Why Are Singaporean Chinese and Mainland Chinese Different?

By Kayla Toh
Epoch Times Staff 

It’s just bizarre: Singaporean Chinese and mainland Chinese belong to the same race and look the same, but seem very different socially and culturally.

According to 2011 and 2012 reports in The Telegraph and The New York Times, around a million mainland Chinese have arrived in Singapore, constituting a fifth of the island’s population. While the majority are willing to accommodate to Singapore’s culture, a minority of Chinese immigrants are still reluctant to fit into local society.

Singaporean Chinese are often annoyed by the uncouth behaviour of some Chinese nationals, who tend to speak loudly in public places and swan into buildings leaving the door open. Also, we have too often heard stories of Chinese women snatching Singaporean husbands.

On the other hand, a segment of Chinese nationals are said to look down on Singaporeans because their traits such as ‘simple-mindedness’ and ‘inability to speak proper Chinese’ are deemed too silly in the eyes of certain Chinese immigrants.

In 2011, a vitriolic debate on the influx of Chinese immigrants was sparked by the ‘curry dispute’, which saw a newly arrived mainland Chinese family complaining about the smell of curry from their local Indian neighbours’ flat.
In the same year, 24-year-old Wang Peng Fei was expelled from East Asia Institute of Management for producing a four-minute video mocking Singaporeans.

A year later, in May 2012, Chinese financial investor Ma Chi was speeding at the wheel of his $1.4 million Ferrari when he got into a fatal accident. The 31-year-old’s reckless driving killed himself – and also a 52-year-old taxi driver Cheng Teck Hock and his 41-year-old Japanese passenger, Ito Shigemi. Again, this incident raised a furore among local netizens against the surge of mainland Chinese in Singapore.

Of course, not all mainland Chinese are rude, aggressive or ill-mannered. There are many mainland Chinese who are equally appalled at their fellow citizens’ behavior, and a number have also assimilated well and are contributing positively to Singapore.

[This mentality is common] in China: if you don’t compete or pretend that you are strong, others might take advantage of you and you would get bullied. –
Su Xi (pseudonym), a researcher at a local educational institution

Su Xi (a pseudonym), a researcher at a local educational institution, is one of them. Unlike other Chinese nationals who usually position their nationality and country as a cut above the rest, Su Xi is modest, polite and rational.
Hailing from Southern China, Su Xi tells us about her life in Singapore and sheds light on why Chinese nationals behave in such a manner as well as the problems facing China.

Can you comment on the Curry Dispute in 2011?

I think the mainland Chinese family should have shown more tolerance and respect towards the other culture. Curry indeed, I would say, is not the kind of food that we could get used to for a typical mainland Chinese family. But in any case, understanding and showing respect towards the other ethnic group’s culture or way of living is a basic courtesy.

I was given the opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange programme when I just came to Singapore. I lived with an Indian family for a few days. Initially, I was thinking, would I get along with them due to the culture differences? However, surprisingly, they were enormously friendly and nice. They burnt some kind of incense at home to worship their God and their old Granny held my hand and said, “I bless you and your future.” I think they were really kind.

They brought me to tourist attractions such as Night Safari, Little India and Mustafa. I even tried on their traditional costume.

To be honest, if there wasn’t such an experience, I might never get the chance to learn about Indian culture. Thanks to this programme, I got to know them better and it dismissed the perception biases I had about them in the beginning.

What do you like about Singapore?

I think it’s the order and efficiency. The transportation system is very convenient. I think everything is in order here; I probably like that.

Is it easy to adapt to Singapore culture?

I don’t find it different. If you talk about Chinese food, I can almost find everything I like here in Singapore. I like mixed rice and Yong Tau Foo. That is what I usually eat.

What are the differences between Singaporean Chinese and mainland Chinese? Some mainland Chinese are said to be rude and aggressive. Are you equally appalled at your fellow citizens’ behaviour?

I agree, Singaporean Chinese are more polite and friendly. Mainland Chinese tend to be more aggressive, probably because they are always rushing and competing for everything.

[This mentality is common] in China: if you don’t compete or pretend that you are strong, others might take advantage of you and you would get bullied.
I think it has something to do with communist culture. A few decades ago, before 1949, China was not like that.

For instance, in late Qing dynasty, there were some reporters who visited China and snapped photos of those Chinese; you could see them smiling and looking very happy. But today, it is rare to find the Chinese smiling and looking that friendly on the street.

In the past, let’s say the Chinese coolies only earned $1 a day, but they were not rushing for work or chasing after money. When it was time to rest, they would just rest, patronise the teahouse and pay a fee watching traditional opera. In modern China, the Chinese are solely thinking about making big money every day.

This mindset in people changed gradually, especially after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over. The CCP eradicated that kind of ancient Chinese spirit, probably because it destroyed our traditional culture during the Cultural Revolution.

During the Cultural Revolution, many books were burnt, millions were killed or driven to suicide, and people started to mistrust everybody and harbour suspicions towards their neighbours and even their family members. It was as if anybody could be a spy, and anyone would report to the officers for any deeds against the party.

The CCP has always upheld its philosophy of “brutal struggle, attack and merciless crackdown” since coming to power. It brews falsehood and hatred; its party’s model hero, Lei Feng, once said, “We should treat our enemies mercilessly, being as cold as the severe winter.”

The history of the destruction of human nature and morals in China is clearly presented in a ballad below (extracted from Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party – http://www.ninecommentaries.com/):
In the 50s people helped one another,
In the 60s people strove with one another,
In the 70s people swindled one another,
In the 80s people cared only for themselves,
In the 90s people took advantage of anyone they ran into.
I guess that’s how the Chinese have evolved to be so rude and aggressive. They do not trust anybody and compete against one other in order to survive. Even I find it hard to survive in Chinese society.

Have you experienced any culture shock in Singapore?

Not really, I think.
People will hold the door for others in Singapore. That is one practice which I find very nice. In China, they wouldn’t really care.

In China, there are a lot of scams. I heard of a news in China about an old lady who fell. A young man offered his help, but in the end, the old lady demanded money from him instead, accusing him to be an accomplice. [1] That is why nowadays, people in China wouldn’t dare to offer their help to strangers.
This is the sad consequence of a corrupted [society with declining morals].

Why do you say China is a corrupted society with declining morals? Don’t people in China have religious beliefs?

In today’s China, fake products, prostitutes and drugs are ubiquitous. Corruption is rife, (and so are) conspiracies between officials and gangs, organised crime syndicates, bribery and even state organ harvesting. [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

In China, as long as you are apathetic about politics and do not protest the CCP’s leadership, you could let your desires [run amok]; people would do anything to earn big money, thus resulting in a [society with declining morals].
Most mainland Chinese do not have a religion, especially the younger generation. [In school], we are taught that there is no God. I couldn’t recall if that was taught in textbooks, but that was what I received from both my teachers and parents.

They would think having some religious belief is superstitious and silly. They think that science can explain everything. Some elderly still go to temples, but it is to worship for good luck, fortune, money, curing disease, but they aren’t really believing or cultivating.

Why do mainland Chinese tend to talk loudly in public places?

Presumably, mainland Chinese tend to talk loudly in public places because they are not considerate of others and they don’t care how others feel. This kind of consideration is lacking in China.

People will hold the door for others in Singapore. That is one practice which I find very nice. In China, they wouldn’t really care. –
Su Xi, a researcher at a local educational institution

Share with us about your country. Tell us about Chinese culture.

China is a country of splendid culture and scenery. But unfortunately, many mountains, rivers, lakes are too commercialised and polluted. Many ancient buildings that had actually survived World War II were [demolished] by the CCP during the Cultural Revolution.

When the CCP rebuilt the city, they just wanted it to look modern and as if the economy is very good. To them, it is solely about construction: how many skyscrapers there are, how tall those buildings are, how many modern facilities they have. They don’t have respect for Chinese culture and traditions. They don’t care and don’t develop it responsibly.

Many things were being ruthlessly destroyed by the CCP during the Cultural Revolution. Although there seem to be a lot of teachings passing down from the Confucius or Taoist schools, no one can understand them nowadays.
Many good things are lost. Today, many Chinese only have superficial knowledge about their traditional culture.

The school teachers try to inculcate our love for China or CCP, but they don’t share deeply about our culture or history.

You would always hear them say 5,000 years of history, but the school textbooks never go in-depth such as how the people of Han Dynasty really eat or live, as well as the values and virtues behind those ancient stories.

In China, you can’t access Facebook or Twitter, as well as many other social media platforms. I am curious, have you heard about the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre?

I came to know about the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre when I was a second year student in secondary school. Somebody asked me if I knew about June 4th. I replied: What is June 4th?

He shared the June 4th Massacre with me, and I was shocked.
I remembered during one history class, my classmate stood up and asked my teacher why topics which are against CCP, like the Cultural Revolution, are never formally taught in our textbooks. In the end, the teacher scolded him sternly. I didn’t know the teacher would be so cautious in what he would be teaching.

That should be one of my first few impressions on how the government was controlling our minds.

Have you heard about the persecution of Falun Gong in China?

Yes, I know about Falun Gong, but I didn’t know about the persecution until three years ago. People told me that some of my relatives actually practised, but I didn’t know or couldn’t recall.

In 2001, they produced that staged Tiananmen self-immolation news (a preprogrammed footage to spread lies about Falun Gong) and broadcasted it on TV almost every day. I watched that. [7] But as years passed, I have forgotten about it.

[It wasn’t until 2013] when my Math teacher from university told me he was practising Falun Gong. Maybe I was partially brainwashed by the state media, but I was a bit stupefied.

He told me why he practises Falun Gong, and I believe that Falun Gong is good because I know he is a good person.

What are some misconceptions of your country?

A misconception with regard to China is that we are economically strong.
China is very big. It has cities that are very prosperous such as Beijing and Shanghai. But it comes with a cost.

Pollution is very severe. Moral values and virtues are destroyed when people only care about money. There are many cases of fake drugs and fake milk powder. Some of my friends are worried about visiting the hospitals in China; they are thinking are those doctors qualified and are those pills fake?

The CCP didn’t really develop and plan carefully. They only care about GDP numbers, as long as there are marvellous skyscrapers and fast trains. But these come with the cost of the resources of China.

There are many places where the Chinese are very poor and lacking in education; they don’t even have a school.

There are stories of leftover parents who committed suicide, as well as tales of leftover children whose parents have left them to work in large cities. In addition, there are many villages such as AIDS Village and Cancer Village. [8, 9, 10]

There are many social issues that are hidden beneath the GDP numbers. On the surface, the society looks prosperous, but hidden beneath, when you go in-depth, it is rotten.

Even for the rich people in China, they might live quite well, but they don’t enjoy freedom of belief or freedom of speech. However rich he is, once he touches the line, the party would take him down.

But sadly, the Chinese are already so money-driven that they wouldn’t care. Their attention is solely on money. And there is fear among many Chinese.

If that is the case, why are most Chinese staunch supporters of their government (the Chinese Communist Party)?

The communist culture has been deeply rooted, even in youngsters’ minds.
Once, I talked to my friend [who] knows about all the ugly things that CCP has done. But in the end, her conclusion was the ruling party has to be like this. She was adopting the assumption that only by killing people can one sustain its power.

The CCP instills this mindset to students since young without them even realising it. In school, we have to sing and listen to those songs praising CCP. Moreover, we have to watch movies that distort history, applauding the greatness of CCP and lamenting how China would be such a mess without CCP.

The CCP relies on lies to brainwash people. The communist party indoctrinates Chinese to believe that CCP represents China and Chinese.

When I was six or seven years old, the school would make us swear to the communist flag, saying we would devote our life to the CCP. I find it laughable, thinking about it now.

What is the way out for mainland Chinese? How can China regain her moral compass?

Break the great wall; learn about the truth and evil nature of the CCP via the free Internet. That is the only way for the Chinese to free themselves from communist ideologies and erase their Party culture. Only when Chinese minds and human nature are rectified, can China regain her conscience and morality.

[1] Feng, Yiran. “To Help or Not to Help, a Dilemma in China.” Epoch Times. 11 Sep. 2011. http://goo.gl/ZucYiV
[2] K.M. “Prostitution in China: Crackdown on Sex City.” The Economist. 14 Feb. 2014. http://goo.gl/zgjYjj
[3] “China Vaccine Scandal: 37 Arrested.” BBC. 23 Mar. 2016. http://goo.gl/6Mr0MY
[4] “The Putian Connection.” The Straits Times. 5 May. 2016. http://goo.gl/rGHlub
[5] Corley, Jacquelyn. Haskins, Justin. “China Forces its Political Prisoners to Sell Body Parts.” Newsweek. 2 Jan. 2016. http://goo.gl/Os1DJc
[6] “Interview with Ethan Gutmann on His Book The Slaughter.” http://goo.gl/QbkYkc
[7] He, Daniel. “54 Facts That Reveal How the ‘Self-Immolation’ on Tiananmen Square Was Actually Staged for Propaganda Purposes – Part 1.” Epoch Times. 7 Jan. 2014. http://goo.gl/LLWDEl
[8] “China’s Left-behind: Little Match Children.” The Economist. 15 Oct. 2015. http://goo.gl/1KuUBx
[9] Watts, Jonathan. “Hidden From the World, a Village Dies of Aids While China Refuses to Face a Growing Crisis.” The Guardian. 25 Oct. 2013. https://goo.gl/phrfLO
[10] Chen, Yilian. “Farmer From ‘Cancer Village’ Fights Factory Pollution.” Epoch Times. 17 Dec. 2009. http://goo.gl/gXbBhN

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