#chinesevirus: the long racism that lurks behind COVID-19

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


According to a recent study that analysed tweets from 9 March to 23 March 2020, corresponding to the week before and the week after President Donald J. Trump’s tweet with the phrase, “Chinese Virus,” there was a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags associated with #chinesevirus when comparing the week before 16 March 2020 to the week after. Whilst awareness of a “Chinese connection” dates back to media coverage in January 2020 of China’s first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, it was Trump’s tweet that ethnicized, and indeed weaponized, COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”. This “connection” has lodged in the dominant white collective imagining of “the Chinese”, and now must be counted with the handful of other myths and scraps of “common sense”, as Gramsci intended the term, that go to make up that imaginary. When people learn nowadays that I am “Professor of Chinese Studies” it is the question they are burning to ask: “So what about COVID and China?” Meaning, do you think China was responsible for unleashing the COVID pandemic. And, of course, “China” never just “stands for” the Chinese body politic, or the “Chinese authorities” as journalists lazily or, let us be more generous, innocently pretend it does. “Chinese” leaches into the popular imagination as “the Chinese population”, and by association anyone who may look Chinese to the white eye. Since the political demise of Trump, we are reminded less often by the media of the “Chineseness” of the virus, and yet without any doubt one of his “legacies” is that it stuck in people’s minds.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationPostcolonial Politics
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2021


  • Anti-Chinese racism
  • Anti-Asian racism
  • Racist discourse
  • COVID-19 and society
  • Trump
  • Home Office
  • Metaphors


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