The Chinese diaspora: A Permanent Reservoir of Scapegoats


A Permanent Reservoir of Scapegoats

How racism drives the geopolitics of China’s rise.

A Permanent Reservoir of Scapegoats: how racism drives the geopolitics of China’s rise

Text of Anna Chen’s speech on increasing sinophobia for No Cold War, 6 October 2021

No Cold War kindly invited me to speak at their online event on 6th October 2021 but due to sound problems, I’m posting the text of my speech here.

“America has become a supernova, both imploding and exploding at the same time, leaving a fragmented shell of its former self. Unfortunately, it seems intent on dragging us all to hell with it.” 

A big thank you to Labour conference which just voted 70 to 30 percent against the AUKUS nuclear submarine lash-up: a welcome sign of life during the past few years ever since Trump unleashed his trade war on China and the western world piled on for Opium Wars 2.

I want to talk about how racism is more than an ugly word shouted at us, more than an assault on any individual. It goes wider than the gunshot massacre of Asian women in Atlanta. Racism is a poisonous force which could, on this trajectory, result in the mass murder of millions of human beings if the USA and its Western allies get the war for which they are busily manufacturing consent, throwing huge resources at it to get their way. 

I doubt many of us could name more than a handful of Chinese people in British public life – in politics, the arts, science, and the media. One explosive breakthrough this year was the tennis star Emma Raducanu – and Piers Morgan is already poised to give her the Meghan Markel treatment. 

According to the 2011 census in the United Kingdom there were over 433,000 Chinese people living here. So where are we? 

When was the last time you saw a Chinese British face or heard their voice as the norm? We are almost entirely missing from the culture and society and that’s not an accident. 

This absence of representation creates a vacuum where we are an unknown, mysterious entity. It turns us into a blank canvas onto which anything can be projected, mostly from the west’s own history. Now that Western economies are in trouble, all those neuroses and fears, furies and anxieties, need somewhere to go. “

Chinese as a blank canvas

Anti-Chinese racism has been deeply embedded ever since the 19th Century Opium Wars when Britain grew industrial quantities of mass-produced opium in stolen Bengal and forced it at gunpoint onto the entire Chinese nation, turning what had been an expensive upper class vice into a nationwide addiction. 

We’ve subsequently been made invisible as fully rounded human beings with mainly only the most debased Yellow Peril depictions allowed. Sax Rohmer’s evil mastermind Fu Manchu, submissive lotus blossoms and sexually perverted goons reside deep in our unconscious. As do house slaves, sidekicks and underlings serving the dominant white group. 

This absence of representation creates a vacuum where we are an unknown, mysterious entity. It turns us into a blank canvas onto which anything can be projected, mostly from the west’s own history. Now that Western economies are in trouble, all those neuroses and fears, furies and anxieties, need somewhere to go. If Chinese were included, we’d be humanised, shown to possess an inner world, to have a capacity for love, and altruism, a willingness to care for our fellow human beings and to act responsibly for the welfare of the planet. 

Instead, we’ve been kept out of the general consciousness and rendered invisible until we are transformed into a permanent reservoir of scapegoats. And that reservoir of scapegoats is what’s being tapped into now. 

Chinese and geopolitics

This geopolitical calamity has loomed for years, we’ve watched the US and its Western sidekicks ticking off nations they don’t like one by one: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, attempts on Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, Russia, and so many more until it was clear that at the end of this list stood China. The big, juicy prize for the new imperialism: China as the newly rich kid wearing a Rolex who’s wandered onto Mafia turf. 

In order to get their war, the US has to find a casus belli to get, according to their think tanks, the ‘taxpayers’ on board for conflict; an excuse for hot, rather than merely ‘cold’, war on China, like the Weapons of Mass Destruction pretext for invading Iraq in 2003. 

The US is also niftily transferring its own horrific crimes onto its target. It’s a marvel how everything it’s accused China of doing is straight out of its own history, from being built on genocided land and slavery to kids in concentration camps on the Mexican border to forced sterilisations of minorities by ICEsexualised violence at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the millions of Muslims killed in its warsIsrael’s 14-year blockade of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza … and what we saw done to them this year. But because Chinese have been turned into a blank canvas, it’s easy to make the crudest Yellow Peril accusations stick. 

Modern achievements

The country that was destroyed in Britain’s savage Opium Wars, that’s endured invasion and massacre by some of the same nations currently circling like sharks a few miles off its coast, has risen to superpower status over the past few decades, all without war. 

It’s raised over 800 MILLION people out of absolute poverty, created a middle-class almost twice the size of the entire population of the US, built beautiful cities and infrastructure, and achieved Zero Covid, barring occasional imported flare-ups.

China basically wants to make our stuff, stabilise the planet and combat climate change as part of a multipolar world alongside America. 

But just as it draws level, the West decides to smash its kneecaps. For example, the Chair of the Better Cotton Initiative claims there’s forced labour in Xinjiang, despite state-of-the-art machinery bought from America’s own John Deere company, and fast-rising wages. The fact that this Chair is also President and CEO of the American cotton-marketing company Supima tells you everything about America’s ruthless economic war on its rival. 

US supernova

The declining superpower would rather take down its talented rival than work with it. Like a supernova, America is both imploding and exploding, and is in danger of leaving a fragmented shell of itself floating off into space, and taking us all with it. 

Without racism it would be nigh-on impossible to lay these cartoon villain stereotypes onto Chinese people and make them stick. I’d hoped we were far too clever and sophisticated to fall for those Yellow Peril stereotypes as older generations did in the 20th century, but here’s CNN rolling out an alleged Chinese police defector in a fake uniform that doesn’t even get the spelling right. 

The mainstream media (MSM) created a vacuum by excluding anything positive about China and filled the void with a constant screeching “China bad” until the narrative set like concrete. The danger of repeating the Big Lie is that, without balanced information, it eventually sticks. 

America is the elderly 500 pound gorilla with its glory days behind it, thrashing about, cajoling, threatening and bribing the powers to get on side for Opium Wars 2. 

What scares me most about America is what’s happened to the richest country on the planet as the post-war liberal order draws to a close. We see tent cities proliferating, growing poverty, collapsing infrastructure and – literally – power failures. The oligarchs who own the politicians grabbed all the wealth until the top 0.1 percent owns as much as the bottom 90 percent. And now the same forces who ate all the pies are diverting your anger onto China. 

Permission to be racist

People have been given permission to be racist in a cynical diversion of fears onto one identifiable group but, like the Covid virus, racism knows no boundaries. Just like the UK’s raw sewage released into our waters, these toxins get everywhere, providing us with a battery of metaphors for what lies beneath. 

So when you get upset over a picture of the latest victim of sinophobic racism, remember that this is the end result of a deliberately orchestrated process of dehumanisation. It required a lot of effort and resources to get the West to see Chinese as their punchbag. It required our exclusion from political and cultural life. 

Even in social media — how many of you follow or engage with us on Twitter? 

To express upset at racist violence while ignoring the conditions that got us here — and consigning us to a ghetto — is to collaborate in that process. 

Ultimately, if you don’t care about the Chinese diaspora or see us as fellow Brits, if you don’t care about 1.4 billion human beings in China under attack from the ailing superpower, at least spare a thought about what this march to war means for British people. We’ve been clobbered by austerity and pauperised by a no-deal Brexit. If you think it’s mere incompetence that’s led to one of the highest Covid death rates in the world, think how even before Biden became president, Boris Johnson followed Trump at every step since Pompeo made him a post-Brexit offer he couldn’t refuse. 

The United States made China an offer it did refuse. It planted a horse’s head in China’s bed but, unlike the UK and others, China is rejecting the gift. And so should Britain.

First published 2 November 2021 at Madam Miaow

The first disturbing signs of an anti-Chinese pogrom appeared in 2001 when a Blair government branch of MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) accused UK Chinese of starting the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. This came shortly after the launching of the Project for America in the 21st Century and George Dubbya Bush’s declaration in 2000 that China was a competitor. The accusation was so absurd that the MAFF Minister vindicated the Chinese community and the late Hugo Young told the Guardian editors never to do this again.

Some think the war on China began with former President Obama’s 2011 Pivot to Asia, moving much of their military out of the wreckage of the Middle East and into China’s back yard where US forces practised blockading the Malacca Strait. Former President Trump launched the first salvo in 2018 with his vicious trade war on China.

Scroll to Top