The National Pulse
colonization
Ebola Response workers stand outside the Chinese Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Monrovia, Liberia, during a ceremony as Liberia's last Ebola patient was released on 5 March 2015. Monrovia, Liberia, on 5 March 2015 Photo: UNMEER/Simon Ruf

What’s More Racist: ‘Chinese Virus’ or the CCP’s Colonization of Africa?

Rep. Judy Chu (D-California) recently told CNN that it is ‘dangerous’ for the President to refer to Covid-19 as the ‘Chinese Virus’.

“He is creating more xenophobia every single time he does that. And we can see the results in what’s happening to Asian Americans across the country.”

A recent BBC article examined how the ‘virus of prejudice’ is manifesting in the nation of Kenya. It cited several recent examples, such as a viral video of an Asian man and woman being bullied by a large crowd in the capital of Nairobi.

The BBC explains such prejudice is rooted in the economic relationship between the two countries: “Kenya has borrowed a large amount of money from China for big infrastructure projects. While the ordinary Kenyan is not feeling the benefit, they are looking for someone to blame for their economic woes”.

This interpretation completely misses the forest for the trees.

The forest, in this case, is the enduring criticism that China has long been engaging in “new colonialism” with respect to Africa. But isn’t colonialism supposed to be considered racist?

The Communist Party of China first began planting its proverbial seeds in Africa shortly after its rise to power in 1949. It lobbied African nations extensively to recognize its government and soon began building infrastructure across the continent in return.

The hidden reason for this, according to Forbes, was the power vacuum that remained after Western colonial powers began to wane. The continent “was still the same stockpile of natural resources its always been”, thus China wasted no time in “laying the political and economic inroads” in order to position itself for the future.

Ironically, even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of this new colonialism of Africa by China.

“We saw that during colonial times it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” said Clinton in 2011.

But what began as political partnerships and infrastructure projects has led to recurring accusations of “debt trap diplomacy”.

Essentially, China has become a global creditor, secretly lending to other countries who end up saddled with hidden debt.

This can result in being forced to “sign over national territory or make steep concessions if they can’t meet liabilities”.

Kenya itself provides a glaring example of debt trap diplomacy. In 2019, it faced pressure to forfeit its “lucrative Port of Mombasa to Chinese companies” as a result of unpaid debt.

Perhaps this has something to do with the BBC’s claim that the “ordinary Kenyan” is “looking for someone to blame for their economic woes”. Perhaps any backlash is more of a reflection of China’s exploitation of Kenya than fear of Covid-19?

With respect to Kenya, what is more racist: local taxi drivers not picking up Chinese nationals; or, the government of China colonizing Africa?

Furthermore, what shows greater prejudice: President Trump acknowledging the outbreak originated in Wuhan, China; or, the government of China suppressing information about the outbreak and jeopardizing the health of people around the world?

The media’s overuse of the term ‘racism’ gives the public a distorted view of current events. This can be seen in CNN’s narrative that calling COVID-19 a “Chinese Virus” has catalyzed an uptick in xenophobia against people of Asian descent.

What this fails to account for, however, is the Chinese Communist Party’s role in the current pandemic. It did indeed cover up the outbreak at the time of its genesis.

As a result, the CCP put billions of people at risk. This includes Asian-Americans. It includes Kenyans. In fact, it includes any combination of intersectional subgroups that one could possibly conceive.

Perhaps the Chinese Communist Party should be the one defending itself against allegations of racism.

Craig Lindsey

Craig Lindsey is a 2020 National Pulse Writing Fellow