The Hidden Symptoms Of Coronavirus – Why Rising Anti-Chinese Sentiment Is A Far Deadlier Outbreak

By now, most people have heard of the coronavirus, COVID-19. With over 11, 000 people dead and nearly 150,000 people still struggling with symptoms, this pandemic is surely one that will be remembered for generations to come. But how much do we actually know about this infamous disease and what hidden effects might it have on the world and human society at large?

According to the World Health Organization, some common signs of the illness are breathlessness, fever and coughing. One symptom that cannot possibly be identified by the WHO but that Chinese people all over the world, no doubt, can attest to is the heightening of anti-Chinese sentiment. While some are quick to label these sentiments “anti-Asian,” the presence, in prominent Asian cities such as Seoul, of signs outside restaurants specifically barring Chinese people from entry or refusing to serve anyone of Chinese heritage proves otherwise. Across Europe and the rest of the world, the situation isn’t any better and might actually be much worse. In the United Kingdom, for example, in the space of one week, there have been soaring rates of coronavirus-related abuse across cities such as Cardiff, Glasgow, London and many others – leaving the nearly half-a-million Chinese people in the nation horrified.

According to Sky News, one close-knit Chinese community in Birmingham received targeted hate messages online saying they deserved the virus because they were “disgusting.” If these sentiments were recent developments, then some could try, though controversially, to argue that they are the result of the panic and paranoia that came with the pandemic. This is not the case, however, and anyone who tries to use this as a defence of this blatant racism is only propagating the problem further.

Anti-Chinese sentiments are sadly not new in the history of humanity. If we take the United States – the leader of the free world – for example, we can see just how serious this problem is. One cannot study the history of the U.S. without uncovering anti-Chinese thoughts so deeply rooted and accepted that they became laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Even before 1882, racial prejudices such as the idea of Chinese people being “uncivilized” were rampant all across Europe. In the 1900s, the rise of communism in China further spurred these appalling beliefs as propaganda fuelled the fears of people in Europe and the Americas. Today, China’s strong position in the global economy also threatens many. Therefore, it isn’t implausible to conclude that the COVID-19 outbreak simply presented an opportunity for hate-filled individuals – such as those, according to The Sun, proposing ideas to “nuke” China – to spread their malice.

Instead of just observing these sentiments, we must analyze their underlying causes in an attempt to rid humanity of its sinophobic tendencies that have gone on for far too long. If we delay, we might miss our chance and have no one to blame but ourselves if these malicious thoughts spread into the coming generations as well as ours. By encouraging people to see problems as they really are and be well informed before they share their opinions or take action, we can ensure that Chinese students, such as Robbie Zhang, are not racially abused on the streets. Better policing of social media sites could also be key to preventing the spread of hate as children and young people are especially susceptible to their influence. According to The Sun, in Ontario, Canada, school children chased and bullied a young half-Chinese boy to the point where he was frightened and drenched in tears.

If we are to console that young boy – and many others like him, if we are to convince dismayed university students like Lucy Zhu who have witnessed friends turn against them in the space of a few days, then we have to stand together and spread ideas of cosmopolitanism and fairness faster than they can spread their hatred. One tool that could be invaluable in this fight is social media and anyone, anywhere, can emulate those who, with the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus, stood in solidarity with abused Asians in France. We stand now to prevent the outbreak of an even deadlier malady – one of ignorance and prejudice.

Zoe Mebude-Steves
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