The Problem With Using the Term “China Virus”

How Trump is Fuelling Anti-Asian Sentiment Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic

On February 8, 2020 popular Asian tiktok user @jefo posted a video on the platform citing the anti-Asian racist content that has filled the platform ever since the coronavirus outbreak. In the video, he said that he doesn’t care if people make fun of him because of his ethnicity but reminded people that there are people in China and Asia who were losing their lives because of the coronavirus and that it was time for the human race to stop this negativity and make the world a better place. Unfortunately for @jefo and other Asian people around the world, the most influential man in the world is known for being less than tact on his twitter page. As of the writing of this piece, Donald Trump has referred to the coronavirus as the Chinese virus four times on twitter. This sparked massive debate on social media as to whether or not Trump has any malicious intent with using such language. Some have cited that the way the president has been designating the virus is similar to how other virus are named after countries, for example German measles and Spanish flu. However, most of these designations are out-dated and are barely used today, the medical community generally refers to the German measles as Rubella for instance. Let’s face it; Trump has never been shy to use xenophobic rhetoric in his speeches and tweets in the past and considering the fact that this pandemic came in the midst of a trade war with China it should come to no surprise that Trump is using the crisis to fuel animosity towards the Chinese government. While criticism of China’s unfair trade practices are valid, Trump is not stimulating any intellectual arguments which invalidate the economic practices of the Chinese state, rather he is encouraging racist sentiment towards Chinese people. What’s worse is that ever since this pandemic began, Asian people as a whole have been facing prejudice and racist attacks and some of those attacks were physical. In a February 16 report in the Guardian, a Thai man living in London was attacked by a group of teenagers who shouted “coronavirus” at him; they subsequently gave him a broken nose and stole his headphones. On the Internet, memes have been spread making fun of Chinese people and early on during the crisis a video was circulating showing a Chinese woman supposedly sampling the delicacies of Wuhan. The setting of the video turned out to be outside of China, but the damage was already done, as not many people are aware of the video’s true contents and therefore believe that all Chinese people have outlandish eating habits. Trump is only adding fuel to an already burning fire.
 
WILL TRUMP BACK DOWN FROM HIS RHETORIC?
 
Despite the fact that the US is now in the middle of a health crisis, Trump hasn’t stopped campaigning for the election. In fact, during his visits to research labs and medical centres he was seen wearing MAGA hats and has used the crisis as an opportunity to garner support. Moreover, his base likes it when he uses racial language, as such we can expect a lot more tweets from him referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” in the coming days. Finally, the US, like Britain, has been slow in its response to the pandemic as such Trump is likely calling the virus “Chinese” to shift blame away from his administration’s incompetence and unto the Chinese government. 
 
WHERE WILL WASHINGTON-BEIJING RELATIONS GO FROM HERE?
 
The relationship between the US and China was already strained because of the trade war. Now both sides are playing a petty blame game in which they’re blaming each other for the coronavirus pandemic. Most of Trump’s tweets that contain the phrase “China virus” blame Beijing exclusively for the pandemic. In one tweet he said he made the early decision to close the borders with China a decision he claims to have saved American lives. In another he referred to the outbreak as an “onslaught of the China virus” almost painting it as an attack coming from Beijing. Undoubtedly, the Chinese government did not take kindly to the president’s tweets, as one spokesperson for the foreign ministry said that Trump is stigmatizing China at the global stage. However, some Beijing officials aren’t making matters better, as another foreign ministry spokesperson publically stated that the US army spread the disease in China, a conspiracy theory that has long been proven to be false. As of now, it is not clear where US-China relations will go from here, but one thing is for certain: none of the sides are doing enough to cooperate in combating this global pandemic.