Thijs Jan van Aalst
New low in the relationship between China and the United States: after the visit of the Taiwanese president to the US, China imposes sanctions on US institutions. Meanwhile, US politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have become increasingly clear that they see China as their biggest rival.
The words they use are as harsh as the proposed measures, which also directly affect the Chinese in the US. They fear that discrimination will increase.
My parents just fled China. And now we are still seen as second class citizens in America.
The fear that the Chinese Communist Party will gain more and more influence in the United States is great for many politicians. Those fears, from espionage to propaganda, were recently discussed at length in a parliamentary committee investigating competition with the CCP. “This is a fight about our survival, about what the world will be like in the 21st century,” the committee chairman said.
TikTok and spy balloon
Several politicians take every opportunity to attack the Chinese government. For example, the CEO of TikTok was questioned during a hearing in late March about the Chinese government’s access to private American data through the app. Congressman Buddy Carter said that “China is waging psychological warfare through TikTok to influence American children.” And when a Chinese spy balloon took over the country for a week in late January, prominent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio immediately saw it as “a message that the Chinese believe the once-glorious world power America is crumbling.” .
The Chinese government claims that the United States is seeking hostility. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said in early March that the US government would do well to change course: “If the US does not apply the brakes, no guardrail will be strong enough to cause a catastrophic accident.”
The aggressive tone of the Americans only adds fuel to the Chinese fire, several experts warn. “It is very disappointing that members of Congress are using isolated incidents like this to launch all sorts of nebulous attacks on the Chinese government,” said Steven Lewis, a China researcher at Rice University in Houston.
Lewis teaches a lot of Chinese-American students and sees another suspicion among them about why they’re being fierce: “I can see them thinking: Are they going to hit that TikTok CEO so hard because he’s the boss of the company or because he looks Chinese?”
No more studies in Texas
Asian Americans are feeling the consequences of the tough tone in politics. Several laws have been proposed in Texas aimed at combating Chinese espionage. Immigrant Chinese are only allowed to buy land if they are also going to live there, and then they must tell the seller that they are Chinese.
Nor would they be allowed to come to the state to study. The same restrictions should apply to North Koreans, Iranians and Russians.
Those restrictions go against American norms and values, says state Congressman Gene Wu. He represents a district in the Texan city of Houston with one of the largest Chinatowns in the US. According to him, Chinese immigrants in the area fear that they will now be disenfranchised by those who came to the United States: ” Having the freedom to buy land is the definition of the ‘American dream.’ We are proud, loyal Americans. We love this country, that’s why we came here.”
With each accusation against China in recent years, Wu has seen violence against Chinese-looking people rise with each accusation against China: “Asians in this country have been living with racist attacks for 200 years. That exploded during the pandemic, when People started saying that the Chinese government had spread the virus on purpose.” According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the number of hate crimes against Asians in the US has increased six-fold during the pandemic.
Politicians should finally distinguish between the Chinese government and the Chinese themselves, Wu believes: “Look at my own family. My parents just fled China and it took us years to become real Americans. And now we’re all still seen as second best.” class citizens. I only ask that they treat me fairly.