This hasn’t gotten much attention in the U.S. media before now, but one result of the coronavirus outbreak in China has been a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment. It may seem ironic given that the virus first arose in China, but as the number of cases in China has dropped and the number of cases in Europe and the U.S. has increased, many people in China have started to see foreigners as a threat. The Guardian reported on this trend three weeks ago:
Over the past few weeks, as Chinese health officials reported new “imported” coronavirus cases almost every day, foreigners living in the country have noticed a change. They have been turned away from restaurants, shops, gyms and hotels, subjected to further screening, yelled at by locals and avoided in public spaces.
“I’m walking past someone, then they see my blue eyes and jump a foot back,” said Andrew Hoban, 33, who is originally from Ireland and lives in Shanghai.
Yesterday the NY Times reported on more incidents that show this sentiment has been building:
In Beijing and Shanghai, foreigners have been barred from some shops and gyms, supposedly as part of a campaign to combat the virus. “We are temporarily not accepting foreign friends and people whose temperature is above 37.3,” read a sign in a hair salon near Beijing’s central business district.
A salon employee said she didn’t see it as discrimination. “It is an epidemic, after all,” she said…
Some expressions of antiforeigner sentiment have made no pretense about public health concerns. Last month, a porridge restaurant in the northeastern city of Shenyang displayed a banner that read: “Celebrating the epidemic in the United States and wishing coronavirus a nice trip to Japan.”
In a separate story, a NY Times reporter (who was recently kicked out of the country) described his experience having lunch in a McDonald’s:
Having a quick meal at a half-filled McDonald’s before heading for the train station, my colleague and I were quietly talking when a young man wearing a bright yellow hoodie approached. He pointed at me. “You foreign trash,” he said. “Foreign trash! What are you doing in my country? And you, with him, you bitch.”
He hovered over us menacingly for a few minutes before moving on. His tirade, and the fact that no one in the restaurant said a word, felt bleakly appropriate.
Yesterday, Karen wrote about another Chinese McDonald’s which put up signs saying Africans were not welcome. That happened as Nigerians in the same area had been suddenly evicted from their apartments and forced to sleep on the street.
None of this is happening by accident. State media in China has been reporting the number of “imported cases” of coronavirus every day. What they haven’t been saying is almost all of these cases are Chinese people returning home.
Some of the uglier manifestations of nationalism have been fueled by government propaganda, which has touted China’s response to the virus as evidence of the ruling Communist Party’s superiority…
China’s heightened us-against-them mentality is perhaps most apparent in its recent strictures aimed at foreigners. Though the Chinese government denounced racist attacks against Asians overseas when the outbreak was centered in China, it now casts people from other countries as public health risks.
But foreigners aren’t the only targets. Even Chinese people who aren’t sufficiently pro-CCP are being attacked online. A writer named Fang Fang whose daily diary of life under the lockdown is set to be published in English has compared the attacks she has received to the Cultural Revolution:
Chinese people deemed insufficiently admiring of the government have been subjected to vitriolic online attacks by China’s army of “little pinks,” a nickname for the generation of young digital warriors who pounce on any criticism of the Communist Party…
Fang Fang has likened the harassment to her childhood during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, when anyone seen as even mildly critical of Mao Zedong risked torture or imprisonment.
It’s interesting that China has its own social justice warriors called “little pinks.” Maybe we should adopt that name for them here. In any case, the hypocrisy should be clear. China’s internal propaganda has been creating paranoia about foreigners even as its external propaganda has decrying racism and issuing statements like the one, published this week by China’s ambassador to France:
The virus knows no borders. The New Coronary Pneumonia epidemic is a common enemy of all mankind. It reminds us in an extremely tragic way: In the era of globalization, the destinies of all countries are closely connected and shared, and no one can be alone. To overcome the epidemic, global action, cooperation and cooperation are needed to build a community of shared future for mankind.
The CCP cranks out stuff like this to fool gullible foreign media, e.g. U.S. media outlets, some of whom have taken to publishing “news stories” based on obvious Chinese propaganda. Meanwhile, what the CCP is promoting at home is national pride and open distrust of foreigners.