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Sinophobia (from Latin Sinae "the Chinese" + Ancient Greek φόβος -phobos, "fear") or anti-Chinese sentiment is the fear of or dislike of Chinamarker, its people, or its culture. Sinophobia can affect both the actions and attitudes of individuals or the policies of governments and other organizations.

Sinophobic attitudes often target Chinese minorities living outside of China. Sinophobia is complicated by the dilemma of immigration and majority-minority relations.

Southeast Asia

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Southeast Asian countries is often rooted in socio-economics. Chinese traders from the coast of mainland China and refugees of the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars in China emigrated throughout Southeast Asia countries and eventually became the majority population of Singaporemarker, a large minority in Malaysiamarker and Thailandmarker, and small (less that 5% of the total population) minority groups in Indonesiamarker and the Philippinesmarker. A tradition of trading and clan-style self-reliance enabled the Chinese to control much of the capital in these countries. This clannish attitude among the immigrants and their descendants and the ethnic group's disproportionate control of wealth encouraged Sinophobic sentiment.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines

In countries with small Chinese minorities, the economic disparity can be remarkable. For example, in 1998, ethnic Chinese made up just 1% of the population of the Philippines and 3% of the population in Indonesia, but controlled 60% of the Philippines private economy and 70% of the Indonesian private economy. In Malaysia the low birth rate of Chinese decreased its relative population from one half to one third. One study of the Chinese as a "market-dominant minority" notes that "Chinese market dominance and intense resentment amongst the indigenous majority is characteristic of virtually every country in Southeast Asia".

This asymmetrical economic position has incited anti-Chinese sentiment among the poorer majorities. Sometimes the anti-Chinese attitudes turn violent, such as the May 13 Incident in Malaysia in 1969 and the Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000 people died. During the colonial era, some genocides killed ten thousands of Chinese. During the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, in which more than 500,000 people died, ethnic Chinese were killed and their properties looted and burned as a result of anti-Chinese racism on the excuse that Dipa "Amat" Aidit had brought the PKI closer to China. In the Philippines, hundreds of Chinese are kidnapped every year and may be killed regardless of ransom—a problem the ethnic Filipinomarker police are often indifferent to.

Sinophobia is also codified in some Southeast Asian countries. The anti-Chinese legislation was in the Indonesian constitution until 1998.The government of Malaysia is constitutionally obliged to uphold the privileged status of the Bumiputra, at the expense of the Chinese and other ethnic groups.


Due to a history of fighting Chinese invaders and recent territory disputes in the Paracelmarker and Spratly Islandsmarker, many people in Vietnam hold anti-Chinese sentiments. While the government tries to maintain friendly ties with the Chinese government by cracking down on anti-Chinese demonstrations and criticisms regarding China, anti-Chinese sentiments had spiked in 2007 after China formed an administrationmarker in the disputed islands, in 2009 when the Vietnamese government allowed the Chinese aluminum manufacturer Chinalco the rights to mine for bauxite in the Central Highlands, and when Vietnamese fishermen were detained by Chinese security forces while seeking refuge in the disputed territories.

The Sino-Vietnamese War resulted in the discrimination and consequent emigration of the country's ethnic Chinese, many of whom fled as "boat people". From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnammarker by boat as refugees or were expelled across the land border with China.


In Cambodia in the late 1960s an estimated 425,000 ethnic Chinese lived in Cambodiamarker. By 1984, as a result of the Khmer Rouge genocide and emigration, only about 61,400 Chinese remained in the country.


In 2000, Tongan noble Tu’ivakano of Nukunuku banned Chinese stores from his Nukunuku District in Tongamarker. This followed complaints from other shopkeepers regarding competition from local Chinese. In 2001, Tonga's Chinese community (a population of about three or four thousand people) was hit by a wave racist assaults . The Tongan government did not renew the work permits of more than 600 Chinese storekeepers, and has admitted the decision was in response to “widespread anger at the growing presence of the storekeepers”.

In 2006, rioters damaged shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in Nuku alofamarker.

In 2006, Honiaramarker's Chinatown suffered damage when it was looted and burned by rioters following a contested election. It had been alleged that ethnic Chinese businessmen had bribed members of the Solomon Islandsmarker' Parliament.

East Asia


Tokugawa period

From 1600 to 1868, during the Tokugawa period, Japan transformed from a country divided by civil war to a unified, stable, and mature state. This period saw an attempt to remove foreign, including Chinese, influence on Japanese culture.

During this period, Japan remained relatively isolated from the world, so its culture developed with very little foreign influence. One of the major cultural movements of the Tokugawa period was the institution of a branch of scholarship called kokugaku, literally "National Studies" and commonly translated as "Japanese Studies". Practitioners of the movement, or Kokugakushu, attempted to distinguish between what was genuine Japanese culture and what was foreign culture, and to restore Japanese culture to what it was before the influence of foreigners—especially the Chinese. Their work had a large focus on Shinto, Japan's indigenous religion. Early-Tokugawa Confucians tried to link Shinto with China by pinpointing its Chinese origins. The Hirata school of the kokugaku movement responded by initiating a project to "Japanize" the I Ching, a book that was a major influences on Shinto, by claiming it was of Japanese origin. The project was completed with Aizawa Seishisai emptying the I Ching of its Chinese content. The rise in national self-respect during this period resulted in Japan viewing itself as the center of a "civilized world surrounded by barbarians".

Meiji Restoration

From 1866 to 1869, during Japan's Meiji Restoration, Japan was able to catch up with the progress of western nations. Meanwhile, China was sinking into a state of deep dysfunction. Although Yukichi Fukuzawa refused to recognise China as a bad friend in Datsu-A Ron, translated to "Argument for Leaving Asia", this was not the prevailing attitude and the discriminating consciousness to China remained.

These Sinophobic sentiments fueled the Imperial soldiers' atrocities committed against the Chinese during World War II, culminating in the Nanking Massacre. The Second Sino-Japanese War claimed the lives of more than 20 million Chinese, mostly civilian. The property loss suffered by the Chinese was valued at 383 billion US dollars according to the currency exchange rate in July 1937, roughly 50 times the GDP of Japan at that time (US$7.7 billion)

Post World War II

Openly sinophobic sentiments were stifled following the end of the World War II and became taboo in the mainstream media, even though Japan and the People's Republic of China took opposite sides in the Cold War. Except in a handful of cases, such as the Japanese name for "South China Seamarker" and an alternative term for ramen, use of the word Shina (China) all but disappeared. There was little contact between Japan and the People's Republic of Chinamarker in the ensuing decades. There was little discussion of China until the relationship between the two countries was normalised in 1972, when there was a surge of interest in Japan about its neighbour. China renounced reparations for the Second World War, partly to avoid appearing less generous than Taiwan—which had earlier done the same—and also to strengthen its position against the Soviet Union, the response was considerable gratitude and goodwill in Japan at the time. Sinophobia at this time was confined to the context of fear of communism. Public animosity toward the People's Republic of China was minimal compared to the public animosity held against the Soviet Union, and a friendly mood prevailed. Improvements were also seen in social attitudes toward ethnic Chinese residents of Japan, along with other minorities such as Zainichi Koreans and Ainu people.

However, since 2000, Japan has seen a gradual resurgence of anti-Chinese sentiments. The xenophobic sentiments are coupled with the effects of an increasingly tense political relationship between Japan and the People's Republic of China. Reasons for the revival of sinophobia include the rapid development of the Chinese economy, China's military build up, and its stance against Taiwan—this has led some in Japan to see China as a potential threat to national security. Many Japanese believe that China is using the issue of the countries' checkered history, such as the Japanese history textbook controversies and official visits to the Yasukuni shrinemarker, both as a diplomatic card and to make Japan a scapegoat in domestic politics. The Anti-Japanese Riots in Spring of 2005 also caused more fear of China within the Japanese public. One of the effects is a political climate which is increasingly tolerant of anti-Chinese comments by right wing politicians.Anti-Chinese sentiments in Japan have been on a sharply rise since 2002. According to Pew Global Attitude Project (2008), unfavorable view of china was 84%, unfavorable view of Chinese people was 73%.


Anti-Chinese sentiments in Korea have been on a steady rise since 2002. According to Pew Global Attitude Project, favorable view of China steadily declined from 66% in 2002 to 48% in 2008, while unfavorable view of China rose from 31% in 2002 to 49% in 2008. According to polls by East Asia Institute, positive view of China's influence declined from 48.6% in 2005 to 38% in 2009, while negative view of Chinese influence rose from 46.7% in 2005 to 50% in 2008.

The turning point of rising anti-Chinese sentiments was the Northeast Project, a controversial Chinese government research project claiming Gojoseon, Buyeo Goguryeo, Balhae, which was the ancient Korean kingdoms, to be a Chinese province and part of historical Chinese territory. This sparked a massive uproar in South Korea when the project was widely publicized in 2004. There are also other issues that negatively affected sentiments towards China, such as Made in China controversies, Chinese fishboats illegally trespassing South Korean territorial waters, and the Seoulmarker leg of Beijing Olympics Torch Relay where Chinese students turned to violent protest.


Occupation of Mongolia by Qing Dynastymarker and increasing Chinese activity in Mongolia in recent years sparked anti-Chinese sentiments and neo-Nazi racism among Mongolians. Mongolians see China as a threat to their jobs, resources and possibly territory. China also claimed Ghenghis Khan to be Chinese, which caused an outrage in Mongolia.

Russian Far East

In Russia’s Siberiamarker and the Russian Far East, there is a long-standing dispute over territorial rights, which is thinly woven under the conflicts between two competing homogeneous cultures over limited resources. There is also a perceived fear of a demographic takeover by Chinese immigrants in sparsely populated Russian areas.

Outside of Asia

A Sinophobic cartoon appearing in the United States in 1899
Sinophobia in the United States in the 19th century
China has figured in the Western imagination in a variety of ways: positively—as an inventive, well-organized alternative civilization, and negatively—as a monolithic and repressive society. Anti-communists and proponents of liberal democracy are quick to point out the faults of the People's Republic of China in areas such as human rights. Issues like Tiananmen Squaremarker and the political status of Tibet continue to be significant irritants in Sino-American relations.

The European view towards China from the exotic descriptions of The Travels of Marco Polo developed into a patronising superiority as the West (later including Japan) attempted to extend their colonial empires into China. Successful attempts in exporting opium into the Chinese Empire and a series of other commercial and military successes exposed to colonial powers a political fact: China's culture appeared glorious, but its government showed weaknesses that could be exploited for commercial and cultural gain.

Sinophobia became more common as China was becoming a major source of immigrants for the west (including the American West). Numerous Chinese immigrants to North America were attracted by wages offered by large railway companies in the late 19th century as the companies built the transcontinental railroads.

Sinophobic policies (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, anti-Chinese zoning laws and restrictive covenants, the policies of Richard Seddon, and the White Australia policy) and pronouncements on the "yellow peril" were in evidence as late as the mid-20th century in the Australia, United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, and New Zealandmarker.


The Chinese population was active in political and social life in Australia. Community leaders protested against discriminatory legislation and attitudes, and despite the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901, Chinese communities around Australia participated in parades and celebrations of Australia's Federation and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.

Although the Chinese communities in Australia were generally peaceful and industrious, resentment flared up against them because of their different customs and traditions. In the mid 19th century, terms such as "dirty, disease ridden, [and] insect-like" were used in Australia and New Zealand to describe the Chinese.

A poll tax was passed in Victoria in 1855 to restrict Chinese immigration. New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia followed suit. Such legislation did not distinguish between naturalised, British citizens, Australian-born and Chinese-born individuals. The tax in Victoria and New South Wales was repealed in the 1860s, but by the 1880s there was another wave of anti-Chinese sentiment. Despite a steady decline in the number of Chinese residents in Australia, the numbers of Chinese and Chinese-Australians in the more visible Chinatowns of Melbourne and Sydney were growing. In 1887, two Chinese Commissioners, the first statesmen from China to visit Australia, arrived to assess the living conditions of Chinese in Australia after numerous requests from Chinese living abroad. In 1888, following protests and strike actions, an inter-colonial conference agreed to reinstate and increase the severity of restrictions on Chinese immigration. This provided the basis for the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the seed for the White Australia Policy.

United States

In the later part of the 19th Century, the United States—particularly the West Coast states—imported large numbers of Chinese migrant laborers. The decline of the Qing Dynastymarker in China caused many Chinese to emigrate overseas in search of a more stable life, and this coincided with the rapid growth of American industry. The Chinese were considered by employers as "reliable" workers who would continue working, without complaint, even under destitute conditions.

Chinese migrant workers encountered considerable prejudice in the United States, especially by the people who occupied the lower layers in white society. There were cases of physical assaults on Chinese, such as the Chinese massacre of 1871 in Los Angelesmarker. The 1909 murder of Elsie Sigel in New York, of which a Chinese person was suspected (but never proven), was blamed on the Chinese in general and led to physical violence.

Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, who had once been subject to similar prejudice themselves, were often involved in such assaults, believing that their condition had been worsened by the influx of Chinese laborers.

The emerging American trade unions, under such leaders as Samuel Gompers, also took an outspoken anti-Chinese position, regarding Chinese laborers as competitors to white laborers. Only with the emergence of the international trade union, IWW, did trade unionists start to accept Chinese workers as part of the American working-class.

In the 1870s and 1880s various legal discriminatory measures were taken against the Chinese. These laws, in particular the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were aimed at restricting further immigration from China.

Even Supreme Courtmarker Justice John Marshall Harlan, who was the sole dissenting voice against the segregation of Black Americans in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), wrote: "In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. (...) [But] there is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race."

During World War II, the attitude of Americans toward Chinese-Americans began to change, as China was considered an ally of the United States against imperial Japanmarker. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943.

See also

External links


  1. Sinophobic. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  2. Chua. pg. 3 & 43.
  3. Chua. (2003). pg. 61.
  4. Malaysia's race rules. The Economist Newspaper Limited (2005-08-25). Requires login.
  5. 明清对待海外华人的不同态度
  6. 海外汉人被屠杀的血泪史大全
  7. 十七﹒八世紀海外華人慘案初探
  8. 东南亚华人遭受的几次屠杀
  9. 南洋华人被大规模屠杀不完全记录
  10. Indonesian academics fight burning of books on 1965 coup,
  11. Vickers (2005), p. 158
  12. BBC News | Analysis | Indonesia: Why ethnic Chinese are afraid
  13. Chua. pg. 1-5.
  14. Griffin, Kevin. Vietnamese. Discover Vancouver.
  15. Genocide - Cambodia
  16. The Cambodian Genocide and International Law
  17. Cambodia the Chinese
  18. "No More Chinese!",
  19. "Tonga announces the expulsion of hundreds of Chinese immigrants", John Braddock, WSWS, December 18, 2001
  20. "The Pacific Proxy: China vs Taiwan", Graeme Dobell, ABC Radio Australia, February 7, 2007
  21. "Chinese stores looted in Tonga riots", People's Daily, November 17, 2006
  22. Tokugawa Period. BookRags. Retrieved on 2008-08-24.
  23. [ Tokugawa Enlightenment]
  24. First 1500 characters of Shintoism]. Retrieved on 2008-08-24.
  25. Shinto. Retrieved on 2008-08-24.
  26. Ng, Wai-ming. The I Ching in the Shinto Thought of Tokugawa Japan. University of Hawaii Press (1998). Retrieved on 2008-08-24.
  27. Kanji Nishio II. Japan's Identity: Is Asia One? Is Japan Part of the East? Japan Forum on International Relations. Retrieved on 2008-08-24.
  28. Japan needs an Obama. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved on 2008-09-03.
  29. Nuclear Power: The End of the War Against Japan
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  31. Matthew Forney, "Why China Loves to Hate Japan". Time Magazine, December 10, 2005.,8599,1139759,00.html, accessed 1 June 2008
  32. 24-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey(2008) 35p, Pew Research
  33. World Public Opinion surveys, 2002-2008
  34. East Asia Institute Foreign Perception Survey 2005-2009, some in collaboration with BBC World Service Polls 2005-2008
  35. Donga Monthly.
  38. Baker, Graeme. (December 30, 2006). Outrage as China lays claim to Genghis Khan. The Daily Telegraph.
  39. [2]

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