There are many in China that don’t view overseas Chinese as one of their own. Or, they’d much rather ignore their existence, unless the overseas Chinese make themselves heard. What angers me, is this sense of nationalism that fills those in China. Somehow, those in China look down on those outside of China, as if they’re somehow better, just because they were born there. They forget the long history and tradition of the overseas Chinese who have contributed to China’s reforms and revolution, despite having faced racism in their newfound countries.
Overseas Chinese from LA would be more than familiar with similar incidents described below:
Kang Youwei and the Baohuanghui in Mexico: When Two Nationalisms Collide
In May 1911, there was a fatal clash between Chinese nationalism in the form of the Baohuanghui’s ambitious business developments in Mexico and Mexican nationalism as embodied in the revolutionaries who stormed the Baohuanghui base of Torreón and carried out “the single most violent and brutal aggression against the Chinese throughout the America,” massacring 303 Chinese men, among them a close relative of Kang Youwei.
Because Torreón was so significant for Kang’s fevered rush into business in 1906-1907 and the resulting pressures on the Commercial Corporation and the Baohuanghui itself, Evelyn Hu-DeHart’s examination of Mexican archives as well as Baohuanghui correspondence is of special interest.
Hu-DeHart described the opportunities that Kang and the Baohuanghui found in Torreón and the consequences of Baohuanghui activities in this city for the organization, the Chinese living there and Mexico itself. She suggests that the very prosperity that the Baohuanghui engendered in Torreón “probably hastened the coming of Mexico’s own revolution.”
“The decision to set up regional headquarters for Mexico in the northeastern city of Torreón, in the border state of Coahuila, probably had a lot to do with the leaders of the Chinese community there, particularly one Wong Foon-Chuck (Huang Kuan Zhuo.” Hu-DeHart has discovered that as early as 1899, Wong began contacting Baohuanghui leaders in Canada, and two of the organization’s peripatetic organizers visited Mexico in 1901 (Liang Qitian) and 1902 (Xu Qin), joining Wong in praising Mexico as a destination for Chinese immigration and investment. Torreón in particular was attractive because Mexican state and federal governments were providing tax abatements for investments in modern industry, department stores, and banks. Torreón (Caiyuan or vegetable garden in Chinese) was also the site of Chinese-owned market gardens, which “employed upwards of 100 Chinese horticultural workers, and by their sheer size, numbers and location, could not be missed by anyone entering the city.” Chinese became the largest foreign group in Torreón and the most visible.
Kang first arrived in Mexico from the U.S. in December 1905 for five months and in Torreón personally “tested the waters for investment potential, using his own funds to buy up a block of land for 1,700 pesos and sold it several days later for 3,400 pesos, neatly doubling his initial outlay.” Kang and the Baohuanghui moved from stir-frying land to leveraging borrowed funds [from the Chicago restaurant King Joy Lo run by the Baohuanghui] in a new bank, Compañía Bancaria Chino y México [Hua Mo Yinhang], a subsidiary of the Commercial Corporation. The bank was later combined with the most ambitious Baohuanghui investment in Torreón, an electric streetcar line, and the company had its own building downtown.
“Torreón’s reaction and response to these highly visible Chinese commercial enterprises were varied and apparently contradictory.” In 1907, Wong Foon Chuck was honored as one of the city’s “founding fathers.” At the same time, a strong anti-foreign and anti-regime movement was building among both local Mexican businessmen and others wanting to end the dictatorship of seven-term President Porfirio Diaz. Kang shared many of the same nationalistic goals as the father of the 1911 Mexican revolution, Francisco Madero, but oblivious to the stirrings of Mexican nationalism and unaware of the danger this might put his compatriots in, Kang made a special trip to Mexico City in 1907 to meet President Diaz. The revolution began in Madero’s home state of Coahuila, and most of Torreón’s Chinese and the Baohuanghui businesses were among its first victims.
Overseas Chinese get second-class citizenship outside of China, and for all that we’ve contributed to both our adopted countries, and to our country of origin, we don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens or “traitors” by either of these groups.
This is to be expected, as everyone in China is thought that the origins of Chinese culture lay within the center of its political center. This is false. Dead false. The political center located up in the North was always the first to be invaded by foreigners, causing many to flee southward. The south has always been the ground for cultural preservation, and being far enough away from the political center, the hotbed for revolution. Afterall, 「天高皇帝遠」. It was southerners like 康有爲(Kang, You-wei) and 梁啓超 (Liang, Qi-Chao), who led reform efforts inside China, and during their exile, outside of China. It was the revolutionaries of the south that paved the way for a modern China.