in comment, Yours Truly SG's, 'Cultural diversity in ancient China'

“Dear Dr Ong,

I refer to your comments in parliament as reported by Straits Times on 13 Mar 2010.

You pointed out the cosmopolitan atmosphere in the Tang dynasty capital of Chang An and the foreignness of one of China’s greatest poets, Li Bai to illustrate the importance of an open-door policy and of tolerance to a nation’s prosperity and the flourishing of its culture and economic development.

However, as cosmopolitan as Chang An was, it is doubtful that one third of its inhabitants was foreign like in the case of Singapore. So quoting the example of Chang An doesn’t justify the situation in Singapore where the percentage of foreigners is amazingly high. Also, while Li Bai’s place of birth lies in modern day Kyrgyzstan (rather than Kazakhstan), it was actually found within Chinese territory during the Tang dynasty. What’s more, Li Bai’s family originated from even closer within China. So quoting Li Bai’s place of birth also doesn’t justify a pro-foreigner stance since Li Bai wasn’t foreign born as far as the Tang dynasty is concerned.

While the Silk Road is a good example of the need to remain open to trade, it is not a good example to justify mass immigrations since the Silk Road was essentially a trade route, not a mass migration route.

You also pointed out the examples of the Ming and the Qing dynasties which ended up poorer for shutting up their doors. But those are examples that point to the danger of rejecting trade that has little if anything to do with cultural diversity or renaissance.

The most powerful example of how mass immigration changed a nation’s destiny is probably that of the Roman Empire which was subjected to mass immigrations towards the end of its five century dominion. The great numbers of Goth immigrants proved too great for the Romans to handle and when they finally rebelled, it marked the end of the once mighty Roman Empire.

We don’t have to look far back into history to understand how important immigrants are to a nation’s success. Modern day examples abound such as those of South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Western Europe which show that prosperity and cultural efflorescence can take place without mass immigrations.” ~ source


The reason why the chinese, in general, aren't as intelligent as the Indians or the British is for their lack of cosmopolitanism and egalitarian multiculturalism. However, this does not apply as much to the Chinese in HK or Taiwan given that the former was under the perspectivally-advanced British for just over a 100 years, and the latter had to redefine itself to justify its separate existence from the fatherland.

I wonder if your argument is purposed for maintaining the traditional chinese closed-door/mind policy in the face of migrants and difference and attempting to see how far one can go given such a fascist/racist approach toward reality. Have you ever wondered why India is producing IT professionals whilst China isn't? One's logical skills are much advanced in the face of non-ignorable difference as one isn't afforded the luxury of couching oneself in the familiar and traditional. When it comes to logic, philosophy, wit, the speed of solution-generation, multi-angular thinking, etc, do you actually think that China or Confucian states can touch the egalitarian multiculturals. Absolutely not. It is not a race thing, but a perspectival one, and the latter of which is honed by a truly egalitarian multicultural experience. By the way, if India is not doing as well as China economically, it is not because of their multiculturalism, but the ongoing effort to balance the interests of the masses and that of the elite. In China, as in Confucian states, it is only the elite that matters, and hence, the trickled-down effects post-foreign investment, etc, comes quicker, but at the price of popular intellectual individualism and humanity.

As for your Roman example, the migration of the Goths is a bad example given the context here. The Goths were not advanced in terms of civilsation. That is not really the case with India which has had much interactions with persians, greeks, romans, etc, and had learnt much from these interactions as opposed to China whose main foreign influx included the Mongols and Manchus whom weren't as advanced. Hence, China lost quite a bit by not pursuing foreign interactions to compensate for its not coming into contact with advanced civilisations who could have given them another view of reality. The centralised education system and the production of ‘scholars’ whom were most adept at regurgitating the pronouncements of the scholars of old didn’t help either.

Opening doors to foreigners is a good thing, one, for the difference of those whom come in, and two, especially when they are from advanced civilisations. But in the case of singapore, the government is inundating the state with China nationals, not for its cultural vibrancy or popular intellectual individualism, but for their being trained to kow tow in the face of authority and working hard as a consequence - which gives meaning to the Confucian idea of ‘pragmatism’.

This is just a continuation of past pro-chinese policies, and an effort to get around the negative effects of privileging the local chinese in the face of other ethnic groups which made them quite complacent - as the malays in the malaysia - and docile as everything became ‘same-same’ and relieved themselves of the ability to think critically, consider differing perspectives. Over time, they were thus trained to discount all difference and counterposition - which inevitably exacerbates all of the above. Just as such a milieu would be detrimental to the perspectival and intellectual advance of a child if it was to applied within the family, so it is within the state.

[the above comment was placed at the aforelinked site]


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