It is no secret that racially motivated violence against Asians in the West has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These attacks stem from the idea that all Chinese people and people with similar facial features are to blame for the pandemic. Of course, this reasoning is completely wrong and should be condemned.
In the West, this condemnation is usually reported in the form of a few short, disapproving quotes from public officials. Having noted these quotes, consumers of Western media are then invariably led to other news articles, such as the two published by Sky News Australia on April 23, 2020, entitled: “Communist China knows ‘it can’t beat us’ instead it tries to ‘buy us,'” and “‘Communist Party of China views Australia as a vessel state’: Bronwyn Bishop.” Bishop was a Member of Parliament whose political career ended following a scandal involving her excessive spending on government travel expenses.
Whilst such articles might not be directly responsible for the latest spate of racially motivated attacks against the Asian community, they do contribute to the disturbing trend of anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia. Most of the time, the efforts to vilify China are so subtle that the message conveyed is allowed to stew in the mind of the reader; growing with each media release. This is done cunningly through phrasing, topic coverage and content omissions.
For example, the State-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a tendency to publish articles about the Belt & Road Initiative and discuss the perceived dangers of “debt trap diplomacy,” “world domination,” and themes of neo-colonialism.
Although this might just be the reporting of national concerns, there is almost never any acknowledgment of the source of this fear, assumptions about China’s growing influence based entirely on the West’s bloody colonial history.
Even though the ABC is quick to voice its fears regarding the economic ambitions of the Communist Party of China, it rarely provides any historical context for the party’s lesser-known accomplishments. For example, whilst average real hourly wages in the U.S. in 2019 were the same as they were in 1973, China’s real wages have quadrupled over the last 20 to 25 years alone, a statistic which is conveniently omitted from the ABC’s analyses.
All of this begs the question: Why further anti-Chinese sentiment is found in a country like Australia whose primary trading partner is China? What is to be gained by this tactic? The answer appears to be “distraction.” A public distracted by its resentment towards an outsider entity is more likely to ignore the issues with its own ruling establishment.
For example, the average consumer of Australian news will complain about the growing trend of Chinese investment in Australia. However, the all-important question of how this materially impacts their life is never raised. Australian owned manufacturing has been declining for decades due to the combined effects of globalization and automation.
These trends are entirely the result of Australian business owners voluntarily choosing to automate or shift factories overseas in order to maximize profit. Similarly, when an Australian business voluntarily cuts jobs by selling its operations to a foreign interest, the outrage is almost always aimed at the buyer.
Still, attributing responsibility to the media alone would be unfair. Other reasons for racist outbursts could be due to the attacker’s upbringing and socio-economic factors. Whilst personal prejudices play an important part, in the West, people usually resort to crime and violence out of desperation. The continued reliance on trickle-down economics to address this desperation fails the Western working class year after year.
Even amidst the current pandemic, governments across most of the English-speaking world have provided bailout packages aimed at businesses with the expectation that they would invest those funds into the economy, increase production and thus create an explosion of new jobs.
Following the approximately two trillion U.S. dollars’ bailout in the U.S., it is fairly safe to say that this brand of trickledown economics has failed yet again. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted an unemployment rate of 20 percent despite said bailout.
It is therefore vital that the people of the West use this time to sincerely reflect upon the state of their countries, their economies and their lives, and honestly ask themselves some questions in good faith.
Questions such as: How is it fair to form an opinion about the Chinese solely from non-Chinese sources? Who owns the local media and why is it so critical of the Chinese? What material difference does it make to the life of an Australian whether business investments in Australia are locally owned or foreign owned? And why should Asian people be the targets of Western street violence when there are clearly other factors negatively impacting the West?