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Unfavorable Views of China (2009)[1]

Sinophobia (from Ancient Greek Sinae "the Chinese" + Ancient Greek φόβος -phobos, "fear") or anti-Chinese sentiment is the fear of or dislike of China, its people, or its culture.[2] It often targets Chinese minorities living outside of China and is complicated by the dilemma of immigration, development of national identity in neighbouring countries, disparity of wealth, fall of the past central tribute system and majority-minority relations.

Southeast Asia

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Southeast Asian countries is often rooted in socio-economics. Chinese traders from the coast of mainland China and refugees of the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars in China emigrated throughout Southeast Asia countries[citation needed] and eventually became the majority population of Singapore, a large minority in Malaysia and Thailand, and small (less that 5% of the total population) minority groups in Indonesia and the Philippines. A tradition of trading and clan-style self-reliance enabled the Chinese to control much of the capital in these countries. This clannish attitude among the immigrants and their descendants and the ethnic group's disproportionate control of wealth encouraged Sinophobic sentiment.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines

In countries with small Chinese minorities, the economic disparity can be remarkable. For example, in 1998, ethnic Chinese made up just 1% of the population of the Philippines and 3% of the population in Indonesia, but controlled 40% of the Philippines private economy and 70% of the Indonesian private economy(Indonesian analysts believe this is a false claim since most of Indonesia's wealth was controlled by the military) [3] In Malaysia the low birth rate of Chinese decreased its relative population from one half to one third. One study of the Chinese as a "market-dominant minority" notes that "Chinese market dominance and intense resentment amongst the indigenous majority is characteristic of virtually every country in Southeast Asia".[4]

This asymmetrical economic position has incited anti-Chinese sentiment among the poorer majorities. Sometimes the anti-Chinese attitudes turn violent, such as the May 13 Incident in Malaysia in 1969 and the Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000 people died mostly rioters burned to death in a shopping mall.[5] During the colonial era, some genocides killed ten thousands of Chinese.[6][7][8][9][10] During the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, in which more than 500,000 people died,[11] ethnic Chinese were killed and their properties looted and burned as a result of anti-Chinese racism on the excuse that Dipa "Amat" Aidit had brought the PKI closer to China.[12][13] In the Philippines, dozens of Chinese are kidnapped every year and may be killed regardless of ransom—a problem the ethnic Filipino police are often indifferent to.[14]

Sinophobia is also codified in some Southeast Asian countries. The anti-Chinese legislation was in the Indonesian constitution until 1998.


Due to a long history of fighting Chinese invaders and recent territory disputes in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, there are anti-Chinese sentiments among the Vietnamese population.[15][16] While the government tries to maintain friendly ties with the Chinese government by cracking down on anti-Chinese demonstrations and criticisms regarding China, anti-Chinese sentiments had spiked in 2007 after China formed an administration in the disputed islands,[16] in 2009 when the Vietnamese government allowed the Chinese aluminium manufacturer Chinalco the rights to mine for bauxite in the Central Highlands,[17][18][19] and when Vietnamese fishermen were detained by Chinese security forces while seeking refuge in the disputed territories.[20]

The Sino-Vietnamese War resulted in the discrimination and consequent emigration of the country's ethnic Chinese, many of whom fled as "boat people". From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat (mainly former South Vietnam citizens fleeing the Vietcong) as refugees or were expelled across the land border with China.[21]


In 2000, Tongan noble Tu’ivakano of Nukunuku banned Chinese stores from his Nukunuku District in Tonga. This followed complaints from other shopkeepers regarding competition from local Chinese.[22] In 2001, Tonga's Chinese community (a population of about three or four thousand people) was hit by a wave racist assaults[citation needed]. The Tongan government did not renew the work permits of more than 600 Chinese storekeepers, and has admitted the decision was in response to “widespread anger at the growing presence of the storekeepers”.[23]

In 2006, rioters damaged shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in [[Nukuʻalofa|NukuTemplate:Okinaalofa]].[24][25]

In 2006, Honiara's Chinatown suffered damage when it was looted and burned by rioters following a contested election. Ethnic Chinese businessmen were falsely blamed for bribing members of the Solomon Islands' Parliament. The government of Taiwan was the one that supported the then curent goventment of the Soloman Islands. The Chinese businessman were mainly small traders from mainland China and had no interest in local politics.[24]

East Asia



Anti-Chinese sentiments in Korea have been on a steady rise since 2002. According to Pew Global Attitude Project, favorable view of China steadily declined from 66% in 2002 to 48% in 2008, while unfavorable view of China rose from 31% in 2002 to 49% in 2008.[26] According to polls by East Asia Institute, positive view of China's influence declined from 48.6% in 2005 to 38% in 2009, while negative view of Chinese influence rose from 46.7% in 2005 to 50% in 2008.[27] There are also other issues that negatively affected sentiments towards China, such as Made in China controversies, Chinese fishboats illegally trespassing South Korean territorial waters.

The turning point of rising anti-Chinese sentiments was the Northeast Project, a controversial Chinese government research project claiming Goguryeo and other various Korean kingdoms, including Gojoseon, Buyeo and Balhae, to be Chinese states and thus part of historical Chinese territory. This sparked a massive uproar in South Korea when the project was widely publicized in 2004.[28]

In 2008, Seoul leg of Beijing Olympics Torch Relay where Chinese students turned to violent protest.[28]


It has been reported that some Mongolians see China as a threat to their jobs, resources and possibly territory. The increasing Chinese influence has also raised suspicions of China in Mongolia,[29][30] although the situation is still unclear due to lack of comprehensive reports on the topic.

When China, which has a larger ethnic Mongolian population than Mongolia itself, claimed Genghis Khan to be a hero of Zhonghua minzu (Chinese ethnic groups),it also reportedly caused a negative sentiment in Mongolia.[31] Extreme groups opposing foreign influence, including China's, are present within Mongolia; one such group, Tsagaan Khass, is a neo-Nazi group devoted to Hitler and ethnic purity, and are opposed to China's increasing influence.[32]

Russian Far East

In Russia’s Siberia and the Russian Far East, there is a long-standing dispute over territorial rights, which is thinly woven under the conflicts between two competing homogeneous cultures over limited resources. There is also a perceived fear of a demographic takeover by Chinese immigrants in sparsely populated Russian areas.[33][34]

Outside of Asia


A Sinophobic cartoon appearing in the United States in 1899


Sinophobia in the United States in the 19th century

China has figured in the Western imagination in a variety of ways: positively—as an inventive, well-organized alternative civilization, and negatively—as a monolithic and repressive society. Anti-communists and proponents of liberal democracy are quick to point out the faults of the People's Republic of China in areas such as human rights. Issues like Tiananmen Square and the political status of Taiwan continue to be significant irritants in Sino-American relations.

The European view towards China from the exotic descriptions of The Travels of Marco Polo developed into a patronising superiority as the West (later including Japan) attempted to extend their colonial empires into China. Successful attempts in exporting opium into the Chinese Empire and a series of other commercial and military successes exposed to colonial powers a political fact: China's culture appeared glorious, but its government showed weaknesses that could be exploited for commercial and cultural gain.[35]

Sinophobia became more common as China was becoming a major source of immigrants for the west (including the American West). Numerous Chinese immigrants to North America were attracted by wages offered by large railway companies in the late 19th century as the companies built the transcontinental railroads.

Sinophobic policies (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, anti-Chinese zoning laws and restrictive covenants, the policies of Richard Seddon, and the White Australia policy) and pronouncements on the "yellow peril" were in evidence as late as the mid-20th century in the Australia, United States, Canada, and New Zealand.


The Chinese population was active in political and social life in Australia. Community leaders protested against discriminatory legislation and attitudes, and despite the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901, Chinese communities around Australia participated in parades and celebrations of Australia's Federation and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.

Although the Chinese communities in Australia were generally peaceful and industrious, resentment flared up against them because of their different customs and traditions. In the mid 19th century, terms such as "dirty, disease ridden, [and] insect-like" were used in Australia and New Zealand to describe the Chinese.[36]

A poll tax was passed in Victoria in 1855 to restrict Chinese immigration. New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia followed suit. Such legislation did not distinguish between naturalised, British citizens, Australian-born and Chinese-born individuals. The tax in Victoria and New South Wales was repealed in the 1860s, but by the 1880s there was another wave of anti-Chinese sentiment. Despite a steady decline in the number of Chinese residents in Australia, the numbers of Chinese and Chinese-Australians in the more visible Chinatowns of Melbourne and Sydney were growing. In 1887, two Chinese Commissioners, the first statesmen from China to visit Australia, arrived to assess the living conditions of Chinese in Australia after numerous requests from Chinese living abroad. In 1888, following protests and strike actions, an inter-colonial conference agreed to reinstate and increase the severity of restrictions on Chinese immigration. This provided the basis for the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the seed for the White Australia Policy.


In 1850s, sizable numbers of Chinese immigrants came to British Columbia seeking gold; the region was known to them as Gold Mountain. Starting in 1858, Chinese "coolies" were brought to Canada to work in the mines and on the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, they were denied by law the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, and in the 1880s, "head taxes" were implemented to curtail immigration from China. In 1907, a riot in Vancouver targeted Chinese and Japanese-owned businesses. In 1923, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Exclusion Act, prohibiting further Chinese immigration except under "special circumstances". The Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947, the same year in which Chinese Canadians were given the right to vote. Restrictions would continue to exist on immigration from Asia until 1967, when all racial restrictions on immigration to Canada were repealed, and Canada adopted the current points based immigration system.

United States


A political cartoon criticizing how the US is protesting against the fact that Russia is excluding Jewish People, yet the US are excluding Chinese people.

In the later part of the 19th Century, the United States—particularly the West Coast states—imported large numbers of Chinese migrant laborers. The decline of the Qing Dynasty in China caused many Chinese to emigrate overseas in search of a more stable life, and this coincided with the rapid growth of American industry. The Chinese were considered by employers as "reliable" workers who would continue working, without complaint, even under destitute conditions.[citation needed]

Chinese migrant workers encountered considerable prejudice in the United States, especially by the people who occupied the lower layers in white society. There were cases of physical assaults on Chinese, such as the Chinese massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles. The 1909 murder of Elsie Sigel in New York, of which a Chinese person was suspected (but never proven), was blamed on the Chinese in general and led to physical violence.

Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, who had once been subject to similar prejudice themselves, were often involved in such assaults, believing that their condition had been worsened by the influx of Chinese laborers.[citation needed]

The emerging American trade unions, under such leaders as Samuel Gompers, also took an outspoken anti-Chinese position, regarding Chinese laborers as competitors to white laborers. Only with the emergence of the international trade union, IWW, did trade unionists start to accept Chinese workers as part of the American working-class.

In the 1870s and 1880s various legal discriminatory measures were taken against the Chinese. These laws, in particular the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were aimed at restricting further immigration from China.[37]

Even Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, who was the sole dissenting voice against the segregation of Black Americans in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), wrote: "In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. (...) [But] there is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race."

During World War II, the attitude of Americans toward Chinese-Americans began to change, as China was considered an ally of the United States against imperial Japan. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943.

In the United States elections, 2010, a significant number of negative advertisements from both major political parties focused on a candidates' alleged support for free trade with China. Some of the stock images that accompanied ominous voiceovers about China were actually of Chinatown, San Francisco.[38] An advertisement called "Chinese Professor", which portrays a 2030 conquest of the West by China, used local Asian American extras to play Chinese; the actors were not informed of the nature of the shoot.[39] Columnist Jeff Yang said that in the campaign there was a "blurry line between Chinese and Chinese-Americans".[38]

See also

External links


  2. Sinophobic. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  3. Chua. pg. 3 & 43.
  4. Chua. (2003). pg. 61.
  5. Malaysia's race rules. The Economist Newspaper Limited (2005-08-25). Requires login.
  6. 明清对待海外华人的不同态度
  7. 海外汉人被屠杀的血泪史大全
  8. 十七﹒八世紀海外華人慘案初探
  9. 东南亚华人遭受的几次屠杀
  10. 南洋华人被大规模屠杀不完全记录
  11. Indonesian academics fight burning of books on 1965 coup,
  12. Vickers (2005), p. 158
  13. BBC News | Analysis | Indonesia: Why ethnic Chinese are afraid
  14. Chua. pg. 1-5.
  15. Martha Ann Overland (2009-04-16). "In Vietnam, New Fears of a Chinese 'Invasion'". Time Magazine.,8599,1891668,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Agence France-Presse (2007-12-16). "Vietnamese in second anti-China rally over disputed islands". The Australian.,25197,22932703-12377,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  17. Agence France Presse (2009-04-20). "Vietnam's China mining plans spark rare criticism". AsianOne News. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  18. "Vietnam's nationalist bloggers: Getting if off your chest". The Economist. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  19. Martha Ann Overland (2009-09-05). "Vietnam to Its Journalists: Don't Tread on China". Time Magazine.,8599,1920520,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  20. Nga Pham (2009-08-12). "China releases Vietnam fishermen". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  21. Griffin, Kevin. Vietnamese. Discover Vancouver.
  22. "No More Chinese!",
  23. "Tonga announces the expulsion of hundreds of Chinese immigrants", John Braddock, WSWS, December 18, 2001
  24. 24.0 24.1 "The Pacific Proxy: China vs Taiwan", Graeme Dobell, ABC Radio Australia, February 7, 2007
  25. "Chinese stores looted in Tonga riots", People's Daily, November 17, 2006
  26. World Public Opinion surveys, 2002-2008
  27. East Asia Institute Foreign Perception Survey 2005-2009, some in collaboration with BBC World Service Polls 2005-2008
  28. 28.0 28.1 Donga Monthly.
  29. Anti-Chinese sentiment swelling in Mongolia
  30. Mongolia's China Syndrome
  31. Baker, Graeme. (December 30, 2006). Outrage as China lays claim to Genghis Khan. The Daily Telegraph.
  32. Tania Branigan, 2 August 2010, Mongolian neo-Nazis: Anti-Chinese sentiment fuels rise of ultra-nationalism, Guardian UK
  33. Santoli, Al (2001-01-29). "Russian far east residents fear takeover by China; Sino-Russian "strategic cooperation" pact aimed at US". American Foreign Policy Council. Archived from the original on 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
  34. Baker, Peter (2003-08-02). "Russians fear Chinese ‘takeover’ of Far East regions". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 2008-03-25.[dead link]
  35. "The Great Exhibition and London's Chinese Junk". BBC News. 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  36. Young, Jason. "Review of East by South: China in the Australasian Imagination" (.doc). Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  37. "An Evidentiary Timeline on the History of Sacramento's Chinatown: 1882 - American Sinophobia, The Chinese Exclusion Act and "The Driving Out"". Friends of the Yee Fow Museum, Sacramento, California. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Lyden, Jacki (2010-10-27). "Critics Say Political Ads Hint Of Xenophobia". NPR. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  39. Yang, Jeff (2010-10-27). "Politicians Play The China Card". Tell Me More (NPR). Retrieved 2010-12-05.


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