One interesting thing about this whole debate is that people seem very fixated on the concept that being anti-China translates into anti-Asian American. There certainly may be backlash (plenty of Koreans went to internment camps during WWII), but most Asian countries are super hawkish on China (eg https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/poll-most-south-koreans-are-wary-china-175989 ). Probably because the grandparents that Nina Luo referred to were soldiers in the army (or contemporaries of soldiers in the army) that threatened Korea and other Asian countries in the 50s and 60s.

To the extent I get angry about incorrect discourse, it's when Chinese Americans claim to speak for all Asian Americans...

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One thing that would help a lot is simply to talk about "CCP" or "Chinese government" human right abuse and cover up of the COVID-19 outbreak, not "Chinese," "Israeli government" policy of allowing settlements in the Occupied Territories instead of "Israeli" policy. Of course the CCP and the parties forming the Israeli government WANT everyone living in those countries to support government policies. Our rhetoric should not assume much less promote their success.

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Criticizing China (for good reasons like human rights abuses or bad reasons like ‘Kung Flu!’) may have spillover into creating prejudice against Asian Americans as a whole, particularly the large population of Chinese people who come to the country as graduate students, high skilled workers, or both.

This is obviously, a bad thing. Yet I agree with Matt that it’s unavoidable if you want to have serious conversations about the wrongdoing of nations.

Nevertheless I have never encountered an immigrant graduate student, professor, or high skilled worker from any country who moved here thinking that there would be no bigotry. It’s something that is kind of known negative about the United States. It’s also, not really that easy to remove. What some young activists have gotten so right about this new push for equity is the idea of removing “systemic” barriers to equity.

If we want to make life in America better for recent Chinese immigrants/visa holders, then look at what can be done tangibly to remove systemic barriers that they face. These people deal with what is essentially a nightmare of alphabet soup in terms of getting a student visa, getting a temporary work visa, a permanent work visa, then like forever later a green card.

This makes them take grunt coder/quant jobs long after most have been promoted. They work long hours, and are overly dependent on their employers just to stay in the country.

When they finally make it, if they wish to use their high stable salary to move their parents closer to take care of them in their elder years, this is once again very difficult.

Look more closely at stuff like this. It will go a lot further to help Chinese people in this country than chasing down someone who said “Kung Flu” while drunk.

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>>>based on the (to the best of my knowledge, false) idea that bat-eating is some incredibly widespread Chinese practice<<<

I believe Matt is correct here. It's incredibly rare, I'm pretty sure. I've never seen it on a menu, and I've been all over this country. I've never even heard of people eating bat.* I'd bet my life bats are occasionally used as a food source *somewhere* in China (it's a big country!), but that's true of literally dozens of nations: bats have been an important source of meat for humans forever.

*I've never lived in a Western-bubble here, and thus haven't been spared exposure to some of the more exotic-seeming protein sources. I'm personally eaten wild boar, donkey, frog, snake, bamboo rat and (I was punked, and didn't know I was eating it!) dog in my near decade in China. I really do believe I'd have encountered bat by now were it a common foodstuff.

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The idea of unconscious bias is described as a “mindbug” in the book Blindspot. While the psychological phenomenon they’re describing is real, I can’t help but think the *idea* of unconscious bias in *others* is the more pernicious mindbug. It has totally warped our ability to interpret someone else’s claims or ideas on the merits, and instead motivates a certain set to be constantly on the lookout for evidence of other people’s latent bigotry.

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All sound points, but worth a reminder that some criticism of Israel involves delegitimization of Israel, which in my view is antisemitic. There is no "China isn't a county; it's a settler-colonial entity" comic circulating on Instagram.

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>>>If we give visas to people who’d like to depart post-democratic Hong Kong, many of them will take us up on that offer.<<<

As I'm sure some of you heard, this idea was floated on Capitol Hill and and true stand up guy and heroic opponent of Communism Ted Cruz shot it down.

A real profile in courage, that Senator Cruz.

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Matt, of course, is right that's the there's nothing intrinsically racist (in the least) about criticism of the actions of the government of the PRC. I do think it bears mentioning, though (not that there's much that can be done about it) that, flowing from white privilege in the US is the notion that some people are "visible" minorities. Americans of Russian heritage, for instance, never came in for much abuse during the Cold War. German-Americans caught some grief during the First World War, but they weren't interned, and during WW2 as far as I know their ethnicity was barely a thing. (I mean, Eisenhower was German-American!). Something very different was experienced by Americans of Japanese heritage. Anyway, this is a long-winded way of getting up to my main point, which is: Chinese-Americans (and Asian Americans in general and Asian residents of the US who aren't citizens yet) probably are pretty vulnerable to various kinds of ugliness because of their non-whiteness. I'm glad the current administration in Washington seems sensitive to these concerns. The previous administration appeared to think lack of sensitivity on this score was a net vote gainer for them.

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Some China issues are pretty one-sided, but the lab-leak virus possibilities bring the extra difficulty that the Wuhan researchers are well-integrated with American colleagues, and have received NIH and other American assistance and funding. Several of our famous names are involved. So if we discover that millions of deaths and trillions of lost income are the results of a little scientific hubris, we're in it together. And, although this shades into conspiracy stuff, the line between biowarfare at Camp Detrick and medical science at NIH has never been entirely clear. This will have to be unpacked with great care, which is probably why Biden asked the intelligence agencies to be responsible for the unpacking.

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To start off with, I'm just going to shill and say that this is an excellent piece.

There is a lot to unpack here, but beyond any specific policy positions on China, Israel or whatever else, the injunction to ignore the intent behind any argument does not help the discourse move forward in a productive fashion; intent is important, and differentiating between good faith arguments and bad faith ones makes it easier to differentiate between good arguments and bad ones.

Liberals like me are probably more prone to falling into this trap, which leads to self-censorship or hypocritical-seeming positions on things like far from progressive religions ideals and practices.

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Thanks once again for a well-informed voice of sanity. I hadn't known about the goofy WHO disease naming rules. Most of the rest is unsurprising if sad; thanks for putting it all together.

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Agree governments should be criticized for bad actions and that doing so is not racist but disagree that Trump bears no responsibility for antiAsian attacks. He did not focus his criticism on the Chinese government- he repeatedly threw out taunts directed at Chinese people, signaling to all the bullies that it was okay to attack that group. Like January 6, he stirred up hate among the weak minded and then pointed them in the direction he wanted. That’s how he works.

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“American Nationalism isn’t Racism.”

Many of thorns are hidden here. MY gets to this position because 1) he wants America to pursue its national interest and 2) he can’t admit to being racist. (These days, anyone who doesn’t want to get cancelled must pretend that racism is binary and all racism is bad. MY would totally get slammed on Twitter if he admitted racism is a spectrum and that he doesn’t care to sit near the non-racist poll because he likes markets, academic and professional competition, and order). Accordingly, MY denies that there is an American race so he can have it both ways.

Unfortunately, this ignores a lot of history.

Through the 1980s, almost all American political, military, and foreign policy elites were white. The boundary of whiteness is fuzzy and has expanded over the years to include not only Wasps, but those of Irish, Polish, Italian and Jewish extraction. It is expanding today to include many Latinos and Asians. Edge cases include Barack Obama and even Kamala Harris.

Whiteness has explanatory power. It explains the ethnic cleansing of native Americans on the frontier, the internment of Japanese (but not German) Americans during world war two, most of post-reconstruction Southern politics, and the stark polarization of the electorate after Obama’s election. Collective effort to perpetuate a hierarchy between white and non-white (and to tweak these categories in convenient ways) is a core theme in American politics.

It is naive to say that this continuity has ended merely because we have had a mixed race president and vice president. Race still explains a lot. Most voters, not just a handful of deplorables, view the world in somewhat racist terms. The logic of nationalism can inspire racist whites to cheer for black athletes because they are American. It can inspire racist whites to laud the sacrifices of black GIs (while hating “those people). Nationalism is not strictly or necessarily racist. However, the correlation between nationalism and racism is pretty strong, strong enough that those who preach nationalism should admit that their policies will activate and enable racists. The question is to what degree.

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Nationalism isn't necessarily racist but most racists are nationalists.

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I think the background issue, and one that Matt has discussed at length before, is the totalizing force of racial concerns in the US. I don't have a tally, but it seems like most issues get sucked into the racism/anti-racism conversation and can never fully escape. Then we have levels and levels of conversations about the conversations.

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I want to add an anecdote from my DC NGO job perspective. Some think tanks and NGOs are in a mini arms race to copyright language around growing tension with China. Sharp power, corrosive capital, malign influence, etc. They're trying to control the IP and branding for what they see as a long term funding opportunity.

Through my little window, I see management (usually people with some life experience during the cold war) tending to want to use slightly more inflammatory language and frame these terms around china specifically. I also see the younger employees at orgs, often the people who will have to do the bulk of the work on drafting reports etc, using the leverage they have to soften the terms and make them focused of authoritarian governments generally. Management had usually conceded and defined the terms more generally. At least one former colleague quit the industry over this issue though.

It all makes me a bit leery about this sense of building tension and cynical about the small skirmishes over branding. NGOs sense that there's a carrot waiting for them if they start to produce reports that use language that rachets up tension rather than describes reality in clear terms.

None of this is to say that China has played nice, but I'm just feeling angst over the language.

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