Who Are Real Chinese?

George in New York is a 47 year old Asian American friend  who I would consider very American.   He was the youngest senior partner at Merrill Lynch in  Venture Capital before the age of 30 and he was the first Chinese partner.  During the early 1990's he  and his partners assisted ATT to enter the China market.  His toil and sweat to forefront in a system not tolerant of Asians allowed for a younger, well-educated group to advance and get ahead in today's western dominated corporate world. George is part of the forefronters who pushed the envelope to make it easier for Asians like me.  

In Vancouver nowadays, the establishment embraces Asians and Chinese are now an integral part of setting trends.   The city has become the testing ground for East meets West concepts in housing, retailing, and in the service industry.  After some trial and error, the theory of incorporating the best of East and West has proved that some concepts are translatable and financially lucrative.

Albert Cheng is a Joy Lucker who struck pay dirt translating concepts.  He's a former talk show host getting ready to launch a new radio station in Hong Kong.  His current affairs show, Teacup in a Storm, attracts an audience of over one million listeners daily and is Hong Kong's most popular radiobroadcast.  Once on a three-day visit to my work home base in Hong Kong, I rode past a 10-storey portrait of Albert painted on a building near the waterfront of Gloucester Road in Wanchai.   Albert used to be a Canadian and was an aircraft engineer in Vancouver.   In those days he was pitching efforts to build The Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver which my Father is a founding director.      A man of many ideas and opinions, Albert is best known for having created a publishing empire that sold Chinese language editions of Forbes and Playboy magazines.  He secured the rights for MTV in Asia and sold 75 per cent of MTV Asia to Hutch Vision, enabling Richard Li's STAR-TV Western programming.  Rupert Murdoch purchased the remaining shares of MTV Asia from Albert when he acquired STAR-TV from Hutchison.  By April 1992, MTV Asia was reaching eleven million homes in 47 countries.  A year later, MTV Asia reached an additional five million households in China.  The market penetration is acknowledged as one of the most potentially lucrative in the world. The essence of this success story is in translating widely accepted western concept in local language.  Today, thanks to Albert Cheng's insight, sixty-three languages and dialects are broadcast  on 20 channels to 53 countries around Asia.  His gets apparently 4 million visitors per day on their web site!   China is, after all largest internet market after the U.S. with an audience of approximately 360 million.

Finally, as yoga friend Betty says, "In our days, it wasn't a question of whether we were Chinese.   Lord Strathcona School in Vancouver's Chinatown was predominantly Chinese.   But it wasn't till she moved to and lived in Beijing that she realized that a lot of people look like her.   And she is Chinese.   But she doesn't think like a PRC person!".

Which begs the question "Who Are REAL Chinese?"     - by Andrea Eng      


Shift in Asian immigration brings cultural rebalancing
Not all Chinese even share the same language

The ramifications are the subject of a series by Petti Fong of The Vancouver Sun

Ula Chiu knew her elusive cultural identity would catch up with her at some point but she didn't expect the confrontation to take place in a karaoke bar.

The opening notes of an unfamiliar song began and just as Chiu thought it was time to start laughing at all the people who got up to sing, her friends began singing along. In Mandarin.

"I was shocked," Chiu remembers. "It was just songs in Chinese, but it felt like this very different world I was witnessing."

Chiu thought she and her friends were going to a karaoke bar to make fun of those who would get up to sing.

"I thought they were like me," she says. "A banana. I felt at first, what's wrong with them, and then I thought, what's wrong with me?"

Chiu, a 17-year-old Magee high school student who immigrated to Canada with her parents when she was 10, first heard the term banana from a friend from Hong Kong. "She said, 'you are so banana' and I had to ask her, 'what the heck is a banana?' "

After being told banana is slang for an Asian person who has yellow skin but is really "white" on the inside, Chiu said she was upset at first.

"Then I was fine with it. I totally accepted it. I feel I'm not part of the group that is totally Asian."

Now she has some friends who are "very Asian," and some who are "trying not to be so Asian" and then the category in which she considers herself: "aware of my background, but I don't make a point of being too Asian or too white. I think a lot of people are in my situation. I'd like to think I'm not the only one."

Chiu and her family members are among the 353,000 immigrants who arrived from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China between 1985 and 1994.

Asian immigration is nothing new, of course. Ninety thousand immigrants came from China, Taiwan or Hong Kong between 1968 and 1976, and 80,000 arrived between 1977 and 1984.

The numbers more than doubled the Chinese Canadian population in two decades. By 2001 nearly 1.1 million of Canada's population of about 30 million were ethnically Chinese, according to Statistics Canada.

But there has been a shift in recent years. Beginning in 1995, immigration from Hong Kong declined and arrivals from mainland China increased.

To some, Chinese immigrants may seem a homogenous group but immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China point out they don't even have a common language. Mandarin is spoken by immigrants from Taiwan and China; Cantonese remains the primary language of those from Hong Kong.

"I learned Cantonese when we came to Vancouver," says Leesa Lin, 23, who arrived from Taiwan two years ago.

"That was something I couldn't have done if I was still living in Taiwan. When I think about what I like about Canada, it's because there are so many different cultures here."

Her parents sold their electronics trading company in Taiwan just before the family moved to Canada; Lin left the National University of Taiwan before she completed her degree in economics. She is now taking Asian studies and psychology at the University of B.C.

"I feel a sense of freedom here to study what I want that I didn't have in Taiwan," Lin says. "It's not hard to seek a balance here. It's not just about money and studying."

Since arriving in Vancouver her father has learned to golf and plays almost every day. Lin's mother, who is home to greet her after class, studies flower arranging and English.

The biggest change for Lin is learning how to balance new friends from different cultures, and new friends from the same culture.

"When my friends from Hong Kong and Taiwan get together, we go to karaoke or shopping, indoors stuff. My other friends, who are more Canadian, we go bicycling or to each other's house for dinner or have natural adventures outdoors. Sometimes it gets very confusing," Lin says.

"My friends who are Chinese still live at home while my other friends live in their own place. When I'm with one, we do certain things, the other group we do other things."

Emily Chi's first day in elementary school after her family immigrated from Taiwan was spent in the closet crying.

No coaxing from the teacher could get her to come out into a world where everyone spoke English and no one could understand the Mandarin she knew.

"At that age, I knew how to speak, what school was like and this was totally different," Chi says. "I was used to being understood and finally the teacher had to get this Chinese girl in the class who could speak Mandarin come get me out of the closet."

Chi, now 22, say 15 years ago when she was in elementary school there was no interaction between immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"There weren't many people from China, we were all either from Hong Kong and Taiwan. During recess, the guys would play soccer and you were either on the Taiwan team or the Hong Kong team. The girls skipped rope by ourselves and the girls from Hong Kong would play by themselves."

Shelley Feng, who came from Wuhan, China, seven years ago, says the differences between the three Chinese backgrounds emerge during discussions.

"Sometimes they become arguments. We all believe we are real Chinese, but our values are different, our histories and cultures," says the 23-year-old Feng.

Feng and her boyfriend Alfred Chien, 22, who came from Hong Kong seven years ago, often disagree about whether the differences are cultural, based on economic backgrounds or even just because they're looking for the differences.

"Sometimes we say our Taiwanese friends put more value on friends, and our Hong Kong friends put more value on money, and we can't agree on China," Chien says.

"We can agree that people in Canada think everyone who comes from those countries think we're all the same," Feng says.

Burnaby writer Allen Tung wrote a play about the differences and the perception of differences between the groups after local broadcaster Richard Chen told him about a girl he knows from Taiwan who loves a boy from China.

"They meet in Canada. She has gone out to too many bars and clubs dancing and realizes she's not doing well in her studies. She gets worried her father from Taiwan will get mad so she hires a tutor," Chen says, explaining the plot.

But the girl falls in love with her tutor from mainland China and when the two of them decide to get married parents from the mainland and Taiwan arrive to try to talk them out of the relationship.

"The parents say there are too many differences between them," Chen explains. "They say the other is not Chinese enough. They have nothing in common. To outside people, they are all Chinese, but the parents saw it very differently."

Chen says the parents tried to get their children to return to Taiwan and China, but the young lovers refuse.

"They tell their parents, we're in Canada now. There are no rules here," Chen says. "In the end, they tell them, we're not going to China, we're not going back to Taiwan, we're going to Banff for our honeymoon."

It's a punch line that had everyone in the audience laughing. That's because Chen says the younger generation recognizes their parents may cling to notions of geography shaping culture, but they know the borders have all blurred.

"We joke about who's more Chinese," says Scott Wu, 21, who plays Gary, the mainland Chinese tutor in the play.

Wu, who immigrated from Taiwan seven years ago with his family, says his girlfriend is from mainland China and can't be dissuaded from her belief that eventually there will be one China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"I bug her and tell her that no way will Taiwan ever join China," Wu says. "And then she tells me when China turns its missiles towards Taiwan, it will be all over in 20 minutes. Like a good boyfriend and a good Asian boy, I can't argue with that."

- - -

While immigrants from the Hong Kong, Taiwan and China can claim many things in common, there are cultural differences, says Thomas Yeung, principal of the community organization SUCCESS Training Institute in Burnaby.

"The youths from China have a pattern of behaviour that is different because their parents are different. Their parents are less likely to adapt than parents who came from Taiwan or Hong Kong, and the children of these parents from China will still adapt, but it will be a different struggle for them," Yeung says.

Hong Kong and Taiwan are more westernized than China, according to Yeung.

"We suspect the parents from China are harsher and place higher expectations on their kids."

Families from China also have children who are older than many of the Hong Kong and Taiwan families when they immigrated to Canada, he says.

As a result, teenagers from mainland China have fewer English skills and are entering the Canadian school system later than their counterparts. By the time they leave high school, many of the students from mainland China don't have enough English to get into college, Yeung says.

"As a community services organization, we have some concerns that if these teenagers don't have a stream to go into like university or college and they don't have enough English to get a job, they may become unable to integrate."

There is a wider range of cultural social and economic backgrounds among young people from mainland China, says Tony Carrigan, district curriculum coordinator of ESL and multiculturalism for the Richmond school board.

"Most of the kids who come from Hong Kong and Taiwan with their parents come from professional backgrounds from urban centres. They have all had some exposure to English in the school system."

Immigrants from China come from not just cities but from smaller rural provinces. Unlike the Hong Kong and Taiwan education systems that taught some English, schooling in China had no similar requirements.

"Most of them do not speak English and a lot of children are coming in as only children because of the one-child policy, so they may not have the same kind of socialization as those students who have two to three siblings," Carrigan says.

Parole officer Terence Yip says it appears even minor crimes being committed by youths who have recently immigrated are changing.

"Before money wasn't as much an issue. There were many extortion cases and my observation was these Chinese kids from Hong Kong and Taiwan came from middle class backgrounds where money was not an issue."

Yip says some of the young people who get in trouble with the law seem to commit crimes to gain status among their peers or to try to improve their low self-esteem.

Selina Ma, an Asian family counsellor with Touchstone Family Association, based in Richmond, says among Chinese youths, the need for counselling is higher now than in previous years.

Like people from all backgrounds, Ma says young immigrants from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan experience the same problems with drug use, suicide, attempted suicide, eating disorders and depression.

"I am worried about some of our young generation. For some of them, they don't have a meaningful pattern in their lives. Some of them have communication breakdowns with their parents, with their teachers and with other people. These youths have poor social skills and it seems that these problems are crystallizing," she says.

In 10 years Ma says the number of her cases requiring counselling services for youths from Taiwan, Hong Kong or China have doubled

"The problems come from the difficulties some of these students have in integrating," Ma says. "They have serious depression and in some cases, they want to go home, but they cannot because their parents have made the decision to stay in Canada."

Francis Li, manager of SUCCESS in Richmond, says the need for social services increases as more people become aware of the counselling help available.

"We don't know how widespread the problem is, but we do know that when young people lack social support, they will turn in another direction. They may not commit suicides, but they may turn to a peer group that is not healthy for them," Li says.

The only Chinese-speaking counsellor for SUCCESS, the immigrant services organization, was eliminated because of cuts in funding, Li says.

"Young people of every background face adjustment problems when they are becoming adults. But when they have to deal with cultural changes, an inability to communicate because of language barriers, it becomes even harder."

- - -

Depression is always present in some form or another for him, says Justin Lee, who arrived in Canada 18 months ago from Taiwan.

Lee got off a plane in Quebec City, saw the trees and felt the unexpected heat of summer.

"Il fait chaud. J'ai pensť qu'il faisait froid ici," -- It's hot. I thought it was cold here -- he says in the French he learned while in high school in Quebec.

"I didn't want to stay. I wanted to go home. I still do, but every day here, I want to leave less. I don't feel so sad."

Being the only Chinese-speaking student in the small suburban high school outside Quebec City made Lee, 18, feel too isolated and rather than going home to Taiwan, where he wanted to go, some friends persuaded him to come to B.C. He enrolled at University College of the Cariboo in Kamloops and comes to Vancouver on weekends.

"My friends told me I could go to restaurants and order food that I knew here," Lee says.

"I know I'm getting a good education in Canada, but I still want to go back to Taiwan. Canada is boring. Sorry," he adds apologetically. "I'm here because my mother expects me to be here."

Hong Kong-born Lawrence Yuen, 20, now a commerce student at UBC immigrated with his family 13 years ago. His parents had to return so he and his younger brother could stay in Canada to continue their schooling.

"There is a lot of pressure in that they expect us to do well in university and school. I put pressure on myself so I can be successful. I know their lives were made harder by coming here and by being apart from us," Yuen says.

Denise Tong, 21, who arrived in Richmond with her parents eight years ago from Hong Kong, says as the first generation to grow up in Canada, she feels an obligation to be successful for her parents and to show others in the community around her that she is becoming Canadian.

"We are the first generation who basically grew up here," Tong says. "We've done our schooling here, we found our first jobs here. I don't think we're what people expected but I know people are watching us to see how we do."

David Han, who arrived with his family six months ago from Hebei, China, hopes expectations won't affect his 17-year-old son Chao.

"I don't want him to see my disappointments," says Han. "I still want him to have a very successful life here."

Han, who has a master's degree in hotel management, says Chao cannot help but notice his father is struggling to find work in Canada. "It's not easy for me but I hope it will be easier for my son. That's why we came."

Despite the changing odds against them, most of the young people said in interviews they are optimistic things will turn around for them.

"It's tough to get into university, find a job, get a good life here," says Alfred Chien, 22, who came to Canada from Hong Kong seven years ago.

"But my family made the right decision to come here. Here life is really, really stable. It is just taking longer to achieve the things we want. But I believe it's worth it."

- - -


Youths from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China.

They have the same black hair and yellow skin. But they have different social backgrounds, language, ideology and culture.

Immigrants from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan have gone through their own unique process of integration into Canadian culture. What emerges are circles within circles in the Chinese community.

Chinese Canadians are the biggest minority group within Greater Vancouver and The Vancouver Sun and Ming Pao will examine how youths from these three places integrate, and how separate are they from each other.

It's an important issue for the future development of our society.

Over the next four days, Ming Pao and The Vancouver Sun will look at how new immigrants and immigrants who have been here longer are dealing with each other and Canadian society. Within this triangular relationship, young people today tell us how they are seeking their own identity. Ming Pao will carry its stories in Chinese.    - by Petti Fong    Vancouver Sun     19 Nov 2003

From two cultures, young immigrants create a third

As part of the first generation of immigrants to arrive in the Lower Mainland since the early 1990s, Ula Chiu straddles two cultures and is contributing to an emerging one.

At times, Chiu, 17, yearns to be totally Canadian, yet she admits she is happy when tugged backwards by the expectations and pull of her parents, who remain rooted to ties to Taiwan.

But the culture with which Chiu is most comfortable is one she is designing herself, with the contribution of friends from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

They're as likely to go to Japanese restaurants and the Bread Garden as to bubble tea and noodle houses, and they see distinctions between each of their cultures.

They took English as a second language, picked up some Canadian customs, and lost a bit of their Chinese.

They followed their parents when they moved from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to settle in the Lower Mainland and they are learning how to become Canadians while staying Chinese. In the last decade, there has been a change in the pattern of immigration from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

Arrivals from China have grown while there has been a decline in immigration from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

This has created huge adjustment issues for Chinese youths.

"I want to speak Cantonese to my friends from Hong Kong," says 17-year-old Bella Chan, who immigrated from Taiwan nine years ago with her parents. Among her friends are people from all three backgrounds.

"But they want to speak more Mandarin so we have these struggles. Minor struggles. We know we have more in common than we have differences, so we look for the differences."

The differences are less defined than those between Hong Kong, Taiwan and China in her parents' generation.

"Back then, I think they were more aware of the political differences between them," Chan says. "But my friends and I don't talk about politics or history."

Hong Kong immigrants got all the press in the 1990s, when Hong Kong immigration rose because of the political uncertainty over the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China.

In 1994 alone, 16,159 Chinese moved from Hong Kong to British Columbia.

Taiwan took over as the top source country in 1996-97, but mainland China is now the biggest source for Chinese immigrants. In 2001, 9,518 people from the People's Republic of China moved to the Lower Mainland, compared to 1,861 from Taiwan and only 623 from Hong Kong.

A team of reporters from Ming Pao and The Vancouver Sun interviewed almost 50 young people between the ages of 17 and 23 for this four-part series on what is it like to be part of the generation of immigrants who have come to the Lower Mainland in the last 15 years.

What we found is a generation of young people who are slowly adjusting their expectations of what it means to be Chinese Canadians.

They may be from Taiwan or Hong Kong or mainland China, but they are forming identities entirely of their own making.   - By Petti Fong    Vancouver Sun     19 Nov 2003

A Tale of Three Cities, and Work Ethic

HONG KONG:   Workers in this city are diligent but not very loyal to their employers, while the reverse is true in Shanghai, a survey published Sunday by City University of Hong Kong has concluded.

The survey of 2,000 workers in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei conducted in February and March aimed to tap opinions about work, quality of life and personal feelings in three of the biggest cities in the region commonly referred to as Greater China.

According to the study, Hong Kong workers were the best paid but also the least secure about their economic outlook. Shanghai workers were the worst paid of the three cities although they were the most upbeat about their future. Taipei fell consistently between the two extremes of Shanghai and Hong Kong on every question in the survey.

In terms of their attitude toward their jobs, Hong Kong workers were more willing to work overtime without complaint and to do what they were told by superiors, the study said. But at the end the day, researchers concluded, they were not overly devoted to their jobs.

"Hong Kong people would rather be bosses," said Cheung Chau-kiu, research assistant professor of City University. "They'd like to show off their creativity," Cheung said. "They'd like to have more freedom at work."

In contrast, Shanghai workers were more dedicated to their bosses but the study found that most of them did not like working long hours and that they bristled at being given instructions.

While Shanghai respondents said they were upbeat about China's economic outlook, those polled in Hong Kong tended to be more pessimistic about their economy. A slowdown in the city has driven unemployment to a record high and depressed prices for 55 consecutive months

"The average work week in Hong Kong is 50 hours, which is long compared to other countries," said Kwok Leung, head of the management department at City University. Hong Kong workers did not seem to have time for many other activities except for work, he said.

Shanghai respondents tended to complain that they were not paid enough and that their income level was insufficient for them to buy all the material things they wanted. Asked if they could live their lives all over again, most Shanghai residents said they would have done certain things differently.

Surprisingly, despite their complaints about the quality of life in Hong Kong, most of the Hong Kong residents surveyed said they would not change much about their lives. In fact, the Hong Kong respondents were the most content of the respondents with the amount of time they spent on leisure activities. - By Patti Poon  Bloomberg   7 July 2003  


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