"Yellow Threat": Sinophobia and Coronavirus

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"Yellow Threat": Sinophobia and Coronavirus
"Yellow Threat": Sinophobia and Coronavirus

“You can eat everything except the Moon and its reflection in the water,” says a Chinese proverb. Evil tongues altered it: "The Chinese eat everything that has four legs, except tables, and everything that flies, except airplanes." In connection with the coronavirus, which is believed to be caused by the consumption of bats, the world has been swept by another wave of racism towards Chinese citizens. And after we all found ourselves on the brink of a global catastrophe, this attitude can be understood, but still not accepted. After all, people, by and large, are not to blame for what happened - they also suffered. And strong hatred has never brought anything good, not only for the one who is hated, but also for the haters themselves. Moreover, China is one of the most powerful powers on the planet. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak, small-town racism is at risk of expanding. Therefore, we propose to look at things soberly and consider the problem of synophobia not only from the point of view of "they eat everything", but also taking into account deeper reasons. And they are.


We are not a virus

Let's rewind events a bit. Before countries closed their borders to everyone, they did it for the Chinese at first. Not only many states, but also airlines interrupted communication with the Celestial Empire. And that made a lot of sense - security, but there were, as they say, “local excesses”. Slops of various composition and density poured onto the heads of individual immigrants from the PRC. In tolerant Europe, passers-by advised the Chinese to wear masks if they saw them on the streets. And this was probably also justified, but what about outright racism?

On social media, the Chinese were accused of gastronomic promiscuity. Particularly ostracized was a video on Twitter, where an Asian-looking girl butchered and eats a bat. At the same time, few people were worried that the eating of the unfortunate animal took place not at all in China, but on the island of Palau - as part of an entertaining show like our "Eagle and Tails", where the presenter simply tried the local cuisine.

People with Asian appearance were refused to be accommodated in hotels, served in restaurants and taxis, passengers in public transport demanded to be dropped off at the very first stop. Even the tolerant European media were full of sinophobic articles. Thus, the French edition of Courrier Picard on January 26 published two materials at once under the headings "Yellow Alert" and "Yellow Threat". Later, however, I had to apologize, but the wave of xenophobia was already launched.


The reaction of the Chinese was not long in coming: people went out to pickets and flash mobs with banners “We / I am not a virus”. But it didn't help much. And few people realized that about one billion people live in the Celestial Empire. Therefore, if an outbreak of a new infection occurs on the planet, there is a one in seven chance that it will happen in China: there are simply a lot of people there.


Meanwhile, the Chinese continued to accuse: they say, they ate everything and they got it, and now the whole world is suffering. On the one hand, this is true, on the other, the root causes of synophobia are much deeper. And the task of science is to understand how deep they are. Arrange impartially on the shelves.

The psychology of small differences

The Chinese are called barbarians only because they have adopted other gastronomic traditions, unlike European ones.Racism has always stood on a solid foundation of the opposition "I am the other", that is, on a natural fear of something different, "different." However, many people did not like the Chinese for a long time. Psychologists and political scientists know that there are no more implacable enemies than the so-called peoples with small differences. That is why synophobia at all times was widespread primarily in countries bordering China and in those where nations similar to the Chinese, belonging to the Mongoloids, lived.

The more similar peoples are, the more clearly they are isolated from each other (remember the Russians and Ukrainians). Therefore, from time immemorial, the Kazakhs, Mongols, Tibetans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and other inhabitants of Southeast Asia have shown hostility to the Chinese (and vice versa). Probably, the roots of such xenophobia lie in the same plane as intolerance towards neighbors in traditional communities. "They are similar to us, but not quite like us, and they are near, which means they can threaten us and our integrity" - this is the essence of such reasoning.


One of the bloodiest consequences of such fear was the mass extermination of the Chinese before World War II, when Japan attacked China (therefore, by the way, the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire believe that the war began not in 1939, but in 1933). The Japanese staged a real genocide in China, the cause of which was the same xenophobia.


Chinese question

Where, then, does Europeans synophobia come from? There are a lot of reasons. Some of them are similar to those in connection with which Jews are disliked: for example, the amazing success of the Celestial Empire. And not only today, but also in the past. After all, the Chinese civilization, according to some sources, is about five thousand years old (and certainly no less than 3, 5 thousand), it is one of the most ancient countries on the planet. There is no need to talk about the achievements of China for the entire human race. It is enough to list them: the Chinese invented paper, printing, gunpowder and compass, invented negative numbers, paddle, bell, drum, fork, porcelain, fan, the first to cultivate millet, soybeans, tea and rice, use salt, make fermented drinks and silk. They came up with a crossbow, a fishing reel and paper money, gas canisters, fireworks, a bristle toothbrush and playing cards. They also thought of dividing the year into 365 days and began to use coke as fuel, invented hydraulically powered furs and even, probably, a multistage rocket, mine, smelted cast iron for the first time, not to mention dozens of other inventions that the world owes specifically to China.


And given that there are a lot of Chinese, it is not surprising that they are beginning to be not only envied, but also afraid. However, the Chinese themselves often do not seek to "merge with the crowd": the Chinese diasporas existing in many countries are distinguished by their great isolation and adherence to their own traditions and laws, which secretly operate even on the territory of other countries. No wonder. At one time, the Chinese closed their state from foreigners, no one was allowed there. In the understanding of Europeans, it has always been a large, incomprehensible and extremely closed country: and the incomprehensible, as we remember, is always alarming.


Another reason for hatred is banal envy. China has grown rapidly over the past decades and has become the second largest economy in the world after the United States in terms of nominal GDP. And until the virus raged in the world, no one doubted (today it is difficult to make any predictions) that after some time the economy of the Celestial Empire would become the first. This aroused strong jealousy and wariness among many states, primarily the States.

And there are also many Chinese. Too much. This causes fear of absorption even among peoples unrelated to them. In addition, the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire are considered cunning and practical people, and in this the stereotype about them is similar to the stereotype about the Jews. It is really not easy to bargain with the Chinese and conduct any kind of business relationship: they are fighting for every penny.This is understandable - because of the huge number, they often have to literally survive (therefore, in part, by the way, they are forced to "eat everything"). Moreover, many of the citizens of the PRC have mastered this skill since childhood: everyone has heard a lot about underground Chinese factories and child labor.

We are not talking about the ability of this people to make candy from a known substance: in China they save on everything and earn money on everything - any waste goes into production. And not only our own, but also other countries. This is probably why China manages to supply "local" souvenirs to all corners of the world. The Chinese do not hesitate to adopt and even steal other people's ideas, technologies and production secrets, skillfully bringing them to life. This can indeed be annoying.

However, there is another reason for the dislike for the PRC - a political one. It is not surprising, because the oriental values ​​that are promoted in China are alien to liberal Europe and the Western world in general. The collectivism of the Celestial Empire and the rise of the general over the particular are directly opposed to the Western philosophy of individualism, personal happiness and freedom of everyone. From this point of view, the Chinese can really be perceived as robots who are used in the name of the common good and who urgently need to be sent on the path of self-realization. And such a vision has the right to life, because without revealing your potential and your desires, personal happiness is impossible. But public happiness is possible (and a quick victory over the same coronavirus), which is proved by the example of China. The dispute between these two polar points of view is eternal and will hardly ever come to a compromise. And such a radical difference in the worldview of the Chinese and the Europeans is another point of support for racism.

Concentration camps and video surveillance

The Chinese themselves, however, are also not alien to xenophobic sentiments. For example, to Muslims. Especially to the ethnic Kazakhs who historically live on the border of China and Kazakhstan - in the country's largest autonomous region, Uyghur. Beginning in the 1950s, Beijing pursued a policy of intensified "hanization" in these parts, resettling the titular nation there. And already in the 1960s, everyone who did not belong to Chinese nationality began to be evicted from there: Kazakhs, Uighurs, Mongols, Dungans, and so on. The eviction was accompanied by infringement of the rights of the indigenous non-Chinese population - people were "planted" in arid and desert regions of the region.


It is believed that harassment in this Autonomous Okrug continues to this day. For example, the well-known American human rights organization Human Rights Watch published a report in 2018 about the persecution of Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. According to the organization, in recent years, Uighurs have been detained there en masse and often without any reason, after which they are placed in prisons and concentration camps. At the same time, millions of people are under constant video surveillance. Official Beijing and the inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom themselves deny this.


Of course, racism in China has long historical roots, so the right and the wrong can no longer be found there. Still, there is no smoke without fire, and another reason for xenophobia towards the Chinese is the xenophobia of the Chinese themselves.

Racism and Einstein

We have touched upon the objective social reasons for which synophobia clings, but they do not negate the underlying factors. After all, otherwise, racism would be characteristic of absolutely everyone. Meanwhile, within one society, people are subject to xenophobic sentiments in different ways.

In the articles The Great Atrocity: The Psychology of Genocide and Ordinary Fascism: Causes and Effects, we have already touched upon, among other things, the causes of racism. An ardent manifestation of xenophobia is primarily characteristic of a certain type of people. And the object of hatred in this case - Jews, Russians, Americans, Armenians or Chinese - alas, is not so important.The portrait of a racist (anyone, not just someone who hates the Chinese) is conventional, but, as a rule, he has the following traits: stereotypical thinking, anger, a deep sense of inferiority, a desire for fame, power, at the same time blind imitation and admiration for authority, a tendency to envy of more successful people, from their point of view. The latter are usually targeted by racial hatred.

The main support of racism is the defense mechanisms of our psyche: projection and repression. Everything that a person does not want to see in himself - he is often inclined to notice in others (the quintessence of the saying about the beam in the eye). And they do not want to see in themselves, as a rule, "bad" and socially disapproved qualities. And if there is no “at hand” someone to hang them on, it is convenient to have an external enemy who would be a “container” for such a “bad” inner self.

Such "shadow" sides are characteristic of many people, therefore, racist sentiments in one way or another can manifest themselves in many - the question is only in degree. These are the results shown by the study of the American professor Geoffrey Watke, who used long-term survey data of 44,873 US residents over 18 years of age. All of the respondents were Europeans, there were no African Americans among them, women made up 56% of the interviewees. The results were shocking: 88.8% said they support coeducation in school for white and black children, and 71.5% believed that there is a problem of discrimination in the labor market for African Americans. At the same time, only 11.8% agreed with the adoption of laws that would fight this state of affairs, 38.1% of white Americans believed that blacks were lazy, 18.3% - that they were uneducated, and 29.3% did not want to have African American neighbors. Only 23.1% of the respondents really wanted their children to take the same bus to school with black children. This is the kind of "tolerance". But, it seems, as in natural human aggression, there is nothing unnatural in this. But there are many harmful: racism breeds hatred, from which racists themselves suffer.

Meanwhile, even the most prominent personalities can display xenophobia. It is known, for example, that when Albert Einstein traveled to Asia and the Middle East in 1922-1923, he wrote about the Chinese as "hardworking, dirty and mentally retarded people." He added that "even the children there are lethargic and inhibited." The Chinese, however, were not offended by the genius Jew, saying that he simply "came to China at the wrong time." Probably, the eastern wisdom worked, because the share of racism is characteristic of the Chinese themselves. The main thing is to be able to be aware of these urges and to notice the "beam in the eye", first of all, in oneself.

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