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  • Oct 19, 2014
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CommentInsight & Opinion

Fear and anger at mainland Chinese unite Hong Kong and US

Amy Wu reflects on the resentment both in Hong Kong and the US

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 2:30pm
 

At our usual Friday night gatherings of friends, a popular topic is mainland Chinese. The conversation often revolves around complaints and frustration. I should point out here that a good number of my friends are overseas Chinese, including Chinese Americans who are in Hong Kong for work. Here are some scraps from the banter:

"Can you believe what happened when I was lining up for the taxi cab earlier today? A mainlander jumped the queue; is lining up such a foreign concept?"

"There are so many of them outside Sogo that crossing the street is like a contact sport; I'm black and blue."

"I almost got run over by a suitcase. Can't they watch where they are going?"

Here, the anti-mainlander chit-chat is kept safely within the confines of family and good friends. On the surface, we deal with the reality with the same resignation and angst as going to the dentist or taking out the rubbish: what can we do but suck it up?

In fact, the whining is a reflection of the internal tug of war between accepting the reality that Hong Kong's success and relative economic stability is due to mainland China and will continue to be so in the coming years. For me and my fellow Chinese Americans, it is about accepting that China is a strong competitor in this global economy, and that the US cannot afford to sit on its laurels and live off its previous glories. Perhaps, rather than complaining, we should focus on reinventing ourselves so we are competitive. But whining is a lot easier.

Back at home in the US, the conversations sometimes share an uncanny similarity to those in Hong Kong. A friend does her rendition of a mainland woman snapping her fingers and screaming her order at a waitress. It was funny until I thought about the reality.

To be sure, the backlash against mainland Chinese appears to be fuelled by something beyond good-natured humour. Is it jealousy or envy at the rather fast and remarkable success of many mainland Chinese?

Some Hongkongers have even labelled mainland Chinese tourists "locusts". The news headlines reflect Hongkongers' current state of mind, including a recent one from The Wall Street Journal: "Hong Kong's Fear of Mainland Chinese Invasion". What is behind the anger? Commentators point to the fact that mainlanders are viewed as taking up pavement space, pregnant women have been gate-crashing hospitals, and those from across the border are fuelling the air and noise pollution - a mix of perception and reality.

Back in the US, I've observed that many of my friends regard the growing number of mainland Chinese as a threat. With the lacklustre economy at the heart of this year's US presidential election, there is an amalgam of fear, anger and a real curiosity about who these Chinese are.

My friends in New York are slack-jawed as they watch the Chinese nouveau riche buying up Manhattan apartments, hanging their Ivy League diplomas in their new pads, and sending their children to boarding school. And they ask me: "Where does the money come from?" "How did they get rich so quickly? I don't get it."

These days, mainland Chinese are the big spenders. They are the ones filling tour buses, snapping pictures and snapping up luxury goods, while more Americans are watching the cents. Money does talk and there's that old saying: "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."

I bring up these bits of everyday conversations and questions from both continents because the reality is that China has becoming a growing power and has advanced in leaps and bounds from what it once was. In my PhD programme, most of my fellow classmates are mainland Chinese. They have excellent English, are well mannered and hungry to learn. In fact, I have a lot to learn from them, starting with working harder, smarter and not wasting time whining. Otherwise I'll be left behind in the dust. That's the reality.

Amy Wu is an American-born Chinese writer and commentator now living in Hong Kong

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This article is now closed to comments

wong2010
Wow. Such nastiness. Can't we all get along?
whymak
Ms. Wu is under the wrong impression that self-hate Hong Kongers who hate mainlanders are just doing their share of casual political and social scapegoating. In real life, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Instead, for some -- the highly neurotic, the least competitive and the chronic complainers, their motor mouths work overtime disparaging China and fellow Chinese.
But nothing compares with the destructive nihilistic nature of self-hate Hong Kongers whose hatred for China could never be quenched unless there is a total collapse of the present Beijing government.
My circle of Chinese-American friends is a bunch of high achievers who have little need to blame their own failings and unrealized dreams on China. They have no therapeutic need to blame their own neurosis on other or to demonize China and her people. Many of them who had chosen Hong Kong as primary residence have no complaint with the SAR and Beijing governments. My Hong Kong family and friends, especially the older ones, have finally found their national identity and for the first time are truly proud to be Chinese. Oddly, they never had to be brainwashed in national education when they were young.
So I really don't know where Ms. Wu's friends come from. Remember, you go to a particular church because you want to hang around people with the same faith, and people pick you to be their friend or fellow complainer because they thought you are like them.
supracosworth
What's happening these days makes me ashamed to be a Honkie. A bunch of naive whingers has become mainstream thanks to a couple of trash free online Chinese newspapers which just won't stop in their endeavours to brainwash everyone into believing anti-government is trendy and keep them protests coming,
When they first came online, I read them because they are free and they know how to invent stories and make them interesting just like any trash tabloids would do. It was harmless then, there were scantily clad starlets all over the front and back pages, and the diversity of local stories covered (regardless of accuracy) makes them an interesting read for people who don't want to fork out $6 to buy a paper.
Then it became mainstream talking piece amongst the secretaries in the office and people starts reading them because they are quick in reporting anything (again regardless of accuracy and spin). If you don't read from them, you'll be left out of conversations and more readers joined in.
Enboldened by their growing readership, reporters who are used to inventing stories suddenly find something even better to do. Incite and encourage, anything that makes them feel they are making a dent in their otherwise meaningless existence,Promoting hatred and xenophobic behavior? No problem! Eroding the stability that makes HK what it is today? Perfect.
This, is the beginning of the end. It's about time someone should organize a protest so that sensible people can express.
recanter
The real question is... How do communists get so rich? The answer is simply by corruption, in varying degrees of course (they don't all have to be Provincial Governors). Try doing business in China and get screwed over by some local who happens to know a corrupt official. You don't know where the legal system begins or ends, not even the Chinese do. That's why they all want to get out of China.
If you plant a seed on barren land, whatever grows out of it won't be any good. Educated my ****, more like street degrees.
apith123
The mainlanders are highly educated, but Hong Kong's population is considered some of the lowest tertiary education participation states in the developed economy world (compared to like Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan). You guys are issuing your own death warrant, wait till one day the mainlander's with tons of PhD's come in the 1000's militant squads and trample all over you and swallow you up, your whole population's average knowledge level is still stuct in the pathetically retarded High School level, while even their mainland kids are studying PhD's already.
dienamik
You are obviously a mainlander. "stuct"? Your use of punctuation is atrocious as well.
No more replies are necessary. Mainlanders get enough disdain around the world for being low class peasants with no concept of manners, proper social behaviour or common sense. I don't see any point in rubbing it in your face any further here.
shouken
We can't forget China has 1.3 billion people. So a mere 1% richest of the group is easily twice the size of HK's population. Many families I know pour their life savings on their kids to secure a better future for them. Heart-breaking to reflect on that. And what's worse, for every elite that goes abroad for western education and shopping, I fear 5 persons get poorer on the social scale.
That is truly worrying.
honger
I am amazed at the sheer hypocrisy and blatant racist remarks against mainland Chinese in general .
In the UK, this is illegal but in HK, you could do anything, including trying to resurrect the former colonial regime.
Bite the hand that feeds you further, and see what will happen.....HK will lose everything, and the pandems will not talk about democracy but where the bread will come from next. Do u think the US or UK will come rushing in to help?
lamlm38
better get your facts right!!! you have watched too much CCTV!!! China is definitely not feeding HK if that was what u were implying!!!.. China just need to leave HK alone..
hodfords
Bo Xi-Lai's official salary is supposedly RMB 10,000 - 15,000/month yet his son drives a ferrari. Enough said.
Camel
So all wealthy Mainland Chinese abroad must have been related to corrupt Chinese politician and officials families?
Jealousy and enviousness until the last stage. I know Chinese entrepreneurs who are driving ferraries and Mercedes S Classes around without having anything to do with the government. They are self made millionaers in Mainland from a migrant worker status to factory owner. Then many of my known friends studied abroad and came back as "turtles", started business in Mainland and now live a wealthy succesful life. That includes western foreigner, ABC, BBC etc. I know, who came to China 10-20 years ago. They looked for opportunities in China and won while others whining and complaining about the Mainlanders lack behind. That is the reality.
lamlm38
mr Camel.. yes there are few very few successful biz without any gov connections. we are talking percentage here.. we got rich in china by speculating in housing not biz!!!.. or by kissing some high official asses, send them $$ in their HK accounts !!!
Camel
a few decades ago the British and other foreigners in Hongkong were complaining about the HKners in the same way and exactly about those issues. Remember all those shields, signs, warnings and notifications at the bus station, at the banks, shops, department stores, restaurants and ferry piers? Today its the Mainlander, who is next?
Sunny
The sign of hope is that some mainland Chinese are becoming more educated and international, and that can only be a good thing for the world. It is only when rude, foolish and arrogant people become rich that causes problems to society.
mvdvalk
You know, we say the exact same things about Americans in Europe: rude, foolish, arrogant and rich... At least the Mainland Chinese spend their own money abroad, whereas the Americans... well... let's just say they like to spend other people's money :).
lucifer
Well the good thing is that the coming grand mainland implosion is likely to reset things all over the region. I just hope there people in Hong Kong are ready to take advantage of the situation.
 
 
 
 
 

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