Panic and anxiety are inevitable in the face of a major global health challenge, but overreacting and letting irrational fears take control will not only do more harm than good, but will worsen the epidemic and make it easier to lose confidence.
In China, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Central Government have directed and mobilized resources in the fight against the coronavirus. Community workers in cities and villages across the country and especially in and around Wuhan are doing their best to protect millions of people. The People’s Liberation Army has sent teams of military medical staff to Wuhan to help fight the virus. We see the construction of makeshift hospitals and the conversion of buildings into temporary hospitals. Enterprises have stepped up the production of essentials such as face masks. People from all levels of society are lending a helping hand at this time of need. The strength of China’s system is on full display as the nation battles this virus.
While the coronavirus is a serious threat, there is another type of harmful “virus” that is spreading along with the coronavirus. Racism and xenophobia are making people blame the Chinese people for this virus and making the Chinese people feel that they are the virus.
A lot of troubling news and commentary has appeared in recent days. For example, Thai daily Khao Sod reported on Monday that a restaurant owner in the northern province of Chiang Mai put up a sign barring Chinese customers from eating at the restaurant. Then, the next day on Tuesday, the daily reported that a Chinese tourist and her child nearly had to sleep on the streets in the resort town of Hua Hin because no hotel would take them.
The above-mentioned reports are just a couple of examples, but racist sentiment targeting Asians and especially Chinese is popping up in places all around the world.
At a time of fear and uncertainty, it is vital to remain rational. First, viruses do not respect borders. Although the Chinese city of Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak, which according to the latest official figures has infected over 24,000 people and killed around 500 people, this virus is not a “Chinese virus.” It originated in China and has spread quickly, but this is a global fight.
Second, it is wrong and dangerous to associate certain populations with something like the coronavirus. The coronavirus is dangerous, but the fear that is fueling this anti-China racism can have dangerous consequences for the entire world. We must do more to deal with the outbreak of anti-China sentiment during this crisis.
Fortunately, people are trying to bring attention to this problem. For example, a video on social media that has gone viral shows a young Chinese man in Italy standing in crowded areas with a blindfold and a face mask next to a sign that reads, “I’m not a virus, I’m a human. Eradicate the prejudice.” People in the video give him a warm hug and the reaction online has been quite positive.
Let us not let the coronavirus spread fears and stereotypes and let us have confidence in China, which is doing everything it can do to fight the coronavirus. The coronavirus is certainly something that we should fear and take guard against, but the anti-China racism that is spreading along with the coronavirus is even more terrifying and potentially dangerous.