The COVID-19 pandemic has resuscitated the old “yellow peril” canard to its fullest extent, revealing deep xenophobia and racist intent against China.
Black people must walk a fine line concerning any discussion of the People’s Republic of China at this juncture. The obviously racist acts carried out against African migrants in that country can’t be ignored and are rightly condemned. But there can be no common cause with the hatred and lies being spewed by the corporate media, Donald Trump and now the hapless Democratic Party and their very problematic presidential candidate, Joe Biden.
Videos from Guangzhou showed a pattern of discrimination in housing and public access inflicted upon African residents in that city. In one instance a McDonald’s franchisee actually printed a sign in English, “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.” These videos were seen around the world and the Chinese government found itself with an embarrassing public relations problem. African nations called in Chinese ambassadors to register official protests. The Chinese government’s damage control included apologies, restitution to those evicted from housing and a commitment to end the discrimination.
Anti-black racism is prevalent around the world and non-whites in China and elsewhere are not exempt. They should not be excused for the serious harm they did and the government should commit itself to ending these attacks on black people and making good on promises of redress.
But while racism exists in China, American racism is being used against China. There is a long history of hatred from the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the demonization of “red” China, and now president Xi Jinping labeled as an authoritarian enemy.
U.S. hybrid warfare has taken a new and vicious turn against China. The smears and lies began in earnest long before scientists identified the COVID-19 virus. In 2018, corporate media repeated an unsourced claim that the United Nations reported the existence of internment camps where one million Uighur Muslims were allegedly being held. The story is a falsehood promoted by a U.S. government funded NGO and opposition groups in China.
Amplified by the press and politicians, the phony tale has been repeated endlessly and only those who access independent media know that it is a lie. That lie was compounded by the so-called pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, another example of U.S. meddling used to destabilize China. Once again the National Endowment for Democracy instigated violence and vandalism. The leaders turned up in Washington, obviously able to travel freely, and sought support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, legislation used to accuse the PRC of non-existent human rights violations. It was passed with wide bipartisan support as so-called progressives again joined the right wing in foreign policy interference.
But it is the COVID-19 pandemic which has resuscitated the old “yellow peril” canard to its fullest extent. Donald Trump and others referred to the disease as the “Chinese virus”, contradicting a World Health Organization recommendation to end the practice of connecting illness with a particular country or group of people. Nevertheless the term took hold and revealed deep xenophobia and racist intent against China.
As the Trump administration fumbled its response to the pandemic, they began to blame China and accuse its government of keeping the disease a secret. In fact, China revealed the existence of this new illness, originally thought of as SARS or a type of pneumonia, to the WHO in December 2019. Chinese scientists identified the genome in January 2020 and shared this information with the rest of the world.
Communicable diseases always travel because humans travel. It isn’t possible for the common cold or an annual flu strain to be restricted to one place. China fulfilled its ethical obligations to the world and demonstrated how to manage an outbreak.
Facts are inconvenient here, because the United States gave China economic power with its deindustrialization schemes. Now the country which has proven that it cannot meet its peoples’ basic needs tries to place blame on the nation which has surpassed it in almost every way. The charge of human rights abuses falls flat when one considers that the U.S. has more than two million people behind bars.
The dreadful Joe Biden campaign has nothing to say for itself and in a sign of desperation has joined the Trump campaign in using China as a target. “Trump rolled over for the Chinese,” are the foolish words in a Biden campaign ad. President Xi has now replaced Vladimir Putin as the villain du jour.
China’s relationship with African nations is complicated with both opportunities and the threat of exploitation. Of course Europeans are the ones who did the greatest damage to Africa in their colonial and neo-colonial eras as they stole and continue to steal resources while many Africans live in poverty. The United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, turns African nations into vassals under U.S. military control.
Black people should not allow themselves to be used either by liberals or the right and join in making false accusations at the behest of the war party duopoly. The concern for China’s actions towards black people must be directed at that government. The United States always has dirty hands and the accusations directed at others are always a projection of its own failures and wrong doing.
There must not be any confusion about who acts in our interests. The cynicism and lies spread by the U.S. are endless. That is why we must be discerning in this moment. The biggest enemy of the African diaspora isn’t far away. It is right here in the belly of the beast.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.