Xenophobia, “Xi”nophobia and Sinophobia

Considering the current close contact between the Chinese community and their country of origin, as well as the complex intra-community connection, basically it is only a matter of time before the Canadian government introduces the “foreign influence transparency registry”. Although I am confident that the Canadian government today would never place Chinese Canadians in internment camps, while China and Canada diverge in terms of universal values and confront on national interests, an irrational, sinophobic and xenophobic sentiments of fear or hostility towards any matters that connect Chinese with China will linger on our Canadian society for a while. The Chinese community is now put to a test.


Xenophobia, “an unreasonable fear or hated of anyone or anything foreign or strange”,  is a rather a strange word to many Chinese speakers.  When Evelyn Kallen, in Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada, introduces new racism in sociobiological theories of ‘social nationalism’, she argues that “in Canada, the cultural differences…have been perceived as a threat to national unity and identity and to national values”[1].


Nevertheless, equality rights and Multicultural heritage are explicitly protected by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Not only are “constraints against overtly racist acts or words …formidable”, but also Chinese and Asian cultures are now celebrated by many Canadians. Moreover, the fact that “Chinese ‘genes’ have existed since the very beginning in the ‘bloodline’ of Canadian history”[2] is no longer ignored but accepted in our Canadian society that embraces diversity, equity and inclusiveness.


Though we, together, have made good progress, overseas Chinese are currently facing challenges. Wang Huning, recently in his closing remarks at the first session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, proclaims that the Chinese government ought to “gather the wisdom and strength of the Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad to achieve the goals set by the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.”  Due to the close contact between Chinese and China and the convoluted interaction within Chinese groups, unsurprisingly “Chinese sons and daughters…abroad” are regarded as a challenge to Canada’s national security and even a threat to our Canadian democracy. All home and abroad Chinese become China’s clone troopers that are brainwashed marching in goose steps with uniforms, and worst of all, they all have indistinguishable names and even share a similar look.


Canadian people have had abhorrent experience with China in recent years:

1) the Meng Wanzhou saga between 2018 and 2021,

2) two Michaels detained by China for nearly three years,

3) covid and the origin of covid,

4) in 2020, “Every overseas Chinese is a warrior”[3] asserted by Global News accusing humanitarian donations of personal protective equipment to China from Canada were clandestine and orchestrated China’s United Front Work campaign,

5) in 2021, former CSIS director Ward Elcock claimed that “China is the number one threat in Canada for political interference”[4] (Cooper, 2021), and

6) in 2023, RCMP had ‘taken overt actions’ that led to the ceasing of operations at four alleged Chinese police stations.” [5]


Naturally Canadians become nervous and concerned about these “unacceptable actions by [a] hostile authoritarian regime”. China has become the antithesis of progressivism and civilization. The Chinese Communist Party along with its General Secretary Xi Jinping filled Canadians with disgust because all of China’s above-mentioned aggressiveness are incompatible with our Canadian values. As a result, public anxiety continues to heat up and “‘Xi’nophobia” becomes well-founded in Canada.


Foreign Interference in local politics to compromise election outcomes is an accusation of treasonous nature, which should be taken seriously by the Chinese community. When “proving clandestine United Front political influence is extremely difficult”, conspiracists are not hesitant to throw the whole Chinese community under the bus of populist justice where the assumption of innocence and the onus of proof are irrelevant. Let the Chinese community falsify themselves under the public opinion: as long as you cannot prove that you are not a traitor, then you are a traitor.


Even though the Report on the Assessment of the 2021 Critical Election Incident Public Protocol “did not find that there was [large scale] interference… in Canada either in 2019 or 2021”[6], the current public opinion is all directed at elected politicians of Chinese descent when discussing foreign influence registry or foreign interference on local politics. Isn’t this racialization of foreign interference a generalization of the Chinese community and is such stereotyping “xi”nophobic or Sinophobic?


When China and Canada diverge in terms of universal values and clash on national interests in some areas, all Canadians need to be vigilant that the public’s legitimate concerns about foreign governments’ interference may be evolving into Sinophobia toward the Chinese community and Chinese Canadians.


[1] Evelyn Kallen, Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada 3rd Edition (2010) at 54.

[2] Guo Ding and Kenny Zhang, Canada’s Chinese Gene: A Sense of Belonging, Ownership and Contribution (2021) at 20.

[3] Sam Cooper, United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies (April 30, 2020).

[4] Sam Cooper, Wilful Blindness (2021).

[5] Reuters, Canada police probe alleged Chinese ‘police stations’ in Montreal (March 9, 2023).

[6] Morris Rosenberg, Report on the assessment of the 2021 Critical Election Incident Public Protocol (2023) at 42.


(Jimmy Yan  MEd. KStG., is the Project and Information Officer of Access Pro Bono Society of BC. He’s a regular media commentator on issues of public legal education and information. Yan is also a Research Assistant of The Centre for Education, Law and Society in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, and a CELS educational advisor to the Chinese community.)



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