Response to Linda Jaivin’s “Red Detachment” Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Response to Linda Jaivin’s “Red Detachment”


In her essay “Red Detachment” (AFA5: Are We Asian Yet?), Linda Jaivin includes a patronising commentary on my book Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia. Headed “We need to talk about Clive”, the commentary betrays a conceit behind the practice of Australian Sinology: that Australia’s China experts are the only ones entitled to talk about China, and their other favourite subject, themselves.

The Sinological conceit goes something like this. To speak authoritatively about China, you need years of immersion in its language, culture and history. Once you have mastered these disciplines, you are authorised to talk about yourself as a noted Sinologist. Jaivin explains that as a noted Sinologist she and the in-group of fellow experts have a privileged role explaining China to the rest of us.

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