BY BERNARD YEGIORA
ANTI-CHINESE SENTIMENT, or Sinophobia, is a deadly trend becoming more common as China continues to rise. It is defined as the dislike of or fear of China, its people or its culture.
Xenophobia, fear of foreigners, is widespread in all societies. In Iran, anti-American sentiment is strong. The Iranians see America as evil because of its arrogance. America, in its bid to create a peaceful world, has strongly gone against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, even though Iran has assured the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
In PNG’s case, we witnessed the ransacking of Asian businesses in 2009; mostly targeting people of ethnic Chinese origin in major towns because of the disparity of wealth.
This Sinophobia is growing day by day and could lead to a major social uprising of greater magnitude in the future.
Chinese entrepreneurs were in PNG a long time before independence and contributed immensely to PNG’s development as a sovereign nation. This fact cannot be denied if you know your history.
Over more recent years, a new wave of Chinese immigrants and business activities have moved in a different pattern. The Chinese have adapted to the changes in PNG society, backed by their popular ‘Guanxi system’ that is similar to our ‘wantok system’.
We, on the other hand, have failed to evolve the way we do business. As a result, the lack of opportunity experienced by middle and low class citizens of this nation have led them to take out their frustrations on foreign owned businesses.
The reasons for this fear or dislike of the Chinese diasporas is very complex. It is like a triangle with three points of influence: government, citizens and Chinese entrepreneurs.
It is difficult to accuse one factor as the root of the problem because all three have, in one way or another, played a significant part in feeding the growing anti-Chinese sentiment.
PNG is just a needle in the haystack in the world of Sinophobia.
At state-to-state level, China’s relationship with the different states in the international system reveals a sense of Sinophobia. Developed countries in Europe and Asia, including the world’s declining hegemon America, from a realist perspective are fearful of China’s rise because of the theory of balance of power.
After the Cold War, the bipolar world of the USSR and the US was disassembled and replaced with a unipolar system controlled by the USA.
But that order is changing, due to the remarkable rise of China affecting the balance of power as countries begin to join the Chinese bandwagon. The fear of China challenging America for the leadership position has led America to initiate containment and engagement plans to monitor China.
Furthermore, according to Robert Reich in New Perspective Quarterly, “China wants to become the world’s pre-eminent producer nation”. Reich draws a comparison between the US economy being oriented to consumption and the Chinese economy to production. This adds fuel to the fire because, with high production, China will continue to flood the world with ‘Made in China’ products affecting the balance of trade.
In a recent BBC/Globescan poll of 28 nations, China’s global image remains mixed. Only in Africa and Pakistan is it consistently positive, while in Asia, North America and Latin America it is neutral to poor. Across Europe it is strongly negative.
China’s increasing economic and military power is creating anxiety around the world.
Thus, in the 21st Century, not only are individual Chinese traders victims of Sinophobia, but the Chinese State is enduring its share of anti-Chinese sentiment.
This trend is unavoidable and will continue to intensify as China continues towards developed nation status.
Bernard Yegiora is a Papua New Guinean student studying for a Masters degree in International Relations at the Institute of International Studies in China's Jilin University in Changchun. Bernard graduated with an Honours degree in Political Science from the University of PNG in 2009. His research interest is in Chinese culture and soft power: how China can use culture as an element of soft power to improve its tarnished international image through increased public diplomacy.