A snowy day in Ankang, China, and a snowball over my head as I pose with some of my university English students, 2010.

I lived in China for about 4.5 years, and when I turned 45 there I realized that one in every ten days of my life I’d awoken in China. I lived in small cities by Chinese standards, and there were so few other Westerners in those cities that I knew them all, and could count them on my fingers. I had to speak Chinese because the locals didn’t speak English, and the only Western restaurant was KFC.

This kind of heavy immersion had the curious effect that, while I could easily identify all my students by name, I started to have difficulty telling white people apart when I watched a movie. This was because I saw so few white faces over the years that my capacity to differentiate them atrophied, and I also struggled to follow the fast-paced dialogue in the same movies. I became angry that people slurred their English so much., when in reality I’d just become unaccustomed to hearing rapid-fire English.

Chinese people, in China, became completely normal to me, and I’d sometimes be oblivious to how much I stood out. The biggest problem was always the language barrier, and my Mandarin Chinese never rose that much above practical usage. But when I interacted with the Chinese English teachers, who were fluent, I found them so intelligent and understanding that our commonalities vastly outstripped our differences, to the point where they hardly signified, and were all cultural rather than racial. Most Chinese people, and especially my students, were good, decent, average people, just like at home. It was the leaders, and the people in power, that one had to look out for (and anyone behind a wheel).


I really shouldn’t need to point this out, but just a reminder to perhaps help some of us to keep our heads screwed on straight, the Chinese Communist Party is not the same thing as Chinese people. I’ve been on the other end of the stick. I traveled in Myanmar during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which I had protested in the streets 4 times before the invasion even started. A lot of locals were strongly opposed to the war, I got dirty looks, and some individuals let me know how they felt about Americans. Fortunately, they were smart enough that when I explained that I didn’t support the war, hadn’t voted for George W. Bush, and had tried to stop it in my small way, they lost their grip on making me the enemy.

The reason the coronavirus has spread globally is due to the corruption and incompetence of powerful individuals in charge, both inside and outside of China. Your average citizen of China has nothing to do with it, and is a victim of it. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are also Chinese countries, and neither their citizens nor their governments can be blamed for the spreading of the virus. Further, within China, individual Chinese citizens have made brave efforts to combat the virus, and to get the truth out.

I get annoyed with all the social justice talk about how calling the virus “Wuhan virus” is racist or xenophobic, because that’s just getting our priorities all wrong. Apocryphal racism, and hammering home the far left narrative and agenda, is not a priority as compared to people dying and economies being devastated.  On the other hand, as annoying as identity politics is when it invents racism out of thin air and projects it onto innocent people, actual racism is even worse. There’s being intellectually dishonest to the point of stupidity, and then there’s being an outright aggressive moron.

When one of the local men in Myanmar was really getting on my case for being an American, I finally managed to turn him around when I explained that it was better for him if Americans like me opposed the government’s actions and openly spoke up about it, in America. Well, you definitely have the same thing in China. Tens of millions of Chinese people are fed up with their oppressive government, and are themselves the worst hit by their government’s self-serving, mishandling of the epidemic. Chinese doctors and scientists, in and outside of China, are doing their best to combat the virus, come up with improved treatments, and find a vaccine.

The real villain is corruption, and there’s a kernel of it in each of us. Those of us who would malign, harass, or harbor hatred towards Chinese or Asian people are themselves corrupt, imbecilic, and thus infinitely more identical to the underlying cause of the pandemic than are people who merely have a certain appearance.

Blaming the CCP, calling the virus “Wuhan flu”, or even calling some local customs into question, is not racist. Blaming people because of their bodies is, and imbecilic.

Hopefully, that was just preaching to the choir. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

~ Ends

 

 

15 replies on “Runaway Rant: Don’t Blame the Chinese

  1. I don’t know, Eric. I have a problem with the “China virus” name, especially since it was thrown around by GOP members and their sympathizers (plenty of whom believe that China made this virus in a lab to hurt the US). Their own stench of racism infects the name that otherwise would simply determine the origin of the virus. When COVID-19 affected mostly China, then that made sense. But now that this is a global issue calling it “the Wuhan/China virus” is like pointing fingers and saying ” ‘member who got us into this mess?”.

    Plus COVID-19 sounds scarier, straight out of a sci-fi. And yet not enough people, surprisingly, are scared enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I feel that calling the Corvid the Wuhan flu is just stupid. It’s not its name, and it’s not manufactured by the Chinese. Some people seem to talk about it as if it’s a bio-weapon, rather than a disease that mutated and became something new by itself. Like all viruses and germs over time do. I wish people would just stop talking nonsense and DO something about it instead. It’s nobody’s fault it exists, but we can, and could have done, a lot to slow it down and minimize the spread like you say. But people are too busy bickering about stupid things and hoarding toilet paper to do what needs to be done.
    Though, I have to disagree a bit with the racist thing.
    “…when it invents racism out of thin air and projects it onto innocent people, actual racism is even worse.” That IS actual racism. The everyday casual racism causes way more problems than the few outright aggressive racists, the extremists. While those people are worse individuals, they often exist because of the causal everyday racism that floats around all the time. That’s what feeds them. We all need to think a second or two extra about how we say things sometimes. Because other people pick up on them. Example: “There’s nothing wrong with immigrants,” some people say. That makes people think: “If there’s nothing wrong… why did you have to point it out? Must be something wrong with them.” That’s how people work sadly. And when the government says stuff like that, it really affects people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with most of what you said, but need to clarify a few things.

      The name “wuflu” came out of China. Below is from Chinese state-run media.

      This is China's own, state-run media

      So, if anyone uses the term they invented, it’s “racist”.

      A lot of virus are named after the place where they arise or associated with: West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, Zita virus, Spanish influenza…
      That said, it’s still probably a better decision to give it a more neutral name. I agree with you on that for sure.

      But I would also like to clarify that China is not a race, it’s a country, and if anything naming the virus after the country is anti-China, not anti-Chinese. Note that “Chinese” can be used both do describe Chinese nationals, and any and all Chinese people.

      I don’t think we SHOULD forget that the reason anyone at all is getting sick outside of China is very specifically due to documented and specific corruption, censorship, and incompetence of the local government and the CCP. There’s nothing racist about criticizing a government that oppresses its own people with a social credit system, and practices organ harvesting of political dissidents, such as the Falun Gong (a peaceful spiritual group). The persecution of the Uyghurs at this point includes keeping them in re-education camps that are prisons for the sin of not believing what they are supposed to. Same goes for the Mongols. To defend the CCP against “racism” directed at them is ironic at best.

      The spread of the virus is the fault of the Chinese Communist Party. That is reality, like it or not. They had advanced notice, and made the doctors who tried to tell anyone confess to their mistake and swear to not repeat it! The strongest criticism of China comes from Chinese people themselves, if they dare speak up. And you will certainly find all the criticism of China you will ever want from Hong Kong and Taiwan, both Chinese countries.

      The part about blaming anyone Chinese or Asian for the virus is actually racist.

      “when it invents racism out of thin air and projects it onto innocent people” is NOT what you apparently think it is. It’s not unconscious microaggressions. Quite the opposite, it’s accusing racism where there isn’t any, or you need a proverbial microscope and bias to tease it out. So, for example, the sort of thing where it’s racist to have dreadlocks because it’s cultural appropriation, or the assertion that all white people are racist until they renounce “whiteness” like it’s original sin. I’m all for rooting for the underdog and protecting the vulnerable, but when extremist and reductionist ideology gets involved, it can be guilty of the same crime it ostensibly tries to address. In fact, I think making everything about racism is taking the bait, and ignoring much bigger problems and their actual sources.

      People getting bent out of shape about calling the virus “Wuhan Flu” are so worried about apocryphal racism that they don’t even care about the actual, violent oppression, and even murder and organ harvesting of the Chinese government. We care more about people using the right words than about people being killed for their kidneys. I’m just saying to keep things in perspective.

      I’m sure you agree that actual racism that physically destroys lives is worse than someone using the wrong word, you might beg to differ on microaggressions, in which case I’d hope to agree to disagree.

      Note that some are suggesting callling the virus the CCP-virus: video

      Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol, that was a long reply and I feel my English is lacking somewhat. XD
        But yes, I do agree with you. But as always with humans, we all read different things into words and expressions I guess. I don’t think it’s racist to name something after a country, or a people or a person. That stuff happenes all the time. I disapprove of the way some people (not all) use it to heighten aggression towards said people/country/person. And also, since it does have a name, Corvid-19, I don’t see why we should call it anything else. 🙂 Because in that case, it makes the use of the word more pointed towards the people/country than to the sickness itself.
        Just as how I can call my best friend an idiot without it being insulting, but I can also call people idiots and it’ll be very insulting. It’s all about how it’s being said/used. So, often it’s not the words themselves that can cause problems, but but they’re used. And also, how people percieve them. We cacn’t swim against the river. And perceptions change. So sometimes words can be fine, but 10 years later they’re not fine. Now, the Corvid is new, so it doesn’t have the lable of time and past useage on it. But in general I mean.
        But yes, the government, not only China’s, but other countries’ as well, have done too little to fix the problem. And that criticism is fine. It has nothing to do with the people.

        Ah, I see. Thank you for clearing that up for me. 🙂 Yes, that is a problem. People are unfortunately very good at pointing fingers and screaming racist at everything these days. And other things as well. :/ Extremists are always dangerous, no matter what they are extreme about. Extremism tend to be harmful to everyone.
        But lets not forget that people also focus on what’s easiest to focus on. Getting bent out of shape about the use of a word might be all they can do. Because maybe complaining about that tiny thing might cause people change how they say things. But no matter how much someone in a different country complains, the Chinese (or other countries’) government won’t change their ways. That’s something their own people have to protest against to make a real difference. And while their pracices are terrible at best, it’s not affecting people in other countries, we’re not seeing it up close. But the virus is up close, so that’s why people focus their energy on it. I believe.

        Of course I agree that actual racism is wors. But I also think that smaller everyday, casual racism (and other things as well) is far more harmful than many people think. Like the very everyday use of the word “gay” which people throw around all the time when they actaully mean “bad”. And then young gay men suicide because of it, but the ones using the word probably never meant that to happen. Small everyday things like that can make people racist, hateful, misogynist, etc without meaning to. And as we agree, extremists are not good because they hurt people. But even they start somewhere. They’re not born that way. So while people are over protective and read meaning into words that may not be there sometimes, the words we do use affect people as well. It’s all a mess. 😛
        Sorry for long post. I have trouble getting to what I want to say in short sentences. XD

        Liked by 1 person

        1. And that all sounds very sound to me. We might nitpick on some details, but who wants to be competing moralists, when we are both on the same side of the fence to begin with? The big thing now, I think, is the world’s population getting through this pandemic.

          I don’t know about you, but it’s finally hit where I live, much later than expected. My school is closed, and they’re starting to lock things down.

          As important as people’s feelings are, health is a much more grave issue.

          Thanks for expanding on your take on the topic. I think the middle ground is probably the more fertile soil in most cases.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. lol, competing moralist. XD That’s a new thing. 😛
            Yeah, it said in the newspapers today that they’d had some breakthroughs, but that they’ll probably have to continue to work with this stuff and people need to take extra care until summer at least.
            It hit here like, one and a half week ago. Ish. People seem to be taking quite calmly here, but they do empty the stores of frozen food, toiletpaper and flour. lol. They’re closing schools here too.

            Yeah. And to protect those who are in the risk zone, we must keep everyone healthy to minimize the risk for infection.

            Np. 🙂 Also, I like talking. 😛 Sometimes too much. XD Thanx for clearing some things up. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Eric. And great picture of Winter in Ankang!
    None of this is to argue that the unsanitary conditions in many Chinese outdoor markets need not be cleaned up. I’ve heard no contradiction that the coronavirus leaped to humans in that Wuhan market.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, Alan. Unsanitary conditions and bringing wild animals into proximity with humans, particularly bats. SARS was caused by bats as well. China and the world already knew the risk, but China ignored it even after SARS.

      I’ve known for a long time that the next big virus was going to happen when a virus jumped the species barrier. As soon as I heard about this I was alarmed. Scientists had said it wasn’t a question of “if” it would happen, but of “when”. Allowing those markets to exist, and especially in those unhygienic conditions, was anything but wise.

      That said, there’s still great risk of another virus jumping the species barrier in our own American factory farming industries because of those squalid conditions.

      We can only hope this is a wake-up call and people will be both more vigilant, and a little kinder to animals.

      That was the one day it snowed in Ankang when I was there, which is the only reason I took pics.

      Like

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