OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: My last name sounds Chinese

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Eek. Those almost make kiwibog look like a voice of reason.

    Yes. But remember, it's New Zealand's leading business publication!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Q Williams, in reply to Sacha,

    I'm not apologising, I have nothing to apologise for. I am simply saying that it is unfortunate that Mr. Ng has been made to feel unwelcome in his own country. we all feel abit like that at times, I'm 6th generation apparently on my mums side... but ti still don't feel right about the way this country was settled, and sometimes have felt that maybe I don't have a right to be here. It's a horrible feeling. But it shouldn't prevent me from examining what europeans have done in this country. Just as Mr Ngs discomfort at the spectre of xenophobia raised by this topic shouldn't prevent us from examining whether or not the housing market is being pushed up by investment from a large number of non resident chinese, among other investors. The problem is we don't have stats... so we can assume that although there is possibly a large percentage non resident Chinese investing in our housing market, the actual foreign investment rate is going to be higher, because of all the european sounding names that will also be investing here.
    I just find it hilarious personally that suddenly a lot of those on the right are suddenly falling all over themselves defending minorities in NZ. How unusual....

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Q Williams,

    I just find it hilarious personally that suddenly a lot of those on the right are suddenly falling all over themselves defending minorities in NZ. How unusual....

    There were a few examples turned up in Dirty Politics. Donning the sheep's clothing must seem like a splendid wheeze at the time one does it.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4586 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Q Williams,

    I just find it hilarious personally that suddenly a lot of those on the right are suddenly falling all over themselves defending minorities in NZ. How unusual....

    Does that cancel out my mirthless laughter watching a lot of those on the left who are now terribly relaxed (to coin a phrase) about nonsense they'd (rightly) be smothering in brimstone if it was coming from the Taxpayer's Onion, via Whale Oil and Kiwibog?

    I guess I'm one of those people you're glibly dismissing as bad faith concern trolls, but while you're enjoying playing your intellectual games this kind of race trolling does real harm to actual human beings in my community, and my whanau. I honestly don't give the proverbial rodent's rectum whether you believe me or not, just stop it. And, yet again, if you and Twyford seriously want a serious debate why not act like it instead of setting up politically correct straw Twitterati to knock over?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    Those almost make kiwibog look like a voice of reason.

    Same general tribe..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    straw Twitterati

    ooh, like a boater?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7771 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The Zhang Heng Code
    The 'problem' may go deeper - Twyford may have lifted the lid on a millennia old Dynastic land grab plot!

    A new study has revealed that millions of modern Asian men have descended from 11 powerful dynastic leaders who lived up to 4,000 years ago, including Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan.
    The study from the University of Leicester examined the male-specific Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son, in more than 5,000 Asian men belonging to 127 populations.

    see:
    https://in.news.yahoo.com/millions-asian-men-descendants-genghis-khan-10-other-052921852.html
    Obviously this will mean DNA testing before and after all land and house sales to curb this annexation by stealth!
    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7771 posts Report Reply

  • ma1f,

    Ok, few issues – so 127,000 – can 0-18 year olds buy house? Do 65+ often buy houses? Figure is meaningless.
    Instead how about we use dwellings, so 9% is about 42,000 owned by chinese origin, now ~3,500 is ~8% increase per quarter… starting to see where this is heading?
    ~32% increase in the number of dwellings owned by people of chinese origin PER YEAR, or doubling almost every 2 years. Sorry but that is not “entirely plausible”, it is completely unrealistic.
    Yes obviously some people are just moving, and not buying additional investment houses, but does the entire population move house every couple of years? Highly implausible.
    Quite disappointed in this article and the half-baked statistics and analysis, you really don’t attempt to address the actual issue of foreign investment at all and just put more fuel on this racist sideshow.

    Since Jul 2015 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to ma1f,

    Quite disappointed in this article and the half-baked statistics and analysis, you really don’t attempt to address the actual issue of foreign investment at all and just put more fuel on this racist sideshow.

    So, let’s get this straight. You’re disapponted in what you see as “half-baked statistics” from Keith, but you’re happy to accept half-baked statistics* from Labour?

    And in case you missed it, Labour didn’t make this about foreign investment. They made it about Chinese-sounding names being, as they saw it, over-represented in one real estate agent’s customer list over a 3 month period.

    Take your trolling elsewhere.

    *Actually, I don't think they went near the oven.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2909 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Most interesting for me is that they targeted traditional names from the Chinese land area circa the Ming Dynasty. They weren’t looking for Uyghur names like Sabir, Tibetan names like Cezhug, and you won’t see many of those names because for the most part like the Maori and Islanders here, they are under represented in terms of wealth.

    But this idea that there are a limited array of Chinese names to target, That Keith is offended where for example Riwi Alley may not have been or Mark Rowswell and his children may not be, is a fascinating one, in the way it perpetuates this outdated notion of the limited Chinese name pool.

    Spend long enough time in China and you will certainly encounter metropolitan east coast Chinese telling you what is Chinese and what is not Chinese, you can lose years of your life listening to these kinds of spiels if you’re prepared to put in the time. Names like Sabir and Cezhug, Mongolian names and many minority names are not acceptable for official use and are duly appropriated to fit within the language system for use by authorities despite these people being free to use their real indigenous names outside China and in their personal lives.

    In a survey last week on a Skykiwi a site for New Zealand based Chinese, of about 2000, 61% agreed that Chinese are buying lots of property 19% said they don’t know and 20% disagreed. Not that this poll is any more illuminating than Labours’ ‘study’. 46% of a smaller survey felt this was racism by the Labour party.

    But the basic fact, that what we are discussing is ‘Chinese sounding names’ as opposed to names that don’t sound Chinese, buys in wholesale to the homogenisation of China, the racism perpetuated by the Communist party and moral majority. This is a major issue for the increasing number of Chinese born from mixed parentage in China, deemed outsiders due to their appearance, names etc.

    Early in the discussion Tze Ming Mok attempted to specify that this was a survey carried out using ‘actual Chinese names’ and one can by inference assume there are names that are not Chinese. This is antiquated: distinguishing between the name’s Ng and Nguyen, perpetuating this perception, the perception that no Vietnamese person has ever crossed that border to China and kept their name.

    The ‘racism’ we are seeing in this instance with Labour in New Zealand is microscopic compared to the racism experienced daily by minorities, foreigners and mix-raced Chinese, in China. Despite Labour's absolute lack of nouse in the way they have attempted to present this ‘data’, calls of ‘racism’ against Labour, only perpetuate the myths that 1) that China is a race. 2) That there are a limited number of Chinese names which can be used to identify Chinese ancestry, parentage, origin, what have you, and that’s something to be precious about,. Furthermore it perpetuates that these names, these people, the immigrants, the minorities and those with mixed parentage simply don’t exist and haven’t for hundreds of years, since well before New Zealand became New Zealand.

    Your last name sounds Chinese, so does mine Keith it’s just not ye olde Chinese name, in this global 21st century, as it probably sounds more Scottish to most in the know, but prove it.

    I don’t condone what the Labour party have done, but this, their argument, can be quite easily laughed out of court by simply, diligently, asking ‘what is a Chinese sounding name?’..rather than perpetuating the myth.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to chris,

    We don't know the exact details of how Salmond got his name proportions, but he says it was from census data and some other things left unspecified. So I don't think that he would have gone about just forming opinions on what names were Chinese etc. He would have built up a table of names from such official data as he had that linked names to the actual ethnicity of the person, as noted on the census (or other tables like it, we don't know for sure). The whole "sounds Chinese" thing is not literal. That's him trying to describe what the algorithm does to a layperson. Maybe there is some phonetic stuff at work inside the unspecified part, for resolving names in the real estate data that don't have an exact match in the official data. I don't know. But the overall proportions of people in each ethnicity with each name are most likely being estimated very accurately in this way. Because the owners of those names self reported being ethnic Chinese, Pacific Islander, European, etc to the census.

    The choice of which names to target would not have been made on a racial basis. It's made on what names were buying property - the entire lot of them. An algorithm would be doing the estimation of proportions. We got all of the ethnicities and the proportions to which they are likely to be in the real estate data. The name Lee, for instance, would have produced a lot of counts for Europeans and Chinese, and probably a number of Maori and PI too (since they will have these names in some proportions too), and any other ethnicities that were in the census in which someone had the name Lee.

    If there is any bit were racial discrimination pops up, its in the interpretation of the data. The data showed a very unusual discrepancy for one group. The other groups also had discrepancies - as some have noted, it's depressing how few PIs can or do buy houses. Then the big jump is made to explain the discrepancy. Foreign capital may not be the only explanation. Kiwi Asians could be 4 times more likely than other Kiwis to buy property in Auckland. The question then becomes "how likely does that seem?". Since practically every ethnicity seems to want to buy houses, house ownership is a major part of the so-called Kiwi Dream, it's not unreasonable to think that the discrepancy isn't from a greater desire to own house by Asians, it's by greater means to do so. So we look at whether resident Asian have greater means than other residents. It seems that they do not. Thus the conclusion: This money must be coming from somewhere else. The obvious other place is from non-resident Chinese.

    There certainly is a dog whistle pinging over the choice to highlight this finding over the other findings. The big news could have been that PIs aren't getting houses in proportion to their numbers, even with their foreign capital. Or that European "sounding" names get roughly the proportion of houses that European "sounding" names represent in the census data.

    But are either of those last points particularly controversial? I'd have guessed them anyway. Well, actually, probably I'd have guessed that the Euro numbers were a bit higher. That they are not could be because they are driven down by the only data that is truly surprising in here - the curiously high extent of Asian "sounding" names buying property.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    So, I wonder how the algorithms dealt with investment company’s, that buy multiple property’s in Auckland. Where they included in the Chinese names verse all other ethnicity percentages?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4045 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to BenWilson,

    Kiwi Asians could be 4 times more likely than other Kiwis to buy property in Auckland. The question then becomes “how likely does that seem?”.

    This would suggest that the answer to that is "very".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    Actually, looking a bit closer, Euros are overrepresented on the sales side. Not massively compared to the proportion in the population, but pretty massively compared to how many are buying. So you could conclude "Euros are selling out the country to Asians" if you wanted to put both the acceptable and the unacceptable racial twist into one sentence. 61.7% of the sellers in the data were Euro, but only 56% of the population, and only 40.7% of the buyers.

    There's a pretty good reason why that isn't the news, and it's indeed quite a shitty one. Because Labour's definitely had enough of intergenerational conflict, and wouldn't want to draw attention to all the baby boomers profiting by selling out for their retirements tax-free as at least half of the problem here. They never had any other plan, not being savers. That at least is a bi-partisan thing. The final bit will be the destruction of pensions, because "I worked hard to get my money. I had to save up the whole $200 deposit for that house I just sold for 2 million. Kids these days just don't know about work. Let's learn 'em".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    We don’t know the exact details of how Salmond got his name proportions, but he says it was from census data

    wasn't it the electoral roll?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    This would suggest that the answer to that is “very”.

    Maybe. Resident Asians could well have had secret caches of money stashed away from their NZ earnings just so they could go on a buying bonanza now. A bit silly of them to wait until prices got so high, tho. I find it a bit unlikely that this money originated here.

    But yes, it's not certain that some kind of rule change to make it only be residents who can buy would do much to stem such a capital inflow. It doesn't look like it's made much difference in Australia.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to BenWilson,

    61.7% of the sellers in the data were Euro, but only 56% of the population, and only 40.7% of the buyers.

    Did they do any breakdown of probable ethnicity for sellers beyond just 'Euro'?

    On the matter of foreign direct investment, I'm thinking a lot of that might well be parents of overseas students buying because they want to house their children while studying. That is a completely fair thing as many local landlords don't want to rent to students (we had this same problem when one of our sons wanted to study in Tauranga - and we bought as it was just plain necessary).

    To address this problem in a win-win way for both NZ and foreign direct investors, what is needed is a government mandated investment by tertiary institutions on student accommodation (based on a percentage of their undergrad rolls), coupled with a mandatory requirement that those on a student visa must live in such student accommodation for (say) at least the first two years of their university study.

    When I attended as an undergrad at uni in the US - this was a mandatory requirement of all students - I assume, to ensure the student accommodation owned by the Uni maintained its occupancy.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to nzlemming,

    Leaven it up to you...

    ...happy to accept half-baked statistics* from Labour?
    *Actually, I don’t think they went near the oven.

    Houses and house-buyers are much affected by the 'kneady' and the 'doughy' - rather than put their floury and watery 'statistics through the normal 'proving' pass, Labour chose to aerate the lumpy mix by just giving it air and seeing what rises...
    There's always some fungis in the mix to heat things up!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7771 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    There’s always some fungis in the mix to heat things up!

    Ergot, to go.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4045 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    Did they do any breakdown of probable ethnicity for sellers beyond just ‘Euro’?

    Don't know, sorry. I don't even know what roll they used :-) All I can say with high certainty is that Rob Salmond didn't go through a list of names picking numbers out of his bum about whether they sounded foreign. Not least because it would be an incredible inefficient waste of time. He'd have cross tabulated from some kind of more reliable statistics.

    On the matter of foreign direct investment, I’m thinking a lot of that might well be parents of overseas students buying because they want to house their children while studying.

    I can't blame them. I wouldn't even blame them just for doing it to make a quick buck. I would, if I had capital to chuck around and wanted to get it out of China. It's not the fault of Chinese people to want to better their fortunes and those of their children. It's normal. But there is a conversation as to whether the people of this country want to let people wishing to better themselves from outside of NZ do so at the expense of the people already inside NZ. It's very shitty that the conversation would get kickstarted by data that could only glean information through racial profiling. Other people have tried many times to kickstart it using more neutral information, but it's all to complicated and abstract and amenable to ideological economic modeling. "Lots of capital flooding in" sounds like an abstraction you might be able to deal with, or even profit from. "Lots of people coming in from whichever extremely powerful and massively populated country at the time that has manyfold times the population of your own country, and manyfold times all of your capital as pretty much excess to their own requirements" is something I guess people can see more clearly. They can certainly feel it when the rate at which they can save up money for a deposit is much less than the rate at which the amount they need for a deposit is growing, fueled by those people and their capital.

    Then even the actually bullshit rhetoric all falls apart about the importance of hard work and saving to get ahead that forms part of local mythology. Where the national self delusion that Maori don't have so much property because of lazy foolishness suddenly turns on the people spouting it and they realize that the luck of having enough capital to buy property is and always was unfair, and they don't like it. They start to wonder whether maybe this laissez faire property business wasn't such a good idea after all.

    At which point I agree with them. Distributing property and the right to live in it "fairly" is a vital part of the entire makeup of the economy and political system. It can and always should have been done much more fairly. We still can actually change it, to make the dream less of a fantasy and more of a reality for all the people who fall under the umbrella of wanting to keep living in this country and caring how it ends up. They don't have to just accept that the winds of international capitalism will blow it where they will without any of their say so at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to BenWilson,

    At which point I agree with them. Distributing property and the right to live in it “fairly” is a vital part of the entire makeup of the economy and political system. It can and always should have been done much more fairly. We still can actually change it, to make the dream less of a fantasy and more of a reality for all the people who fall under the umbrella of wanting to keep living in this country and caring how it ends up. They don’t have to just accept that the winds of international capitalism will blow it where they will without any of their say so at all.

    We'll and truly. It's still unclear if the Labour Party wants that. Especially since they abandoned the capital gains tax policy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4045 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to BenWilson,

    He would have built up a table of names from such official data as he had that linked names to the actual ethnicity of the person

    As I said above it’s those traditional names native to the land area covered by the Ming dynasty. There was a limited name pool.

    So I don’t think that he would have gone about just forming opinions on what names were Chinese etc. He would have built up a table of names from such official data as he had that linked names to the actual ethnicity of the person

    Really? Salmond would have built up a table of names from such official data as he had that linked names to the actual ethnicity of the person instead of running wikipedia:

    Historically there are close to 12,000 surnames recorded (including those from non-Han Chinese ethnic groups), of which only about 3,100 are in current use

    ?Then using Google to get a list of those traditional names in use; the most common, a list of the whole gambit.

    A table of names, official data, linked names, actual ethnicity? That sounds almost like Firework experimentation. My wife’s family name is Tang, I will give you a free car if you can tell me her ethnicity, not simply the country her name originated from, but her actual ethnicity, I’ll give you one guess. And while we’re on it what’s your actual specific ethnicity Ben? While we’re furrowing our brows, pulling up our sleeves, digging in heels deep for national debates about ethnicity my major beef is that there are far too many ethnically Scottish captaining our rugby and cricket teams. Far too many, and you know how I know? I saw them on the telly. Is this about rich and poor, about possessed and dispossessed, is it about residents and offshore investers? Or perhaps, just perhaps,

    That’s him trying to describe what the algorithm does to a layperson.

    I’ll see your algorithm and I’ll raise you half a mouldy laydog’s soggy bollock.
    There is such a thing as overthinking things, and there are ways to debate an issue without buying in wholesale to an opponents’ flimsy moot.

    We came to this, how you call it, New Zealand, with high hopes, the first week we arrived an agent told my wife she should change her name to something more Anglo sounding, I was booted off the Action Station mailing list for providing too much feedback when prompted, feedback along the lines that stopping the advertising of junk food doesn’t really begin to address all the junk food that isn’t advertised i.e. most of it, and now my wife works 9 and a half hour days on her feet with no break on minimum wage with no holiday or sick pay. Can you guess the ethnicity of her employer? You probably could, given enough time, enough words typed onto a keyboard, and an algorithm but it’s fucking irrelevant. Neither of us a Yorkshiremen, though I could probably trace roots given some tracing paper.

    This country – the intelligentsia, the pundits, the commentators, the politicians, the talking heads, the left, the right, the inbetweeners, the journalists, Nabour, Lational- has gone so far up it’s own ass you can see the trees. Meanwhile a 70 year old waits 2 years for a hip replacement, immobilised. Christchurch waits for home.

    Pacific Islanders are under represented, so give them your house. Or type more words, up to you.

    In the nicest possible way of course. ;)

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to chris,

    This country – the intelligentsia, the pundits, the commentators, the politicians, the talking heads, the left, the right, the inbetweeners, the journalists, Nabour, Lational- has gone so far up it’s own ass you can see the trees. Meanwhile a 70 year old waits 2 years for a hip replacement, immobilised. Christchurch waits for home.

    <***applause***>

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4586 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    As I said above it’s those traditional names native to the land area covered by the Ming dynasty. There was a limited name pool.

    Fascinating though the ultimate origins of the names is, I don't think any effort at all would have been spent on that by a statistician trying to ethnically classify a bunch of people based on their names. They'd use an actual massive list of name-origin pairs, as reported by the owners of the name themselves in the population of interest, and build up a table of relative counts. Wilson would have a spread across a number of ethnicities. Say, for instance, 10% of Wilsons are actually Maori in NZ. That means in a random selection of 1000 Wilsons taken in NZ (by, say, appearing on a list of sales data), it's a pretty good guess that 100 of them will be Maori. So you estimate that 100 of the Wilsons will be Maori. You do the same with every single name on the list. Of the Zhangs, say 95% are Chinese (as reported by the people called Zhang when asked about it). So if you get 500 of those in a list you count that as 5*95=475 Chinese as an estimate. The remaining 25 are counted against whatever other ethnicity shows up with that. Could be NZ European. So you count 25 Zhangs as NZ Europeans. And so on. In the end you've got an estimate of what ethnic profile the list has with a pretty high degree of accuracy as self reported by people in NZ with those names. Quite a few Wilsons will be counted as Chinese, because there are plenty of Chinese Wilsons in NZ.

    There is really no need to go into the underlying linguistic origin of the names. The names are just strings of characters to match up.

    My wife’s family name is Tang, I will give you a free car if you can tell me her ethnicity, not simply the country her name originated from, but her actual ethnicity, I’ll give you one guess.

    Why would I try? It would be wildly inaccurate to do that for an individual. It only starts converging towards the population's true proportions on a sample of decent size. I mean a single individual is only one of the ethnicities anyway - they're not 40% Chinese (say), and a smattering of other proportions of other ethnicities. I'd have to make a point estimate, based on the largest group. If that was the hypothetical 40% then I'd have a 60% chance of being wrong. But in a group of 100 people with that name I could say that 40 of them would be likely to be Chinese, with a tight standard deviation around that. Chances of there being more than 50 or less than 30 would be quite small.

    That's what was being done here, so far as I can tell. It doesn't work with individuals, but it does work with groups. There are some statistical requirements for it to work, but I feel pretty sure that Salmond is a competent statistician and would know how to deal with that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

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