I have never written and published in fiction so this piece in Peril Magazine is a first for me. I am grateful to Peril for accepting it. Titled, Latter-Day Danger Asians, it speaks to issues that have troubled me for a while but because of the genre of fiction (or should it be that neologism, faction?) I was able to use a combination of real -life experience, hope and imagination to illustrate my point about intra-ethnic tensions.
From the outside it is commonly assumed that all Chinese are the same but if you speak to individuals you will find that aside from those whose families have been here from China last century, those of Chinese ethnicity who have settled in Australia from Southeast Asia (countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) in the 70s-90s, and their children, are rather different to those from Mainland China, who are even now entering Australia to pursue their education and ambitions.
Language is one distinction, almost all contemporary Mainland Chinese speak Mandarin, those from SE Asia are more competent and comfortable speaking English and other Chinese languages like Cantonese and Fujianese. Others speak Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Melayu better than they do Mandarin. Let’s call this group the SE Asian Chinese
My point is that from appearances alone it is hard to distinguish between ethnic Chinese from these differing origins. So it is not altogether unusual for ethnic Chinese to be lumped together as one. Of course I’m not saying that it is acceptable but I’m interested in understanding the reactions of those involved when such ‘lumping together’ happens. That’s what the piece in Peril is about.
Do SE Asian Chinese feel their hard-earned and inchoate acceptance into Australia threatened by how wider society perceives the (mainland) Chinese ‘pushing property prices up’ or ‘not observing different social etiquette’? My observations seem to indicate so and hence, that distancing of ‘us’ and ‘them’ within. Where might that take us? I don’t know. As I said, I’m still thinking about it but it feels good to give air to the idea…