Monday, November 01, 2004

CHINESE AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Watch the Manchurian Candidate (the original). Watch anti-Communist propaganda from the 1950s. Listen to trade protectionists talk about China today. All of these sources give you the idea that "China" is a monolith, that the "Chinese" are a single organism working toward a single goal, and that the country is poised to conquer the universe.

I have blogged several times about the "Chinese" minorities in the Chinese west. They are Turkic, and Muslim, and have no more to do with the Han Chinese than the Tibetans do. Today I learned about an even crazier split in ethnic China. The BBC, AP, and International Herald Tribune all carried stories about ethnic clashes in China over the weekend. I started reading the BBC version, in which is said the conflict started when "Mr Lu, from Nanren village, began a fight with Mr Liu, from nearby Nanwei village." I'm thinking, those are two Chinese names, so where's the "ethnic" in the ethnic clashes?

Turns out that one of the guys is Hui. The BBC says that the HUI are mainly descendants from 13th century Central Asian immigrants and look and speak the same as the Han Chinese. There are 8.5 million of them, and Islam is central to their identity.

I had no idea the Hui existed. It seems, from the BBC description, as if they are a religious, rather than an ethnic minority, since they look and speak the same as the Han majority. However, the myth that even the Han Chinese constitute a single nation in the political science sense is taking a real hit here.

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