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Trump’s language to hurt, not help, the fight against coronavirus

By Hujjatullah Zia | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-25 09:38

US President Donald Trump addresses his administration's daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, March 20, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Donald Trump, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Republican officials have described the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” in their public statements outraging the collective conscience of Chinese.

Many have warned that Trump and Republicans’ stigmatization would undermine international solidarity in containing the pandemic and could lead to increased discrimination and racism toward Asian Americans. Trump’s language regarding the virus has been called “reckless and irresponsible”, “blatant racism”, “outrageous treatment” and “offensive and racist” that would spark xenophobia against Chinese people.

Criticizing the use of stigmatizing language which associates the coronavirus pandemic with ethnic Chinese people, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergency programs, is cited as saying, “Viruses know no borders, and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin, or how much money you have in the bank.”

In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, his friends believed he was not “acting presidential” or “restraining his behavior”, wrote Michael Wolff in his book “Fire and Fury”. Having no political background, Trump is inconsiderate of what he says. Although it is believed that his branding the virus as “Chinese virus” reflects his own personal view and not of the Americans as some US officials and grassroots have severely criticized this term, it is unbecoming of a president. Meanwhile, a number of American companies have donated to China’s fight against the virus more than any other global multinational companies, reported Chinese media.

With the emergence of the coronavirus outbreak, hate crimes and anti-Asian sentiments have been reported in major cities with Chinese communities. Before cities began shutting down all restaurants to prevent the spread of the virus, the Chinese were already experiencing serious declines in business in the wake of racial stigma as people emptied Chinatown restaurants. The Chinese have been treated with discrimination since Wuhan first reported the outbreak.

The hate crime and discriminatory acts have continued against Asians. Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old from Singapore, was reportedly attacked while walking down Oxford Street in central London on February 24 and the attackers, while punching and kicking him, said they did not want his coronavirus in their country. Such racially motivated crime and several accounts of racism and xenophobia have been reported and documented on social media since the outbreak.

A number of Chinese students and employees are also experiencing harassment and discrimination in some parts of the world.

The exponential spread of the virus around the world suggests that global society is too interwoven to be not be affected by the events happening in other parts of the world. All members of the human family live in the global village and share a common destiny. The outbreak of a disease imperils the life of all, the economic crisis hurts prosperity everywhere, and the danger of nuclear attacks put all nations at stake. To put it into the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, “Everyone has in himself a little bit of others”. Therefore, Chinese officials reiterate that “only my backyard” mindset would prove harmful to the entire human society. As of now, one will deeply feel and understand the idea of “global village” as well as “a community with shared future for mankind”. It is time for human societies to support each other and to safeguard the life of individuals regardless of their caste, color, or creed. It is time one has to practice upon the principle of “nondiscrimination” and the “golden rule” (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

It is self-explanatory that the outbreak is not the fault of Chinese people. Chinese people are the main victims of the virus and US officials should not add insult to their injury. Thus, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, believed that Trump’s rhetoric was racist.

Since insidious disinformation and panic can spread far more quickly and widely than the virus itself, all are recommended to speak logically and avoid sparking sentiments. Racializing or politicizing the virus at the current sensitive time will be counterproductive.

The author is a writer for Daily Outlook, an independent newspaper in Afghanistan. 

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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