October 09, 2005

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Inferior racism
Dating a Chinese used to be frowned upon because it was controversial, but dating experts and commentators say locals are now avoiding cross-cultural relationships because they are no longer "fashionable". Spurred by the media frenzy over [an] actress being seen with a Chinese, a prominent media commentator recently devoted his column to the lack of appeal in dating Chinese. In a controversial and often scathing indictment of today's expatriates, the former BBC journalist and regular television pundit Chip Smith said in his column: "In this day and age hanging out with a Chinese is `out'..." Writing in Easyfinder magazine, Smith said the pre-colonial population of rich Chinese sailed off into the sunset with the ex-governor and the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation after the handover.

"The ones who stayed behind were left to fend for themselves. They had no choice but to move to dorms on Lamma Island or to rent stone houses that people in Sai Kung use to house pigs," his column said.

"Clad in T-shirts, shorts and a pair of flip-flops, nowadays you see them buying beer from 7-Eleven so they can get the free gifts. They even try bargaining with the new mainland immigrant cashier to try to get a 10 per cent discount." Smith warned local girls not to hang out with Chinese in Lan Kwai Fong unless they wanted to have a one-night stand in a small flat with "a guy who was muscular but did not last long in bed".

He concluded: "In this day and age you have to be careful when choosing a gweilo. They no longer have cars or property. You might end up stepping on a penniless landmine. It's too much to sacrifice for a passport."

Asked to reflect on his column, Smith told the Sunday Morning Post it reflected his personal observations and those of his friends. "Hong Kong used to be an international city and English was important. But now we are just like the mainland. We talk about loving the motherland. In today's atmosphere dating a Chinese is like selling out your country."

Today's SCMP, with one exception - I changed the word "westerner" to "Chinese". The headline is even more offensive: Have HK girls stopped looking for Mr White? How does it read now? On with the tripe:
However, Mak Hoi-wah, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies at City University, believes that the trend has to do less with racism than with the fact that westerners and locals are now much closer. "The difference in social status has decreased and the lines of racial division have softened," he said. "Also westerners today feel there is no need to put up a front. People just don't feel that westerners are anything special anymore."

Anne Chow, owner of dating service Diamond Single Club, said that members used to admire westerners but clients rarely requested to meet westerners now. "We have 5,000 members but there is only one girl who always requests to meet westerners. It is not discrimination but people just don't think it's a talking point any more."

Mr Hon of Match Maker dating service said cultural differences were too much to handle for most people. He said that since it was now so easy to emigrate, westerners were even less appealing because Hong Kong people were no longer willing to put up with differences in return for a passport.

"Most people find cross-cultural relationships difficult. Usually in the beginning they are happy. But once they start to understand each other they realise they cannot accept the differences. There's not much magic left when you watch him cut his toenails," he said. "The clients who ask for westerners mostly want to emigrate to places like North America. But now it is very easy to do it on your own - through business connections or relatives. As a result only about 3 to 4 per cent of our clients now request to meet westerners."

The main question this raises is the one no-one talks about: why is racism considered acceptable when it's done by non-Westerners? Even the SCMP editorial staff miss the point entirely:

It is not so long ago that many Hongkongers faced a future armed with passports issued by the British government. Now the wheel has turned. Few have gone anywhere. The new Hong Kong SAR passports in use now outnumber the others. Expatriates who have stayed and the many thousands who have made their home here since then prize permanent resident status. But while some things may have stayed pretty much the same, others have changed. The end of colonial rule redefined the relationship between locals and westerners. The anachronism of life under a foreign power was swept away in the legal moment of the handover. The social landscape has also changed, apparently - though not as dramatically. As we report today, evidence of changing social attitudes is to be found in one of our more humble living archives - the files of dating agencies and singles clubs. They tell the story more succinctly than any formal research or social commentary. Many clients of one singles club once admired westerners and were keen to meet them.

Now, only one girl out of 5,000 consistently asks to meet westerners. A dating agency says only 3 or 4 per cent of clients ask to meet westerners, and then only with an eye to emigration to places like North America.

This trend cannot have happened overnight. But interest has been excited by the media frenzy over actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi's new relationship with a westerner. Whereas once this would have been seen as upwardly mobile though controversial, now it is regarded as "unfashionable".

One Chinese commentator was frank. According to television pundit Chip Tsao, the fact that an expatriate is now less likely to be a well-heeled catch makes dating one harder to justify. He says dating a westerner now is like selling out your country. Dating agencies focus on difficulties in relationships arising from cultural differences and point out that easier emigration makes westerners even less appealing.

It would be good to think that a more positive view of the trend taken by social studies professor Mak Hoi-wah is on the right track. Far from reflecting racism, he thinks it has more to do with the division between westerners and locals having been blurred in the past eight years. Westerners no longer feel the same pressure to put up a social "front" and locals do not see them as special any more.

This can be seen as a natural redressig [sic] of social distinctions of colonialism that have long since ceased to have any place in modern Hong Kong. As such it is to be welcomed as a healthy sign of the growing maturity of a harmonious multiracial society. That is Hong Kong's strength, and one that should be allowed to evolve naturally.

A healthy sign of a mature, mutliracial society is where the colour of the skin of a local starlet's boyfriend isn't newsworthy. Idiocy like this story are the sign of a society still grappling with a massive inferiority complex.

posted by Simon on 10.09.05 at 09:00 AM in the Hong Kong people category.


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There was just an article the other day in the New York Times that said that many Chinese women were divorcing their Chinese husbands because they were too ''traditional'' when they kept mistresses and the like. They were leaving their Chinese husbands for Western males.

So, spin? What do you think the spin on this is? I think it's another angle of the increasing nationalism rising in Hong Kong.

posted by: doug crets on 10.09.05 at 01:21 PM [permalink]

Yes, I'd say it's all about "patriotism" and "nationalism", albeit of the jingoistic kind.

posted by: Simon on 10.09.05 at 03:05 PM [permalink]

Ironically, I'd say my wife (chinese) and I (white American) have encountered way more racism in the US from other Chinese (tons) than from Americans (approaching zero). And forget about within China -- long way to go on that front.

posted by: 88 on 10.10.05 at 04:17 PM [permalink]

My Australian born/Cantonese parents fiance has nothing but scorn for Canto men. It probably doesn't help that her calcium and wheat-rich Australian diet has made her taller and more muscular than most of them. Even at the gym, they tremble before her stature as she warns "Back off, fragile boned Canto mamma's boy. I have calcium!"

posted by: Errant Australian on 10.10.05 at 04:55 PM [permalink]

Honkie girls wouldn't even look sideways at us when we visited there earlier this year.We were poor backpackers though.

I think she might be on to something.

posted by: Yobbo on 10.10.05 at 04:58 PM [permalink]

Don't worry, poor backpackers are looked down on everywhere.

posted by: Harry Hill on 10.11.05 at 12:54 AM [permalink]

Somehow that Chip Tao managed to insult westerners as well as girls. Overzealous patriotism is dangerous and not worth being proud of.

posted by: vicky on 10.14.05 at 07:21 PM [permalink]

>the sign of a society still grappling with a massive inferiority complex

Right you are.

posted by: Ken on 10.16.05 at 11:44 PM [permalink]

I dont think its the Asians who suffer from inferior complex. If its anything, its the other way around. Why do we always see Asian females after white guys in movies? Because they are made for the "white majority" who could take tha pain of losing wars in Korea, Vietnam and the constant bombardment of how Japan and China is taking jobs away from America.

posted by: gingsing on 11.08.05 at 07:56 AM [permalink]

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