Why Multiculturalism?

Response to a Response

Get to the Point. By boliston, with Creative Commons licence (Attribution 2.0 Generic)In response to both my last post and my original post on multiculturalism and China, ‘yourfriend’ has written a number of perceptive comments, arguing that multiculturalism as an ideology (not to be mistaken for a country being multicultural) is not a viable concept and thus not applicable to China. Other points, including a more accurate definition of Chinese ‘nationalities’ as ‘ethnicities’ and a critique of Professor Crane’s original argument are well worth reading, so I’ll reprint the three comments here with very minor editing (mainly the correction of a mistake that ‘yourfriend’ pointed out). If anyone else would like to offer comments on the topic, please do – discussions such as these can be crucial ways to learn. I’ll reply tomorrow.

Correction: I’ll have to reply on Tuesday, given that I have a course to attend tomorrow night. In the meantime, what do other readers think of multiculturalism, and – as ‘yourfriend’ asks in a more specific manner – how can or should we define nationality and culture?

First Comment – Response to the Original Post

The post makes less sense to me each time I read it. China is already multicultural, why the debate on whether “whites or blacks” can be “Chinese”?

Multiculturalism is a pretty loosely defined ideology, and there is no sense in using China’s current “multiculturalism” to make an argument for expanding it to include “blacks and whites” in China. I came to think that you didn’t have much of an appreciation for the ethnic and regional differences within the PRC, but I might have been wrong. I apologize if I am.

I question the quote by Crane here:

If Chinese multiculturalism does not deepen, if whites and blacks and other racial and ethnic groups cannot become Chinese, China will discourage the very people it has invited to understand its language and culture; and in the process it will be limiting the global market for its cultural products and undermining its world-wide political influence.

This is very speculative. The global market for Chinese cultural products is not very large; and especially not for genuine Chinese cultural products. At least to Americans, they consume Americanized cultural products created by “ethnic people” for the sake of novelty … very debasing, and all-around an unpleasant trade.

The second problem I have with the quote is that the CCP’s stance of “exporting Chinese culture” is not necessarily the will of the people. I personally have no interest in “sharing my culture” with insincere novelty-seekers. To what degree “whites and blacks” have been invited to share culture or even nationhood with China is debatable. As for worldwide political influence, I think the costs will be minor if it means eschewing reckless and wasteful ideological social engineering.

I don’t believe there are any objective benefits provided by multiculturalism. I don’t understand the statement that China needs an Australian mayor of Beijing. I don’t see why a very Northern Han city would not draw upon the ample Northern Chinese talent provided by the locals. They are the most connected to the city, after all.

Response to new post after this.

Second Comment

I do criticise China for being ‘xenophobic’ in its dealings with non-Han people – not racist, but acutely aware of an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ division within the country, especially in relation to the way in which minority ethnic groups are given ‘nationality’ status.

I don’t think that criticism is warranted. You’re also putting too much emphasis on semantics- especially since “nationality” is only one meaning of minzu. The use of what is translated as “nationality” does not imply that the Chinese state is tying blood to nation. It would probably be better translated as “ethnicity”.

and by extension that no country is yet multicultural

Ah, in that case I can get where you’re coming from.

Third Comment

Lastly, it should also be noted that there is great regional difference between people of the “Han” ethnic group. Taking that into consideration, multiculture probably isn’t the right term.

A lot more needs to be said first, as in what your ideals of “real” or “significant” multiculturalism are, and how the professor defines nationality and culture.

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