Geopolitics and Anti-Asian Violence
By Jason J.H. Yeh
China Times, April 2, 2021
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic broke out in the United States last year, crimes against Asian Americans increased significantly during this period of time. Asians wearing mouth masks became targets of verbal and physical bullying. Since the beginning of this year, I thought that after the pandemic slowed down and President Donald Trump left office, the violence against Asians would be mitigated. Unexpectedly, the fact shows that crimes against Asian Americans in the first quarter of this year in New York are equivalent to the numbers of the entire year last year.
Six of the eight dead in the serial shootings in Atlanta on March 16 were Asian American women. On March 27, about 60 cities across the United States held anti-Asian American parades. In the wake of the parades, ironically, there were several reported attacks of Asian Americans on the subway and streets of New York City.
One of the incidents happened at the Kosciusko Street subway station. The video of a seemingly Asian passenger being beaten by an African-American went viral on the internet. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force solicits the public’s help to identify the suspect through Twitter.
Last year, Mr. Trump linked the virus to China as the White House handled the pandemic without avail, and repeatedly emphasized the term “China virus, ” “Kung flu,” and “Chinese plague.” Even the well-known basketball player Jeremy Lin testified about someone in the NBA and at play court called him “Chinese virus”. Threats spread to other Asians as well. Former Yankee ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka returned to Japan last year because being discriminated against in the United States made him “very scared to live there.”
Mr. Trump’s version of the China threat theory mainly emphasizes that the Chinese have taken American jobs away. On the other hand, President Biden exaggerated the China threat theory from the perspective of a strategic opponent. Less than a hundred days after taking office, he collaborated with American allies to sanction China by propagating “Xinjiang’s genocide”. The rising of China has given vent to various social contradictions in the United States, leading to the outbreak of the most serious trend of discrimination and hatred against Asians in American history.
In historical retrospect, Asians in North America is a history of discrimination and anti-discrimination. In the 1980s, Japan became the second largest economy in the world, American society then set off a wave of anti-Japanese movement. In 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was mistaken for a Japanese in a bar, and was severely beaten to death by two Americans. This incident caused a rare unity among Asians in the United States and launched an anti-discrimination struggle. However, a decade later, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Asians were once again being attacked indiscriminately by mobs.
In the era of globalization, mainland China has risen rapidly and become the new geopolitical opponent of the United States. The Republicans use job opportunity and the Democrats use human rights as pretext to repeatedly incite the China threat theory. Coupled with the elimination of a large number of jobs in the real economy, all kinds of social contradictions within the United States, including ethnic conflicts, growing wealth gap, the Asian have become off-the-shelf scapegoats.
Joe Huang, a Chinese talk show actor who became popular in the United States, pointed out that more than a decade ago, 60% of Americans held favorable impressions of China, recently, however, 70% of Americans are against China. He believes that "only when the United States can treat other countries equally can the American Whites treat its own minorities equally."
Huang believes that colonialism is the root cause of racial discrimination in the United States and the entire world today. This kind of superiority mentality, which has been accumulated over the centuries, will have unbearable consequences once being incensed by politicians. Unfortunately, populism is the cheapest tool for them to garner votes. In the next decade, the conflict between the United States and China will be unavoidable, and anti-Asian mentality will probably hover over the sky of the Atlantic.
President Joe Biden, after meeting with Atlanta Asian community advocates on March 19, called on the Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act so as to expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and help Asian communities obtain relevant information. Even if it is an expedient measure, from the perspective of political correctness, it is a necessary move. Hoping the drop in the bucket can create some effect, letting the Asian Americans the freedom to avoid fear.