I don’t really know how to end this because it’s far from over.
This series has energized me but also exhausted me. In some ways, it has proved an educational distraction because I can dive into history and politics with a sense of distance. I feel energized to write about the economics of China and the plans they intend to pursue and the history of the US largely I have no control over them.
But then it transitioned to the hate crimes that have happened to Chinese people, the ever-present government sanctioned racism my people have faced, and the legacy of those racist acts. And that started to drain me. I apologize if Part IV wasn’t as good of quality as my previous posts.
And now I’m at the end of my series and I know I have to wrap it up somehow and I want to do it with a pretty bow but I can’t.
In this last part, I want to generally predict what Sinophobia might look like in the coming years. In part, it will allow me space to process and prepare for what may come. And for you, my largely white audience, hopefully, you can be informed of these origin points and protest them if they come.
“Do not fear the future: it will be different, in some respects, it may be worse, in many others it may be much better. Bear in mind too, that there is not much liberal, and nothing that is democratic, about the American world order, or the European one before, which was in fact much worse. In both cases, a small minority of humanity in effect ruled the world. Internationally, the age of the West has been highly authoritarian.” – Martin Jacques
What will racism look like when it comes?
First, we need to identify what are the “threats” Chinese people will pose. State-sponsored racism needs a threat to justify their actions and therefore the Sinophobia that surfaces will likely stem from supposed threats. I should remind you that Chinese people will most likely not actually pose any threat to the West but will be used as a scapegoat.
In Canada, Chinese people are seen as overtaking the city and driving up housing costs. They are seen as wealthy immoral people who are un-Canadian. They are “threatening” the housing market, the livability of the cities, and the white wealth class. I can see this happening in the US too, mostly on the Pacific West coast.
Graham Allison in Destined for War predicted that a war with China might involve cybersecurity and hacking from each nation. I can see the large population of Chinese Americans in Silicon Valley starting to be propagandized as a “threat” to cybersecurity if that’s where the warfare starts taking place. In 2011, NASA released a Chinese exclusion policy that banned NASA from working bilaterally with Chinese citizens because they posed a security concern. China was also banned from being able to board the International Space Station.
There is also the “threat” in the college sphere. I got a taste of the “threat” when I was in college. I heard and saw a lot of comments from white people saying there were “too many Chinese” at the school and that they should be replaced for more desirable people.
This thinking of “too many Asians” is heavily prevalent in the elite college system. In the elite college system like Harvard, they are seen to use personability factors to not admit more Asian applicants. In the elite college system, Asian applicants have to score 140 points more on the SAT than their white counterparts for equal consideration. It’s presumed that the elite colleges like Harvard don’t want their school to be overrun with Asians, even if they are very qualified, because Harvard wants to keep their image as an elite school based on white wealth.
This “too many Chinese” threat may start to be applied to recent immigrants since Asian Americans, and specifically, Chinese people, make up most of the new immigrant population. A lot of the rhetoric that is currently aimed at Latinx immigrants might start being applied to Asian immigrants. In some cases, like with the term “anchor babies,” anti-immigrant rhetoric is already being focused on Asians.
Depending on what China the government does in this war, Chinese people may start to be labeled terrorists. There is this part of me that believes it would have to be a very extreme action or extreme manipulating from the US to make that label fit Chinese people. However, Trump labeled the Philippines a terrorist nation assumedly because of their corruption. How much manipulation would it take to convey China as a terrorist nation? They are already communist which is already said with disdain in the US. There is corruption that happens and it is authoritarian. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say the US may just be waiting for a strike from China to bring out the “terrorist” label.
One of the harder things for Chinese Americans in the US will be struggling against the stereotyping of the monolith. By that, I think the US will increase their characterizations of Chinese people as cold, suspicious, corrupt, and all the other negative stereotypes already associated with Chinese people.
However, in perpetuating these negative stereotypes, they will fail to differentiate between Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans. Therefore, I think Chinese Americans will find ourselves constantly having to assert that we are Chinese American which is different to Chinese nationals.
This wouldn’t be new though. That is very much a part of the “perpetual foreigner” experience. We are always seen as foreign, always associated with Chinese nationals and China, and all their actions we are somehow responsible for. We are seen as being Chinese and foreign, not American and a citizen.
The difference between what happens currently and what could happen in the future is that the associations will be much more vicious. They, meaning white America, will say we are at fault for what China has done to the US (e.g. Vincent Chin and Jim Loo) and therefore must pay. Maybe pay for it with our life, sadly that is not an extreme prediction. Maybe we will be assumed a threat as the Japanese Americans were and put under extreme scrutiny and discrimination as Muslim Americans are now. If there’s anything history tells me, we, Chinese Americans, will get the brunt of racism.
Policies and Acts
This is where I can’t really predict what will happen.
With Islamophobia, which is still going on, there have been moves to deny civil rights, lessen privacy, and target Muslims. Part of me says the Sinophobia that will happen won’t be as extreme as Islamophobia. But if anything, that’s the more irrational line of thought considering the US’s history and considering just how powerful China is.
Moreover, the threat of China isn’t just fictionalized “terrorism” or more accurately, oil reserves, but they are threatening the US’s entire global hegemony. The threat China poses to the US’s power can be seen as one of the largest threats to not just the US, but the West in recent history. That would lead me to think things could get more extreme. And the US has shown that they are capable of devastating racism when “necessary.”
I can’t predict what government-sanctioned racism may happen in the future. Maybe it will involve citizenship and a legal taking away of civil rights. There will most likely be many hate crimes will go un-redressed. But the part of me that is truly scared of the US doesn’t want to think about what lengths they will go to fuel the war with China.
I don’t really know what the next coming years will look like. I can make an educated guess based on far more intelligent and well-read political analysts. I can make predictions based on the history of the US and political and race formation theory that I’ve read. All would make me believe that some form of war is coming, some struggle for power will ensure, and a wave of racism towards Chinese people will rise up again.
And actually, I think the wave of racism has already started. It hasn’t broken the surface yet, but there are strong undercurrents of tensions and animosity towards Chinese people across the West. It’s why my Asian friend was spat on in London, it’s why I’ve been called chink before, and it’s why hate crimes against Asian Americans are currently rising.
All that I feel I can conclude this series with is uncertainty. I’m uncertain what will happen in the future. I’m uncertain what the US government will do and what white America will do.
But with all this doom and gloom, I hope the US turns a page. I hope the power grabs don’t culminate in war and racist attacks. Most of all, I hope that the American people will see what is just, fair, and empathetic. I think we’re getting there, the people I mean. I’m proud of my friends of color, the upcoming generation, and the global progressive movements standing up to their governments.
And while I can do all these prophesizing about what maybe will happen to Chinese American, that doesn’t change the immense racism happening right now for Muslim Americans, Latinx people, and Black folks.
While I’m keeping an eye out for new developments between China and the US and am wary of an oncoming surge of Sinophobia I know that’s not the issue at hand now. If you would speak up and protest a rise in Sinophobia in the future, you should be speaking up now for all the brown and Black people who are facing that today.