Spring Festival and Politics Mix in Chicago

Posted in Down in Chinatown, Festivals and Celebrations at 3:23 pm by Benjamin Ross

I just returned from the Chicago Chinatown Spring Festival Parade. Other than the sub-zero (that’s Farenheit sub-zero) temperatures, and the fact that everything was in Cantonese, the parade had the pretty much the same brewhaha one would expect from a New Years celebration in China. What was interesting, however, were the scores of Republic of China (Taiwan) flags, coupled with American flags, which were passed out to the entire audience…not sure how well this would have gone over back in the Mainland.

Chinese New Year Celebration Dragon Spring Festival
Koumintang Taiwan flag


  1. Tora Spain said,

    February 13, 2008 at 5:30 am

    That’s pretty odd with the Republic of China flags, did you ask anyone why they’d use those as oppose to PRC flags? As everything was in Cantonese, most of the people would obviously be from HK and Guangdong. My history leaves plenty to be desired, but do the Cantonese have any anti-PRC feelings? I can’t think of any other reason for that right now.

    I’m happy that you’re still writing and are able to integrate China with your life back home, I haven’t been so successful yet.

  2. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    February 13, 2008 at 10:20 am


    Most people in Chicago’s Chinatown are either from Hong Kong or Taishan (a small city in Guangdong). This isn’t the first instance of outward support of the old Republic that I have seen, which is interesting, because to my knowledge I assumed it was mainly the Taiwanese who would have such views. Most mainland Chinese would find the ROC flag offensive. (The best analogy I can think of would be a Confederate flag in the US). As for Hong Kongers, I am not too sure of their political alliances.

    The only other explanation (and this is quite plausible) is that since the Chicago Chinese community was established long before the CCP came into power, their allegiance still lies with the old government. Nonetheless, there are still quite a large number of Mainland Chinese here who arrived post “liberation” and would still presumably be quite offended by the flags.

  3. Tora Spain said,

    February 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm


    I’d also have assumed that it would be mainly Taiwanese that had such views, maybe HK and Taiwan fancy themselves as parters of a sort? At least that was the impression I got when I was talking to a girl from HK a few years ago though I can’t say if it was just her or not.

    As to your Confederate flag comparison, I’m not sure I agree it’s so similar. I did a bit of searching and was surprised to find out that it’s still controversial to display it, though that seems to be because of the racist connotations. I doubt that the Confederate flag is offensive because they seceded from the union or because there are Confederates that still think they’re their own country, while the average Chinese would be likely be offended by a ROC flag for these reasons.

    I’m reminded of a story that a friend of my mom told me. While she was teaching in Holland she had both a Taiwanese and a mainland Chinese student in one class. The first time that they met was at the school and within days of meeting they quickly got into a nasty argumen and she mentioned that the Taiwanese guy was reduced to tears while the mainlander was furious. Considering that they barely knew each other, the only explanation I could think of was conflicting political views.

    Either way, it’s a sticky subject and I don’t want to turn your blog into a battlefield so I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Tora Spain said,

    February 13, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Damn, I need to start proofreading before I post…

  5. Porter B. United States said,

    February 14, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I cannot speak for all, but for this Hong Konger I feel that if I wanted to express feelings similar to those presumably held by Americans in the south when they wave the confederate flag, I would fly Hong Kong’s colonial flag (union jack in the upper left hand corner, small circle with HK’s colonial crest in the bottom right corner).

    Some (thought certainly not all) Taiwanese look to HK as a model for a 一国两制 system and so there might be some affinity across the strait in that direction, but HKers are more preoccupied these days with universal suffrage for ourselves rather than pondering the political scene in Taiwan / harken back to any sense of “good ‘ol days” of the ROC.

  6. canrun China said,

    February 16, 2008 at 7:44 am


    Do you know that you’re usually hard-blocked in China now? It comes and goes, but mostly can’t even get your blog with a proxy. Stinks, really. What have you been up to? 😉

  7. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    February 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    canrun et al

    Has anybody else had problems with this site being blocked in China? If so, could you either leave me a comment or email me at bensinchina at yahoo dot com? Is it specific posts, or the entire site. It’s possible I may need to do another round of internal censorship.

  8. chriswaugh_bj China said,

    February 16, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    No problems accessing your blog from Beijing, not for me.

  9. leishi United States said,

    February 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    i think the ROC flag is probably due to the collaboration between FLG practitioners and anti-PRC, pro ROC or pro-taiwan groups passing them out.

  10. canrun China said,

    February 21, 2008 at 3:18 am

    You are back on today, but have been off and on (mostly off) for well over a month now both in southern Guangdong and in Guangxi, where I spent SF. I couldn’t even get comments to show up or more than one entry to load by using anonymouse, tenpass, etc. I have no idea what seems to be causing it….

    Blame James Fallows, I guess… 😉

  11. Another Ben R. from Kansas City living in China Germany said,

    February 21, 2008 at 3:25 am

    You are definitely blocked here in Guangdong. Don’t surrender
    to censorship by deleting posts.

  12. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    February 21, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Has anybody noticed that certain posts are available while others are blocked? This happened in June when a single comment triggered off a series of blockades against my blog. As soon as I removed the comment, everything was fine.

    @Another Ben R from Kansas City living in China

    As for the censorship issue, here’s my take. Most of China’s Internet “harmonizing” is done by computers. Usually, I don’t use this blog as a venue for politics or anything too sensitive, so I am guessing chances are I was blocked due to a keyword used out of context being picked up by a trolling bot. For me, I would rather comply with the regulations, rather than have my blog cut off from the country from which it gets about one third of its readership.

  13. Frank Rizzo United States said,

    February 23, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    “For me, I would rather comply with the regulations, rather than have my blog cut off”

    You should get a job at Yahoo.

  14. Victor L United States said,

    March 6, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Ben, ran across your blog and I have found it to be quite interesting. I am from HK but have lived in the US since I was 18 (oh god its almost 10 years). The one thing I have found is that Chinese people in general are very apolitical. Even in contemporary Hong Kong where democracy is a continuing possibility, a majority of people prefer not to get involved and just let government do their business. In China and Hong Kong (I don’t know about Taiwan), when you talk about politics, it makes people very uncomfortable. For example, I went home one winter many years and I was telling my family what I was studying…. I told them I was studying Political Science – zhing zhee, and my whole family was shocked and fearful for my well being. I now tell people I studied “international security.”

    I believe that it has to do with a number of factors. Before the Communist era, the only “politicians” were those with royal blood, eunuchs, or wealthy educated people that are appointed as judges or magistrates. When the Communists came into power, any mention of politics must have had a pro-CCP. By the 80s, intellectuals and scholars, particularly those who had studied “political science” had been gotten rid off (if you know what I mean).

    In Chicago, I think Chinese people continue to be apolitical, and in general the Taiwanese flag is not offensive because the history of the flag is a part of Chinese culture. Before it was the Taiwanese flag, the symbol of the sun is actually the flag of pre-Communist China. I think the symbol was created by Sun Yet Sen during what they call the Republican Era, which is why after the nationalists lost it was brought with them to Taiwan. Of course, to say anything about it now is political, and I think Chinese in the US could care less about the governments in either CHina or Taiwan as long as their immediate family are okay. Many HK people have many family all around (our Chinese New Year dinner in HK that I haven’t been to in years has family coming in from Fuzhou, Taiwan and Philippines).

    Because the Chinese community in Chicago is so old, a lot of Chinatown are new immigrants and the “old” Chinese largely live in the Suburbs. Even among Chinese coming to Chicago, we are seen, not as outsiders but new additions. We are instructed to “do as the romans,” as in accommodate to the way the Chinese have been doing things since even before Communist Party began in China. With that said I think most people, including myself, don’t really care about what flag is being held, as long as they can live their new life in America in peace and with prosperity.

  15. FOARP United Kingdom said,

    April 2, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Actually displaying of the nationalist flag on double ten day was common in HK up until the late seventies as a sign of protest amoung mainland refugees. I’m sure you’re aware that the nationalist movement started in Guangdong also, and relied very heavily on donations from overseas Chinese for its funding until the capture of Nanjing in the 1920s northern expedition.

    Asides from that . . . . I would say that opposition to the communist government and Chinese nationalism have formed a definite part of the third generational Chinese experience. It is strange to note that even Taiwanese nowadays are often discouraged from displaying the white sun flag – many KMT-leaning people prefer to display the Chinese Taipei olympic flag when in an international setting.

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