Violence and discrimination against ethnic Chinese in France

This is an interesting post in response to recent attacks on ethnic Chinese in Paris. A sample:

If French discrimination against Africans and Arabs comes from their sense of superiority as former colonizer, then their feelings towards China are much more complex. 20 years ago, Chinese were considered poor refugees coming from a third world country and treated with generosity tinged with pity. However, as China has developed and prospered, French people’s attitudes towards Chinese have changed. During my two years in France, a number of people reacted to the discovery that I was Chinese by asking whether China would overtake the US and become the world’s strongest country in twenty years. Once, my French professor singled me out in front of the entire class, telling me “you Chinese took away all of the jobs from France.” As the Chinese residents of Paris can attest, the combination of fear and resentment towards China is growing in French society.

Will antagonism toward ethnic Chinese everywhere intensify as/if China continues to grow, or is this something uniquely “French”? Here in the US I’ve heard a lot of anger directed at China for “stealing jobs,” but not at the Chinese living here. That would be hopelessly declasse.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 17 Comments

Uniquely French of uniquely Parisien?

June 27, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

My take is that the antagonism toward Chinese that Yajun wrote about is tangential to the larger issue, that French attitudes toward what constitutes “the nation” has created an urban underclass of the dispossessed descendants of France’s colonial legacy. The violence against the Asian community — and the response by concerned citizens, many of whom were Chinese — is part of a larger and ongoing discourse concerning both France (race/nation) and the growing numbers of Chinese overseas who are taking different approaches to the problems of emigration/assimilation.

Anyway, my two cents.

June 27, 2010 @ 7:36 pm | Comment

Overblown, an imitation of the Korean demo after the LA riots without the justification that the riots gave that demonstration. Racism against Chinese in France exists, but the real issue is that of racism against people of African/Arab descent.

June 27, 2010 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

I think we gotta be careful here. My bet is this so called “demonstration” is organized by the local Chinese embassy. Creating a victimization mentality is MO of the CCP.

As for allegations of racism, maybe if the Chinese immigrants tried to learn the language of the country they are in and not be so “patriotic” towards their “motherland”, maybe people would’ve accepted them better.

June 28, 2010 @ 12:16 am | Comment

Chinese overseas will feel what Americans are feeling overseas when US is the only superpower.

June 28, 2010 @ 2:44 am | Comment

Well…having spent some time among the Chinese student community in France, contact with the embassy was minimal at best and I have to say that the spoken French of the students I knew was vastly superior to the spoken Chinese of many American and European foreigners living in Beijing. I would agree that racism against Africans/North Africans in France is far worse than that against Chinese which, if anybody actually read the article, was one of the main points…

June 28, 2010 @ 5:23 am | Comment

I read somewhere that Chinese students coming to New Zealand are getting warnings too. Only article I can find at the mo is this about tourists being warned against crime
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10654013
The more recent murders of Chinese students, however, have been commited by…..Chinese students.
I don’t think people’s antagonism of Chinese will be any larger the more “important” China is. If I use NZ as an example, it’s the number of Asians (Koreans, Japanese, Chinese et al are all lumped together) that cause friction – tribe mentality thing, I think…

June 28, 2010 @ 5:59 am | Comment

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June 28, 2010 @ 7:54 am | Pingback

My take is that the antagonism toward Chinese that Yajun wrote about is tangential to the larger issue, that French attitudes toward what constitutes “the nation” has created an urban underclass of the dispossessed descendants of France’s colonial legacy. The violence against the Asian community — and the response by concerned citizens, many of whom were Chinese — is part of a larger and ongoing discourse concerning both France (race/nation) and the growing numbers of Chinese overseas who are taking different approaches to the problems of emigration/assimilation.

I was going to say something like this but Jeremiah said it better.

June 28, 2010 @ 8:02 am | Comment

With regards to the victims of recent attacks that seemed to spur the demonstration, it may be difficult to know for sure whether they were targeted because they were Chinese, or whether they were victimized and happened to be Chinese.

That said, it should surprise no one that members of a visible minority in any country can be the targets of race-based discrimination. Happens in Canada, in the US, and in China, and probably just as much in France. But it’s useful to raise the issue in the larger context of discrimination in general, rather than focusing on one or another of potentially victimized groups. The goal should be to reduce discrimination in general, and not simply to shift such attitudes away from one group and direct it towards someone else.

Are French/Parisians more racist than the next guy? Who knows. And I’m not sure how one could know.

June 28, 2010 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

I used to work in France (though not in Paris) and found the French to be much more protective/defensive about their language and French culture than the British or other northern Europeans. Yes, there is racism against the French-speaking Africans, but there is also a common link in the French language, that creates a certain level of mutual undertanding. The resentment against the Chinese in France is much greater, as most of the newer Chinese arrivals speak little or no French and are perceived as being indifferen to the whole Francophone way of doing things. My French manager was very unhappy at having to communicate with Chinese workers in English, for example (though strangely she did not mind speaking to me in English because I was already beneath contempt as a ‘rosbif’ with no aim of settling in France). I think the Chinese in France will get zero sympathy unless they can show a little willingness to do things ‘with French characteristics’.

June 28, 2010 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

Richard: “Will antagonism toward ethnic Chinese everywhere intensify as/if China continues to grow, or is this something uniquely ‘French’? Here in the US I’ve heard a lot of anger directed at China for “stealing jobs,” but not at the Chinese living here.”

You might have called what’s happening in France uniquely “American” instead. Perhaps you should revisit the violence surrounding the so-called “Chinese Gold Rush” in California during the mid-nineteenth century and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Of course, neither the U.S. nor France are alone when it comes to violence against immigrant Chinese, nor are the Chinese the only immigrant group to have ever been victimized.

June 29, 2010 @ 12:03 am | Comment

Lived in Paris for a while, I speak French, I know what it’s all about. (And I’m not French and I have no stakes anywhere, so you might as well trust me :) )

The racism the Chinese face from white Frenchmen is usually not upfront – and it’s not even really racism, it’s more of… um… cultural issues. For instance, Frenchmen care about language a huge deal and most Chinese don’t speak French all that well. Verbal skills matter a whole lot in job interviews! Besides, the image of the community is pretty bad because 1) they’re associated with China (a not-really-respectable country at the human rights level, ecological level and many other levels) and 2) they’re pretty poor and don’t like taxes. Poverty would be the key word actually, it’s 95% of everything.

Still, that’s not the issue at all.

I don’t know why, but no one mentioned in this thread that the Chinese are actually pissed off at being targeted by Arab violence, not by pasty-white French sarcasm.

Here’s a link to a report on the story from the very reputable RFI:

http://www.rfi.fr/france/20100620-milliers-chinois-manifestent-belleville-est-parisien-contre-insecurite

The protesters are saying (my translation):

“Stop the violence, we wish to live in security.”

“There are too many people attacked by the Arabs. They snatch bags in the street, they break windows, we don’t feel safe.”

“Many people don’t come to Belleville anymore because they’re afraid of being attacked…. what we ask is to have security cameras (installed). We don’t want any more thugs in Belleville.”

———————————-

Now generally I’d say feel free to snipe at the frogs all you want but it’s a little unfair to blame “the French” and “France” for these particular attacks on the Chinese. It’s not as if the thugs carrying out 99% of the attacks have any particular love for France – in fact, these same people who rob the Chinese would like nothing best than to wipe the French state off the face of the Earth and have the country join a worldwide Islamic emirate where they could sniff coke off hookers’ butts all day long :)

Folk here probably think of the US as an “immigration country” but as far as I know France actually has a higher proportion of its residents foreign-born. Something like 12%, a lot of them concentrated in the Parisian suburbs. Most of them good, hard-working folk, but some of them really the scum of the Earth.

Once I was minding my own business in the metro and 4 low-lives came over – 16-17 years old – one of ‘em pushed me once, pushed me twice, then a good hairdresser started screaming at them – good, pasty white French woman, all love, all 200 pounds of her – so they switched their focus to her. Got lucky the metro stopped very shortly after, one of them kept sticking a knife in front of my nose. We got off at the next stop while they kept going wherever… That’s the worst that happened to me. I lived in a pretty good place though, Boulevard Sepastopol, southern part of the 10eme.

My girlfriend at the time was assaulted in the bus though. Twice. Still, it’s nothing compared to the life of one of my friends, a Romanian guy, he had a really tough life as he was a delivery guy. They’d attack him, never in groups of less than 10. Usually 15 or so. He’d run like hell. He’d throw his packages if he couldn’t escape any other way. Still, he got caught a few times, always the same, he’d drop to the floor in a fetal position, trying to protect his head and his balls, and 15-20 scumbags would hit him for, like, 2 minutes, with steel bars, bricks, boots, scratch him, drag him, the whole shebang. I thought he was crazy to keep doing this job, but he said he needed it. My guess was he’d gotten hit too many times over the head and couldn’t judge straight anymore. Hell, dude could’ve become a coke dealer at a street corner, or pickpocket like his cousin. Much safer. He was honest though, stupid honest.

That being said, I still love and will always love Paris.

Basically: snipe at the frogs all you want, but it ain’t them who’s being violent. It’s you know who.

June 29, 2010 @ 12:49 am | Comment

Resident Poet said:

I don’t know why, but no one mentioned in this thread that the Chinese are actually pissed off at being targeted by Arab violence, not by pasty-white French sarcasm.

First line, third paragraph, of the original post:

Witnesses of some of the recent attacks have said the perpetrators were young immigrant men…”

I don’t think the post is “sniping” or “blaming” the Frogs, White French people, Arabs or anybody…I think it’s talking about some pretty obvious problems that exist in French society, problems of which the recent attacks on the Asian community were one of several symptoms.

June 29, 2010 @ 6:44 am | Comment

It’s been a while (years really) since I’ve last commented at the duck, but it seems everyone here are pointing their fingers everywhere except at the actual problem. The issue isn’t an issue of French racism, or Chinese exceptionalism, or national integration.

French immigration policy has created a self-perpetuating Arab-African (Muslim) lumpen-proletariat that is projecting serious negative externalities onto the rest of French society. It is not racism that is causing the problem, but rather a significant minority of the Arab-African Muslim community has zero desire whatsoever to accommodate the wider social values of their host societies and their sense of entitlement and accumulation of state welfare benefits simply feeds their recalcitrance.

The assaults on the Belleville Chinese are because they are simply targets of opportunity. The Chinese community is known for carrying large amounts of actual cash on hand as many new arrivals are engaged in cash transaction businesses and because Chinese are notorious tax dodges. The lack of adequate command of the French language and quasi-legal immigration status leads them shun approaching the authorities. Not that the French police are unaware of the problem, they simply don’t want to do anything about it because of simple cowardice. Calling the French cowards isn’t I am some sort of American chauvinist, but really the simple hard truth.

The French police do nothing to prosecute these crimes because they are afraid of the consequences. So long as the Muslims in the area relegate themselves to preying primarily on Chinese as opposed to French whites, there is much lower public pressure for them to act. To actually do something to reduce crime levels who require them to actually police, which would inveigh the Afro-Arab youth to burn more cars, loot more shops, cause more mayhem, all in the name of opposing French racism. The French are similarly unwilling to protect the rights of native Gauls, what chance do Chinese immigrants have? So the attacks on the Chinese will continue and both the French state and society as a whole weaken as certain sectors move beyond the realm of the law. What is being observed in France is entropy in action as civilization gives way to barbarism. It is the fall of Rome come again.

What makes matters worse for France is that the Chinese are inadvertently heralding the process along. Since the police have amply demonstrated their complete unwillingness to enforce simple universal laws, communities will have no choice but to fall back on simpler and more intimate social associations for protection, further speeding the erosion of national civic life. The protest was triggered by a daring robbery of a wedding party by the Afro-Arabs that resulted in one of them being shot by someone who refused to be a victim. Naturally such a demonstration of manly vigor could not go unpunished in France and so the criminals go free while the man who defended his people and property is punished in their stead by being arrested.

The reason the protest turned ugly is because of the presence of yet more Afro-Arabs attempting to disrupt events, culminating in a would be purse snatcher cornered by a Chinese mob. What do the French police do when presented with a criminal apprehended in flagrante delicto? Why let him go of course, because actually doing justice is too much to ask. For the Chinese to then turn their animus against the police is unsurprising. What would be surprising is if the rest of French society became as equally incensed at the deterioration of law and order.

June 29, 2010 @ 9:33 am | Comment

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June 29, 2010 @ 9:56 am | Pingback

@Jeremiah

Ah! Mea culpa.

June 29, 2010 @ 9:59 am | Comment

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