“Chinese Virus”


Taylor Wong

On March 16, President Donald Trump tweeted the following message: 

“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like [a]irlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”

Ever since, the term “Chinese Virus” has caught fire among conservatives, being used by Fox News analysts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to name a few. Despite intense backlash, Trump has repeatedly defended his use of the term to refer to COVID-19, the deadly virus which has resulted in over 102,000 deaths around the world. 

As someone of partial Chinese descent, I am offended by Trump’s usage of the term. The World Health Organization intentionally named the virus COVID-19 to avoid stigmatizing a specific group of people; Trump instead did exactly that. While there are absolutely no benefits in using the term in place of COVID-19 or coronavirus, there is a huge detriment: it promotes xenophobia and racism towards Chinese and Chinese Americans. 

Supporters of Trump’s rhetoric argue that using the term is justified because other viruses, such as the West Nile virus and Zika Virus, are named after geographic locations. They also argue that using the term is justified because the outbreak began in China. Their reasoning is flawed for various reasons. First, the term “Chinese Virus” does not refer to a place; it refers to a specific group of people. Second, just because the outbreak began in China does not justify demonizing the Chinese people as a whole. Lastly, Coronavirus has evolved into a global problem that can no longer be simply defined by its place of origin.

As stated above, it is true that the outbreak of the virus began in China. It is also true that the Chinese government initially failed to adequately address the spread of the virus. However, neither of these facts justify scapegoating Chinese people as a whole. Even before the term came into existence, Asian-Americans reported instances of racist behavior, including verbal harassment and physical assault. Trump has not once condemned this behavior. On the contrary, he has endorsed it, thus incentivizing Americans to continue attacks on Asian Americans and further highlighting his lack of professionalism.

If we are to discuss the shortcomings of China’s response, we also must talk about the shortcomings of the Trump Administration’s response. Recently, the United States passed China for the most confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the world, a gloomy statistic that can, at least partially, be attributed to Trump’s lack of action in the early stages of the pandemic. He failed to take the virus seriously, failed to make working testing kits widely available, and failed to enact measures to stop the spread of coronavirus around the country. Although he has taken steps to contain the virus as of late, it will not change the effect his early blunders had on the spread.

In this unprecedented time, we need to be united, not divided. Trump’s rhetoric not only alienates a group which makes up almost 7% of the American population, but further hampers efforts to contain the spread of the virus and return to normality.