East Asia, China, atheism and racism

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China has the largest atheist population in the world.[1]

There is a significant amount of racism in the atheist population (see: Atheism and racism).

China has the world's largest atheist population.[2][3] China has state atheism (see: China and atheism).

East Asia contains about 25 percent of the world’s population. China’s population represents 20 percent of the people on earth.[4]

Razib Khan points out in Discover Magazine, "most secular nations in the world are those of East Asia, in particular what are often termed “Confucian societies.” It is likely therefore that the majority of the world’s atheists are actually East Asian."[5] See: Asian atheism and Global atheism

China and racism

Leroy Adams writes in an article entitled What is it like to be Black in China?:

China is a country plagued by racism.

To be Black or African in China is to be labeled unintelligent, dangerous, unattractive, or to see an empty seat next to you on a crowded subway.[6]

Barry Sautman published via the Cambridge University Press about racism in post Mao Zedong China:

Expressions of anti-black sentiment by Chinese students have caught the world's attention periodically since the end of the 1970s. Demonstrations against African students in Nanjing and other cities between late 1988 and early 1989 received wide press coverage. Because the African population in China is small and transient, some observers saw these events as a manifestation of a vestigial xenophobia, not as part of a developing trend of thought within a key segment of Chinese society. Placed next to the brutal ethnic conflicts that plague much of the world, the episodic, non-lethal incidents in China seemed evanescent, with only fleeting implications for China's foreign policy.[7]

An article entitled Racism in China declares:

Images from a Chinese Museum exhibit, 2017.[8]
The Han Chinese have traditionally considered themselves more advanced and civilized than other ethnic groups in China. In the imperial era, this was almost state policy. The sentiment continues today even though laws have been enacted to protect minorities, racism is officially condemned and Chinese multi-ethnicity is celebrated in propaganda. In recent years assimilation has been encouraged, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang, whose ethnic groups are regarded as a threat.

The Chinese have many prejudiced views about race, gender and nationality. Chinese often have no compunctions about directly mocking ethnic minorities, and there sometimes seems to be a prevailing belief that anything non-Chinese is primitive.

Throughout most of their history, the Chinese have regarded anyone who lives outside of China as a savage or a barbarian. Europeans, for example, were thought to have more hair than monkeys, larger noses than anteaters and a smell more awful than dead bodies. The Chinese believed some white people tied themselves together to keep from being snatched away by eagles and other had holes in chests so the they could be carried by poles. According to one account some towns in Europe were composed entirely of women who became pregnant by staring at their shadows.

Chinese have also been victims of racism. In World War II, Chinese-Americans were not allowed to become pilots because it was believed that their slanted eyes prevented them from seeing well enough to fly a plane.[9]

The Internations organization website declares concerning racism in China:

When it comes to foreign nations against which racism in China exists, the Japanese are particularly disliked. The use of slurs, such as “little Japanese” and even “Japanese devils”, is fairly common. The two countries’ bloody history — particularly Japan’s occupation of China and the atrocities against Chinese citizens during World War II — is neither forgotten nor forgiven. According to a BBC World Service poll, nine out of ten Chinese think negatively of their island neighbors.

Black people are often regarded suspiciously, too, and considered as all coming from Africa, regardless of their actual origin. In a society where light skin is still deemed desirable and seen as a sign of fortune, darker skin is often associated with less favorable traits. There have, for instance, been reports of African-American English teachers (and thus native speakers) being turned down in favor of white English teachers with non-native language skills.

China’s economic investment in a number of African countries may well have helped to create the prejudice that all Africans are poor and profiting from money that should rather be invested at home, thus fostering racism in China. In Guangzhou, where a large number of Africans have settled over the last few years, racial tensions have been particularly high.

Typically, however, racism in China is more common in remote areas than in the big cities with a large number of foreign residents. China’s long isolation from the rest of the world has also helped to foster stereotypes.

However, with the opening up of the country and especially the younger generation’s increasing contact with foreign cultures (e.g. basketball is now immensely popular in China), some of these negative stereotypes will hopefully disperse soon. Until then, while discrimination and racism in China do prevail, they are at least non-violent in the vast majority of cases.[10]

Gen. Xu Qiliang, vice-chair of the Central Military Commission and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee who is China’s most senior military officer, refused to meet with his counterpart, Lloyd Austin, America's first African American Defense Secretary.[11]

Racism in East Asia

See also


  1. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005)
  2. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, Washington Post By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey May 23, 2013
  3. The Growth of Christianity in East Asia
  4. Most atheists are not white & other non-fairy tales, Discover magazine
  5. What is it like to be Black in China?, Inkstone News
  6. Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China by Barry Sautman, Cambridge University Press
  7. https://qz.com/africa/1101699/africans-in-china-are-infuriated-over-a-museum-exhibit-comparing-africans-to-animals/
  8. Racism in China
  9. Discrimination and Racism in China, Internations.org website
  10. https://www.bizpacreview.com/2021/05/23/show-of-disrespect-top-military-leaders-in-china-shunning-bidens-woke-defense-sec-report-1078176/