‘Baby-Tourism’ and Yellow Peril

by Tienchi Martin-Liao    /  April 23, 2014  / No comments

Context for China’s new wave of emigration.

Chinese Immigration Infographic

Detail of an infographic by Chinese news portal Sina illustrating Chinese emigration. According to Sina, in 2011 more than 150,000 Chinese citizens left China, about 1/10 the population of Philadelphia. Photo: Sina

“Weed” (Zacao), a story by the blogger, writer, and journalist Han Song, reads like it should be science fiction, or at least satire. In the story, the Chinese government sends an “army of birth” to the United States that consists mostly of young women with inferior genes. Their mission? To have sex as much as possible and function as birth machines, with the intention of destroying the “imperialist empire.” After several generations, if everything goes according to plan, there will be a huge Chinese population inside the US, causing the “evil empire” to fall apart.

  1. Blind Chess, a column by Tienchi Martin-Liao
  2. During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison till 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
  3. Tienchi Martin-Liao
  4. Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

Quite a crazy fantasy! Yet lots of things hint at the fact that this isn’t just the writer’s idea of a bad joke; it’s nearly half reality. First off, it’s an open secret that many Chinese mainlanders go to the US to give birth. Many Chinese dream of becoming the parents of an American baby, and according to US law, anyone who is born on American soil automatically gains citizenship. The very recent, controversial example of this is Chai Jing, a famous anchor on CCTV who’s well known for her patriotism. Praised as a journalist with conscience and integrity, people are moved by her wishful thinking about her beloved motherland. As she has said: “A country is composed of individuals who seek the truth and are able to think independently, who are capable of recording the truth, capable of ignoring personal interest in service to the homeland, are able to defend constitutional rights, and know that the world is not perfect, but still do not complain, and never give up. Should our country have such minds and souls, we can say that we are proud of our motherland.” Holy words are indeed hollow; reality speaks the truth. In February, this “idealistic” lady hurried to the States to give birth.

As the mother of a little American citizen Mrs. Chai will have peace of mind, so that she, as a public intellectual, can be more creative and innovative and encourage her countrymen to become self-sacrificed patriots, who fight for truth and protect the constitution. Mrs. Chai’s behavior is typical of rich and influential Chinese. Many believe that once one has an American baby in the family it means a green path to the free world.

To that end there is a flourishing business now known as “birth tourism” on the Mainland. And like Columbus discovered America, the Chinese have “discovered” Saipan Island in the Pacific Ocean. This small island, with its colonial history of Spanish, German, and Japanese control, was finally incorporated into American territory in 1986. It became a tourist attraction because of its heavenly beauty, and Chinese tourists love the island because it’s only a four hour flight, and one can stay on the island for 45 days without a visa. This is a lucrative loophole for clever travel agencies who provide special offers to Chinese female tourists: Women late in their pregnancy arrive at the island, and are taken care of—from daily living, to medical services, to birth certificates, social security cards, and a US passport for the newborn—all in one package, with a basic cost of $27,000 US. It’s no wonder that 70% of all newborns on the island are originally Chinese.

Saipan Island is only the tip of the iceberg. Today, Chinese are trying to leave their country by any means and find a place to stay—regardless of whether it’s at the North Pole or on the Equator. A few months ago I was in New Zealand and found out that almost 10% of the population is Chinese. Young and old, male or female, they come with lots of money to start a new life. They buy properties and businesses, and the market is stirred up with strong consumers. As a result, the price of real estate is skyrocketing in New Zealand’s large cities—four of five times in the last decade—and local people can barely afford to own a house. A similar situation is happening in Australia and other countries where the entry procedure is relatively simple. Young immigrants told me that the main reason they left China is: FEAR. Fear of constantly breathing the polluted air; fear of eating and drinking the poisonous food and water; fear that the wealth they’ve earned could be taken away by authorities through unlawful methods; fear that the education system will damage the next generation; fear that their critical words could be used against them, etc.

The 19th century Western concept of “yellow peril” seems to have been revived today. Over a decade ago in 1991 the Chinese writer and Tibet specialist Wang Lixiong wrote an allegorical novel entitled Yellow Peril (Huanghuo). Published in Hong Kong, the book envisions a nuclear civil war in China that causes tens of millions of refugees to flood the world. Although the book is forbidden in China, it’s still circulating among Chinese readers in- and outside the country.

The most horrible thing is that science fiction and allegory can become true. Today we’re not too far from the nightmares outlined in “Weed” and Yellow Peril. There’s only one way to disenchant the curse: Democracy and freedom in China.

About the Author

Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

View all articles by Tienchi Martin-Liao

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