In an escalation of tensions between two superpowers amid the rise of a global pandemic, China declared that all US journalists affiliated with the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal would be expelled from China.
The move comes weeks after the Trump administration ordered four Chinese state-funded news outlets operating in the United States to cap the number of Chinese nationals working on their staff to 100 per organization. This was reportedly in retaliation for the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters and cracking down on both national and foreign journalism during the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
Accusations of racism
Recently, US President Donald Trump has referred to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) as the “Chinese virus.” He argues that the language is fair since that is where the virus reportedly originated from. “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s all,” Trump said in regards to a question on how appropriate the designation was, adding that “China had tried to say at one point – maybe they stopped now – that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen. It’s not going to happen, not as long as I’m president.”
Several days ago, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian perpetuated the conspiracy theory that the US had a hand in spreading the virus. Others in the US push back against Trump’s rhetoric. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested the president’s language is dangerous and unhelpful. “Our Asian-American communities – people YOU serve – are already suffering. They don’t need you fueling more bigotry,” he tweeted.
Another administration official reportedly recently also called the virus the “kung flu.”
Violence on the rise
Amid the uncertainty, there have been reports of increased bigotry and violence aimed at Asian minorities in the west. Eric Ward, director of the Western States Center, a group based in Portland, Oregon, working to strengthen has said that “at a time of great panic and fear, [the president’s rhetoric] will only lead to physical violence.”
In response to accusations that the president was engaging in dangerous speech, the press team at the White House defended the language, saying that previous epidemics, such as the Spanish flu or West Nile virus, were also labeled based on geographic location. They also characterized the controversy over the president’s words as “fake media outrage.”
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