From VOA Learning English, welcome to As It Is!
Hello, I’m Steve Ember.
Today on our program: Coping with conflict in Nigeria…
Just how Chinese is Chinatown?
And Taiwan looks increasingly to immigrants to expand its economy.
First stop, Nigeria, where religion, politics, ethnicity, and economic interests all can cause often deadly conflict.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, called MEND, is a former militant group in Nigeria. It fought against oil companies and the central government over the country’s oil wealth. Another group, Boko Haram, is seeking to establish its form of Islamic law in northern Nigeria.
Recently, MEND has threatened to attack Muslim interests to answer attacks by Boko Haram. But Christian leaders and former militants are urging MEND to cancel the threat. They want to prevent a religious war in the country’s north. Avi Arditti has more.
MEND, or people claiming to represent it, say they will fight over religion. They say they will attack Muslim interests to answer years of attacks against Christians by Boko Haram.
Thousands of people have been killed in violence related to Boko Haram since its campaign of violence began in 2009. The group’s targets have included churches, schools, government buildings, media offices and marketplaces.
Sylvester Odemapkore is a clergyman at a church in the Niger Delta. He says Christians are not the only victims of Boko Haram attacks. He says almost all the victims have been in the mostly-Muslim north. He says Muslims, Christians and non-religious people have ALL suffered.
Simeon Efenudu is a former secretary to the Delta State governor and a leader of the local ruling party. He says that in addition to urging MEND to cancel its threat, the government is reaching out itself to the former militants.
Tony Mezeeh, a lawyer, provided legal advice for MEND in the days of its campaign against oil companies. The fighting ended in 2009 with a general amnesty. He blames northern Nigeria’s local leaders for organizing Boko Haram attacks. He says the attacks are meant to harm the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner.
“MEND should know that the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is their own brother from the Niger Delta. So anything they do they should consider that government. “
In addition to the threat, MEND last month claimed responsibility for killing 12 police officers and causing a huge oil spill. I’m Avi Arditti.
You are listening to AS IT IS. I’m Steve Ember.
People from China have been in the United States since the middle of the 1800s. Today, Chinese and other Asians are America’s fastest growing minority. Almost every major city in the country has an area called “Chinatown.”
They call it Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA
Looks down from Chinatown, over a foggy bay…
(from “Flower Drum Song” by Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote a Broadway musical in the late 1950s called “Flower Drum Song.” It was about generational conflict in Chinese-American families in San Francisco’s Chinatown. In “Grant Avenue,” Pat Suzuki joyfully sang of the attractions that brought visitors to the downtown Chinese community.
A western street with eastern manners
Tall pagodas with golden banners
Throw their shadows through a lantern glow
You can shop for precious jade or teakwood tables…
From San Francisco to New York, people visit Chinatown for restaurants, grocery stores, herbal cures, and other businesses. But many Chinese have moved out of traditional Chinatown neighborhoods and now live in suburbs just outside the inner city. For example, one of the largest mainly Chinese suburbs is just outside Los Angeles, California. But such areas are very different from the old Chinatown.
[Chinese conversation and music]
Steve Wong is acting director of the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. He says Chinatowns in major American cities are now mainly for tourists.
“If you walk around Chinatown today in Los Angeles and many other big cities, you have these facades of Chinese-ness, which sometimes is real. Sometimes it’s not. And so you have gift shops, you have Chinese food which is catering towards American tastes. I don’t even call it Chinese food. I think it’s very American.”
But at one time, Chinatown was the only place where Chinese immigrants could live. The first Chinese immigrants arrived from southern China in the 1800s as laborers. Many worked on building America’s first railroads. Then, in 1882, the United States banned Chinese immigration. Hostility toward the Chinese led to the creation of Chinatowns. Steve Wong tells about how the neighborhoods developed.
“Without being able to bring in families and women, they (Chinese men) weren’t able to develop their communities. So they had to turn to the outside and create an economy based on tourism.”
Min Zhou is a professor at the University of Southern California Los Angeles. In the past thirty years, Chinese immigrants from Taiwan, and then China, came to America as students – and then stayed in the United States. She describes their arrival.
“A lot of them are from middle class, they want to buy or rent houses rather than live in apartments and they also want to find good school districts. So Chinatown is not attractive to them.”
AS IT IS is coming to you from VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember.
Before 2000, Taiwan was one of the four fastest-growing economies in East Asia. But factories have moved away since then. And China has become the leading economy in the area. Now, Taiwan is increasingly looking to immigrants to help expand its economy. Bob Doughty has our report.
Taiwan’s economy is growing at a rate of less than four percent a year. This is slower than the rest of industrial Asia. Before 2000, Taiwan was growing quickly. But then, China became Asia’s low-cost manufacturing center.
Now, however, Taiwan’s economy is expanding because of a growing number of immigrants. Almost 450,000 Southeast Asian workers live in Taiwan today. That is an increase from 270,000 just 15 years ago. More than half of the workers come from Indonesia, and the others are mainly Thai, Filipino or Vietnamese. Migrants reach Taiwan on short-term labor agreements and are paid the lowest legal wages.
Taiwan’s government eased labor laws last year to let in more workers. The move was part of a bigger directive to bring Taiwanese factories home from China, where some have operated for almost thirty years.
Liu Shao-yin is a supervisor with the Catholic Migrant Centers, a non-governmental service group for migrant workers. She says foreign labor now keeps locally owned factories at home.
LIU SHAO-YIN IN MANDARIN
She says the problem Taiwan would face is businesses moving factories to mainland China or Southeast Asia because of lower labor costs. She says that would leave few factories in Taiwan.
I’m Bob Doughty.
And that’s our program for today. Remember - for the latest world news, join us at the top of the hour Universal Time for VOA News on radio and here on our web site. I’m Steve Ember. Thanks for joining us.