Nation-states are uncomplicated concepts. Which is why such a formidable disinformation apparatus is necessary to obfuscate them. States are the political and administrative expressions of their nations. Countries are the geographic boundaries of each. A state exists to advance the interests of a nation and protect the integrity of its habitat. The florid language of founding charters exist more as testaments to authors’ vanity than actual pledges of allegiance to abstractions.
For instance, saying America was founded for “freedom” means precisely nothing in practice, though it persists as irresistible boob-bait. Of course we all prefer abundant freedom for ourselves, though very little for those who wish to harm or take from us. This is native to the human condition, and thus adds very little in describing the functions of government for any particular state.
Ask a freedom advocate in good political standing if that includes the liberty to associate or not with whomever we like for whatever reason moves us. No, that’s discrimination. Or perhaps the right to express heretical opinions openly and candidly. No, that’s hate speech. Or maybe just the simple prerogative to limit our local law enforcement personnel to fellow citizens. No, you can’t do that either. “Freedom,” it seems, comes with a lot of fine print.
That’s why the oxymoronic “propositional nations” are destined to achieve the most ancient proposition of all: tribal submission, partition, or war. It’s also why actual nation-states watch their flailing with a subtle smirk and steepled fingers.
The theme of Chinese museum curators has been one we’ve returned to frequently in these pages. This because we can expect such institutions built on the bedrock of organic nation to long outlast those erected in the sand of Babel. Never is this more clear than when stepping outside our own national psychoses to observe the exotically rational alternative. This piece in The Economist is simply flummoxed by a China that is entirely disinterested in following us into the toilet swirl.
The world’s rising superpower has a particular vision of ethnicity and nationhood that has implications at home and abroad
How eccentrically particular are we talking here? So much that the Chinese vision of their ethnicity and nationhood doesn’t include North African chicken helots. And that’s about as idiosyncratic as an Economist writer can bear. How the editors of that magazine actually took the following to print without suffering a fatal swoon can only be explained by the fact that no whites were quoted advocating for the same.
Ethnicity is central to China’s national identity. It is the Han, 1.2bn of them in mainland China alone, that most people refer to as “Chinese”, rather than the country’s minorities, numbering 110m people. Ethnicity and nationality have become almost interchangeable for China’s Han, says James Leibold of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. That conflation is of fundamental importance. It defines the relations between the Han and other ethnic groups. By narrowing its legal labour market almost entirely to people of Han descent, ethnicity is shaping the country’s economy and development. And it strains foreign relations, too. Even ethnic Han whose families left for other countries generations ago are often regarded as part of a coherent national group, both by China’s government and people.
Can you imagine being so superstitious to believe that a Chinese man doesn’t become non-Chinese outside China? And to imagine them as a coherent group regardless of where they reside? Who do these coolies think they are anyway, AIPAC? Listen closely, you stop being what you were once the landing gear hits the tarmac. Which is useful since members of sexual fringe groups therefore become heterosexual patriarchs upon relocating to a traditionalist society. Just as primitive African animists become enlightenment social democrats as they arrive here. It’s a scientifically validated phenomenon. Just don’t fly me into Homostan, por favor.
Many Chinese today share the idea that a Chinese person is instantly recognisable—and that an ethnic Han must, in essence, be one of them. A young child in Beijing will openly point at someone with white or black skin and declare them a foreigner.
The kids don’t even give a Chiapas Indian the chance to show how Chinese he can be.
China today is extraordinarily homogenous. It sustains that by remaining almost entirely closed to new entrants except by birth. Unless someone is the child of a Chinese national, no matter how long they live there, how much money they make or tax they pay, it is virtually impossible to become a citizen. Someone who marries a Chinese person can theoretically gain citizenship; in practice few do. As a result, the most populous nation on Earth has only 1,448 naturalised Chinese in total, according to the 2010 census. Even Japan, better known for hostility to immigration, naturalises around 10,000 new citizens each year.
You mean I could eat Peking duck every goddamned day for a year WHILE PAYING TAXES and still not be a chinaman?
And be sure to absorb that naturalization figure: 1,448 souls total in a country of 1.2 billion. For sake of perspective, that’s America’s average (legal only) foreign intake every twelve hours. Which makes me wonder what sentiments they might candidly express watching the preening dissolution of our societies as they meticulously maintain the homogeneity and coherence of their own.
Believe me, it gets worse…
China’s Han-centred worldview extends to refugees. In a series of conflicts since 2009 between ethnic militias and government forces in Myanmar the Chinese government has consistently done more to help the thousands escaping into China from Kokang in Myanmar, where 90% of the population is Han, than it has to aid those leaving Kachin, who are not Han. Non-Chinese seem just as beguiled by the purity of Han China as the government in Beijing. Governments and NGOs never suggest that China take refugees from trouble spots elsewhere in the world. The only large influx China has accepted since 1949 were also Han: some 300,000 Vietnamese fled across the border in 1978-79, fearing persecution for being “Chinese”. China has almost completely closed its doors to any others. Aside from the group from Vietnam, China has only 583 refugees on its books. The country has more billionaires.
So the Chinese nation-state actively aids ethnic Chinese over those who are not. Now that’s just uncalled for, and not at all how we do things in the West. You don’t see Dutch troops aiding the Afrikaners, do you? At least not while there’s still a single Moroccan in the Maghreb. Perhaps The Economist can explain that modern European states, contra Chinese doctrine, exist to advance the welfare of non-Europeans. You have to actually be a Westerner before Western governments will despise you. So really East and West are equally particular about their people.
And can I just get some non-verbal confirmation that China actually has more billionaires than refugees?
Alright, fair enough. But living under a government that defends rather than attacks your interests does have its downside…
Yet China is already succumbing to problems many countries face as they grow richer and their workforce better educated. It has a severe shortage of social workers, care staff and nurses, jobs that most Chinese are unwilling to fill. That deficit will grow over the next decade as China’s population ages. Most rich countries attract immigrants to perform such roles, yet in September China’s government reiterated that visas for unskilled or service-industry workers would be “strictly limited”.
I understand from our American experience that paying competitive wages to incentivize the Jobs Chinese Won’t Do is off the table. And so without 40 million Mexicans China will simply have to make do without nurses. A country either has third-world open borders or it has no healthcare. That’s the choice.
How much worse can it get?
A closed China wilfully narrows its access to the global pool of professional talent. The government grants surprisingly few work visas. Foreigners made up 0.05% of the population in 2010, according to the World Bank, compared with 13% in America. A “green card” scheme was launched over a decade ago to attract overseas talent but only around 8,000 people qualified for one before 2013, the latest date for which figures exist.
All that succulent global talent. 158 million Bangladeshis just sitting there. But I guess China will have to sink or swim with only the Chinese–a daunting prospect indeed. And one we can already envision.
As China’s hospitals fall fallow from lack of nursing, and hundreds of millions of Han expire in the streets, some of the more far-sighted may cry for middle-eastern migrants. But too late. The billionaire/refugee ratio will have reeled out of control. And what remains will only be the province of Congolese museum curators.