China: Exploiting False Accusations of Racism

When confronted, China frequently accuses its critics of racism. Last month, for example, Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters in retribution for an opinion column titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.” China Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, declared the headline “astonishingly racist”—despite the fact the term “sick man” is routinely used idiomatically to describe countries facing economic challenges, and isn’t connected to the Coronavirus outbreak.

In January, the Chinese embassy in Denmark demanded an apology after a Danish newspaper printed a cartoon related to the Coronavirus outbreak: a Chinese flag with virus icons where the stars should be. Embassy staff stated flatly that the cartoon “is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.” In 2018, similarly, China’s ambassador in Ottawa said Canada’s arrest of a politically connected Chinese tech executive was motivated by “white supremacy.” (Beijing then retaliated by arresting two Canadians in China.)

To be clear, the Coronavirus outbreak truly has led to some racist attacks on Chinese people (and other Asians) around the world. The specter of an epidemic often brings out the worst in us. And even in the best of times, xenophobes need little provocation to rail against foreigners. Such prejudice is unacceptable, and should be condemned.

Yet we must also be aware that the Chinese government has learned to weaponize our own progressive tendencies, and has learned to exploit false accusations of racism against democratic societies. Ironically, this same Chinese regime encourages racism and xenophobia domestically. 

Government-controlled Chinese media routinely stirs up nationalist hostilities. And Chinese television frequently plays on racial stereotypes. China’s biggest Lunar New Year television show, with an audience in the hundreds of millions, in 2018 featured skits with a black man playing a monkey and a woman in blackface with a huge posterior. In one 2016 ad for laundry detergent, a Chinese woman stuffed a detergent pod into a black man’s mouth and shoved him into a washing machine. Out popped a pale-skinned Chinese man. 

In 2017, during one of its recurrent border disputes with India, China’s largest press agency, Xinhua News, released a video starring an exaggerated Indian caricature to parody China’s adversaries. And an anchor on Chinese Central Television (CCTV) said on air in 2012 that China needs to “clean out foreign trash, wipe out foreign snake heads, root out foreign spies, kick out foreign shrews, and to make those who demonize China shut up and fuck off.”

The Global Times, a state media outlet, is well known for inflammatory, offensive editorials about foreign countries. One declared that should Australia continue flights over the South China Sea “it would be a shame if one day a plane fell from the sky and it happened to be Australian.”

Chinese social media are hardly more polite. In late February, the Chinese government published draft rules to make it easier for foreigners to obtain permanent residency in China. The proposed regulations stirred a huge backlash on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. On Twitter itself (which is formally blocked in China), Chinese opposition expressed itself in forceful and profane terms such as “foreign trash” (often specifically aimed at Muslims), “white pigs” and the n-word.

China has been pursuing an ambitious trade and infrastructure program all over the world, especially in Africa. In Kenya, so many accusations of deliberate racism, segregation, and abuse by Chinese workers and companies were reported that the Kenyan Ministry of Labor started an official probe. In 2015, China kidnapped and jailed a Swedish bookseller for “illegal business operations” because he sold publications Beijing disapproved of. He was sentenced last month to 10 years for “illegally providing intelligence overseas,” in spite of a lack of evidence. In response to Sweden’s ongoing protests of the situation, China’s ambassador in Stockholm threatened that “we treat our friends with fine wine but for our enemies we have shotguns.” 

It is important that Western governments and citizens take a stand against anti-Chinese xenophobia. But the West also should be careful to ensure that accusations of intolerance are not merely a smokescreen put up by Beijing’s hypocritical authoritarians. 

Thomas Brown is a history teacher and freelance writer. He writes for the Swamp and his work on China has been featured in Quillette, Spiked, the Bipartisan Press, Human Events, and others. Block him on Twitter.


  1. Block him on Twitter.

    Now that was funny.

  2. China sucks.

    Stay safe everyone. Wash your hands. Let’s hope Kung Flu season ends soon.

  3. As seen elsewhere: If we wanted to be racist, we’d be calling it Ching Chong Chow’s disease, not Wuhan flu. Wuhan flu is an absolutely harmless name for it.

  4. This is a good article that raises some valid points regarding the typical machinations used by the PRC (aka: CCP).
    Even before all that much was generally publicly known about the virus itself, the usual leftist MSM actors were in overdrive pumping out articles in their typical holier than thou fashion to preemptively chastise and denounce ‘whitey’ (alone) for using the source location of the outbreak as an excuse to unleash his naturally inherent racist tendencies. It was all quite sickening but wholly to be expected, much like one expects the yearly onset of the reoccurring flu season.
    I swear that most of the writers of these “only ‘whitey’ is racist and here’s more proof” articles simply input a few of the current event’s details into their own little piece of the collective SoJu hive mind, then internally switch to drone rote mode, and then crank out their forthcoming enlightening article while in a blissful fugue state.
    These same panders to/propagandists of the cult of the woke for some reason ( :roll_eyes: ) very rarely ever show the flip side of the racism paradigm that they so inherently parrot , and in it’s own small way this article contributes some much needed pushback against their singularly laser targeted, singular race focused bigotry.
    It’s important to note that much of current Western leftist “politically correct” playbook was copied straight from the CCP’s propaganda literature, so it’s not all that surprising that their run-of-the-mill utterences align so smoothly with the ongoing enunciations coming from the PRC bureacrats and their spokespeople. And the more often that the mirror is held up to show them their own hypocracy, the better it will be for the uninformed observers who are outside of this ongoing culture war to also see the blatant hypocracy of the various leftist ideologies that are attempting to achieve mainstream acceptance in Western society.

    "But the West also should be careful to ensure that accusations of intolerance are not merely a smokescreen put up by Beijing’s hypocritical authoritarians. "

    Yes, indeed.

  5. They do seem to have our number with that “baizuo” thing.

  6. @HangNail, please point to the 'racism." Or are you confusing criticism of the communist china government with ‘racism’? Do you condone their brutally repressive and dysfunctional response to the virus or are we not allowed to criticize that because Racism?

    Define ‘racism.’ Then at least I’ll know what you mean when you hurl that accusation at readers here.

  7. You know what else is racist, putting hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in re-education camps. Wait, that’s even Islamaphobic too!

  8. Spanish Flu
    Rocky Mountain Fever
    Lyme Disease

    Three examples of the common practice of naming disease by reference to geography. No one ever imagined it to be racist. Calling the current virus Wuhan or Chinese is not racist. These allegations are insane. Not to mention a needless distraction and complete waste of time.

  9. “And an anchor on Chinese Central Television (CCTV) said on air in 2012 that China needs to “clean out foreign trash, wipe out foreign snake heads, root out foreign spies, kick out foreign shrews, and to make those who demonize China shut up and fuck off.””

    I travel to China frequently, and let me say up front that I like the country and people, Many who I work with I consider good friends. That said, they do consider themselves the Master Race, and the rest of the world as uncultured barbarians. (maybe they’re right, they have been the world’s largest economy for 19 of the last 20 centuries) Travelling around the city, I often hear people around me using a phase that I understand means “pale demon”. Most people are polite if they have to deal with me, but otherwise I’m invisible. It’s just easier for them to not see me. It’s hard to forget that, 3 or 4 times in the last 150 years, China has flipped, sealed the borders, and killed all the foreigners… As a culture, they have no problem at all putting their welfare above the rest of the world’s.

  10. By sheer size, but not by per capita production.

  11. But the only reason Europeans “discovered” the Americas was the search for a shorter path to the goods China was producing


  12. But it does deflect from Chinese government tyrannical and incompetent handling of the virus, which is the point.

    I find it fascinating how “progressives” are so often the biggest defenders of the most brutal repressive regimes. You have incredibly brave individuals in.china literally risking their lives to inform the global community and all progressives can think is trump=bad and white= racism
    Its nauseatingly narcissistic.

  13. “We have a lot of racist people.”
    But not you. Why of course not!
    And not your friends or colleagues!
    And not anyone you admire!
    Just, vaguely, “people.”

  14. You mean Gwái () lóu (), or Gweilo?

    Far better than白左 báizuǒ or white left. This means roughly crazy and degenerate, in a derisive sense- at least gweilo carries a certain respect, although perhaps with the implication of faded glories, these days.

  15. False claims of racism like calling the Danish racist for the cartoon or calling Canadians white supremacists for the Huawei arrest. The individual actions of violent racists and xenophobes are just that, individual actions. Whereas the Chinese ambassador represents 1.5 billion people. If you can provide examples of some ambassador deliberately insulting their host nation, please do so. As far as I can tell, China is the sole superpower who acts with such churlishness. Even the Soviets stopped that in the 60s.

    It is not racist to accuse China of lying about the virus. It is not racist to refer to the virus as the Wuhan virus. It is kind of racist to host a blackface show. And if PBS or BBS was playing such stuff in 2020 you could say that was racist too, but they’re not. It’s pretty racist to shove a black man in the wash. It’s not racist to say Hong Kong protesters are not terrorists. China’s use of the word racist is, in almost every occasion, utterly without rational merit.

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

30 more replies


Comments have moved to our forum