Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the U.S. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
On March 17, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to say that American Airlines were suffering because of the "Chinese Virus." The remarks came after a press conference that afternoon in which he said nobody is to blame for the virus, except "if you look at the source" thus signalling a renewed attempt to scapegoating China for the impact of the growing epidemic within the United States and the Western world, following suit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has regularly labeled it as the "Wuhan virus." China's Foreign Ministry responded quickly by condemning the comments.
Those who play this card argue that highlighting an association with China is not racism, observing as evidence the initial outbreak in Wuhan and its link to wild animal markets. However, this does not justify smearing the entire country and culture as a whole for political purposes, as diseases do not discriminate by ethnicity or nationality.
Thus, undeniably, attributing an entire country to be associated with a given pathogen is an attempt to render that given people and their way of life as inferior and insignificant, ignoring the fact that Chinese people have also suffered from this epidemic and are angry at the causes, and thus implying that it only truly matters now because people in the West are suffering.
Viruses not are exclusive to any given population, culture or nationality. They do not discriminate on whom they infect. The COVID-19 in turn is now a global problem that is spreading throughout the world and bringing about thousands of deaths, West and East alike. In doing so, we have to work together as one human race on its containment and eradication. To say that one nation is particularly "responsible" for it or deserves exceptional punishment for its origin is neither ethical nor practical.
Screenshot of Trump's tweet.
Screenshot of Trump's tweet.
First of all, I appreciate people's grievances over illegal wildlife markets which are the purported source of origin for the COVID-19. These markets are unethical and unacceptable. However, why should the Chinese people and nation as a whole be smeared for this?
The majority of the population does not use or approve of these practices. In turn, China's population has also suffered from it. Around 3,100 people have perished in China because of the outbreak and individuals have been forced to remain in their homes in Hubei for months. These individuals feel just as unhappy about the circumstances of the disease as those in the West. So from this, why should the entire country be blamed and stigmatized?
Secondly, China's effort to contain the virus outside Hubei has been very successful. Politicians such as Trump and Pompeo want people to believe that this is a failure by China which the world is suffering for, but evidence doesn't show this.
China's lockdown and travel bans curtailed the spread of the virus from outside Hubei in a very rapid period of time, there was no national pandemic. If for that matter there was, China being a nation of 1.4 billion people, then the global consequences of what is happening now would be in fact much worse. As a New York Times piece said a few days ago, China bought the rest of the world significant amounts of time.
Yet that isn't enough for politicians like Pompeo and Trump, who want to single out, blame and smear all Chinese people for something that isn't their fault. It is racist for the fact that it attaches a stigma of inferiority on China and plays to the imagery of a vastly superior West which strongly believes that disease outbreaks are something that only other, non-white nations experience, thus abstaining themselves from any responsibility.
Thus, there must be a politics of "blame" than any form of self-introspection or solidarity. When Chinese people were dying from this, these individuals voiced little empathy and only now when their own lives are being affected this truly is an outrage.
Given this, there is little doubt that Trump's comments are a racist form of scapegoating which deflects blame and responsibility on the country's crashing economic situation, stoking up and playing upon a hatred of Chinese people and Chinese culture.
It is wrong and misleading to view events like this in absolutist and binary terms which overlook the tragedy and struggle which Chinese people themselves have experienced in combating the viruses. The leadership of the United States must immediately come to terms with their own political failures in allowing the virus to spread, and the subsequent costs it will inflict upon the local population.
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