s.e.Asia with the Chinese becoming increasingly culturally and racially introverted, be it in singapore or china, to the point that discrimination is passed unnoticed or shrugged of simply as a matter of 'preference' or the right of 'the majority'; or there is quite the absence of critique of China’s doings in Tibet or Xinjiang; or that there are rumblings of an ‘east Asian unity’ in the wings emerging from racial/cultural similitude; doesn’t this just serve to exacerbate the problem with the idea of ‘the children of the Han’?
And isn’t this going to cause either a siege mentality amongst non-children of the Han, or assimilation to the point that more are going to become ‘children of the Han’ perspectivally, if not ‘racially’? And given that this does not seem to be an issue garnering cognizance of any sort amongst bloggers, etc, doesn’t this just serve to validate the above as true?
It’s a dangerous thing to equate genetics with culture. Didn’t the Chinese learn anything from western history? Or have they sheltered themselves from its lessons with the oft-heard phrase, ‘they are they, we are we’?
The last thing I want to see is an 'east asian unity' in s.e.Asia as it will further undermine integration amongst its peoples. And the last thing I want to see is an Islamic or south Asian unity being formed as a response to the racial and cultural introversion of the Chinese. They are starting a trend that is going to see either the fragmentation of s.e.Asia, or the assimilation of much of it into a 'greater China' - as has already transpired in the once more true multicultural state of singapore.
The singapore government promotes chinese culture and language with a religious fervour; the Chinese (of China) in a recent poll indicated that they'd prefer state investments from singapore because of cultural similitude; the singapore government talks about maintaining a sense of asian identity whilst promoting only one culture and maintaining a racial balance in favour of the chinese; there is a common perception amongst the non-chinese that a number of industries or professions should be avoided because 'the chinese prefer to do business only with their own'; China is feeling increasingly validated by many across the world learning Mandarin whilst discounting the fact that this is taking place because they are accustomed to assimilation by others and therefore do not see the need to be multi-lingual; and a tourist information board in the heart of 'little India' (syed alwi) talks about what the chinese were doing there whilst no mention is made of the Indians who serve as mere props in a wholly sinical theatre. These are just some of the numerous instances of cultural and racial segregative and supremacist tendencies taking the reign of cultural development in s.e.Asia. What's going to happen is that only those aspects of cultures that can maintain some common ground amongst s.e.Asian states for business transactions is going to come to the fore whilst all else is going to be assigned to the garbage bin of history. We are, unfortunately, not going to see the result of the fusion of the east(China, etc) and west(India, etc) in s.e.Asia.
The cultural belligerence of a government is one thing, but the apathy of a racially/culturally defined 'majority' and so-called 'oppositional elements' confirms the monocultural trajectory as immutable. When monocultural perspectives and race is associated, speaking up for multiculturalism and against monoculturalism becomes 'racist'. A pathetic state of affairs really.
Methinks 'tis time to pack my bags for more egalitarian and multicultural climes.