Saturday, 21 April 2012

Dear Nat Wei: British Chinese Dream or Nightmare?

In November last year, British Born Chinese parliamentary member, Lord Nat Wei made a speech about the 'Role of the Overseas Chinese,'  published in NeeHao magazine covering topics such as the creation of leaders amongst British Born Chinese, with aims to create better connections between British Chinese community and China. 

Here's an excerpt:

"That such a Chinese Dream could be about harnessing, as China develops, her wealth and influence as a force for good, through more sustainable business, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, to help address the many social and economic problems we will face in the coming decades both as Chinese and non-Chinese.
A Dream that might enable Chinese people over time to peacefully win further trust and respect around the world. I also said that if we do not articulate such a Dream, that it would sadly not always be defined positively, especially in the West.

Indeed, with concerns that rising unfettered materialism is harming traditional family and civic values, with continued questions both in the West and in China on the internet being asked about how those in authority should best treat fellow citizens and engage them in decision making, respecting differences of opinion whilst maintaining peace, and in which the government itself is concerned to increase its cultural soft power globally – this is a time for deep soul searching about how Chinese people want to act morally as China’s economy and society matures and about how we want to be seen externally."

Lord Nat , with respect, shouldn't we sort out own British Chinese problems first before thinking about China's?

Despite being a BBC himself,  it's questionable as to how 'in contact' Lord Nat Wei is with British Chinese people. Indeed with some casual research, we are not sure what we know about him. We know he lives on a council estate. We know he is interested in social entrepreneurism, we know he is an advocate of the 'big society' which in his words means:

"One, building the capacity of citizens. Two, encouraging national collective activity. Three, a constant negotiation between the boundaries of civil society, citizen and government."

 So far, so political.

Does Lord Nat Wei even care about the role of British Chinese community or is he just another rule-abiding parliamentarian?

Lord Nat Wei seems uncontactable - we have tried facebooking him, any comments left on his blog have to be approved, the only email address available is one for publicity.

If our British Chinese leader is uncontactable, no-one knows who our Chinatown leader is - who presumably only cares about FOB businesses, until proved otherwise-  and BBCS are dispersed throughout the UK adopting to white culture in their daily lives, is practicality, adoption of white culture, the only reason for British Chinese to exist in the UK?

To answer that question maybe we need to delve deeper into the reason why our ethnic diaspora first choose to migrate here.

According to wiki:

 The first settlement of Chinese people in the United Kingdom dates from the early 19th century. Because many of the Chinese settlers were originally seamen, the first settlements started in the port cities of Liverpool and London. In London, the Limehouse area became the site of the first Chinatown established in Britain and Europe.

As each generation gets regenerated, from the first major wave of immigrants comprised of Commonwealth Chinese, to the new wave of  Mainland Chinese, and other diaspora from other East Asian countries, there was only one thing in common: practicality and 'a better life'. 

With our Chinese attitude  being largely tribalist by nature, need to conform in order to fit in as much as possible with the local area, and little gravitational pull towards developing a singular British Chinese cultural identity, a BBC from London tends to have little in common with a BBC from Manchester, and as a result we can view other Chinese from 'opposing' areas with indifference, and sometimes, distain.

The one thing we do have in common however is a Chinatown, which, like the actual people are devoid of any definable British social identity, and can only be characteristically be described as a hub of orientalist consumerist outlets, catering exclusively to FOBs and non-Chinese visitors.

And with our restaurants, supermarkets,  herbal shops and that the benefactors of our own community give little back , can any of this justify a 'Chinese dream', except maybe some discounted groceries and a sponsored dragon dance now and again?

Do British Chinese even have a community or are we just a bunch of individuals who happen to be 'yellow,' speak Chinese language at varying degrees and if that's the case, what is the solution? Can there ever be a solution for the future of Chinese in Britain, except renewal of fresh blood, en masse?

In reference to the recent death of a Chinese student , there was an interesting observation made here by BBCzeitgeist about the state of our UK Chinese community.

"Chinese is just an umbrella wrapper, we are factional in reality. Even the FOBs are not a whole. The student was a mainland FOB, therefore mainland newspapers covered this story. FOB students will also feel a little empathy, but FOBs do not post nor read BBC blogs. However, if he was not a mainland FOB Chinese, the mainland press would not even bother to cover the story because he would be considered one of 'ours.' It is also true of the HK vs China FOBs, they dont really mix. BBC's have taken a complete apathetic silent view on this subject as the victim is not a BBC."

There is little British Chinese history worth remembering, with most families having the usual unexciting immigration story , no real sense of communual bonding and with such factionalisation, it can be assumed that for a largely apolitical diaspora, there is little need to voice political opinions as those that are expressed are arguably bland and conformist by nature, anyway.

And if all that is to be considered a dream, by all reckoning it's every Chinese dream to escape China and relocate to the west in order to dissolve their ethnic and cultural identity. In other words, the Chinese dream has become a nightmare we still haven't quite awakened from. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. As far as I know UK Vietnamese stick together more, and have a tighter sense of community? In that respect, at least im assuming you have a decent circle of lesser-whitewashed friends and can retain your ethnic roots better than the child of catering trade parents ie speak the language with your friends?

      As far as being a British Born East Asian is, in dissolving our parents cultural identity, we are all in the same boat.

      Because we dont have a culture of our own many of us at a certain age end up feeling guilty of dissolving our parents cultural identity.

      Also doesnt help we dont have a leader or any independent cultural identity media except just being East Asian minorities in the UK, let alone any support groups for anti-racism

      What gets me is why Lord Nat Wei doesnt address any of this in any of his actions. British Chinese community must be at least in the 600000 mark and we are still in the perpetual foreigner default category because theres been little effort to create interaction between any of the East Asian/ Chinese communities to create a real middle ground, except for the individuals who play the whitewashed /orientalist game.

      Its one thing for us to have a nuclear mindset and go about our business, its another to be completely devoid of any culture and feel like not being able to call anything cultural of our own, and occupy this 'sidelined guest' slot in UK culture.

      FOBS who run businesses and profit from the Chinese community in the UK should also contribute and fund more initiatives that pay towards the cultural development of which their British Born children, rather than deliberating this polar extreme culture between either white or orientalisation choice that we are forced to to exist in.

    2. are you a BBC Vietnamese? or BBV?

    3. Vietnamese have a numerical problem of being a small community and don't have much clout. We are all dwarfed by Chinese FOBs, therefore they control the agenda.

      There many things we have to establish first (our own media in the English language is one example, with its content about British Chinese and not under the control of FOB driven news agenda in mandarin such as Xinhua, lets face it - it is not mandarin, but English that is the language that unites East Asians in the UK), that is to empower our identity through establishing structures that will benefit us as British Chinese or East Asians in the UK, rather than Fobs who cant let go of hongkong/china or white washed integrated assimilated chinese.

      TVB Europe for example is the programming of Hong Kong FOB, its all in cantonese/mandarin, apart from some learning English/travel programmes spoken by Americans designed for FOBs living in the far east, this is NOT British Chinese programming. Maybe its too late for us, but at least for our children in the UK, thats who we have to think about.

    4. What a sad post, one of no hope or optimism. Might as well throw in the (white) flag, as many of us East Asians are doing - slowly - but not realising it.

      Cultural identity plays less of a part. Retaining out of date traditions of our parents isn't always a great thing - honour killings, witchcraft etc.? No thanks. But neither is acting as if you - and your parents - have been in a white nation for millenia. Our historic roots are uniquely east asian, so look into that - inform and pass it onto your children. To be honest, this is a parental thing, something that our mums and dads should have drummed into us from an early age when in a white country. Not - oh, pretend to be white, do white things and pretend you're something you're not. That is whitewashing.

      The greatest danger is that there will be NO British (or American, European etc) of East Asian origins for the future.... they will just be the sons and daughters of new immigrants, which completely defeats the point of laying down roots - identifiable roots - for our future generations.

    5. it is not mandarin, but English that is the language that unites East Asians in the UK), that is to empower our identity through establishing structures that will benefit us as British Chinese or East Asians in the UK, rather than Fobs who cant let go of hongkong/china or white washed integrated assimilated chinese.


      This works both ways. I've touched upon religion, race, history and other things that can unite a people together... language is another. A lot of British Indians can actually speak Hindu... ONE of the reasons why they are so unified as a minority in Britain. British Chinese do not have religion - so that's no major meeting place for exclusively British Chinese people to get together. Mandarin actually unites fobs together - they certainly are more unified (Chinese community groups, workplaces etc.) than British Chinese.

    6. ^ Religion, good point. I've incorporated it in an upcoming article.

    7. Re: our parents responsibility, I think BBCz has touched on it, but the reality is, if FOBS dont give a shit, we cant cry about it can we? BBCs are grown adults with responsibilities, and some of us, our own children so blaming FOBS whilst correct, its a bit late to change that now we can only deal with the cultural cards we have been handed.

      Then there's the whole side issue of community caring for those same FOB parents getting older, which could be another article to discuss.

      Not a great choice, I'll admit, but its why we can be grateful for things like this blog to air our concerns, and continue to as long as TPTB do not address such issues.

    8. Honor killings and witchcraft?!!? haha, think you're confusing african culture, that is not Chinese culture, at least not from where I'm from!

    9. Just googled “Villain-hitting” (or demon-exorcising)

      from the Guangdong area of China, including Hong Kong. Its purpose is to curse one's enemies using magic.

    10. "As far as I know UK Vietnamese stick together more, and have a tighter sense of community?" I find that it really does vary. I do know many British Vietnamese that are in interracial relationships though.

    11. Is that more women or men? For BBCs its 60/40. I always assumed British Vietnamese women stood by their men through thick and thin.

    12. I'd say 50:50. I know more girls than guys though.

    13. @BBCZeitgeist I identify as BBV. One of my not too distant ancestors was Chinese. But maybe that's not significant, cos I believe we all came from Africa anyway.

  2. On the topic of raising Children in the UK, what do people, BBC'ers and non-BBC'ers alike hope for their future in this country? That they would like to see changed? Any BBC/ British Chinese parents have any thing they'd like to see improved for their children?

    If our Chinatowns had more inclusiveness for BBC's and British east asians I think that would be a great thing, eg areas to hang out and meet. As BBCs / British east asians dont really seem to have our own place.

    Being that we are 28% and yet we have nothing to call of our own, SOME kind of recognition would be nice.

    Personally I think we should have a naked statue of Narissa Chan in each UK Chinatown as a tribute to the free-thinking BBC woman.

  3. I am a British Vietnamese. I came to the UK some 37 years ago. I expect to outlive Communism in VN. Culturally, the vietnamese feel close to HongKong. We share the same culture and vietnamese is close to cantonese. Also, the chinese community in VN speaks cantonese. In the UK, we are the minority, however, we share the same problems as the BBC or worst since we have to deal with the new comers from VN who like to grow marijuana! For us, it is not about vietnamese women marrying white men, it is about differentiating ourselves from 'the gardeners'.

    1. The tough guy weed-seller or the sellout woman talk about opposite problems LOL

      I've never heard of that image, must be a local thing in the UK VN community, and as long as it's kept within the community, can be managed?

      Cultural apathy and lack of national identity on the other has more long term issues, which if not for fresh blood just leads to a sold out westernised race.

  4. Apart from the usual two contributers, interesting that whilst British Vietnamese actually care enough to comment about issues affecting their own community,consensus here so far indicates once again, unless it affects us personally, BBCS dont give a shit.

    You reap what you sow.

  5. Chinese of Britain? Community? Pah. Da Bien!

  6. With our Chinese attitude being largely tribalist by nature, need to conform in order to fit in as much as possible with the local area, and little gravitational pull towards developing a singular British Chinese cultural identity, a BBC from London tends to have little in common with a BBC from Manchester, and as a result we can view other Chinese from 'opposing' areas with indifference, and sometimes, distain.


    This is a damn good point, and noticeable even on here. Some ethnic Chinese criticising other ethnic Chinese for wearing stuff, doing relatively normal things, and seeing it as whitewashing. Remember that China itself was like this until (relatively) recently it was unified by an emperor - crucial in the first steps into becoming SOMETHING on the world stage.

    Likewise, ethnic Chinese have to do the same. A united approach for ethnic Chinese Brits, sure we may joke at different accents (have your heard a Chinese person with a welsh accent? Good stuff), but it should be like how white southerners take the piss out of northerners, not genuine hatred and "I won't be friends with them because they're from X or do Y".

    1. To also add re: inter-regional BBCs antagonising each other on this blog. Personally speaking, I have no real issue with BBCs wherever they are from, but what I have noticed is when previous articles were posted on facebook, which since BBCz has decided not to, whilst the articles in question focus on BBC identity, its typically northerner BBCs who turn it into a northern vs southern thing, maybe because they think its a bunch of southerners calling northers whitewashed, whereas if you read that same whitewashed article, that terminology applies to any BBC.

      Again its how the article is internalised by the reader, which without objective critical thought often leads to comments that contain little valid substance.

  7. Re: dress sense, in the comments section of the same article, the author ( me) admitted to wrongly prejudging another BBC, on the basis of age and along with it, his dress sense,considering I hardly have any BBC friends in their early twenties.

    Re: the whitewashing argument, the article was more about the attitude of certain BBCs and what they say on facebook. It turns out most of those BBCs on facebook are Hakka and from northern regions of the UK. But whether those things that they said was said by an ethnic Cantonese or Beijinger, from Grimsby, or Swindon, those same 5 steps would still apply and in my opinion stand in the way of any unified BBC cultural identity:

    And the need for our own BBC media to better understand our own regional diversity and ourselves and be visible was mentioned since way back here:

    Re: Your emperor point, It's a good one. And I cant see any BBC stepping forward because of many obvious reasons, our selfish Chinese nature being one and that we always expect other people to do the dirty work whilst we only look to reap the benefits.

    As you say, this blog is a good example, does anyone think about the amount of work that goes into organising and scheduling and editing quality control of not just 'a blog' but a platform for BBCs to share their opinions?

    When asking others to sign up for google IDs,and contribute articles, as usual its just the two usual BBCs running the show and everyone else wants to be fed like baby chicks, without doing any legwork, themselves.

    In some respects whilst it's a leaders responsibility to lead, I can begin to see what our own leaders go through because when the people they are leading don't give a shit to even muck in,and only have a 'take' attitude, why would anyone want to lead them in the first place?

  8. I want to answer without thinking too much.

    It would just be nice if I weren't the token east asian in ~90% of everything I do. Then there are people who will say "oh but race shouldn't matter blah blah blahhhh", but it will always matter.

    Also at the university level in life, BBEastAsian students are swamped by the international ones. I'd be happier if it was the other way around. Just being honest.

    1. We discussed that specific issue in the comments section on this article