Daughters & Fathers


Aiyah, you guys have been hopelessly unable to read into my (admittedly) cryptic short posts. Okay lah I give up, and am am back to a tng k’ooi (chong hei) long winded one, wakakaka.

Josh Hong

Josh Hong is one of my fave columnists at Malaysiakini. I’ve been following his articles for several years, enjoying his generally astute grasp of international politics. However, I have not blindly agreed with everything he wrote. For example, in January 2005 I disagreed with some points in one of his MKINI articles Chinese racism – not quite in a nutshell.

In that very well written article, while I agreed/agree with his observations that some Chinese have what I termed as a boorish ‘Middle-Kingdom’ mentality, I believed (still do) that he was incorrect in querying (surprised?) that China’s humiliation at the hands of western powers in the 19th Century did not affect the Chinese perception of their grandiose civilization, which according to Hong’s line of argument, perhaps might not have been so grandiose after all .

In a letter to MKINI I stated my disagreement with Josh’s contention on the following points:

An English anthropologist, Edward Burnett Tylor, described ‘civilization’ as synonymous to ‘culture’, which he termed as that complex whole including knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Also, UNESCO defines ‘culture’ similarly as a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.

Therefore, regardless of the fact that China was defeated pitifully in its military encounters with the western powers or a technologically more advanced Japan during World War II, the greater body of Chinese ‘civilization’ would remain largely intact as it must have, …

… though of course like all values and norms that come into contact with foreign culture, they would evolve naturally to eventually change the greater whole. Now, whether this [change] was fast or significant enough for Josh’s liking remains subjective.

However, what we may say with some certainty is that Chinese ego after a serious of military humiliations and foreign occupation would be considerably dented, but a crushed conceit or flattened arrogance would be quite different to their awareness/perception of their magnificent 5000-year old civilization.

Jap murdering Chinese during WWIII

The Chinese would in all probability be banging their head hard against the walls, lamenting wailfully how in the f*, given their great civilization and thus supposed ‘superiority’, they had come to be so defeated … and not surprisingly, might have even blamed it all on that nebulous feng shui thingy, wakakaka.

If we look at the great civilizations of Greece, Rome and Egypt, which in turn were invaded and severely defeated by other nations or even nomadic hordes through the ages, the depth, durability and indeed grandiosity of their civilizations have never been in question, and exist till today (through assimilation) in the civilizations of modern European and American nations.

Indeed Western philosophy, politics, culture, arts, and science can trace their origins to Greece while we know that western laws draw heavily from Roman law, even preserving many of its Latin terms. While Rome had considered Greece as its model, the latter in turn viewed Egypt as their spiritual and cultural example.

I had (then) stated that Josh might have been confused between Chinese civilization and Chinese pride. While the latter is influenced by the former, the former is not necessarily by the latter. Thus the former would remain intact even if the latter might have been dented.

Now, whether one should consider Chinese civilization as grandiose would be also another subjective issue, but in this regard I believe there is already virtually universal acceptance (especially in learned/academic circles) it has been so.

However, as an associated item of interest (related to another of Josh’s remarks), the Japanese, who denigrated the Chinese shockingly as sub-humans (as the Nazis had termed the Jews, and the Israelis had termed the Palestinians), had no compunction about adopting the Chinese language as its own. It is suggested that half the Japanese vocabulary are of Chinese origin. Even the name Japan or Nihon consists of 2 Chinese characters.

riben = sun’s root = Japan

A curious trivia in the shared language has been the Japanese adopting or inheriting the Chinese’s superstition in the utterance of the word ‘4’, pronounced as sì in both languages (in the 4th tone in Chinese), a taboo-word on auspicious occasion.

According to the Chinese dictionary, there are 15 different words pronounced as si of which 9 are in the 1st tone, 1 in the 3rdth tone. Because the one in the 3rd tone, which means ‘die’ or ‘death’, is almost similar in pronunciation to the word ‘4’ (4th tone), its utterance is studiously avoided during auspicious occasions like weddings, birthdays, New Year period (15 days), etc. tone and five in the 4.

But the Japanese easily and cleverly avoid the taboo by resorting to an indigenous Japanese word for ‘4’, namely yon. But nonetheless the avoidance indicates the Japanese inheriting Chinese belief (culture).

4 = si (pronounced shi) in Chinese and Japanese, also yon in Japanese

Thus Japanese culture borrowed heavily from and adopted Chinese culture.

Another interesting item is that the Japanese monarchy continues until today the tradition of having a Chinese name for a newborn baby. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako named their daughter with a Chinese name, Aiko. Most Chinese would recognize the words Ai and ko.


This practice stems from medieval times when the refined Chinese language was largely (and only) spoken by Japanese royalty, nobility and the cultured.

Josh had an interesting theory on why Chinese harbour a latent and seldom discussed animosity towards the Japanese – he believes the Chinese detested and still detest the Japanese because they couldn’t accept being beaten by a barbarian race of dwarfs. Well, I didn’t agree with his way out theory because matey, being brutalized, raped, tortured and massacred by the Japanese during the last war were terrible and hateful enough without worrying about Chinese-Japanese comparative culture or the enemy’s anatomical measurement.

Chinese woman with baby decapitated by Jap at Nanjing

I then riposted with my theory as to why the Japanese were unusually feral with the Chinese, calling them sub-humans and showing no bounds to their bloody barbaric brutal savagery, horrendously demonstrated in the most primitive genocidal fashion in Nanjing – the Japanese could not accept being culturally beholden to the ‘weak man’ of East Asia, thus they strove to erase completely from their consciousness and physical presence this reminder of their embarrassing cultural womb.

The Japanese atrocities merely demonstrate that while Chinese racism is real and regrettable it is not unique.

Now, why have I brought out more than 7-year old response to Josh’s earlier article today?

I want to disagree again with a few points in Josh’s latest article in Malaysiakini ‘Daughter of a strongman’.

Josh wrote about Park Geun-hye, the daughter of daughter of Park Chung-hee, the military strongman who oversaw the most spectacular transformation of an economic backwater into an industrial powerhouse in the 1960s through the 1970s.

Ms Park aspires to be President of Korea but when confronted with revelations of corruption by her aides, she saw her initially comfortable lead in the presidential race chipped off, and was (as Josh wrote) “… forced into a corner, she had no option but to publicly apologise for all the wrongdoings committed by the state during her father’s economically miraculous but politically oppressive rule.”

Park Geun-hye

Josh was obviously attempting to draw a parallel between Ms Park and Marina Mahathir – namely, daughter of strong powerful father who ruled their respective nation with a strong hand and had forcefully dragged their societies into the 21st Century. Park has apologized for her father’s oppressive rule, why hasn’t Marina?

In encapsulating the essence of his article with the sub-title ‘Mahathir at the centre of Malaysian malaise’, Josh queried Marina: In her recent interview in Singapore, Marina Mahathir talked candidly about what she considers has gone wrong in Malaysia: the education system, censorship, money politics and the resort to sex in the political scene.

I am certain her views as such echo Malaysian public sentiments, but in choosing to downplay her father’s influence in her position today, I cannot help regretting that she is still not facing up to the realities.

I’m not aware that Marina had “downplay her father’s influence” or that “she is not facing up to realities”.

I’m disappointed with Josh for wanting an Asian child to publicly criticize her (or his) parents, especially as Josh was educated in the Chinese medium which includes Confucian teachings.

For a start, Marina cannot be equated to Park Geun-hye. Marina is NOT a politician nor is seeking political office, whilst the latter is and thus found it politically expedient to do so.

Josh also wrote: Hence, how can Marina Mahathir simply dismiss her father’s political impact on the nation by saying “often people made me feel I had to be responsible for everything he did”, and “sometimes I became the surrogate for criticism”?

Pray tell me how or where in those words quoted from her, has she dismissed her father’s political impact on the nation? My dear Josh, your argument/logic has gone off cocked. Marina was just saying how or why should she have a need to explain or apologize for any unhappiness/dissatisfaction towards her dad, or for that matter, feel any responsibility for his actions?