April 25, 2008

“Model Immigrants” and  “Sino-Fascism”

Recently, I?ve become interested in a new scandal at Duke University that, unlike the last one, has remained under the radar. Coinciding with the international Olympic Torch protests of last week, a ?Free Tibet? rally was held on the steps of Duke?s beloved faux-Gothic cathedral. Pretty much de rigeur on any campus; however, things got interesting when the Free Tibeters were countered by an equally large ?Pro-China? contingent. The group?s leader, Cong Jin, a grad student in molecular physics and microbiology, wrote in his maniefesto that the Free Tibeters have no ground for protest since, ?in Chinese history, Tibet was incorporated into China during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).?

More photos of the epidsode are available at Flickr here.

As tempers flared, an undaunted Chinese freshman stepped betwixt the warring camps to try to help them talk things out. Bad move. The Pro-China camp immediately shouted her down as a ?traitor.? From there things got really bad. Later that night, the Duke Chinese Scholars and Students Association posted the brave young girl?s name, phone number, and Chinese identity number on their website. Next thing you know, the freshman reported receiving death threats, including some calling for her to be burned alive in oil. Two days later, the Duke Chronicle reported that the girl?s parents? home in Qingdao was vandalized?they were the proverbial nail sticking out that got hammered down by their state-fearing neighbors. 

What to make of all this? For the past half century, there?s been a tradition of American immigrants from totalitarian/communist countries being ultra-hawkish American nationalist. The best example of this is, of course, the Cubans?that reliably Republican voting bloc who?ve made sure that no major candidate even hinted at ending the blockade of their former land (even though it might seem a better idea to have a policy toward Cuba more like the one we have toward China.) This trend seems to have well outlasted the Cold War; at the very least my parents’ Bulgarian housekeeper is a really devoted Terror Warrior and “New Europe.” has consistently backed Uncle Sam. 

With the Chinese, things are different, particularly with the case of those younger immigrants lacking a memory of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. The state is the nation, and, as revealed by Cong?s comments about the status of Tibet, the formerly revolutionary Communist regime is perceived as an historical continuation of the Yuan Dynasty, with the same rights of sovereignty. 

When eight years ago John Derbyshire warned of the importation of ?Sino-Fascism??that is, groups of highly nationalistic Chinese who are ?consciously racial and explicitly anti-white??one could dismiss old Derb as rising to new level of curmudgeonliness. Are not Chinese grad students at Duke exactly the kind of ?good immigrants? who want to ?assimilate? whom Lou Dobbs is always talking about?

I?m not sure ?Sino-Fascism,? if we?re going to use this term, will actually develop into a serious domestic threat: I?d imagine it greatly dissipates among the second generation and mainly surfaces due to disputes that are endemic to China, particularly those over the ?three Ts? (Tibet, Turkestan, Taiwan). Then again, there?s the question of high-level spying. But Sino-Fascism is also clearly something serious?and something we can?t understand using the vocabulary developed for Latino immigrants.

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