Helpful Terms for Chinese-Canadians

  • Asian-American: A term coined by historian Yuji Ichioka in 1968 during the founding of the Asian American Political Alliance "inter-ethnic-pan-Asian American self-defining political group," a replacement of the terms Oriental/Asiatic/Mongoloid (Wikipedia article)

  • Chinese-Canadians (華裔加拿大人/加拿大華人): Canadians of full or partial Chinese ancestry, being of Chinese ethnic origin.

  • Coolie (苦力/咕喱): From 18th century onwards would refer to migrant Indian or Chinese indentured laborers to European colonies (Wikipedia article)

  • Banana/Twinkie (香蕉人/香蕉仔): derogatory slang for ethnic Chinese with Westerner characteristics, yellow on the outside but white on the inside (Wikipedia article)

  • Fresh off the boat (FOB): derogatory term used to describe ethnically Asian circles have yet to assimilate into the host nation (Qualitative Sociology)

  • Healthy immigrant effect: immigrants' health is generally better than that of the Canadian-born, although it tends to decline as their years in Canada increase (Statistics Canada)

  • Honorary whites: a term associated the rights and privileges of offered to Whites peoples to those who would otherwise have been treated as non-Whites peoples upon certain conditions (Wikipedia article)

  • Hyphenated identity: implies a dual identity or sociocultural group, historically has been used in derogatory ways (Wikipedia article)

  • Jook Sing (竹升): derogatory Cantonese slang for ethnic Chinese from Western nations, becoming outcasts for being sufficiently Chinese nor Western (Wikipedia article)

  • Microaggression: verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups. (Wikipedia article)

  • Model minority myth: a demographic group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average, particularly common in Chinese immigrants. May include characteristics such as: diligence, discipline, strong family values, respect for authority, thriftiness, morality, self-sufficiency, respect for education. The term originated in the United States and refers to a different situation than in Canada. (Wikipedia article)

  • Native informant: the person who translates their culture for the researcher, the outsider

  • Orientalism: a way of seeing that emphasizes differences of Eastern peoples and cultures as compared to that of the West, in derogatory ways (Wikipedia article).

  • Perpetual foreigner: in which naturalized and even native-born citizens are perceived as foreign (Wikipedia article)

  • Racialized: encompasses all people that are non-White, more preferable to the term "visible minorities"

  • Sinocentrism: ideology that the nation of China is the cultural, political or economic center of the world (Wikipedia)

  • Third-Culture: people who were raised in a culture other than their parents' or the culture of their country of nationality, and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years (Wikipedia)

  • Whitewashed: derogatory term used to describe ethnically Asian circles assimilated too far into the host nation (Qualitative Sociology)

  • White adjacent: a person coming from a marginalized background within society in terms of race, and at the same time, receiving benefits similar to those identified as white (Daily Sundial Opinions)

  • Sinophone (華語語系/華夷風): the study of Sinitic-language cultures born of colonial and postcolonial influences

  • Yellow peril (黃禍): derogatory metaphor that East Asians are a threat to the Western world (Wikipedia article)

Scientific Racism

Science was used to bolster claims of race, particularly becoming prominent from the 19th century on (Wikipedia article). For instance, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) coined the term "Caucasian" and proposed five races according to pseudoscience of craniology, the study of physical characteristics of skills, concluding that the Caucasian was the superior:

    • Caucasian (white)

    • Mongolian (yellow)

    • Malayan (brown)

    • Ethiopian (black)

    • American (red indigenous)

Chinese Ethnicity and Chinese Nationality

Chinese ethnicity and Chinese nationality are different. There are different interpretations on how exactly this works.

The history of China as a nation is debated on the basis of how continuation ought to be viewed, particularly the popularized view claiming 5000 years of Chinese history. What is commonly known as China, The People's Republic of China, was established in 1949. The Republic of China, which has continuation to the island known as Taiwan, was established in 1912. Present-day Chinese nationalism could not be tenably established prior to the establishment of the Republic of China, but is traced towards the end of the rule by the Manchu peoples during the Qing Dynasty. Some Chinese Canadians even supported the expiring Qing Empire by participating as a part of the global Chinese Empire Reform Association.

The Chinese when conceptualized as an ethnicity was by no means uniform in the past, as evidenced by numerous references to foreigners (外族) in historical literature. It is common to equate Chinese ethnicity to the Han Chinese people, with origins from the Han dynasty as the dominant ethnic group of China. However, the ethnicity race in China was not necessarily uniform. Prior to the raise of modern Chinese state, there had also been distinctions between northern and southern Chinese peoples. It is also common to identify as a decent of the two mythological characters in Yandi (炎帝) and Huangdi (黃帝), or simply as "Yan Huang Zisun" (炎黃子孫).


Anglo-Saxonism is racial belief system developed by the 19th century advocating for the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race (Wikipedia article).

Upon the discovery of the new world of the Americas, The papal bull by Pope Nicholas V of 1452 was issued, authorizing Afonso V of Portugal to subjugate "all Saracens, pagans, infidels and enemies of Christ" (Wikipedia article). Colonialism and imperialism were thus mandated by God. Following the Portuguese and Spaniards, the British followed suit and eventually made their way to the Americas, carving up vast amounts of land around the world for their own colonies towards their own gain.

By the 19th century, the British and Americans had adopted an exceptionist view of themselves. American exceptionalism, coined "Manifest Destiny" by 1845 as the United States annexed Texas, predicted a "divine destiny" for the United States (Wikipedia article). As historian Reginald Horsman put it, "American expansion was viewed in the United States less as a victory for the principles of free democratic republicanism than as evidence of the innate superiority of the American Anglo-Saxon branch of the Caucasian race" (JSTOR page).

British historian Richard Evans provided a talk on attitudes of the British during the Victorian Era (Gresham College Page). According to a quote by a British headmaster, the English believed themselves to be "one of the chosen peoples of history who are appointed to do great work for mankind" (Google Books). A British priest and professor believed that "the glorious work which God seems to have laid on the English race, to replenish the earth and subdue it" (Google Books).

This coincided with increased British trade and Anglo-Saxon Protestant Missionary activity during this period, notably with the two invasive Opium Wars fought in China. The aftermath subjected the Chinese Empire to Western imperialist powers by the "most-favored-nation clause," forcing the concessions to be extracted and known as the "unequal treaties" (United States Office of the Historian). This was a landmark of the symbolic subjugation of the Chinese race to the Anglo-Saxon race, the beginning of what is known as the "Century of Humiliation" (Wikipedia article).