Scapegoating China: it’s nothing new. From swine flu to SARS to world takeover, some folks (i.e. politicians gunning for a 2010 seat) like to point the finger overseas to the Yellow Peril (and often include Mexico and India), as described in this New York Times article on Sunday.
And it’s not just crazy people like Christine “I’m not a witch! I am YOU” O’Donnell — who has claimed that China has a “carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America,” — it’s also moderate Democrats like Senator Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
From the NYT article: Evan B. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, said that “China has sort of become a straw-man villain in this election”, which is being compared to the anger toward Japan in the 1980s over car manufacturing and Mexico in the 1990s over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The kind of anger that led two auto workers — looking for some Japanese to pummel — to beat Chinese American Vincent Chin to death in Detroit in 1982.
Over the past week, almost 30 campaign ads have been released that accuse their opponents of being sympathetic to China and causing American citizens to suffer. These ads also contain stereotypical images, complete with gong clangs and dragons, like this one for Ohio Democratic Congressman Zack Space:
Or Spike Maynard’s heavy usage of China’s flag and some ching-chongy music:
The dangerous impact of these campaign tactics is that some people have a hard time distinguishing between a country and it’s diaspora, between a demonized Chinese government and folks of Chinese descent in America. And frustrated by the lack of jobs and bombarded with racially-tinged imagery that is legitimized by the Glenn Becks of the world (new Media Matters report on how right-wing media provokes violence here) and other public figures — some of these people may be more likely to call someone a chink, a spic, or even swing a bat (Staten Island, anyone?).
Yes, the economy is in the shitter, and outsourcing jobs needs to be examined as a contributing problem (although the article points out that most of the jobs China has added in manufacturing through foreign investment had come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, not from the United States). But do we critique and reform the companies and trade policies that incentive overseas outsourcing via tax breaks, or do we just accept campaign messages that demonize China wholesale?
It seems politicians always need to target something or someone as a punching bag to drum up votes. Whether it’s Mosques in New York, immigrants in general, gays (i.e by NY gubernatorial candidate Repube Carl Paladino), or in this case — an entire country. It’s tired, it’s irresponsible, and it’s contemptible, and has real life consequences that can ultimately manifest as hate crimes. When will we stop blaming other people and hold our own government and corporations accountable for this massive shitpile they’ve gotten us into?