Razer's Class Warfare

Nov 28, 2017

Razer: the ‘reputable’ practice of anti-Chinese racism

If only we were as critical of US influence as we were that of the Chinese.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Should you find yourself this summer with spare time and an itch to understand the national culture, consider the work of Ghassan Hage. Were it not for the stubborn urging of a fellow Crikey contributor, I might never have read the book of an anthropologist, or his later short works, which make a question like, “Is Australia racist?” seem like a shaky foundation for debate.

“I have never found this question useful to ask let alone answer,” writes Hage, in the journal article, Continuity and Change in Australian Racism, a straightforward piece that can be understood by those of us not fluent in obscurantism. Hage suggests that racism cannot be reliably measured in individuals, and, heck, even if it could, researchers would still be left with the problem of deciding how many individual racists or actions are needed to declare an entire nation racist.

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26 thoughts on “Razer: the ‘reputable’ practice of anti-Chinese racism

  1. Lasso

    Racism is such a tough topic – particularly in Australia – as with a wide brush it sweeps together many issues. One I think that is overlooked is that, put simply, large sections of any society have a natural tendency to fear the unfamiliar. As Aldous Huxley was often to comment on, 80% of any society’s perceptions about anything are molded by social norms… which are in turn randomly developed by natural forces, or intentionally propagated by the ruling classes. So with that in mind – it’s worth noting that pretty much every country has large majorities of their populations which are racist to varying degrees. It’s only that in multicultural societies (which, don’t forget, are a result of an economic, not social, agenda), populations are forced to deal with and confront said issues.

    I’ve lived in many countries (including Asian countries) and I can tell you right now that I’ve witnessed far worse racism within monocultural than multicultural societies, because national identity is wrapped up within a genetic make up. In Thailand, for example, where the whiter your skin the more wealthy you are accepted to appear, the mere idea of hiring people of dark (let alone black) skin was openly ridiculed!

    The same arguments work within issues of sexuality – it really just depends on the social norm of the time – which if we go right back to the ancient Greece times proves how cyclical these things can be. Using Thailand again as an example – you can’t hire black people but it’s more than fine to hire lady boys – openly encouraged in fact!

    My main point being – don’t be quick to judge people – understand that most are simply a product of their environments. And, don’t forget, the primary reason for Australia’s multi-culturalism is to drive population growth and therefore economic growth. Every other issue surrounding this is either mass confusion or adjustment.

    1. AR

      Given what you note of Thailand, I have always been fascinated by the niche/crevice Nigerian (men) have hewn in Bangkok.

  2. CML

    Helen…simple solution. ONLY Oz citizens should be permitted to buy residential real estate here. I don’t care if they are Chinese, US or Hottentot citizens…we would do well to follow the lead of other nations.
    Have you tried buying Chinese, or most other country’s, real estate properties recently???
    Also, the refusal to publish Clive Hamilton’s book is totally unacceptable in a free society…no one is forced to buy it, let alone read its contents!!

    1. CML

      Forgot to say…EVERYONE who is resident in this country, but who is NOT an Australian citizen, is by definition a ‘foreigner’.

    2. Helen Razer

      First, I would favour a solution where residential real estate could be owned by no investor. Australian, or otherwise. That’d fix the housing price.
      Second, reports indicate that Hamilton reclaimed his full rights to the book from the publisher as he was not prepared to wait for their revised release date. This does not read not censorship, or a refusal on the part of the publisher to me. A bit more like an author who is impatient. Perhaps one eager to say he is being “silenced”. A popular tactic for writers, these days.
      It is not at all uncommon for book releases to be held up by fact-checking or legal queries. It is not at all uncommon for authors to be asked, on legal advice, to modify some of their claims. If there’s “censorship” going on in Australian publishing, it’s largely due to legal risk assessment. Not the CCP.

    3. MAC TEZ

      Just when will your simpletons solution become official ALP policy CML?
      The 12th of never ???

  3. Irfan Yusuf

    Personally I don’t regard criticising or attacking the CCP or any other brutal dictatorship as problematic. Or indeed any other political entity, domestic or foreign.

    1. Helen Razer

      A point I believe was unambiguously made in the article.
      Thanks for restating it.

  4. Woopwoop

    Hage’s article might well be easily understood, but for some of us the $US42 fee is not easy to pay for.

    1. Helen Razer

      Hint, Woop. Google some of the exact phrases. I dunno, but you just might find a naughty copy available at no charge. Not that we endorse such practice!

  5. old greybearded one

    I am not sure where you are coming from here. It is not racist to be concerned about Chinese investment, given that most of these companies are the instrument of the Chinese government. I also agree with the idea that foreigners, Chinese or anyone else should not own Australian land. We can’t buy theirs. Lease yes. I don’t mind the Chinese who came here from China and settled, but a pox on these money laundering shonks arriving now.

    1. Helen Razer

      OGO. Where I am coming from is the assumption that at different times, we have different political and media obsessions. There is generally a nominated bad guy, and this is often racialised.
      Yes. China ought to be “investigated”. But why is this our current fixation? It is a false view of our foreign relations that privileges one bad guy above another at different times. It was false to fear Muslim majority nations so absolutely as we did from 2001 until, well, the present. This is not to say that “hey. All those nations are totally fine with us”. It is to say, FFS. If you’re going to get your knickers in a knot about Saddam Hussein, here’s a list of other dictators who deserve your “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect” as well.
      Of course, some states should be checked for their influence in a world of borders and of borderless trade. Why is it never a Western nation (with the possible and minor exception of New Zealand) and why do we not apply just ten per cent of the scrutiny we do to China to US influence?
      China has not lead us into wars. China does not have a spy base here. China does not have a currency that determines the value of all others. China is not involved in half of the international conflicts its big brother is. The US also has a death penalty, 25% of the world’s prison population and many ways to obstruct freedom of speech. It remains the hegemon. I would like to see a bit of creepy music behind investigations of that nation and the influence it wields on ours. Just occasionally. You know. For balance.

      1. John Hall

        Good article Helen & even better comment. In addition the Chinese Government has in any case tightened up on its citizens ability to buy property outside China. The Australian housing market may be about to burst because of the stupidity of OUR Governments and the coalitions refusal to deal with the evils of negative gearing. Blaming others is a historical weakness of our nation – in the proud footsteps of our current US partner who we tag along as a fawning Deputy into messes of our meddling. Vietnam & Iraq should have been enough wake up calls. We have so many embedded Officers in the US Armed Forces that in any sudden outbreak of hostilities we may have no choice in becoming involved automatically.

        1. AR

          Could you elaborate on “We have so many embedded Officers in the US Armed Forces … “?
          That sounds interesting.

          1. alan thomas

            I am familiar with 2 (and only 2) majors in the Aus. military, from disparate sources, and both (100% ?) have moved with their families to the US for 2 years for . . . specialist traing…

  6. AR

    The only ethnic group more racist than the Han are caste Hindus.
    Both keep their predilections to themselves as polite, politic and good business practice but, to quote Zimmerman, would not countenance an alien to “move next door and marry my sister”.

    1. John Hall

      Being a 1788 First Fleeter descendant and married to an Indian National, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I am friends with many people married to Indian & Chinese mixed marriages. If you are referring to isolated villagers in their home countries you have some point. In that respect some of the more isolated country areas of Australia have a higher share of bigots that give One Nation a higher vote share. Travel on a suburban train & you will generally see many young people sharing friendship, and dare I say love, with an amazing diversity of cultures. It was also interesting that you made no reference to the much more insular culture of Japanese society.

  7. MAC TEZ

    On questions of racism, here’s a couple…
    is there a country that isn’t racist ? Is there a race that isn’t racist ?

    1. Helen Razer

      Not really about assessing which state or which person isn’t. Mac. Which is why I began this piece with Hage’s assertion that it is a pointless exercise.
      But, when there is bias of any kind in policy of media reports, we should attempt to identify it, right?
      I am suggesting there is some bias.
      I am not suggesting that it is not right to investigate Chinese interest.
      In addition, here, I suggest that racism in its instrumental form is largely a phenomenon of the modern era. “Race” simply didn’t exist as a concept until it was needed. This is not to say that people could not be “tribal” or whatever you want to call it and fight over material resources. This is not to say that even the smallest societies may have internal divisions. We are talking about racism as it exists on a mass, instrumental scale, here. To the point a whole nation can be fretting about CHINA.
      Or ISLAM.
      Or whoever. Could be RUSSIA next week.
      I am not saying these things pose no threat. I am just saying that jeez. we do have our favourites.
      If you want to make the case that racism is “human nature”, good luck with that.

      1. MAC TEZ

        Thanks for your reply Helen. I agree that it’s a pointless exercise and I’ve noticed the bias you refer to, I also wholeheartedly agree with
        ” Foreign (Chinese) investment is not the problem. Investment itself is. Assets, like money, have no fatherland. For as long as banks can make great profit lending great sums, the housing price will remain greatly absurd.”
        My questions weren’t necessarily aimed at you, just felt like putting them out there.

        1. MAC TEZ

          Here’s another question I’d like to put out there… is there any religion that isn’t ridiculous ?

  8. Ertunc

    Helen, just wanting to indicate how strongly I agree with the central points made in this article. I have, for some time now, been expressing similar views, albeit less eloquently. As some of the foregoing comments show, the PR machine works, at all levels of society. I guess we all fall victim to it to some degree.

  9. [email protected]

    For most people it’s easier to blame the Chinese than get their heads around how the housing market works and then actually be take some responsibility and give something up. I’m in my mid 30s and renting like most my friends and all our parents sure love sympathising about how impossible housing prices have become for us. Funnily enough though when I point out the role that investment, negative gearing and land speculation play in that very fact none of them seem very keen to support a policy where they’d have to give up their investment properties so we could afford a basic home to actually live in 😉

  10. Andrew Malzard

    When we Australia show some maturity and finally acknowledge so much that has been said about China for the past 50 years has been blatant propaganda emanating from the US and designed to keep its leaders in power?
    Remember the 60’s and 70’s when we fearfully huddled in front of our new television sets and watched the solid red arrows starting from China slowly spreading south to the very edge of Australia’s shores. Others spread west through the rest of Asia, often over countries that were no friends of the US, so they couldn’t rely on that country to control the threat of China.
    Of course little, if any, of this Chinese expansionism happened!
    However, while we all huddled in fear the US practiced exploding atom bombs destroying small, gentle Pacific nations. They also invaded Vietnam with little thought or understanding that this was a nation determined to finally break free of the shackles of European/Western dominance. Chemicals that would maim for generations were dropped randomly while even burning phosphorous was dropped on innocent people in an act of barbarous terrorism. Next door a neutral nation, Laos, home to the most gentle people I’ve met anywhere in the world, had their paddy fields filled with millions of cluster bombs cluster bombs. An estimated 90 million remain to this day, spasmodically exploding to the touch of young children destined to lose hands, arms legs and eyes. And what has the US done to compensate for this brutal recklessness?
    Elsewhere, the entire population of the Chagos Islands were picked up by British ships and dumped on the wharfs of Mauritius to a life of misery, just so the US could build possibly the biggest airforce base in the world; a launching place for more arms aimed at China.
    More recently was the illegal invasion of Iraq.
    All through these events we remained the immature, fawning allies of America
    If we don’t mature and recognise US policy can be dangerously short-sighted and brutal while China might not be quite the pariah depicted through 50 years of propaganda, how are we, and the rest of the world going to cope and develop balanced strategies to cope with what might be one of the most dangerous times in history; America’s slip from being the most powerful (at least economically) empire on earth. It’s sobering to recognise that there has never been a passing of the baton of power without the influence of war.
    The current regime in the White House seems determined to prevent at all costs the handing over of the baton. It is steadily building up an arsenal aimed at its likely successor.
    We, and the rest of the world, must have a balanced view when picking friends and foes to stop the unthinkable happening. For a start, lets put China’s activity in the China Sea in perspective. China’s remarkable economic development has happened through trade. Closing sea lanes will only harm China itself. Let’s not be drawn again into an obsequious
    siding of the US over China so that former feels more secure in prodding China towards conflict. It’s far too dangerous!

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