A Hyphenated National Affiliation

Where do you think the picture below was taken?

It may look like China (and, indeed, Betty and I took pictures like this in Suzhou earlier this year), but this was in fact taken in San Marino, California at the new Chinese garden exhibit at the Huntington Library.

I recently came across two very interesting news articles that highlight the question of national pride for ethnic Chinese in countries outside of China:

  • LA Times article about the celebration of the founding of communist China in Southern California.
  • CBC article about the Chinese government funding a Chinese language course in the Greater Vancouver area of BC, Canada.

The question that I want to pose is: is it unpatriotic to the US (which I am a citizen) if I were to be proud of China (which is where my ethnic origins are) and its latest accomplishments?  This is something that seems to come up quite a bit (esp. if you read the seemingly racist comments by some readers of the CBC article).

In discussions about postmodernity, some people have talked about how we should recognise the fact that many of us have a “hyphenated identity.”  Meaning, not only am I an American, but I am a “Chinese-American.”  Or, perhaps, since my parents were born and raised in Burma, I am a “Chinese-Burmese-American.”  There seems to be some warrant to celebrating this “fragmentation” since there are multiple stories that inform who I am (and, sometimes, also confuses who I am).

Then in religious studies, there has been an ongoing discussion about the possibility of dual or multiple religious affiliation.  Some would say that I should not consider myself as a “Christian” but as having a multiple allegiance to Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism since all of these are part of who I am, whether I agree with it or not.

To be clear, I disagree with this second idea.  John Stackhouse has an interesting discussion on this in defining terms like “inclusivism,” but basically I believe the Bible is quite clear that God wants to have our full allegiance and does not like us mixing and matching to our liking.

So I return to the original question.  Can I be faithful to multiple nations at the same time?  I mean, China has done some pretty great things in the recent past (hey, let’s see London top the open ceremonies of the 2008 olympics!).  But there are also plenty of rotten things they have done too.  The same, of course, can be said of any nation like the US or the UK — no nation is perfect.  There’s the classic question: if the US and China were to go to war with one another, which side would you support?  Sure, there’s something to be said about a case-by-case scenario.  But blindly taking that question, I really don’t know how I would respond.

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