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18 May, 2020 18:38

Covid-19 pandemic fuels knee-jerk anti-China sentiment just in time for Trump’s reheated trade war

Covid-19 pandemic fuels knee-jerk anti-China sentiment just in time for Trump’s reheated trade war

Two in five Americans won’t buy products made in China, according to a recent survey, and nearly three-quarters blame Beijing for the Covid-19 pandemic – just in time for the relaunch of President Donald Trump’s trade war!

On top of the 40 percent of Americans who said they wouldn’t purchase made-in-China goods under any circumstances, in an FTI Consulting poll published on Sunday, another 34 percent said they’d be reluctant to buy such goods. No other region came close in terms of unpopularity – just 24 percent ruled out goods from Southeast Asia, with even smaller percentages shunning India, Europe and Latin America.

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Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) said they’d support legislation that would designate “medical equipment, medical supplies and critical pharmaceuticals” as “critical health supplies,” limiting US purchases of these goods to countries considered allies. The supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and related economic shutdowns appear to have brought out a protectionist streak, as upwards of four-fifths of respondents supported legislation mandating everything from airplane parts (81 percent) to “medical supplies such as masks, syringes and swabs” (88 percent) be made in the US to avoid supply shortages – even if the resulting products cost more.

Just 45 percent of respondents believed China could be “trusted to follow through on its trade-deal commitments to buy more American products.” Just over a third of Americans support free-trade agreements, in general, as an approach to “improving the global economy,” and under a quarter are unwilling to pay more for a made-in-America product.

Such a pronounced chill toward Chinese trade comes just in time for a rapidly reheating trade war between Washington and Beijing. Trump recently warned he had “lost a little flavor” for the deal the two countries signed in January, and his administration is reportedly considering paying businesses to move their manufacturing out of China. He even threatened to “cut off the whole relationship” last week, while Republicans in Congress have introduced a raft of sanctions bills and threatened hefty lawsuits in an effort to hold the country responsible for the pandemic.

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The torrent of anti-China propaganda aimed at ordinary Americans has increased noticeably in the past few months, kicking into high gear as the coronavirus pandemic began making its way across the ocean. The Trump administration has encouraged Americans to blame Beijing for the virus, consistently referring to it as the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus,” and giving plenty of airtime to baseless conspiracy theories suggesting it originated in a lab in Wuhan.

However, the media also used both terms when the disease first surfaced in the Chinese city, later dropping them only in order to accuse the president of racism. News outlets indulged in plenty of casual racism themselves, signal-boosting both the Wuhan lab conspiracy theory and the since-disproven “wet market” hypothesis for the virus’s origins in order to paint the Chinese as a nation of unclean bat-gobbling savages incapable of operating a virology lab without tracking pathogens out on their shoes.

One local government made a somewhat baffling gesture of resistance against all this sinophobia. San Antonio’s city council passed a unanimous resolution outlawing the terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu virus” as hate speech and encouraging residents to report their usage to the “proper authorities.”

But despite the virtue-signaling over terminology, even 71 percent of Democrats blame China for the high Covid-19 death toll in the US, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this month. While Democratic respondents focused their blame more on their fellow Americans who’d failed to “socially distance” (with 84 percent deeming their inconsiderate neighbors “somewhat” or “very” responsible for the casualty count), only the Trump administration and the federal government came in ahead of the Chinese government in their estimation. The majority of Republicans polled – 80 percent – placed the blame first on the Chinese government, followed by “immigrants who traveled to this country after the outbreak started” and Americans who traveled internationally (68 percent, in both cases).

Even teenagers haven’t been spared the full-bore onslaught of anti-Chinese propaganda. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse delivered a baffling high-school commencement speech on Sunday in which he attempted to inject some levity – “Remember that time that China started a big global pandemic that created the worst public health crisis in over a century and brought the economy to its knees?” – piling on wannabe-relevant references to Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ documentary and the “murder hornets” meme in an effort to be relatable while still demonizing the ‘evil’ Chinese.

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