My most important piece of writing yet

Today, my latest Huffington Post piece went live.

And following that – it triggered an unexpected reaction and was duly edited to prevent further offence.

Read the Huff Post Piece here.

But I do feel I wrote this piece with only the best intentions in mind, driven by a deep sense of duty and naive desire for unity.

So with that said, below is my original piece, raw and unedited.
I hope that when you read it, my message comes through loud and clear.

6d3f8a115e8178db997da439baae3a17“This is a no-go zone for the Chinese and if you step in then you will be deported.”
~ poster found at Monash University, Clayton

Almost a week ago, a number of the above racist posters were found around a couple of Melbourne universities. This included my recent alma mater – Monash University.

And I’m incredibly glad I graduated from Monash last year, because I know if I had seen that poster I would’ve walked around campus with a significant level of discomfort and fear.

Luckily I can’t actually read Chinese though…

Now I’m not actually Chinese – I was born in Singapore and moved to Australia when I was 10. Since then, it’s been the green and gold all day, every day.

However, I feel those posters weren’t there to draw distinctions, and were meant for anyone who looked Chinese – which includes me. I guess that’s what racism is there to do, to remove cultural nuance and blindly divide.

And hey, I get it.
The Chinese come to this country, drive up our property prices, buy all our baby formula and don’t make an effort to engage with the rest of society.
When people call me Chinese – I squirm in discomfort because I am aware of the image that label conjures.

I’m not selling A2 baby formula and Swisse Ultivites back to China for profit.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not me sympathising with the poster bandits, because as we’ve seen time and time again, stereotypes very rarely apply to an entire population.

To the poster bandits.

But I do wonder how often you’ve had conversations, actual conversations, with a Chinese person let alone one of those students your poster was targeted at.

They don’t speak English – I hear ya’ll moan.

Again another misconception assumed of a people. Well, there are plenty of Chinese that speak English perfectly.

Actually go talk to someone that’s Chinese. They can be fresh of the boat with the smell of the sea in their hair or 2nd generation – hell – I know a Chinese guy whose family has been living in Australia for 6 generations. He’s as Aussie as they come.

Ask about their family.
Ask about their jobs.
Ask about their lives.

You might be surprised how alike we all actually are.

Better yet, go to China – because when I did I better understood the people. They have specific shops selling international goods because the locals don’t trust locally made produce. A box of Lindt was $50AUD and tin of tiny baby formula was $70AUD.

A few years ago, approximately 300,000 Chinese babies got incredibly sick when it was discovered locally made baby formula was being adulterated with melamine causing significant kidney damage. Six babies died.

Oh so that’s why they send stuff back home from here…

Don’t go around plastering posters that target an entire population and culture, which you have no understanding of.

People all around the world come to Australia for opportunity – opportunity that we sometimes take advantage of. Instead of reacting with fear and misunderstanding, we should embrace global difference as strength within our social fabric.

To the ethnic community

And now to the ethnic community, because we aren’t completely innocent too.

When I shared a screenshot of the poster on Instagram, I got a message saying:

“Australia’s favourite past time.”

Simply put, I’m sick of this attitude.

We go around pleading not to be painted with the same brush of stereotypes and misconceptions, but our response to events like this is ‘oh, they’re all the same.’

That’s just not good enough anymore. We cannot make the rest of the population the enemy every time we feel targeted.

We are so incredibly lucky to live in this amazing country, and the majority of our fellow citizens only wish the best for each other. Incidents like this, few and far between, do not reflect the intentions of wider society.

Every time we react to fear with fear, every time we react to malice with malice – we take multiple steps back.

And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of going backwards.

We’re better than this. All of us – white, black, yellow, everything in between – we are all better than this.

Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.

Get in touch ~
Instagram: @chinkinthearmour


  1. Writing anything about racism has to be done with sensitivity about how it reads to anyone not familiar with your work. Opening statements are very often all that is read before a reader might move on to another topic.
    Your opening paragraphs can be read differently to your intentions and implying a different meaning.
    While it is clear, as one reads through the rest of your prose, that you do not engage in racial profiling, initially, we cannot (as the reader) work out if you are angry or frightened by the signs you saw on your campus. Likewise, we cannot, on first read of the opening statements, know if you agree of disagree with the denial of Chinese students entry into a forbidden zone.
    Your later statements that seem to target every Chinese immigrant that arrives in Australia as ‘typical,’ is a bit misleading too.

    I think you might well benefit from having someone read your work (editor) before sending it to Huffpost… Just so you can learn if anyone will misread your intentions.

    You have ten to 20 seconds to create interest in the piece as it begins… Make sure it is really what you want to say!

      • I actually think it was a good piece overall, and indicative that we should not judge a book (or person) by the cover. Unfortunately, many do! Hopefully you can change their thinking. An admirable goal!

  2. I think it’s too bad you took out the part that you removed. Uncomfortable squirming (or whatever unfortunate reaction) becomes the sad reality when differences are negatively hammered into us repeatedly. Too often being associated with something different (accurately or inaccurately) is demonized rather than celebrated.

    It is not a reflection on you; instead it is a reflection on society. Society should have to face that paragraph. I say put it back in.

      • PaulLifeblog has a point. Sometimes we just have to take the heat on whatever we write. You are not going to satisfy everyone and the ‘Trolls’ out there are always on attack mode. Don’t give up… It is a steep curve we all have to navigate.

  3. Hi Ryan, This is very sad. Now I understand why my Australian friend were so against China-born Chinese when they visited me in the States a couple of months ago. We have the same issue with Chinese driving up the property price in Seattle and I’m sure some of them will not adopt the culture here. It’s a sensitive matter when people’s own welfare is impacted. I was born in China, left the country earlier. I’m not rich and soon I may be driven out of Seattle by these rising prices. But I see this also the responsibility of the government. They are the ones who should protect the local people and culture. There are things they could do to ensure the welfare of the Australians and the Seattleits, such as raising taxes for the foreign property buyer, and use that money to subsidize its own people. There are solutions to be found if they are willing. Racism is never the Right solution whatever the reason! Great post!

    • Thank you so much!
      I have family in Seattle so I can empathise!
      It’s tough when cultures clash, but I think we each have a responsibility to act with empathy and kindness.

  4. I was pleased to be able to read the full article and the Huff post one was so paired back!
    Colettebytes comments about writing with sensitivity are good, and agree that sometimes only the first sentence is read. However if I was going to comment or become inflamed by the opening sentence then this would entice me to complete reading the article before judging, I am not a technical write but I think this may be termed “a hook” and if that was the purpose, Food it got me to read the entire piece and fully understand your intentions and stance.

    • thank you very much for the kind words! and definitely appreciate you taking the time to read both pieces!

      I think I was stunned when the message was misconstrued – but I do agree that if you aren’t going to read the entire piece before commenting then there’s not much more I can do!

      Appreciate you!

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