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jaeger's avatar

Is it xenophobic to hate any country that obstructs the development and progression of your own country?

Asked by jaeger (164 points ) April 16th, 2008

I was reading this National Geographic feature article on China .

In the article, the author mentions how sometimes “the old xenophobia flashed across their essays” when describing the writings of his Chinese students. I feel this wasn’t a fair or accurate description of the emotion. Here is a sample he provided as “xenophobic”:

Sometimes the old xenophobia flashed across their essays. Once, I assigned the topic “What Do You Hate?” and never had those brittle pages contained so much anger. They hated the Japanese for invading their country in the 1930s; they hated the Nationalist government for ruling Taiwan. “I hate all the countries in the world that abstruct our country developing,” wrote Sean. History was personal, and so were international affairs; a student named Richard hated a man he had never met, the president of Taiwan. “Lee Teng-hui don’t follow the mandate of the heaven and comply with the popular wishes of the people,” Richard wrote. “He want Taiwan continue to be an independent kingdom which is under his control.”

Is it xenophobic to hate someone for getting in your way? I believe it is xenophobic to hate because of difference.

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13 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

You just asked this question because you wanted to use xenophobia in a sentence, admit it!

wildflower's avatar

xenophobic indicates fear of the unknown, foreign, different. The authors point was probably that these students felt so strongly about something they know little or nothing about, ie a country rather than specific people or people that they’ve never met.

osakarob's avatar

Xenophobia means being unduly fearful or contemptuous of things or people which are foreign or unknown. I agree with Wildflower. The author is pointing out the illogical nature of xenophobia. I wonder if maybe you are also picking up on how the writer is implicitly suggesting that in modern times xenophobia is some kind of sociological relic. By characterizing it as “the old xenophobia….”, he may be unintentionally somewhat condescending by suggesting that these student’s views of the world are quaint or unsophisticated. Isn’t he suggesting that the Chinese students are also contemptuous of the Japanese (whether rightly or wrongly…)? By holding strong feelings about Asia’s past, they are somehow seen as being backward, introverted or in this case xenophobic.

Many Western writers suffer from this kind of intellectual hubris when discussing the peoples of Asia. They have the notion that because Asian education relies greatly on rote memorization that students somehow lack critical thinking skills and instead rely on the opinions of teachers and authority figures. While this is true to some extent, it unfortunately creates in the minds of many Western readers that Asian people are mindless autonomatons who cannot think for themselves. I see this a lot when describing both the Japanese and the Chinese. While I greatly respect and admire National Geographic, this tendency to place Western schools of learning at the top of the intellectual hierarchy and be dismissive of Asian approaches as being feudalistic or backward is still very common even among the best writers.

lifeflame's avatar

As a Chinese person, I can say (as a generalisation):

1. The Chinese are very in-group. We go abroad… and set up our own Chinatowns. My grandmother managed to live in Toronto for years without learning English. Yes, it is partly xenophobic, but also partly arrogance.

2. I don’t think old hatred of the Japanese from WWII is a “fear of the unknown”.. it’s part of a historical consciousness. If you hear stories of your grandparents’ experiences about someone being blown up next to you when the Japanese invaded, then it becomes part of your cultural consciousness. Now what is interesting is how it carries or does not carry into the next generation.
(By the way, if China and Japan feel very far away, you can try to substitute the Jews and Germans.. how do Jewish people feel about the modern German?)

In a nutshell, I don’t think the above passage is about xenophobia.

What I do feel the discussion does raise is about how much we should or should not identify ourselves with a group, and to what extent our identification (national, cultural) is constructive (shared history, culture, roots) and to what extent it is exclusive, defensive or even aggressive. Defining an “enemy” is one of the most simplistic ways to rally an in-group, and we should question this type of oversimplification.

squirbel's avatar

@gorillapaws: No, I didn’t just want to use xenophobic in a sentence. [jaeger is my other name here.]

wildflower's avatar

OK, I’m going off topic now, but why would you have more than one name on here?

scamp's avatar

I was wondering the same thing.

squirbel's avatar

because my score got uncomfortably high.

wildflower's avatar

just embrace the lurve people give you….....it’s not uncomfortable!

DeezerQueue's avatar

@lifeflame While I generally agree with your thoughts, it is difficult to put into practice. I am, for example, living in a country as a foreigner, an American (horror), and experience xenophobia around me, directly and indirectly, frequently.

It takes a great psychological leap of faith to engage others that are unknown or different than yourself. It’s scary and a positive outcome is muddied by cultural differences and habits that make people chafe.

lifeflame's avatar

@DeezerQueue-

I know. I was living in a small town in Poland where I was the one of three Asian faces within the whole cluster of nearby towns. On the trams the adults would stare at me covertly; kids would stare at me openly; and the really ignorant and annoying neighbourhood kids would gang up and sing “Ching Chang Chong”. The last was not fun at all, especially after dark when that neighbourhood could get a bit dubious for a lone female. (solution: I got a bike and whizzed by them)

On the other hand, I really enjoyed my year there. I made some really solid friends, many of whom I am still in contact with today. I also made up this interview-project where I talked to people from different generations about WWII (or what they had heard from their grandparents about the war) and two very interesting things happened. Someone once said, “You know, it’s easier in a way telling you because you are from so far away” or “I’m surprised that someone from so far away would be so interested in us” ... and then, another time, while chatting with a grandmother through rudimentary Polish I realised how little translation was needed. She was talking about being a scout and taking messages by bicycle and I got it even before my translator-friend spoke and also managed to say, “Scout? I was too.”

And strangers too. I’ve had wonderful, mundane, bizzare.. all sorts of conversations. I think the most important thing is to keep a sense of humour. For the really ignorant I amuse myself by telling them, “Do I know Jet Li? He’s my uncle!” “Yes, we all learn kungfu from age three.”

Nullo's avatar

I suspect that what the article is actually seeing is that the sons of China are being told to hate people.
I think that @lifeflame is on to something; as a child I read what I could of World War II, and that shaped my perceptions of the Germans and the Japanese (though not the Italians – I had more immediate sources for them). Years later, after meeting real, modern Germans (besides @ragingloli) and studying Japan through and around anime, and possibly even maturing a little, I came to realize that there was no practicality in thinking about countries as they were in the 1940s. Those kids might just need to get out and meet new people, or at least get a new curriculum.

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