CW: Racism, police brutality
The phrase ‘Peng Ci’, literally ‘bumping porcelain’ in Chinese, refers to a confidence trick where you orchestrate an accident, resulting in the breakage of fragile valuables, thereby extorting monetary compensation from the person you deliberately bump into. These days it’s also used to refer to a type of diplomacy where a government takes any sort of outside criticism, feigns outrage at it, and claims victimhood in the global arena. On Chinese internet, the meaning of the term has expanded to include spreading rumours about one’s victimhood.
The latest incident of my co-ethnics trying to ‘Peng Ci’ the BLM movement involves a bizarre rumour about Mulan’s father in the coming Disney live action movie. I will skip the details of the rumour because it is frankly too vicious and too ignorant to even be worth repeating. The point is, there have been numerous rumours spread in some parts of the simplified Chinese language internet smearing the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of them are not even remotely based on facts or the actual events in the movement. These rumours gain traction by playing to the self-victimising insecurities of many Han Chinese people.
This is vicious in a whole other way than the Asian policeman standing by and watching a murder unfold. My co-ethnics, the Han Chinese within China, are not American-born, or British-born, or otherwise ethnic minorities. Because of years of self-victimisation, many Han Chinese people, including myself, have trouble thinking of ourselves as the ethnic majority in our country, but instead regard ourselves as a global minority. Of course, the majority in any social context always struggle to recognise their own privilege. But in this specific case, it is the constant emphasis of our ‘disadvantage’ and ‘victimhood’ in a global game rigged against ‘us’ that convinces us we are the victims in everything, even other people’s fight. This blends organically with the long-standing anti-blackness and colourism in Chinese (immigrant or not) communities, leading to the wilful imagination of Black people as one of the many ‘oppressors’ of the ‘Chinese people’.
This, coupled with the frequent conflation of Han Chinese people in China with the wider Chinese diaspora, gave a lot of Han Chinese immigrants fresh off the boat a misplaced sense of victimhood when interacting with other minorities in the receiving country. The inflated sense of victimhood sometimes blinds my co-ethnics to the sufferings of other minorities, and instead attune them to the partially imagined shared mistreatment of the vaguely defined ‘Chinese people’. All this gives rise to the populist smearing of the BLM movement.
More sinister is the way a certain group manufactured the narrative to create legitimacy for themselves as the protector of said ‘Chinese people’. This intention and inexcusable ignorance are the reasons behind a certain Chinese spokesperson’s ‘all lives matter’ tweet a few weeks ago that received heavy backlash, as it so deserves.
For Chinese international students who may browse the internet in their mother tongue more than other services, fake news like the one I mentioned at the start can be prevalent. I believe most would not fall prey to them but still I want to urge my compatriots to please ditch this fantasy of us as the righteous victim for once and support someone else’s cause, or at least, to not sabotage it by spreading malicious fake news.
[Ka Leung – she/her]