Tan Kah Kee and overseas Chinese investment

In my post for Asian-Nation about Mainland and Taiwan influence in overseas Chinese schools, I wrote about a passage from my Chinese school days that was clearly Nationalist propaganda. Recently, I’ve found a passage from a Mainland textbook that is propaganda from the other side.

This quotation is from book 11 of 12 of the Zhongwen (中文) series, published by Jinan University and commissioned by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council (國務院僑務辦公室). The series is aimed specifically at Overseas Chinese in extracurricular language programs.

The chapter is about overseas Chinese business person Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚). Tan was born in Qing-era Fujian province and became rich in colonial Singapore. He returned to the People’s Republic of China to use his riches in the service of the homeland.

1949年10月1日,陈嘉庚应邀登上了天安门城楼,参加开国大典,亲眼看到了五星红旗在雄壮的国歌声中庄严升起,深深感到作为一个中国人十分自豪,同时也感到责任重大。中华人民共和国成立以后,他先后担任中央人民政府委员、华侨事务委员会委员、全国侨联主席、全国政协副主席,以极大的热情投身于新中国的建设事业。(p. 32)

On October 1, 1949, Tan Kah Kee was invited up to the Tiananmen tower for the ceremony marking the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. With his own eyes, he saw the five-starred red flag rise solemnly as the majestic national anthem played. He felt deeply the pride of being a Chinese person; at the same time, he felt a great sense of duty. After the PRC was founded, he held one office after another: member of the Central People’s Government, Chairman of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, Chairman of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He threw himself fervently into the project of creating a new China.

The unmistakable message here is that overseas Chinese students should return to and invest in the homeland, as Tan had done.

Continue reading “Tan Kah Kee and overseas Chinese investment”

Balancing American, Mainland, and Taiwanese influences in Chinese language schools

Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons).

C.N. Le of Asian-Nation has graciously invited me to contribute to his blog, which was one of the first (if not the first) sociology blog looking specifically at Asian Americans. I remember reading Asian-Nation in high school and college and being awed by the kind of things that sociologists did. Little did I know that I would end up in graduate school for sociology and writing for that blog!

My first post looks at an aspect of my research that has come up relatively recently: the role of the US, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese states in Chinese language schools. Though I’ve reproduced the text of the post after the jump, I encourage you to read and comment on the post at Asian-Nation. Continue reading “Balancing American, Mainland, and Taiwanese influences in Chinese language schools”

Blacks, Latinos, and the push to learn Chinese

I include the trailer for Speaking in Tongues because although the bilingual education debate in the United States is usually focused around Spanish speakers, the filmmakers chose to emphasize Mandarin and Cantonese and play into viewers’ perceptions of Chinese as an increasingly valuable language.

Update 9/11/12: Thanks to Racialicious for quoting me on their Tumblr. This post seems to have gotten a bit of attention there. I did not realize until this morning that I had automatically disabled comments on my posts; that has been changed.

In the past few years, the American press has written hundreds of feature stories about the push to learn Chinese, and since this is what I study, I pay close attention to these articles. Until this morning, I have not encountered an article in which the arguments for and against Chinese language learning have been so revealing about the US racial order.

Yellow peril fears are noticeably absent in this National Public Radio piece on the Chinese language mandate in Bibb County, Georgia. Asians are not a major presence in this county: according to the 2010 Census, Bibb County is 52% black, 43% white, 1.6% Asian, and just shy of 3% Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Except for a few boilerplate lines about “a Communist regime enacting its geopolitical agenda on their children” and “China and India will have 50 percent of the world GDP,” the commentary here is not about Asians, but rather about blacks and Latinos. For example, let’s take a look at this quote from a Bibb County resident, whom I assume to be white, judging from her English phonology:

“Bibb County is not known for producing the highest-achieving graduates,” says Macon resident Dina McDonald. “You’ll see that many of them can’t even speak basic English.” (emphasis mine)

Here in the bolded text you see McDonald’s language ideology, specifically her ideology about African American Vernacular English (AAVE). While sociolinguists recognize AAVE (often pejoratively referred to as Ebonics) as a rich dialect of American English in its own right, many Americans consider AAVE to be a substandard slang of the ignorant, loaded down with the twin stigmas of blackness and poverty.

Continue reading “Blacks, Latinos, and the push to learn Chinese”