China messed up.
I’m not a doctor. I’m not as educated in this virus outbreak as I’d like to be. But I know that China has likely made the situation worse for themselves.
Ever since the first sightings of the outbreak in late December 2019, China has done nothing but cover it up and assure people that there’s nothing to worry about. This has snowballed disastrously. There’s been up to 1,000 deaths already, far outnumbering the SARS virus deaths, and more than 34,000 people have been infected around the world.
Chinese officials, at the start, lied to the public when closing down an infected marketplace, telling them that it was due to renovations. A Chinese doctor, who has since died from the virus (Some suspect the hospital didn’t try hard enough to save him because he was a whistleblower), was arrested for lying and spreading fake news. Now, China has yet to accept help from the C.D.C.
People fear China. People are disgusted by China. People are making fun of China.
Media reports have accused China of “artificially creating” the virus. People have been avoiding all Asians no matter where they are.
And despite all this, because I am Chinese, a part of me believes that this new sickness is just one more thing to give China a bad rap.
China has never really been seen in a favorable light by Westerners. It’s plain in media and everyday talk. Compared to its younger counterparts like Japan or Korea, China is seen as the old man, not quite as flashy, open or welcoming, having nothing to offer the West but cheap products and good food, and refusing to bow down to Western standards, especially in government. Chinese people are generally seen as rude, loud, annoying, and cheaters. Of course, this is and can be supported- but like all countries, there is the good and the bad. With China, the bad is so bad, I suppose, the good is hard to spot.
Take a perfectly normal situation, put it in China, and suddenly people will find things to criticize about. I first stumbled upon a video of a mother recording herself pushing her blonde baby girl around in a stroller in Japan. By the way, Eastern countries fawn over people who don’t look like them- i.e. a different skin color or hair that’s not black or brown. As expected, many people this mother passed on the street stopped, stared, pointed, gathered around, or even took pictures on their phones. The comments under the video were lovely: “It’s really cute that Japanese people are so curious about blonde hair!” “Look, she’s even taking a video of the baby!” “Japanese people are so friendly.”
I then stumbled upon another video, this time of a black man in China recording a passerby recording him. Same deal, right? Somebody who looks different is in an inquisitive country, people are stopping, staring, maybe even taking a photo.
“So rude, recording somebody just because they look different!” “I get that he looks different but do they really have to stare like that…” “This is what I have to deal with every time I go to China.”
Am I… am I missing something here? Is it because the first video was of a baby girl and not an adult male? Is it because the first setting was along a path in a serene park, and not on a city street? Am I too narrow-minded and only focus on and amplify backlash against my own country?
Often, I like to imagine how I’d see things if I were not Chinese. Would I still be so hasty to defend the country? Or would I likely be more drawn to countries like Japan and Korea, both highly popular here in the US?
Sometimes, I am ashamed to be Chinese. I am envious of those who call themselves Japanese or Koreans, because I have been forced to think that way. After this virus outbreak, I almost feel like I should apologize, especially to other Asian countries, for the illness and chaos China has created. I should apologize to people who look like me who get blamed for the virus, even if they aren’t Chinese. I know that if I had a choice, I would not be in such a hurry to pick China as my country, even before this coronavirus. Then, my nationalism worms its way through and makes me feel guilty for ever not being proud of my heritage.
The thing is, not everybody who is Chinese or who lives in China is a stereotype. And not everybody in the West thinks of China that way. Actually, most people, I daresay, don’t think that way. But the sheer amount that do stand out. To me, at least. They stand out a lot.
This weekend, I was playing tennis with my brother. And I coughed a little. No big deal. People cough all the time and they aren’t sick.
Somebody’s ball rolls onto our court from three courts away. Still, no big deal. I go to pick it up for them, only to have the lady bolt over to me and tell me, with a funny little lilting tone, “I heard you coughing. I don’t want what you have!”
Snatched up her ball, smiled, and ran away. Honestly, that was the first bit of racism I’d ever come close to. And yet I didn’t react at all.
I, too, smiled, and walked away.