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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Singer

Denationalized Students Returning to China

An article by Eric Fish on discusses the reality being faced by many Chinese students returning home after studying abroad in the United States

Chinese students have been studying in America since the early 1870's. Unfortunately each instance of welcoming these students to our shores has inevitably soured on both sides. The first group of such students arrived in 1872 and were forced to leave in 1881. They were not welcomed on either side of the Pacific. This reminds me of a Japanese student I met when studying in Beijing in the 1980's. She commented that she was no longer considered truly Japanese at home because she had decided to leave Japan and study abroad. As quoted below, the Chinese students returning to China in 1881 were similarly treated. And why did they leave America? Because of bigotry, ignorance, and discrimination. Why does this all sound so familiar?

"While the [Chinese] boys were shielded from the worst of the intimidation, violence, and lynchings that West Coast compatriots endured, they did experience routine racism ranging from heckles to beatings. Institutional discrimination would also catch up to them [in America]."

"Rumors spread back in China that the boys were “denationalized” traitors, and when their ship arrived in Shanghai, crowds mocked their Western clothing and heckled them as “foreign devils.” They were then promptly detained and interrogated for several days. As far as U.S.-China bridge-builders go, they would hardly be the last to find themselves as objects of suspicion and derision in both the U.S. and China."


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