Written by Regina Tan

Anti-Chinese Sentiments Hit the Shores

As the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus continues to chart, stricter measures have been imposed worldwide to stem the growing epidemic. Governments have tightened their borders, and many schools have imposed systems of quarantine. Additionally, the underlying fear behind these necessary protective measures has given way to blatant discrimination and racial profiling in some places. 

In the Philippines, all Chinese students at Adamson University were told to stop attending classes until further notice. A French newspaper’s headline “New Yellow Peril” drew flak for its ignorant and offensive language. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross publicly gloated over the potential acceleration of “the return of jobs from China to US” in an interview.

While the rise of anti-Chinese sentiments was also seen during the SARS outbreak of 2003, observers believe that recent geo-political tensions that accompanied the rise of China have fanned the bigotry towards the people of China.  


Global Cooperation Put to the Test

Many have expressed worries that the growing social polarisation is affecting efforts to stop the virus. There are fears that the strands of xenophobia could escalate into more potent forms of racism. 

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore has criticised xenophobic attitudes, stating that illustrating the coronavirus as a Chinese problem was like “dealing the problem with a sledgehammer, implicating all Chinese nationals rather than dealing with food safety practices and diets”.

This was echoed by a school board in Canada, which cautioned the community against seeing the virus as a “Chinese virus”, and encouraged the students to stand against xenophobia and focus on fighting the virus.

Singapore’s Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung has expressed the need for empathy, encouraging Singaporeans to put themselves in the shoes of the Chinese and “not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.”

Whether this crisis will further fuel anti-globalisation sentiments or become a potential exemplar of successful international cooperation remains to be determined. 

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