A “White Race” without Supremacy:
Russians, Racial Hybridity, and Liminality in the Chinese Literature of Manchukuo

By InYoung Bong

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 26, no.1 (Spring 2014), pp. 141-92

White Russians who fled the Revolution of 1917 and settled in what is now Northeast China became colonial subjects of the Japanese when they established Manchukuo, the State of Manchuria (1932–1945). The Chinese in Manchukuo perceived the Russian exiles as racially white, but their stateless, unprivileged social status undercuts the assumption that white supremacy is an essential feature of colonial rule. This is an important test case through which to probe the Chinese positioning of whiteness and racial hybridity at the periphery of the Japanese empire; they were negotiated in ways that have hitherto been little explored in postcolonial studies and modern Chinese literature studies.

This essay focuses on fictional representations of racial hybridity, namely the offspring of interracial marriages between Chinese and Russians, as well as the significance of the tropes of “mixed blood” and “mixed water,” as depicted in the Chinese literature of Manchukuo: “Kaosuofu de toufa” (Kaosuofu’s hair, 1937) by Luo Feng (1909–1991) and “Hunxue nülang” (A mixed-blood woman, 1944) by Ding Ling, a detective story, together with other short stories depicting Russians and Sino-Russian descendants. By exploring how Chinese writers addressed the inclusion and exclusion of racial hybrids as liminal beings, this essay further elucidates the social and cultural logic of the creation of race and nationality among the Chinese, Russians, and related hybrids in Manchukuo. Defined as either mixed bloods or foreigners, racial hybrids were asymmetrically positioned, which ultimately aided in the construction of a stronger, more idealized Chinese nationality. However, the trope of “mixed water” used to express racial hybridity contained the subversive cultural potential of a counter-discourse that could contest the mechanisms of boundary making and racial homogenization, while advocating hybridity at the discursive level.