How do race relations and racial hierarchies work in east asia

I guess I’m particularly curious about China, Japan and Korea.

My impression is that they all have racial tensions with each other. Do they all consider themselves the superior race and the other 2 as inferior? Is there a heirarchy (does China consider Koreans to be beneath Japanese for example)?

How about other races? Do Koreans consider themselves to be above or below white people (my impression is that in east asia there is a lot of plastic surgery to make people look more white and less asian, which would imply they consider whites better than themselves)? How do these cultures feel about arabs, Africans, blacks from the west, southeast asians, Indians, etc? Do they distinguish between eastern europeans vs western (in the US we did quite a bit 100 years ago, but now not so much).

Is there a clear hierarchy in a place like japan (Chinese over Koreans, whites over Chinese, Blacks from the west over Africans, latinos over blacks, etc), or is it more ‘anyone who isn’t Japanese is inferior’ type of system and they all get lumped together? In teh US there is a kind of heirarchy (being honest, latinos are considered above blacks, but both groups are considered inferior to whites in the culture at large).

I’m not saying I support these things, but I’d rather be honest that they exist so they can be studied.

This will end well.

IME the Japanese think they are superior to everyone, but there is definitely a ‘ranking’ of other ethnic groups. They occupy the Number 1 spot, with whites/Europeans a distant second, then perhaps Koreans, other Asians, South Americans, Africans, with Chinese at the bottom of the heap.

We have friends who are Chinese & quite affluent & they tell stories of being refused service at fine restaurants in Tokyo (recently). The hostess would cross her arms across her chest, then bow, which apparently is a gesture meaning ‘get lost, we won’t serve your kind’.

There are Chinese (esp the elderly who remember Imperial Japan) who absolutely despise the Japanese, but it is due to the horrific abuse the Chinese people suffered at the hands of the Japanese military, rather than any kind of racism.

If this is even true - which seems debatable - how exactly do they reconcile it with the fact that so much of their own culture originated in China?

Denial & revisionist history. My Japanese grandparents rejected any such claims & insisted that China imported Japanese culture & not the other way around. They were wonderful people, but had a deeply ingrained sense of cultural superiority (& never let facts get in their way). This may have changed with younger generations, at least I hope so.

What we consider modern China is vastly different from ancient China. Invasions from the north have greatly influenced modern China. They are far more multicultural than they would admit.


You’ve never heard a Western or Northern European say something nasty about Greeks?

I am not sure what your point is, but if you are insinuating that my perspective might be skewed due to having Japanese grandparents, then I will concede that it probably is.


He is probably pondering someone with Japanese ancestory taking their username from an airplane used to nuke Japan.

There are apparently many rural newly-monied Chinese tourists who know little (and apparently care less) about the customs of the countries that they visit that give all Chinese tourists a horrible reputation. They are becoming the new “Ugly Americans.”

Here are just a few examples.

Yeah maybe, but I’ve never heard of any of them thinking that Greeks were at the very bottom of humanity. I’ve never heard of them refusing to serve Greeks at a restaurant.

This a loaded question that is best answered by taking some Japanese, Chinese and Korean history courses for a historical perspective of the development of periods of tension and cooperation between the three countries.

That said. Yes, there is a hierarchy of us (superior), them (inferior). But no different from the examples you’ve given.

When I managed a cell phone/internet cafe here in Hawaii, there was a group of grade school immigrant Filipino boys who would come in daily. There also some Micronesian boys who would come in less frequently. One day one the Filipino boys was ragging on some Micronesian boys and talking about how they (the Filipinos) were better, and the Micronesian boys should never have come to Hawaii . I yelled, “Hey, you immigrated here too!” to which the boy replied, “Yeah, but we were here FIRST!” Us (superior), them (inferior)

Because they took the best and made it better! I’m being serious. Take the transistor radio for example. The first transistor radios were made in America, but in 1954 the founder of Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation (now Sony) took what he learned from the American manufacturers and made a superior product. I can guaranty when the history of the transistor radio is discussed in Japan, it doesn’t begin with, “Well, if it wasn’t for the Amercians pioneer work, we couldn’t have made it.”. Instead it’s more, “Well, the Americans made it first, but we made it better!”.

The same speech, replacing Japan, Korea or China as the country of origin is repeated in each country and around the world.

When I took some Chinese history courses and the discussion of the boundries moving north and south were being discussed, the question would always come up, "What makes them [the various peoples] Chinese? The answer was always the same, if the new Emperor (and by extension the people) accepted the tenets and precepts of the classics, they’re Chinese. If the new Emperor didn’t, he would quickly lose The Mandate of Heaven and be dethroned.

In Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi (a collections of writings and letters from his reign), he wrote:

"I finally told the Westerners that they must follow Ricci’s interpretations of the Chinese Rites; and if, because he followed these interpretations, the Pope were to order them to return to Europe, then I would say to Jesuits: “You’ve been here many years, you’re used to our climate, you’re like the Chinese now, I’m not willing to send you back.”

Kang Hsi’s writings are significant because he was a Manchu and his writings are one of the few (possibly the only) extant writings of an Emperor that remained unedited/unrevised by their successor and his scholars.

Another quote that I unfortunately can’t find the source for is one said by an Emperor regarding why China never invaded and annexed Vietnam. He supposedly said something along the lines of, “They’re too independent and would never accept the Chinese ways, they’d never become Chinese.”

It ended the war. And despite my heritage, I do not think that Japan was on the right side of humanity in this instance.

I was told by some Korean coworkers that Koreans generally consider the Japanese to be savages; the purpose of the kimono is so Japanese women always have a blanket handy to spread out to be raped upon.

Japan also has a small non-Japanese native population called the Ainu, but there are so few of them that I would not expect controversy over race relations to even arise very often.

China has put a million of its Turkic Muslims into camps.

I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that Chinese, Korean, and Japanese all have pretty negative opinions on the Mongolians-mostly stemming from the Middle Ages when the Mongol Empire conquered much of Asia.

My apologies for the wall of text.

TL;DR version, Everybody hated/looked down on everybody at one point, but relations are getting better.
Side related to the Ainu (descendants of the original aboriginal inhabitants of Japan) Historically, the Japanese don’t consider Okinawans, Japanese (naichi, those from mainland Japan). This geographically and historically correct since Okinawa has its own unique culture, language and its own king before annexation by Japan.

I have a pet theory (supported by the fact that Japan was ready to admit defeat in WWII to prevent the invasion of mainland Japan) that the invasion of Okinawa was acceptable since it Japanese by annexation only. There are reports that during the Battle of Okinawa, some Japanese used Okinawans as human shields and some Okinawans were killed to prevent their possible passing on of military secrets through their (incomprehensible to the Japanese) use of their native tongue.

Acceptance and admiration of Okinawan singers grew tremendously in the mid-90’s when Okinawan singers/groups Amuro Namie, MAX and Speed began to hit the charts. Amuro Namie who retired this year, is the top JPop singer in Japanese history.

I’ve befriended older Chinese, Korean and Filipinos who have told me outright, “You know, we couldn’t have been friends before.” And “I never thought I’d be such good friends with a Japanese [person]”, referring to pre and WWII events.

I’ve had Chinese and Korean video store owners be impressed by interest in their movies. When I explain that I’m Japanese/Okinawa, they laughed and said “Ah, close enough! You’re Korean!, “You’re Chinese!”. Conversely, I’m largely snubbed and looked down upon when I visited Japanese video stores because I don’t know how to read or speak Japanese.

In 2016, KPop group Twice debuted with 9 members, 3 Japanese and 1 Taiwanese, an unprecedented mix. They’re currently the top girl KPop group in Korea and are making huge inroads into Japan (which has been largely resistant to KPop) primarily because of their Japanese members.
Following the success of Twice and their inroads into Japan, this year, another KPop group IZOne was formed through popular voting on a reality elimination show (Produce 48) with 24 Korean and 24 Japanese contestants vying for a place in the final 12 member group. There was controversy because the voting was limited to Koreans only and rumors of limits on how many Japanese would be allowed in the group (it’s comprised of 9 Korean and 3 Japanese).

*Justification was because the winners (I.O.I) of the 2015 version of the show (Produce 101) were highly influenced by International voting. I.O.I (comprised of 10 Koreans (one half Dutch and one Mainland Chinese member) was supposed to represent the South Korean popular choice. This was before Twice debuted and showed that a mixed nationality KPop group could be highly successful.

Also this year, the Chinese version of Produce 101 was aired (with Chinese contestants only) and Rocket Girls was formed. Like Produce 48, voting was limited to China only. And there was some controversy because two of the contestants (who eventually place 1st and 2nd in Rocket Girls) were/are part of a KPop group. Early on there some complaints that they shouldn’t be allowed to participate because of their membership in a KPop group. Some even saying they were no longer Chinese enough because of the time spent in Korea.

During WWII, the Chinese referred to the Japanese as “island dwarves” and considered them short and ugly, IIRC. The typical Japanese person was on average a bit shorter than the average Chinese person in a very height-focused society.