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Pink is the New China

GaychinaIn a look at the emerging gay population of China, the Sydney Morning Herald notes that one way they're turning red China pink is in the appropriation of certain very familiar socialist terms as their own. The term tongzhi, or comrade, has been turned on its head: "In one of the more delightful linguistic subversions of this fast-changing country, the term has been appropriated by China's male homosexuals to refer to themselves and has spread widely into the general community with the same meaning."

China, specifically Shanghai, has become a refreshingly open center for gays in that country, partly because, as some scholars note, the nation has "moved back to a traditional ambiguity about sexuality" and abides by something of a "don't ask, don't tell" set of social rules called the three No's: "no approval, no disapproval, and no promotion."

Despite the advances, researchers say that 80% of gays in China still enter heterosexual marriages to appease their families.

Gay revolution puts red China in the pink [sydney morning herald]

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  1. tongzhi as a term for homosexual originated in Taiwan, I believe, quite a few years ago, so it's not a PRC coinage. It's spread into the rest of the Chinese-speaking world now.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 26, 2005 3:12:46 PM

  2. you can hardly call the "no approval, no disapproval, and no promotion" policy an advancement. what kind of advancement encourages gays to marry women and love men on the sly? the East should seriously take some cues from the West and start campaigning for greater visibility. this is the least that they can do for their own sake. what better proponents for this cause than China and India with the large gay populations between them?

    Posted by: Nik | Aug 26, 2005 3:24:15 PM

  3. I second that using "tongzhi" to mean gay was a Taiwan, not China, invention, and Chris is also right in that it was done quite a while ago.

    Posted by: The Taipei Kid | Aug 26, 2005 11:06:38 PM

  4. Homosexuality has always been well tolerated in traditional Chinese culture, as anyone who has read the literary classic, 'Dream of the Red Chamber' will know. The intolerance only started when Western Christian missionary began proselytising in China since the Qing dynasty.

    Posted by: seth | Aug 26, 2005 11:56:37 PM

  5. Sorry, "tongzhi" was not a Taiwanese invention, nor did it originate in mainland China. It actually began in Hong Kong. It's derivation comes from the character "tong" in "tongzhi" being the same as the first character in "tongxinglian" (homosexual), plus as a bit of a satire on Sun Yat-sen's final words: "Comrades (tongzhi), the revolution is not yet over!"

    As to why homosexuality is not accepted in modern China/Taiwan like it was in pre-modern times, it's very naive to put the blame solely on "Christian missionaries." There are a wide variety of factors, and this problem hasn't been thoroughly researched yet. One of my pet theories is that homosexuality (or more accurately, "homoeroticism") was exclusive to one specific class of people in pre-modern China, namely the elite scholar class. After the fall of the Qing dynasty, this class ceased to exist as it did before, thus the homoerotic tradition went with it. Added to that are the import of Western science that at the time considered homosexuality to be "abnormal," some *minor* influence from Western missionaries, as well as a number of other factors.

    Posted by: LittleBuddhaTW | Aug 27, 2005 12:03:39 AM

  6. speaking of Taiwan, go check out this fun frothy gay-themed movie, 'Formula 17', if you live around NYC. describes it thus::
    "A candy-colored comedy, set in gay Taipei, 'Formula 17' is a cheerful queer romance filled with upbeat Asian pop tunes and cute young guys."

    more reviews at

    Posted by: max | Aug 27, 2005 12:54:16 AM

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