Sunday 17 June 2018

Some Chinese are defending Einstein's 'racism' against their ancestors

With the widely reported news this week of Albert Einstein’s “racist” comments against the Chinese, some in the East Asian nation have actually come out in defense of the legendary physicist.

Einstein, a Jewish academic who left Nazi Germany to the U.S. prior to the start of World War II, has historically been seen as a staunch critic of racism. In a 1946 presentation at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he referred to racism as “a disease of white people.”

However, a new standalone edition of his private diaries from a trip to Asia has revealed a different perspective. Published by Princeton University Press, The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922-1923 is the first English printing of the intellectual’s writings from his trip to Asia.

German-born American physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) referred to the Chinese as “industrious, filthy people.” He also said that the Chinese are a “peculiar herd-like nation… often more like automatons than people.” CENTRAL PRESS/GETTY IMAGES
Among other critical comments, Einstein referred to the Chinese as “industrious, filthy people.” He also said that the Chinese are a “peculiar herd-like nation … often more like automatons than people.” He argued that "it would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all races,” saying that such a thought “is unspeakably dreary.”

Einstein took issue with the fact that the Chinese he encountered on his trip “don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods.” He also lamented that “even the children are spiritless and look obtuse,” and explained that he can’t understand how Chinese men find Chinese women attractive.

While many around the world expressed shock and criticism of the iconic scientist's words, some Chinese have actually jumped to defend Einstein. According to The Guardian, several users of China’s popular social media site Weibo voiced their support for the scientist and even gave credence to his views.

“Einstein went to China at the wrong time,” one user reportedly wrote. “Hunger, war, and poverty all pressed on the Chinese [during that time period]. How could Chinese people at the time gain Einstein’s respect?”

Another user wrote that when they see photos of that time period, they also perceive their ancestors as “dirty," the South China Morning Post reported. The user said: “This is called insulting China? That’s ridiculous … Einstein depicted the true state of that era.”

Some even compared Einstein’s writings to those of Lu Xun, who is considered "the father of modern Chinese literature." Xun is best known for his critical satire of Chinese society in the early 1900s. As one user wrote, Chinese “praise” Xun for pointing out China’s historic disadvantages. “Why should we blame Einstein for this?”

German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein, author of the theory of relativity, declares his opposition to the 'H' bomb and to the arms race between the USA and the USSR in a conference 14 February 1950 in Princeton during a TV broadcast which created a considerable stir in the United States and all over the Western World AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Xun was "a savage critic of traditional Chinese culture and revered many European writers who were also social critics," Professor Mary Gallagher, the director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, told Newsweek. Gallager added that the comparison made by Chinese is "interesting and relevant."

The Chinese "are pointing out the perceived 'defects' of their culture that both Lu Xun and Einstein noticed," she explained. "They are also ... implicitly comparing that dreadful period ... to its current era of ascendancy and success."

Gallagher said that "it’s refreshing to witness Chinese who are confident enough about their own culture and economic progress since then to take Einstein’s comments in stride."

According to Gallagher, history education in the country also portrays the period when Einstein visited "as China’s most humiliating period in the modern era." She explained that the Chinese Communist Party "is presented as saving China from this period" and that the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 is "still known as the beginning of the 'new China.'"

(Source: Newsweek)

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