China media picks up news on NTU foodcourt’s removal of Chinese words from signboards

Netizens there comment on our history, population and English

By Yeo Kaiqi | July 4, 2017

The recent news about getting rid of Chinese words from the signboards in the foodcourt at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) attracted some controversy here in Singapore.

NTU had to look into the case and clarify that the matter is a misunderstanding.

But it is still not clear what transpired between the foodcourt and the NTU administration that saw foodstall tenants there reportedly asked to omit all Chinese words from the signboards leaving only English words.

Photo via Barbara Wohlfarth @ WP

That news has since spread to China after it was reported locally in Singapore.

Certain Chinese reports and comments from Chinese netizens are currently inciting more hard feelings about this issue.

Two of the Chinese news agencies that quickly picked up on this story were Reference News (Cankao Xiaoxi) and Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao).

Both of them are China’s state-level media agencies.

Reference News has reported the story with a video, where a quarter of it is a commentary on Singapore (start at the 1 min 22 sec mark):

Translation: “Although three-quarters of Singapore’s population is of Chinese ethnicity, a research done last year has shown that the number of people using English language has already exceeded the ones using Chinese language. The fate of many Chinese language dialects is also not optimistic. Many Singaporeans who grew up in a Chinese environment have already given up on the Chinese education for their next generation, and a lot of Singaporean youths are already expressing repulsion towards their Chinese names. Forgetting your history is equivalent to betrayal. (emphasis ours)”

Reference News has not given the source of its research.

Global Times, instead, reported the story with a Chinese meme:

The meme shrug is a common meme used in China. The two Chinese words are “he-he”, which means a type of laughter and is read as a sort of a sneer.

To date, these two reports have garnered more than 1,800 comments on Weibo altogether.

Another report from another news agency, Guangming Online (which is another state-level media agency), has also shared the Reference News video and report word for word.

It has now gained more than 900 comments on the same platform.

Taken from the top comments and replies in all three sources, this is what was said about Singapore:

1. On our relations with China

Comment: “Singapore is anti-Chinese?”

Reply 1: “Singapore is the most anti-Chinese country in the world”

Reply 2: “There was once when Lee Kuan Yew came to China and he was all pretentious. He criticised Deng Xiaoping’s governing policies saying ‘you should do this’, and ‘you shouldn’t do that’. When Deng Xiaoping couldn’t hold himself any longer, he looked at Lee Kuan Yew as if he’s dumb saying: ‘Why not I give you a province to test out?'”

Comment: “The government is worried that the country will be sinicised!”

Comment: “Actually Singapore is one of the countries that gives the poorest treatment to China. Singapore is afraid that China will become powerful and they will lose their place in the world.”

Comment: “Because of inferiority”

Comment: “Remember: Singapore is anti-Chinese.”


2. On our history

Comment: “Outright discrimination! Singapore, what reason do you have to discriminate the Chinese civilisation? You’ve forgotten your roots, you ingrate!”

Reply 1: “(N.A.; correcting spelling)”

Reply 2: “Although Singapore’s actions are normally infuriating to us, they have their own set of problems too. They left Malaysia because of the problem of Chinese ethnicity. If they lean towards the Chinese too much, they would soon be attacked by the Islamists beside them.”


3. On our population

Comment: “The Chinese are no longer taking up 3/4 of Singapore’s population. In fact, it will soon be less than 50%. The Muslims can really give birth. In just 20 years, Singapore is going to be a Muslim country.”

Reply 1: “Please do not comment groundlessly on the internet. What’s your purpose of speaking groundlessly? Singapore distributes a population white paper annually; you can search it from the internet. To date there’s about 70% Chinese in Singapore, please do not spread rumours.”

Reply 2: “Are your statistics backed up with sources?”

4. On our English language

Comment: “I don’t even know why Singaporeans insist on using English. Their English isn’t good at all; their accent and usage is weird.”

Reply 1: “They want to bootlick the foreigners”
Reply 2: “Singapore isn’t China, you can’t use the logic of the Chinese to think of this matter”

Comment: “No matter how good their English is, they still can’t change the fact that they look Chinese. Moreover their English is indeed very lousy; it’s rare to see such pretentiousness”

Reply 1: “Singapore isn’t China’s. This is their sovereignty; if you don’t like it, that’s your problem.”


5. On Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Comment 1: “Lee-gapore is gonna eat shit.”

Comment 2: “Lee-gapore is a dumb foreigner”

Comment 3: “Lee Hsien Loong’s family can’t wait to bleach their skin white, but too bad they’re still bananas.”

But a brave Singaporean netizen has also spoken up amidst the sea of Chinese ones.


In response to the comment, “Most Singaporeans are of Chinese origin, yet out of all Asian countries Singapore treats us with the most hostility”, the Singaporean netizen said:

“I’m a Singaporean currently based in China. Though I admire the hard work and fruit of labour of my Chinese counterparts, I also look down upon people like you who easily say that we treat China with such hostility.”

It seems as if these top comments are all about us, but what truly was fascinating to see was that most comments from the netizens were about China rather than Singapore.

And so, while we ponder upon what they said about us, perhaps we should also remember that not everything other people say should be taken personally.

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Top photo via Barbara Wohlfarth @ WP

About Yeo Kaiqi

Kaiqi believes she's the reincarnation of ancient China's royalty. When she's not deluded, she behaves like a cat hoping to conquer the internet.

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