In Scotland – 'Chinese all look alike' – but when does foreigner become “Chinese” in China?

In Scotland – 'Chinese all look alike' – but when does foreigner become “Chinese” in China?

Do I look less Chinese but more Scottish if I wear a kilt?

Check out these interesting news articles that Susanna Ng posted on

give an interesting perspective to the issue of nationality vs
culture.  Can we be Chinese if we are born in China?  Can we
be Scottish if we are born in Scotland.  Definitely, we are
Canadian if born in Canada – and we can also be Scottish and Chinese
too, if you are like my friend Fiona Tinwei Lam – born in Scotland of
Chinese ethnicity, but now a Canadian citizen since she was a child.

Judge clears driver because 'Chinese all look the same'

By David Lister, Scotland Correspondent, The Times

A JUDGE has provoked outrage among race relations groups by claiming that all Chinese people look the same.

Margaret Gimblett cleared Hui Yu, 23, a student from Beijing, of a
motoring offence after dismissing evidence from two police officers
identifying him.

She told Greenock Sheriff Court: “Without
wanting to be derogatory in any way, sometimes it is said that all
black people look the same at first glance, and the same can be said
that all Chinese people can look the same to a native Scot.

“It’s only when you have time to look that you begin to see the differences.”

'Chinese-ness' by race, or by culture?

following article is from the Shanghai Daily.  Interesting
article…  It is all about the individual person's
perspective.  Remember that even though I am 5th generation
Canadian – Mainland Chinese will view me as “Overseas Chinese.”

China calls itself “The Middle Kingdom.”  5000 years of continuous
uninterrupted culture has encouraged an ethno-centric viewpoint of the
world.  People who look  like us vs people who do not look
like us.  Most European countries also have a similar sense of
“national self.” But Brazil, USA and Canada are different… We are
colonized countries, populated by indigenous peoples plus many waves of
immigrants.   Our definition of “Canadian-ess” is less based
on race, but rather by shared culture and values.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who was born in Romania – yet she
identifies herself as a Hungarian – because that is her parent's
language and culture.  She told me that I was “Chinese,” even
though I am 5th generation Canadian.

“No…” she told me, “you are still Chinese… look at you…”

“Yes…” I said, “I just happened to be born with this beautiful DNA,
but I don't speak Chinese, I wasn't born in China, I don't think
Chinese.  I don't know all it's history and culture.”

Maybe it's the Nature vs Nurture issue.  Much of the things we
know can be taught, but somethings are socialized unconsciously, and
some things are hard-wired biologically.

I know somebody who was born in Shanghai, to Austrian parents, and is 100% Canadian.

I know somebody who was born in Scotland, to parents of Chinese ethnicity, and is 100% Canadian.

Being identified as one thing or another is often dependent on what
makes you stand out from the crowd. I grew up amongst white Canadians
in high school, so I was identified as the “Chinese guy.”  When I
hung out with lots of Asian-Canadians who were  immigrants or
children of immigrants, I was identified as the “Banana” or the “CBCer.”

But how we define ourselves is the most important thing.

Puzzle of identity: Beyond race, nationality
By Wayne Hsu 2007-1-8  Shanghai Daily

HOW we identify ourselves is how we perceive others see us.

For example, if I identify myself as an American, I also wish others to perceive me as an American.

Identifying oneself can sometimes be a tricky act. Many factors may come into play – race, nationality and cultural background.

for instance that I was born in China of Chinese ancestry, and at the
age of three I moved to France and lived there until I was 25. Shortly
after that, I moved to the United States and became a US citizen.

how should I identify myself? Am I Chinese? Sure, my race is Chinese.
Am I French? Sure, my cultural background is French. Am I American? Of
course, my nationality is American. The question remains how should we
identify ourselves?

a more significant question to ask oneself is: Which is the most
important factor among race, culture, and nationality? 

2 thoughts on “In Scotland – 'Chinese all look alike' – but when does foreigner become “Chinese” in China?

  1. Anonymous

    This blog posting says that…

    5000 years of continuous uninterrupted culture has encouraged an ethno-centric viewpoint of the world.

    However, it is wrong to say that China has had 5000 years of continuous uninterrupted culture . It is just something that people are used to saying (习惯说).
    Didn't the Mongolians (who speak a language in a completely different language family than Chinese) conquer and rule the Middle Kingdom and make Chinese people third class citizens? Isn't that an interruption?
    Didn't the Manchu's conquer and rule the Middle Kingdom (also speaking a language from a different language family than Chinese)? Isn't that also an interruption?
    Saying that “5000 years of continuous uninterrupted culture” is a well-known bit of sophistry that should be exposed at every mention.
    I know you were making a different point on ethno-centrism, Mr Wong, but could you also expose the nonsense of this shibboleth in the future?

  2. Anonymous

    traditionally, i think the reason chinese historians customarily group 5000 years as one uninterrupted culture is because they see history in terms of the word “culture”.
    if you want to separate different ethnic groups that had ruled the china proper over these 5000 years, not just to say the mongolians, the ruling Li family of the Tang dynasty also carried Xiongnu's blood. and there were even more kingdoms ruled by so-called non-chinese during the Wei-Jin period. don't forget the Qing dynasty too… when china was ruled by the Manchus.
    however, they all were essentially seen as “chinese” because culturally, they all have melted into the chinese culture – language, customs etc. they gave up nomadic lifestyles and used the chinese language. (don't forget that they were the rulers so they weren't oppressed by anyone to give up their own customs or language.)
    of course we would not define “chinese culture” narrowly to say it's of the Han ethnicity. for after so many thousands of years, chinese culture should be best desribed as one that has incorporated cultural elements of all ethnicities who have lived on the land.
    indeed, i was shocked when i first heard ppl calling Han chinese oppressive towards other minority groups in China (only heard such arguments in north america, where ppl interpret chinese history/cultre based on their own history and believe that all peoples went through the same track, that is majority being oppressive over minorities; also about political correctness i guess)…. i've never learnt history from this perspective and rarely did chinese historians make this topic a mainstream one. partly because this has not been a problem in our history. maybe it is just because of me being too shallow and ignorant.
    i have friends whose ancestors are not Han, but we never see each other as ppl from “the other tribes”. (as a matter of fact i don't even know what ethnicity i'm of coz no one ever talks about it). we all see ourselves as “chinese”.


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