Anti-Asian sentiment has long been latent in the United States, and the novel coronavirus pandemic has provided an excuse for some in the US to indulge their racial prejudice toward Asians, the Chinese in particular.
Fueled by the US administration's incessant allegations that China has been maliciously taking advantage of the US, there has been rising prejudice toward Chinese among those desperate to believe in the superiority proclaimed for them by the US administration.
And with fears of the virus becoming more acute in the US — with dire warnings of an exponential rise in the number of infections as a result of the US' shortcomings in testing suspected cases — there have been a growing number of incidents of Asians being verbally abused or harassed in public.
Mainstream media organizations in the United States have the responsibility to take the lead in condemning such an ill trend. Yet The Wall Street Journal, a major US media outlet, did the opposite, fueling the racism toward Chinese with its article carrying the headline "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia".
The racist phrase "sick man of Asia" carries painful memories for China, as in the 19th century, the country, weak and bullied by foreign powers, was referred to as the "sick man of Asia". By bringing this derogatory label back, The Wall Street Journal article not only indulged its own racism, it also invoked anti-Chinese sentiment that harked back to the San Francisco riots of 1877 or the bubonic plague outbreak in the city — the first in the US — that panicked the nation in 1900.
In doing so, the article showed how disease outbreaks can become sociopolitical crises, and encourage anti-science rhetoric and fear of outsiders.
It also ran counter to the truth, ignoring the tremendous changes that have taken place in China since the founding of New China in 1949.
Till today, The Wall Street Journal has refused to issue an apology, citing freedom of speech and editorial independence. Although neither of those justifies the US newspaper's shameful article.
The article shows that so-called freedom of speech has become a fig leaf for shameful manipulation of public sentiment in the games of capital. These are ugly times, and the arrogance and bias harbored by the management of The Wall Street Journal has added fuel to the already poisonous anti-China political atmosphere in the US.
The explicit racism toward the Chinese shows we still have much to do to accept the fact that we belong to one human family that shares the same home.