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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006. No paid or guest posts, no link sales.



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25.09.2022

The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears? Are they anti-Chinese?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.

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Filed under: China, culture, media, New Zealand, TV, Wellington—Jack Yan @ 23.34

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