xi's moments
Home | Americas

Professor: virus spurs communication war

By RENA LI in TORONTO | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-25 11:38

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and ‪Vice President Mike Pence‬ listen as US President Donald Trump leads the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington, US March 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

After repeatedly using the term "Chinese virus", US President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that people should "protect our Asian American community" by adding "the spreading of the Virus ...is NOT their fault".

Was it an apology?

Yes, but it mostly "serves as cheap rhetoric to win Asian American votes", according to Yuezhi Zhao, a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Global Communication at Simon Fraser University.

"This is a communication war, and it is one in which the US president is playing hardball and taking the lead," Zhao, who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, wrote to China Daily in an interview.

"Trump is now exploiting the naming of a virus to sustain and escalate his war against China. Once we understand his racist rhetoric within such a context, it is hard to imagine that he will apologize," Zhao continued.

Although the World Health Organization has named the coronavirus COVID-19 to avoid stigmatizing, Trump defended calling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" for weeks.

"As a communication scholar, I can say without any hesitation that naming and labeling power is an extremely important form of communicative power," Zhao said.

She said the US president commands a huge amount of communicative power. At a time when the whole world should be rallying together to fight against a pandemic that threats the entire humanity, for Trump to use such a term is truly "ill-intended, indefensible, disingenuous and absolutely disgusting".

By arguing that Trump's label is "not only deliberately, but also opportunistically" using the term, Zhao said his motive is "his re-election campaign; it is a deliberate deployment of a communicative weapon of distraction to advance his own interests against all odds".

Yuezhi Zhao, a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Global Communication at Simon Fraser University.

Zhao said she was not surprised that as the corona virus crisis in the US deepens that Trump would exploit a public health threat to escalate his anti-China campaign for his personal political gain.

"To their credit, mainstream US media and former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton have recently voiced criticisms of Trump's racist tactics," Zhao said. "However, let's not forget the Wall Street Journal's explicit invocation of the highly racist 'sick man of Asia' trope in early February. As a matter of fact, that article and the subsequent (reaction) have played an important role in the … escalation of conflict between the US and China in the realm of media and communication."

Zhao noted that other high-level US officials have repeatedly used similar names and labels such as "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus".

"If powerful politicians and influential leaders are serving as 'primary definers' in blaming China, then the US media, in giving publicity to such individuals, are serving as amplifiers or 'secondary definers' of racist manipulations and blunt strategies of extortion,". Zhao said, adding that the labeling can increase the escalating racial conflict as well as the intensity of relations between the US and China.

As a scholar of global communication, Zhao also found it "ironic" that the president of a country that claims to be the "beacon of freedom, equality, and justice", would deliberately resort to such naming and labeling. It shows that Trump and his administration are "trying all means to cover up (their) own incompetency and … failure to serve in the broad interest of the American people."

There have been media reports that Asian Americans have been physically assaulted by classmates or strangers on the streets for the coronavirus.

"This is alarming and truly devastating. Instead of mobilizing the entire nation in a unified struggle to contain the disease, the words and deeds of Trump and his type will only further divide the US," Zhao continued. "Instead of unifying humanity in a common struggle for a more just and peaceful world, the leader of the world's most powerful government is escalating racial and ethnic conflicts, and distracting people of all nations and colors from understanding that there is, in the end, only one race, that is, the human race.

"Instead of racist slurs and anti-racist rebuttals, the world's communication sphere needs more medical information, more circulation of successful stories and learned experiences in fighting against COVIDd-19, and more expressions of human solidarity, resilience, and bravery," Zhao added.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349