Can America Compete With China and Avoid Fueling Anti-Asian Hate?

Co-authored by Russell Jeung

On May 14, a stranger approached an Asian American woman outside a grocery store in Berkeley, California. “Fuck you, CCP!” the man shouted, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. “It’s your fault for bringing the virus here; go back to your country!” Weeks later, a Vietnamese American woman was placing groceries in her car in Phoenix, Arizona, when two passersby threw her grocery bags on the ground while yelling, “Stupid fucking Chink!” and told her to go back to China.

These two incidents, documented by the discrimination-reporting center Stop AAPI Hate (a group that one of us, Russell Jeung, co-founded), are far from isolated events. Amid a global pandemic with roots in China, a long-running bilateral trade war, and U.S. sanctions targeting Chinese officials involved in human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Beijing has emerged as Washington’s primary geopolitical target—and Asian Americans are getting caught in the crossfire.

Spurred on by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated invocations of the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu,” attacks against Asian Americans are on the rise. Forty-five percent of Asian American adults—over ten million people—reported directly experiencing racism since the start of the pandemic. According to another recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 major U.S. cities increased by 149 percent between 2019 and 2020.

Given the history of racial discrimination in the United States, none of this should come as a surprise. Periods of heightened geopolitical anxiety have long produced spikes in anti-Asian vitriol. Today, officials’ inflation of the threat from China combined with extremist rhetoric has restarted that cycle, causing segments of American society to now view Asians and Asian Americans as the enemy, regardless of their connection to the Chinese government. Without sustained action on the part of the Biden administration, this pandemic-era spike in violence may only be the beginning.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.