(Left Leaning Contributor)
We are on a collision course with China. With Chinese leader Xi Jinping telling soldiers to “prepare for war” and ordering bomber planes to infringe on Taiwan’s airspace, it is obvious that China is preparing to greatly expand its influence and territory in the coming years. These aspirational goals have already led to the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, the imprisonment of Uighur Muslims, and excessive pollution, which has placed the communist regime at direct odds with the United States. American opposition is best exemplified in a recent poll from the Pew Research center, which shows 77% of Americans holding a negative view on China. I personally believe that I belong to that 77%. I don’t like the Communist Party of China at all and I wholeheartedly agree with the criticisms of the Chinese government. However, I am a Chinese American and growing tensions with China have been a direct factor in recent waves of violence against Asian Americans especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
The inability of Americans to discern between their own citizens and the Chinese government is becoming a grim reality as people begin to translate their hate and fear for the Chinese Communist Party into violence against members of the Asian American community. If hate crimes were the results of increasingly heated tensions, public figures have fueled these flames with their rhetoric and their unwillingness to condemn these crimes. Trump’s insistence in labeling COVID-19 as the “China Virus” and 164 members of Congress voting against the condemnation of anti-Asian sentiment has given perpetrators the acceptance they need to continue their hatred. As we move into a new administration, the safety of the Asian American community is on the line when it comes to the future policies regarding the emerging superpower.
A Lesson Learned?
The buildup of racism against Asian Americans during the gradual rise of an expansionist superpower in the East is reminiscent of the situation regarding Imperial Japan leading up to World War 2. Japanese espionage was the specter of the time, and Western countries were extremely wary of any Japanese population within their colonies. During the war, the American government could not separate American citizens from their Axis counterparts, and thousands of Japanese Americans were rounded up in internment camps and imprisoned purely because of their ethnicity. While people may brush off Executive Order 9066 as a figment of the past, I truly believe that we must confront the delineation between Asian Americans and the Republic of China in our future policies, or we risk another racial internment crisis. In the 21st century, this may take the form of extreme sting operations and surveillance as seen in various cases of Muslims being pursued throughout the War on Terror.
According to Human Rights Watch, of the 500 terrorism charges against Muslims, 50% are based on sting operations and 30% of those sting operations had the informant actively plotting with individuals. While I am not excusing terrorism, I am extremely wary of a government that is willing to utilize sting operations to target individuals with mental disabilities in order to bring the illusion of progress against terrorist organizations. The usage of questionable methods to pump up statistics against a foreign enemy can be a reality with the current bipartisan consensus on China being increasingly visceral. Even outside the governmental sphere, hate crimes have risen at a staggering rate with the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate reporting 2,583 crimes in total, with 233 of these being violent instances.
The enemy of World War 2 was Imperial Japan and fascism. The enemy of the War of Terror was Al-Qaeda and terrorism. With Japanese Americans and Muslims suffering because of an enemy so far removed from their lives, have we learned our lesson as we begin to face our new enemy in the East?
The historical parallel between the Chinese Communist state and the Empire of Japan departs into unknown territory because of anti-Asian sentiment reaching an inconvenient conjunction of Chinese espionage. While Japanese espionage efforts preceding World War 2 were heavily exaggerated, Chinese governmental organizations such as the United Front Work Department have the exclusive intention of influencing members of the Chinese diaspora to be more receptive to Chinese Communist ideas and goals. For example, the United Front Work Department already has an international organization with 200 chapters in 90 countries that is meant to encourage the reunification of Taiwan. Within American universities, the United Front Work Department has established Confucius Institutes in 44 states, which have been criticized for infringing on academic freedom and restricting events that are deemed controversial by the Chinese government. Most recently, a bill was introduced in the Senate that specifically targeted the UFWD through sanctions, but the American government must do more to cut off this parasitic relationship in American society. By allowing these organizations to continue to thrive and with Chinese Americans continually labeled as a representative of China and violently assaulted, they will be much more receptive to Chinese propaganda efforts that promises a sense of community and safety that they won’t be able to find in the United States. Xenophobia acts as a dual-pronged evil in this situation because of how it marginalizes Asian communities while also empowering Chinese efforts to influence Americans.
New Administration, New Direction?
China is a 21st century threat that will dominate the United State’s foreign policy strategy for the foreseeable future. However, to face this growing problem, the American government can not resort to associating all Chinese people to the Chinese government, but rather must form a strategy that considers the safety of Asian Americans. With anti-Asian attitudes reaching volatile levels, public figures must defend their citizens and wholeheartedly disavow hate crimes.
Our previous World War against Japan and our ongoing war with terrorism has shown the ramifications of not separating our enemies from our citizens, and we are at a turning point where we must face that same decision now. Pursuing an evidence-based approach on suspected spies, eliminating influence organizations, and disavowing anti-Asian hate crimes should be the start of promoting a strategy that both promotes the safety of Asian Americans while opposing the Chinese state. While Biden may not be as harsh as Trump when it comes to his stance on China, his team is already presenting a similarly tough outlook on Beijing.
To President Biden, I say this: let us not repeat our past mistakes and instead, craft a reasonable and inclusive policy to face our common opponent. As the old saying goes,“United we stand, divided we fall.”