Singaporean Chinese Perspective: Do Chinese Privilege and Xenophobia exist?

Racial privilege – How do I relate my racial identity back to this term?

First and foremost, I myself was not even aware of the privilege I had as a Chinese individual because – I never had the chance to experience what it is like living as a minority racial group in Singapore. I was only made known to such an existence of this term – Chinese privilege, when I had read through the online media discussions on this particular topic, and later reflected on my daily life experiences in comparison to those from the minority races. Privileges does not always have to be direct. It can be something subtle, and felt in-between-the-lines. And discrimination, entitlements, and privileges are faced by all communities in Singapore, regardless of race and religion. I will just focus on Chinese privilege in this post. 

The ratio of the population of our 3 main races in our little red dot:

Chinese 74.2%, Malay 13.3%, Indian 9.2% (2014)

Some daily life experiences I’ve reflected on:

  • Chinese New Year and Christmas songs are blasted in mainstream cinemas or supermarkets during their festive periods. I wonder whether our Malay and Indian friends likewise have songs from their language being played regularly too, during their festive periods e.g. Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali?
  • Do I have to worry if schools offer my mother tongue as a second language? Some schools under the SAP (Special Assistance Programme) which tend to produce higher-peforming students do not offer Mother Tongue for Malay and Tamil. It would be essential to encourage a higher intake of non-Chinese student population for such schools, which would increase the chances for non-Chinese students to pursue further studies in Junior college and IB, and promote racial equality e.g. further tertiary and career pathways for minority races.) Thus, can SAP schools also start to offer Malay and Tamil as a higher mother tongue language?
  • Are the amount of food options at hawker centers, food courts, and coffee shops proportionate to the palette culture of our minority racial groups? Are majority of eateries halal-certified? Do I have to worry if I cannot find food that it aligned to my culture?
  • Do I see a lack of Chinese films in cinemas? *The number of Malay films shown in our cinemas are much lesser than the Chinese, Hindi, or even Korean/Thai films.
  • Do I have to worry that employees or businesses might not want to hire me because of my race or spoken language? Chinese language might be a job requisite, or employees may prefer hiring a Chinese race employee as majority of consumers are Chinese or Chinese speaking, which means our non-Chinese friends might lose out from even getting a job interview e.g. since we can tell straight from the person’s name what their race is (in any job application form).
  • Am I aware of existing stereotypes of other races? Yes, I am aware of stereotypes of other races, but I myself ironically am not aware of the stereotypes other races might have of me. As such, I do not have to worry about prejudices others might have towards my race.
  • Do I have to worry if my boss, colleagues, teachers, or friends will view me biasedly as compared to other races when I make mistakes, come late – because of certain racial stereotypes e.g. lazy, less hardworking?
  • Do I see faces of my race regularly in the media? Local magazine covers or advertisements have mostly models / celebrities of either my own race, or pan-Asian / western models (* which is weird when we are an Asian country)
  • Do I see many new citizens of the Chinese race in my country? Is the proportion of new citizens of the Malay race lower than other proportions of the Chinese and Indian race being accepted to Singapore? (*I’m not too sure about this)

According to this ST article:

They have expressed concern during the Parliamentary debate on the Population White Paper that a disproportionately small number of immigrants are Muslim or from Malaysia and Indonesia.

  • Do I worry I might face language or cultural differences with others? Are there a large number of servicer providers and staffs coming from overseas to work in Singapore that might not be able to converse in English, Malay, and Tamil; but are able to do so in Chinese? This might lead to language barriers between our minority races and solely Chinese-speaking individual.


  • Do I make us-versus-them, or racial jokes or racist remarks?
  • In newspapers, do I often seen my race group singled out for increased governmental help, community’s recognition and progress, being given credit, or emphasized on during accomplishments?

*We see it more often for the Malay community recently. (*It could be that the Chinese race had more educational or career opportunities cared out for them due to them being the majority race and as such, it might take time for the other minority races to even out in performance level due to the initial unequal level playing field.)


‘Continue to work with Govt to lift Malay/Muslim community’ 

Book marks Malay/Muslim milestones  Scholarships for Malays at SMU

Malay/Muslim community ‘can do more in partnership with PAP’

Four win Arif Budiman Malay Language Teachers’ Awards

Consider the progress Malays have made over the past 50 years under the PAP: Yaacob

Book celebrates efforts of pioneer Malay volunteers

 ‘Progress of Malays reflects S’pore’s success’  New award for top Malay studies student at NUS

Three new Malay MPs given roles in Mendaki Malays can be proud of progress: Yaacob

PM praises Malay-Muslim community’s inclusive spirit

Malay/Muslim community ‘can do more in partnership with PAP’

  • Do I see Singapore as a Chinese-dominated country? It does seem that way because Chinese makes up majority of the race. But in reality, Malay is our national language, and Malays are the indigenous community of Singapore. I’m not sure if many of us Chinese take for granted this historical fact.
  • Do I feel excluded in group settings when others use their respective mother tongue?

e.g. I have personally been in group settings where I’m of the minority race, so I know what it’s like for the minority race to be in group settings of the majority race. There’s not only the language, but also the cultural differences and inside jokes which we may not always get. And the feeling of not being “part of the group”.

  • Do I have to often worry about being perceived as the race that lags behind?

“I always feel excluded when the other race always talk in their own language” 

I’ve experience situations where I feel excluded when another race talked in their own language during the conversation. Thus, I feel the issue of racial groups talking in their own language when there is a different race friend around is actually relevant and happens to all races, not just any one race. It just so happens that all of us think that the other races do that, when actually, our own race might do that too without even realizing it.

10 examples the government has taken to build racial/religious equality:

  • Parties contesting for GRCs have to have at least one minority race in their group formation
  • English being the main spoken language which allows the diverse races to interact with one another
  • Channel 5 TV drama’s and live TV events having a racially – proportionate cast.
  • Chinese, Malay, and Tamil being taught in majority of mainstream schools as a second language, with english as the first language.
  • Self-help groups from each racial group to help the needy from their racial community e.g. SINDA, MENDAKI, CDAC
  • Criteria for national or community level subsidies do not exclude any racial groups
  • Meritocratic Education – you get admitted into schools based on your grades, regardless of your race or religion.
  • We have mosques, temples, churches etc. all around Singapore, and most major religions are allowed to practice it freely in harmony.
  • National or policy advertisements/information booklet printed either in all 4 languages, or in English as the main medium, with a racial-proportionate cast
  • Public holidays given to all, during the festivals of any main race/religion
  • HDB flats having to follow a racially-proportionate ratio

We’re “blind” immigrants that blindly pick on other immigrants

One thing I don’t understand – why are we xenophobic to other nationalities that come to Singapore to either study, work, or reside? Our ancestors were once immigrants from countries like – China, India. So who are we to make fun, or frown upon foreign nationals who come to Singapore?

They hope to get an education, earn a living, and support their family just like any one of us. The route that they are taking now are similar to that of our ancestors. And if our ancestors did not immigrate to Singapore many decades back, none of us would have the privilege to be part of the current multi-racial Singapore we have today, or even be step foot into Singapura.

 And don’t forget, foreign nationals are the people that take care of our children (maids), build our MRTs and flats (construction workers), keep our streets clean, provide us service at restaurants and shops etc.

They are the one’s shaping our future generation and physical landscape. They are the one’s taking on manual labour jobs that Singaporeans frown upon, or are too “proud” to even take up. They are the one’s helping us keep our Clean and Green City image. So who the f*** are we to judge, or look upon them differently?

We should appreciate and thank them greatly for not only shaping and contributing significantly to our future, but also tolerating our pride, behaviour, discrimination, attitude, selfishness, or in others words – our sh** that we do upon them. Without them, there won’t be the current or future Singapore. Without the current or future Singapore, there wouldn’t be us or our children. That’s how important they are to us.

And lastly, many of us had ancestors who were once immigrants, or we ourselves might study, work, or reside in another country too – let’s always remember that. We wouldn’t want to be the target of racism or xenophobism when we go overseas. But the fact that we are doing so, karma will most likely hit hard not only upon us, but also upon our children too.

Relevant article

Singapore for Singaporeans? Or xenophobia?



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2 thoughts on “Singaporean Chinese Perspective: Do Chinese Privilege and Xenophobia exist?

  1. A mere majority in number DOES NOT confer a “privilege”. South Africa during its Apartheid days had about 4 million Whites subjugating nearly 20 million Blacks for over 80 years. At the formation of White Rhodesia (current Zimbabwe) in 1921, 862,319 Blacks were discriminated by 33,620 Whites who expropriated their land among other things. And before her 1997 return to China, over 5 million Hong Kongers was colonised by White Britain who had only about 26,000 Whites working on the island.

    To move from “majority” to “privileged”, the majority race should be granted special benefits, advantages and immunities to the exclusion and disadvantages of the minority races by virtue of solely the “racial” criteria. Like in Malaysia.

    There is “No Chinese Privilege in Singapore”: read


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