Unwelcome guests

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am

Last year, the mainland looked as though it would ban Cape No7 because the film depicted a 'wrong' interpretation of Taiwan's colonisation by Japan. What the mainland objected to was the portrayal of a nuanced and bittersweet relationship between the Japanese and the locals, which was anathema to its orthodox version of history. The Japanese must be portrayed as brutal and exploitative colonisers.

The Japanese were hardly the only non-Chinese colonisers of Chinese soil. For several long periods in the country's history, the area north of the Yangtze River was ruled by 'barbarians' such as the Xianbei, Khitan, Jurchen and others. Twice has the whole of China been conquered and ruled by foreigners: the Mongols (1279-1368) and the Manchus (1644-1911). Foreign occupation of part or all of the country enriched the Chinese gene pool, culture and language - hutong (narrow alleyway) originated from a Mongolian word. However, almost all the foreign occupiers were eventually Sinicised. Not so the Europeans and the Japanese who came after them. Not only did they not become Chinese, they continue to be seen as superior to the Chinese in some quarters. No wonder there's so much gnashing of teeth on the mainland.