BEIJING - Ten days ago in Singapore, a 31-year-old Chinese man driving a Ferrari 599 GTO went speeding through a red light. His car crashed into a taxi, killing two people in the taxi as well as himself. Shocking video footage of this accident circulated on YouTube.
For days, headlines of the local media were full of anti-Chinese sentiment. Public opinion and websites were charged up with Singaporean indignation, calling on the Chinese to “Get out!” One commentator even quipped that the ashes of the Ferrari driver should not stay to pollute the very limited land of this city-state.
It’s not the first time we Chinese have heard such voices. In Hong Kong, which counts mainland Chinese as is its biggest economic partner, there has been a huge parade protesting the massive number of Chinese women “dropping in” for childbirth care. Even though Chinese mainlanders bring tens of billions worth of consumption to this former British colony, the Hongkongese still call them locusts, accusing them of being low-class, noisy and dirty.
In Europe and the United States people covet Chinese tourists’ tremendous spending power with an average of $7,200 per capita of consumption when they go abroad. The West tries in every way to attract the Chinese, so why is it that Chinese are, on the contrary, so unwelcome in places that also happen to be populated by the Chinese diaspora.
Are Chinese facing true discrimination, or are they just too sensitive? Are Singaporeans going overboard, or are there legitmate gripes?
Many Chinese newcomers living in Singapore are really vexed. One said: “Which country doesn’t have car accidents? Should one be barred from owning an expensive car just because you are from China? The ancestors of the people who speak mandarin here were also beggars who came here to look for a better future!” Another pointed out that the Ferrari had a permanent resident card so he was Singaporean...and contributed taxes here just like everyone else.”
Peng Hui, a professor of sociology at National Singapore University, was once a visiting scholar to Shanghai, who now consults on Sino-Singapore affairs. “Singaporeans do not discriminate against the Chinese. On the contrary, they very much identify with their Chinese ancestry," says Peng. "What the local people do not appreciate is the fact that Chinese people talk loudly in public, eat on the subway and like to squeeze through in a crowd or grab things.”
More disgusted than locals
Liu Jing came as a Chinese student in 1996. Because of the Singapore government's “Talent Plan” at the time, he stayed and became a Singaporean. He agrees that the Chinese are notorious for not obeying the law and doing as they please. For example, he once received a group of Chinese hospital directors, who were told clearly in advance that they are not allowed to take photos in the hospital they were visiting. But these directors, who were themselves doctors, just ignored the restriction.
“As a Chinese, I felt even more disgusted than the local people,” Liu recalled.
Nevertheless, Liu believes that the key point of the anti-Chinese sentiment is the fact that the Chinese car driver had a Ferrari. “The media attention was all about the expensive cars. Ordinary people despise those poorer than them, and envy the rich," he said. "In recent years, lots of Chinese are helping create jobs for Singaporeans. Since they can’t look down on the poor Chinese any more, they criticize the rich Chinese."
For instance, they attribute the rising housing prices and the traffic congestion to the Chinese, and call newcomers the “rich Chinese locusts," says Liu.
There are nearly one million Chinese foreigners currently living in Singapore. In the past ten years, because of the Talent Plan, the overall Chinese population in Singapore has increased by 23%. Because of China’s notorious official corruption, collusion and vested interest groups, a young man driving a half-million-dollar car is bound to arouse people’s suspicion as to the origin of his money, thus implicating other Chinese people in the incident.
In Peng Hui’s view, “Both Singapore and China are in an historical process. When I helped the Chinese to set up the first fashion magazine in Shanghai in early 1990, the Chinese had only just taken off the Mao costumes everybody had been wearing. Yet today, China is the world's top country for luxury goods. After all, the generalization of higher education is only just a generation away.”
I personally happened to be a Chinese visitor in Singapore when the unfortunate crash occurred. When the taxi driver arrived at the airport to see us off, he nodded to say thank you instead of waving the newspaper in our faces.
Read the original article in Chinese
Photo - INABA Tomoaki