There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see how their reaction differed.
To the latter I received a thumbs up, and gesticulations of a nuclear bomb going off. “Boom kapow!” the driver would rejoin, in a curiously sympathetic onomatopoeia.
“English gentleman” was the response to saying I was British, followed by a conversation never not about fog.
To being American I received a longer more considered riposte, but ending without fail in the observation that China should be wary of its foe across the Pacific, and by association me.
Were I to hail a cab now, things might be a little different. Our Prime Minister’s recent red-carpet kowtow to China’s visiting President has, according to a recent survey, improved the UK’s standing with the average Chinese person. I wonder what Donald Trump might have done for America’s.
Of the Chinese friends I asked on the matter of “Chuan Pu” (the Chinese nickname for Trump), the results were instructive. To those who spoke little to no English, Trump was an unheard of quantity. Telling, if unsurprising, given how tightly Chinese language media is controlled in the country. To those who did, and for whom outside media sources were more accessible, the results presented a rare pin hole into the complex and sometimes fragile psyche of Chinese nationalism.
“He is jealous of China stealing opportunities from Americans,” a friend argued. Another commented on how scared he felt by just how many Americans seemed to sympathise. “A big joke,” one declared, pausing before adding, “although he probably hates us”.
These comments are perhaps not misplaced. At the end of last year, the Republican favourite asserted that “China has gotten rich off us”. “They’re killing us,” he added, but not before proclaiming that the country would soon “be in trouble”.
Despite persistent reminders from Communist Party apparatchiks that China does not concern itself with the “internal affairs” of other countries, a seemingly credible President Trump will have pricked wily ears in Beijing.
Yes, for now, he is a bothersome curiosity for many in the country. Netizens on China’s Twitter – Weibo – did not take kindly to him calling their government out for a lax attitude to the North Koreans. The 2,522 fans of the “Chuan Pu” Weibo page, however, didn’t seem to mind. A few have quipped that Americans made history only seven years ago by voting in the country’s first black President; they may make it again by voting for its first orange one.
Yet minds far greater and guileful than ours in the Zhong Nan Hai (China’s Communist Party’s central HQ) will be watching Trump closely. For in him the perfect bogeyman presents itself.
To understand why, one must look to the Chinese classroom. Children’s textbooks point to a century of great shame at the hands of world powers. Successive governments have imbued three, perhaps four generations with a sense of victimhood: a bitterness held not just towards the Japanese and the British who occupied the country, but also to “imperialist” Americans who carved up the world for their own benefit. So the argument goes.
Current President Xi Jinping has shone a light on a new fork in the road of this narrative – China regaining its rightful place at the head of the world’s table. A reminder to all of the Chinese name of his country: “the Middle Kingdom”.
A bellicose, obdurate President Trump would provide more hawkish factions within the Party leadership with the opportunity to cool what has so far been a polite détente. The finger could be pointed more easily than against Obama. Why should China stop its land grab in the Pacific? Trump’s America engages in a combative foreign policy, it would be argued. How can America criticise China’s repression of indigenous Muslims in its restive Xinjiang province, when gun-toting Trump is “getting tough” on Muslims back home?
Trump’s belligerence now, and god forbid in power, might well suit the strategic designs China has on aggrandising its sphere of geographical influence. For there are fewer things the Communist Party loves more than a case study in what it regards as hypocrisy from foreign governments.
The Party knows all too well the visceral power of demarcating a foreign threat as a way of distracting its own citizens. I saw this personally in 2012 when Beijing’s police, in an unprecedented move, allowed public protests against Japan’s claim over a small set of islands in the South China Sea. Thousands took to the streets, throwing stones at Toyotas and a branch of Uniqlo, and forcing the closure of Japan’s embassy in the city. Many argued it was a calculated move to allow current President Xi to dispose quietly of his main political opponents and solidify his grip on power.
This now forgotten episode holds a chilling forewarning of the Party’s reaction to what is only now emerging as the slowest period of economic growth in 25 years. As China’s masters prepare for a hard landing, with painful readjustments to its economy in the pipeline, a foreign bogeyman is just what they need. And in Trump, they may have found the perfect candidate.
Paul Afshar ran a successful e-commerce startup in China, selling it last year to return to the UK. He now consults for corporations looking to improve their reputation in the region. He can be contacted @paulrezaafshar
There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see...
SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception)
Thank you so much.
First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome and happy New Year!
Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn, H E Ambassador Liu, Tom Watson and everyone
Xin Nian Kuai Le.
It is good to see so many old friends here as well as some faces that will hopefully become new friends!
What our new friends don’t yet know is that I give one of these speeches every year.
Given that this is our New Year and a time of renewal, I often look at the year just gone and reflect on what’s happened.
So I sat down to write tonight’s speech and thought about the last year.
And then I got up and poured myself a drink!
Don’t worry – I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account.
I think just remembering how I felt on the 8th May – well, I’m not ready to cry in front of you tonight!
From all of our various perspectives, backgrounds and histories,
we have all been trying to figure out what everything means;
what the party will become in the next four years and most importantly whether we can win in 2020.
Tonight, I am going to keep it short – but I would like to share two observations about what I hope the party will do in the next months and years to give us a real shot at winning in 2020.
The first is that this party is built on the strength of its diversity –
of background and of experience.
It is why I have always been so passionate about Chinese for Labour –
not just to give greater voice to people of Chinese origin in politics, but also to help the Labour party hear another perspective, gain another asset and become a richer, more diverse party.
Just as our diversity can be the strength of our party, I believe it is also the great strength of this country.
The Labour Party has always been the party of equality, of internationalism – of championing Britain’s status as a nation of immigrants – this we must never forget
The second point I would like to make tonight is that Labour has, tragically, taken the vote of ethnic minority people, like many of us, for granted.
And if we don’t act to correct that, we will pay a steep price – at the polls, in the make up of our party and in our leadership for generations to come.
The party hasn’t recognised that our approach to people from ethnic minority backgrounds has been backward looking – relying on past success and simplistic grouping
people of very different cultures together because it’s easier.
‘Asian’ comes to mean everything from Bangalore to Beijing. ‘Black’ comes to mean everything from Mombasa to Montego Bay.
In essence, Labour’s approach has failed to recognise three truths of today’s politics:
- That people always look to their future
- Voting does not simply and uncritically pass from one generation to the next
- People, more than ever, want to achieve their individual hopes and dreams
People who are the second-, third-, and fourth-generation of families who have come here from across the world don’t simply vote on the basis of what Labour did in ‘60s and 70s, or even in government in the 21st Century.
They want to know that Labour is working to create a society in which their lives are more secure and they have a better chance of making their individual hopes come true.
We know what we need to do – but don’t worry I’m not going to go through every policy point tonight – I’m not a politician!
So in the next year – in the new politics – I ask you this as you take your action to help Labour win in the May elections and work towards 2020 - let’s live our values.
Let us listen to each other, to people of every background and understand what they need from and can contribute to this Labour Party and our shared society.
What can we make possible for the next generation if we live our values to champion, embrace and build diversity again?
That must be the new politics.
Thank you so much and have a good night.
SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception) FEBURARY 2016Thank you so much. First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome...
What is the Junior Doctor Strike about? Is it about patient safety? It is about tired doctors? Is it about pay?
The government has been attempting to frame the mass disquiet over the junior doctors contract as purely a pay and working conditions dispute between an employer and an employee. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
The Tory government is like an employer who says, "from Monday, to improve productivity, we are going to employ an automated tannoy which shouts "work harder" on the hour every hour". Although this blue sky thinking makes no practical sense to anyone at all. You all know it is a disaster but no one wants to tell the boss.
Well the jig is up. This is the business of people's lives - you don't gamble over people's lives.
This contract is complicated. It is about patient safety. It is about tired doctors. It is about pay. It is about lots of important issues that when lumped together is so mind-bogglingly dangerous most doctors are so speechless and don't even know where to start. This is why getting a clear message out has been so difficult. Poor decision-making and planning is a certain path to catastrophic failure.
This week, as a junior doctor, I stand side-by-side with thousands of my colleagues up and down the country telling the government that Jeremy's Hunt is not fit for patients and it is not good enough for our NHS. The last few months have been rife with soul-searching for our profession. There is a grave responsibility that we always felt towards our patients coupled with the unspoken understanding that our goodwill and sacrifice would not be systematically abused.
Junior doctors already work in the early hours of the morning and in the weekend. They already provide the 7 day NHS service that the Tories advocate at the cost of our own personal lives. It is a personal choice that junior doctors have made that the government wish to exploit.
There have been a lot of numbers bandied around in this debate. For me there are a few simple messages that this contract says about what kind of society this government intends to build:
Jayne Lim is a executive member of Chinese for Labour and a junior doctor.
What is the Junior Doctor Strike about? Is it about patient safety? It is about tired doctors? Is it about pay? The government has been attempting to frame the mass...
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn,
Mr. Tom Watson,
Mr. Sonny Leong,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It gives me great pleasure to join you at this 2016 Chinese New Year Reception. I want to thank the Labour Party and Chinese for Labour for co-hosting this celebration.
Today is the second day in the Chinese 'Year of the Monkey.' I would like to begin by wishing every one of you Happy New Year!
A new year brings a new beginning. As we gather to mark this new beginning, we can all be full of expectations for the year ahead.
My first expectation is for China's continuous growth. This is important not just for Chinese people. It means China's continuing and potentially greater contribution to the global economy.
2015 saw a steady growth of 6.9% of Chinese economy. In particular, consumption contributed 66.4% of China's growth and the service sector accounted for 50.4% of China's total GDP. This was the first time in history that more than half of China's economic output was from the service sector. This advance was driven by new industries and businesses emerging at a faster pace. The good news for the people of the UK and people of the world is that China remains a powerhouse of the world economy. Last year China contributed more than a quarter of global growth.
2016 will mark the start of China's 13th Five Year Plan. To achieve high-quality, efficient and sustainable growth, China will follow through five new development concepts. Namely:
· Balanced growth
· Green economy
· And inclusiveness.
China's economy is resilient. Much more potential remains untapped and much more space can be opened up for further growth. China is both confident and capable of advancing structural adjustment. China is able to grow at a medium-to-high rate and inject greater momentum into world economic growth and global development.
My second expectation is for the steady progress of China-UK relations in the "Golden Era". In 2015, President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to the UK. Our two countries announced the building of the China-UK global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century. A "Golden Era" of our bilateral ties has begun.
So 2016 is the opening year of the "Golden Era".
· This year, we should build our efforts around fully implementing the outcomes of President Xi's visit.
· We should strengthen high-level exchanges.
· We should promote result-oriented cooperation.
· We should enhance cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
· And we should dovetail our respective development strategies.
We look forward to working closely with the British side in 2016 to get the "Golden Era" off to a good start.
My third expectation is for the Labour Party to play an even bigger role in advancing China-UK relations. The Labour Party has a historic proud political legacy and is an important force within British politics. The Labour Party has long adopted a proactive China policy and has always seen China as the UK's opportunity. There is no doubt that the Labour Party has made crucial and continuing contributions to the growth of the China-UK relationship.
Last October, during his state visit to the UK, President Xi had a fruitful meeting with Mr. Corbyn and the shadow cabinet. Looking into this new year, we hope to work closely with the Labour Party to build stronger China-UK ties in the "Golden Era". These could be our shared aims:
· We should have a broader vision for developing our relations.
· We should adopt down-to-earth approach to deepen our cooperation.
· And we should increase mutual understanding by closer exchanges and communications.
I also expect Chinese for Labour to continue to play its distinctive role. I warmly encourage Chinese for Labour to work for closer ties between China and the Labour Party and between China and the UK.
The year 2016 is the Chinese Year of the Monkey. In the Chinese culture, Monkey symbolizes quick wit, good fortune and ability to drive away evils and bring in blessings. It augurs great hopes for the new year ahead.
With this, I wish for a more splendid "Golden Era" of China-UK relations.
I wish for more fruitful party-to-party exchanges between China and the Labour party.
And I wish everyone a happy and prosperous Year of the Monkey!
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Tom Watson, Mr. Sonny Leong, Ladies and Gentlemen: It gives me great pleasure to join you at this 2016 Chinese New Year Reception. I want...
It’s no secret that the Chinese community in the UK lacks political representation, gaining our first and only Chinese MP last year -- and achievement somewhat tarnished by the fact that Alan Mak MP is a Conservative. Our representation in the Lords has been similarly poor. We’ve had only three peers: two crossbenchers, and a Conservative, of which only the latter is still serving.
But we are also critically underrepresented in the media. Ask an average Brit to name a single British Chinese actor or media personality and they’ll struggle, before finally remembering Ken Hom; of course they’re crestfallen when you tell them he’s actually American.
It’s not because there’s a lack of British Chinese talent, either. It’s because there’s simply no appetite for broadcasters to showcase them. Imagine how glad I was to hear that BBC2 are launching a China Season to coincide with Chinese New Year. It is, according to controller Kim Shillinglaw, demonstrative of the BBC’s “on-going commitment to bringing the world to our viewers,” she continues “It will allow viewers to visit one of the most fascinating and powerful countries in the world and show a little known nation in a whole new light.”
Fantastic. So some much needed airtime for Chinese faces, and a great opportunity to provide a platform for aspiring Chinese media personalities, presenters and academics. At least, it would have been if the programmes currently slated to be shown weren’t exclusively written, directed and produced by caucasians, and overwhelmingly presented by whites.
Let’s take a look at the trailer for China Season.
Did you spot the talented and charismatic Chinese presenter, constructing a story of China informed by his experience growing up as part of the British Chinese diaspora? Did you notice the brilliant and knowledgeable Chinese academic sharing her expertise on Chinese history and culture? No? Me neither.
It is quite remarkably difficult to put into words just how irksome it is to have a parade of middle aged, wealthy white men telling me all about the land of my ancestors. The Chinese faces in this trailer are mutes, lacking their own voice or their own self-determining power to present their identity in their own terms. Rather, their identity is ascribed to them by whites and intermediated to the audience by caucasians. It’s almost as if nothing has changed in 700 years.
This is the classic anthropological approach to exploring Chinese culture that has been the modus operandi of Europeans since the days of Marco Polo and the silk road. It seems we’ve yet to shake off this notion that Chinese people are ‘other’, that they’re animals to be observed on safari by enlightened white men in similarly white linen suits, that the phenomenology of Chineseness is secondary to the interpretive efforts of caucasians who are apparently uniquely capable of decoding the thoughts and values of the mystifying and inscrutable Han people.
The way the BBC have gone about producing this new season of programmes has shown us that we’ve still yet to graduate from the imperialistic mindset of colonial Britannia. To the British, the Chinese are still puzzling, baffling, mandarins with taloned fingers and fu manchu moustaches. Perhaps we’d be better understood if we were actually given a chance to speak for ourselves.
Alex Chai is a member of Chinese for Labour and Director of Consensus, a non-aligned organisation fostering open and inclusive debate amongst different wings of the Labour Party. More information can be found at www.labourconsensus.org.uk
It’s no secret that the Chinese community in the UK lacks political representation, gaining our first and only Chinese MP last year -- and achievement somewhat tarnished by the fact...
Happy Chinese New Year Message from Sadiq Khan
Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with friends and family, reflect on the past year and look forward to the future. As we mark the start of the Year of the Monkey, let us also celebrate the many contributions of London’s Chinese community which enrich our lives in this city.
My story is one that will be familiar to many in the Chinese community. My parents came to London in the 1960s, my dad working hard as a bus driver while my mum sewed clothes. They provided for me and my brothers and sisters as we grew up on our London council estate. I worked hard at school and university and after qualifying as a lawyer I set up my own law firm and helped build a successful business from scratch. I still live locally with my wife, bringing up our two daughters.
This year, I am running to serve you as London Mayor. I want all Londoners to have the same opportunities that our city gave me and my family: a home they can afford, a HIGH-skilled job with decent pay, an affordable and modern transport system and a safe, clean and healthy environment.
As your Mayor I will:
- Continue to support annual Chinese New Year celebrations to promote Chinese culture
- Work with the Chinese business community and Westminster Council to secure the future of Chinatown as a hub for Chinese business and the community, as part of a wider strategy to protect and expand space for business across London
- Work with London’s business community to promote economic links with China and East Asia
- Introduce a zero-tolerance approach to racist hate crimes, and ensure the police have the resources they need
- Work with London’s Chinese community leaders to promote understanding and build closer links
- Support the Chinese community’s call for a London Memorial for the 95,000 Chinese Labour Corps members, whose contribution to Britain during the First World War has yet to be properly commemorated
I wish you and your family good health, prosperity and happiness this Chinese New Year. London is the greatest city in the world. Together let’s make it even better.
2016 倫敦市長候選人簡薩迪 (Sadiq Khan)
Happy Chinese New Year Message from Sadiq Khan Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with friends and family, reflect on the past year and look forward to the...
Chinese New Year Message from Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP
The Chinese in Britain are a long established community who have made a huge contribution over many years to making Britain a vibrant and successful multicultural country. I wish the many thousands of people celebrating this Chinese New Year a healthy and prosperous year of the monkey.
I look forward to meeting representatives of the UK's Chinese community to listen to their thoughts on how we can build on the strong relationship that the Labour Party has established with the Chinese community and develop together the policies to help us make Britain a stronger and fairer society for all.
With very best wishes.
Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party
Chinese New Year Message from Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP The Chinese in Britain are a long established community who have made a huge contribution over many years to making...
They say the secret to great comedy is timing, but few within our Party will find reason for amusement at North Korea’s latest demonstration of their burgeoning nuclear capability. Kim Jong Un has chosen to perform another test detonation of a new, more powerful nuclear device at a time when our Party is at loggerheads over whether or not to renew our country’s own ageing nuclear capability. There are implications for both our Party, the Pacific region and the global community at large.
Jeremy Corbyn's case for British nuclear disarmament will not be helped by the emergence of a new nuclear power in the world, especially when the regime in question is governed by a maverick like Kim Jong Un who does not appear to be amenable to reason. For example, Xi Jinping is said to be furious over Kim’s decision to test a nuclear device without notifying him in advance, despite China being the DPRK's most significant benefactor. Kim gains nothing by angering China or alienating its leadership, though this has not stopped him from pursuing his nuclear programme in a manner that has antagonised his neighbour and ally.
But what does this actually mean for international defence and strategy? Well… Probably not a lot. Beyond the diplomatic implications, a nation state with Westphalian sovereignty -- albeit one that is frequently and variously described as ‘rogue’ or ‘isolated’ -- can be depended upon to behave in a predictable manner in the arena of nuclear standoff.
This is because there are good reasons to believe that even a totalitarian nation state with an eccentric and unstable figure like Kim Jung Un at the helm won’t deploy a nuclear weapon where there is likelihood of retaliation, even if it looked as though Kim was inclined to do so. Behind every despot is a suite of people who benefit from their patronage and in return shore up their leadership. When all a leader has to offer is the mutually assured destruction of their own society and the society of their most hated enemy, those that have the most to lose and the least to gain i.e. the political elites upon whom the leader is dependent, will see that as quite a hard sell indeed. We can reasonably assume that in such a situation, the apparatus that sustains their regime will turn against them.
In fact, these demonstrations of strength by Kim are designed specifically to appease those upon whom his leadership is dependent. International provocation of this manner places an emphasis on defence and militarisation, shoring up Kim’s support with his Generals. There is, however, a delicate balance to be struck between provocative displays of military might and destabilising acts of brinkmanship that could undermine his own leadership by making him appear imprudent to his own cohort.
It seems that, despite harsh international sanctions, North Korea remains determined to develop a nuclear capability, as well as a delivery system capable of striking the United States. The chances of this ever being used for the purpose it was designed are remote, making the likelihood of nuclear war not significantly greater than prior to Kim's latest test: but this is of course only kept in check by the prospect of his adversary's ability to retaliate.
Proponents of the government's plans to renew the UK's Trident programme will point to Kim's regime as an example of why maintaining a nuclear deterrent is essential in a world where the scientific knowledge required to build a nuclear device is widespread, and the resources necessary to construct one are obtainable even by a country incapable of feeding its own people. But those against the renewal of trident will claim the existence of the USA's own triad of nuclear weapons and our membership of NATO is sufficient to keep the lid on thermonuclear war.
It seems, in light of this, we might never be able to have a completely nuclear-free world so long as the potential for a rogue state to develop a weapon exists. And Kim's actions make it clear that this won't change any time soon.
Alex Chai is a member of Chinese for Labour and Director of Consensus, a non-aligned organisation fostering open and inclusive debate amongst different wings of the Labour Party. More information can be found at www.labourconsensus.org.uk
They say the secret to great comedy is timing, but few within our Party will find reason for amusement at North Korea’s latest demonstration of their burgeoning nuclear capability....
Chinese for Labour and the Labour Party's General Secretary, Iain McNicol, are delighted to invite you to celebrate Chinese New Year at a special reception on Tuesday, 9 February from 6.00 - 8.00 pm.
Chinese for Labour and the Labour Party's General Secretary, Iain McNicol, are delighted to invite you to celebrate Chinese New Year at a special reception on Tuesday, 9 February from... Read more
Labour must be alive to older voters or it will be dead in the water
Labour must be alive to older voters or it will be dead in the water Read more