Have you ever wondered if there are other market dominant minorities out there? Blogger Lawrence Glarus has found another out there:
Most people in China are Han. In fact, the Han are 92% of the PRC. This would, in the popular imagination, imply that they culturally similar. This isn’t necessarily wrong but, like any nation, there are thinner slices you can make. Out of this mix of cultures has emerged another crab. China has produced a market dominant minority diaspora: the Hakka. The Hakka are a subgroup of the Han. They have their own Chinese dialectic though their identity is mostly connected to patrilineal descent. What are the minimum steps to create a market dominant minority?
2. Economic niche formation by cultural bans or scarcity of normal work.
3. Limited integration.
In the Hakka we meet all the requirements. The Hakka originated from Northern China. This is not particularly exceptional since all Han originated from Northern China. Like many groups, there were multiple waves of migration from their homelands somewhere in the North. There seem to be a number of theories of their origin but there were plenty of wars and political events in which COULD have displaced them. Suffice to say something or someone gave them a reason to move.
“Migration and the stigma of rootlessness. Dominant Han tradition worshipped the native place, and the Min and Yue Cantonese disdain the Hakka as rootless. Four mass migrations shaped Hakka identity. In the first the Hakkas left Henan and Shandong during the chaos of the Jurchen attacks between the Tang and Song dynasties (907-959 A.D.), and settled around Changting (Tingzhou) in the underpopulated highlands of the Fujian-Jiangxi border. In the second they moved into north-eastern Guangdong during the period of the Song-Yuan dynastic transition (1127-1279), settling around Meixian and the North River highlands. In the third many Hakkas claimed untended land on the south-east Guangdong coast during the early Qing (1644-1800). Others, like Chen Yi’s kin, moved up to the Hunan-Jiangxi border. By 1800 Hakkas had also settled permanently in Guangxi, Hainan, Taiwan and famine-depopulated Sichuan.36 The fourth migration came in the mid-19th century, after nearly a million died in the Hakka-Bendi land wars, and in the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64). Hakkas dispersed further away from Guangdong, into Sichuan, Hong Kong and overseas.”-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
That is a rough history, but then again China is/was a rough place. It might actually may not be THAT exceptional.
“The name Hakka was first used by Guangfu Chinese. Hakka was originally used to refer to the third person and was gradually accepted as the ethnic name. Now, many people are proud to call themselves Hakka. The four Hakka states are Meizhou, Ganzhou, Huizhou, and Tingzhou. Meizhou is often referred to as the capital of the global population of Hakka because it has the highest population of Hakka, and many Hakka emigrated from Meizhou. Ganzhou is considered the ancestral home of Hakka, and is known as the “Hakka cradle”.
Hakka is one of the seven major Chinese dialects. Hakka dialects were formed as early as the Southern Song Dynasty through the inheritance of many language tones from the five dynasties and Song dynasties. The Hakka area is divided into “pure” and “impure” Hakka counties. There are 48 pure Hakka counties and cities in regions bordering Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi. Although the total population of Hakka has not been determined, it is estimated that there are about 50 million Hakka worldwide. Although the Hakka population is an important component of Han populations, the anthropologic characteristics of Hakka have not been reported.” -Physical characteristics of Chinese Hakka ZHENG
Hakka roughly translates to “Guest Families”, which in my opinion is a perfect name for a market dominant minority. A guest family is welcome, but they never really integrate. Even after at least 1000 years of living in South China the Hakka are still distinct (or at least have a distinct identity) from the other Northern Chinese peoples who got there first. The Hakka, for example, typically didn’t bind their daughter’s feet.
The word “Hakka” is as blatant a brand of impoverished wandering as “Gypsy” or “Okie.” It was originally a hostile outside coinage, the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters for “guest family,” “settlers” (Mandarin pronunciation is kejia). “Guest” is often pejorative in Chinese. Jia is used in derisive names for minorities, but not for other Han except the even more benighted Danjia (Tanga, Tanka) boat people..Longsettled Han call themselves “locals,” “natives” bendi (punti), literally “rooted in the soil.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
It is funny for Westerners to see this sort of behavior and attitudes in foreign nations. Unlike our history, the dirty laundry of foreign (non-Western) cultures tends to not be aired. There is nothing wrong with a little parochialism. It is still a little hard to imagine a group being “guests” for a thousand years. How many American’s even know the word “Okie” anymore? To be fair it’s still fresh in the memories of the people of Oklahoma.
Hakkas are also called “newcomers” (xin ren) or “arrivals” (lai reri). They are often called “Cantonese,” especially in Taiwan, Hunan and Sichuan. Hakka dialect is also called “dirt Cantonese” (tu Guangdonghua); “newcomer talk” (xin min hua); or “rough border talk” (ma jie hua) (see Cui Rongchang, “Sichuan fangyan de biandiao xianxiang” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
It is certainly interesting that these people who focused on education would have a language called “rough border talk”. It is probable that any successful Hakka would learn and speak Madarin (or whatever was the court dialect de jour) well though. All the famous (at least famous outside China) Hakka we know of spoke other languages very well and did not seemingly utilize Hakka language in their public persona. In fact, the Hakka seem to do much better in other people’s areas than in their own, where they have tended to be poor farmers.
“As Hakkas tend to be very clannish, strangers who found out that the other party is a Hakka will affectionately acknowledge each other as “zi-jia-ren” (自家人) meaning “all’s in the same (Hakka) family”.” -La Wik
China was very clannish up until the Communists took over. The Communists naturally wanted to break up the clan structures which were a threat to their power. In the modern day as the PRC has relaxed their grip Clans are re-emerging as power centers in China. The fact that the Hakka are clannish shouldn’t surprise us, but it should be noted that they see each other as a larger clan 50 million rather than the typical 50-500 of a regularly organized clan.
When the Hakka found themselves in an already populated area in South China they had only marginal land to work with. Rather than displacing the natives they found themselves adopting economically niche strategies.
“Hakka culture have been largely shaped by the new environment which they had to alter many aspects their culture to adapt, which helped influence their architecture and cuisine. When the Hakka expanded into areas with pre-existing populations in the South, there was often little agricultural land left for them to farm. As a result, many Hakka men turned towards careers in the military or in public service. Consequently, the Hakka culturally emphasized education.” -La Wik
This tradition seemingly continues till today. Given the history of China, there would have been plenty of opportunities to pursue education, military or public service. While the Hakka are quite interesting in their own country they are even more interesting in other countries. Having a long tradition of military and publics service has made them prominent and influential in the diaspora.
“There is a Chinese saying, “有阳光的地方就有华人, 有华人的地方就有客家人”, which literally means “Wherever there is sunshine, there will be Chinese. Wherever there is Chinese, there will be Hakka.””-La Wik
So if the Hakka focussed on education, military and civil service how good could they be at it? Could there be a genetic or cultural propensity to enter the civil service that can overcome cultural barriers between cultures? Here is a short list of prominent Hakka that you may know of:
- Sun Yat-sen
- Lee Kuan Yew
- Deng Xiaoping
Okay, so that list wasn’t that long let’s get a list of Presidents of foreign countries who were Hakka. Years listed are years in power.
No Western country has had a Hakka Prime Minister or President but they do have a few Hakka politicians. Here are few. Firsts are noted.
|Name||Years in Power||Title/Significance||Country/Current Flag|
|Penny Wong||2007-2013||First Chinese and first Asian Cabinet Minister||Australia|
|Tsung Foo Hee||2002-2005||Mayor, Whitehorse, Victoria||Australia|
|Henry Tsang||1999-2009||Deputy Lord Mayor, Sydney||Australia|
|Nat Wei||2011||Baron Wei first British-born person of Chinese origin in the House of Lords||United Kingdom|
|André Thien Ah Koon||1986-2006,1983-2006,2014-2020||First and only Chinese elected to the French National Assembly and the first Chinese elected to a parliament in Europe, 1986-2006; Mayor, Tampon, Reunion Island, 1983-2006, 2014-2020; First Chinese Mayor of Reunion Island and France||France|
|Varina Tjon-A-Ten||2003-2006||First Chinese elected to the House of Representatives, 2003-2006||Netherlands|
|Roy Ho Ten Soeng||2000-2006;||Mayor, Venhuizen, North Holland, First immigrant Mayor of Netherlands; First Chinese Mayor of Netherlands and Europe||Netherlands|
|Yiaway Yeh||2012||First Chinese Mayor of Palo Alto, California||United States|
It seems like wherever the Chinese go the Hakka are soon to find themselves in a position of power. The Hakka have been very successful in this niche. So we know that other market dominant minorities have a tendency to be not far behind a revolution, is that also true of the Hakka?
“The Hakkas have had a significant influence, disproportionate to their smaller total numbers, on the course of modern Chinese and overseas Chinese history, particularly as a source of revolutionary, political and military leaders.” -La Wik
|Hong Xiuquan||1812-1864||Leader, Taiping Rebellion||Meixian, Guangdong|
|Zheng Shiliang||1863-1901||Huizhou Uprising||Huiyang, Guangdong|
|Deng Zhiyu||1878-1925||Huizhou Uprising||Boluo, Guangdong|
|Hsieh Liang-mu||1884-1931||Huanghuagang Uprising||Meixian, Guangdong|
|Zeng Sheng||1910-1995||Column guerilla force, Hong Kong||Huiyang, Guangdong|
Check out this page on Wikipedia. I listed revolutionary leaders but if you take a look at the page there are quite a number of plain members, military leader, and politicians coming out of the Hakka. They are especially prevalent in the Communist Party of China and the Taiping Rebellion. Keep in mind the size of the Hakka relative to the size of China. Nowadays at best their total population including diaspora is 4% of the population of China.
“The Paradox of Hakka Obscurity and High Political Position The Hakka are an impoverished and stigmatized subgroup of Han Chinese whose settlements are scattered from Jiangxi to Sichuan. Socialist revolution meshed well with the Hakka tradition of militant dissent, so that their 3 per cent of the mainland population has been three times more likely than other Han to hold high position. Six of the nine Soviet guerrilla bases were in Hakka territory, while the route of the Long March moved from Hakka village to Hakka village. (Compare Maps 1, 2, 3 and 4.)1 In 1984, half the Standing Committee of the Politburo were Hakka, and the People’s Republic and Singapore both had Hakka leaders, Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kwan Yew, joined by Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-Hui in 1988.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
There seems to be a cultural/phenotypic niche for the market dominant minority. The Hakka are an interesting case study in how completely different genetic populations can produce similar political/cultural results. Obviously, the Hakka are not identical to other diasporas, but the parallels are worth a thorough investigation.
If you liked Lawrence’s post, take a moment to enjoy his work on Degenerate Trucks (complex adaptive systems) or his Notes on the neural systems of sponges. If you’re looking for your regular dose of EvX, then you should also check out Lawrence’s blog, where I’m the guest.