I posted this on Facebook the other day, but I thought I’d share it on the blog. I thought it might be worth offering some thoughts about why Trump and now many conservatives are calling the new coronavirus the “Chinese” virus. In my view, it is not *because* of racism, even if the term has racist consequences by leading Americans to, say, harass Chinese Americans. And the term wasn’t picked because it is “accurate” because Trump could have picked a bunch of other accurate names, like the CCP virus.
Here are a few possible reasons, some of which have occurred to Trump, but all of which have likely occurred to his elite supporters:
1. One of Trump’s longtime fears is China’s growing economic power. He’s been talking about this for decades. I think Trump and elite Trumpers want us to commercially decouple from China because he thinks it is bad for the US. By blaming China for the virus, he makes decoupling more politically viable. It was unthinkable a month ago. Now things are different. Fox is talking about being all pharma production back to the US. And some on the left seem sympathetic.
2. Trump and elite Trumpers wants to isolate China politically and weaken Xi because they think China isn’t a mere economic threat, but a political one too. If the world blames China for the virus, and indeed there are some grounds to blame the Chinese government, then that could weaken them greatly.
3. Trump and elite Trumpers recognize that Trump can win re-election if there’s a rally around the flag effect over the virus. If he can get the country to blame China rather than him, or to blame a visible foe rather than just an invisible virus, he may make the rally around the flag effect more likely. It might work too. If some of the blue tribe can be convinced that China is a bigger threat right now than the red tribe, they might be willing to vote for Trump.
Along these lines, I expect Trump is going to go after Biden hard for purportedly pro-China trade policy under Obama. Biden wants to remind us of Obama-era normalcy to boot Trump, but now Trump’s most potent line of attack is that Biden and Obama made us more dependent on China than we should have been. I’m not saying I agree with that, but I can imagine it being an effective line.
I want countries to be economically interdependent because I think it promotes peace and prosperity. But I sort of get not wanting the Chinese Communist Party, one of the most evil organizations in the world, to be able to deny us all our pharmaceuticals if they decide they want to. I don’t think they’d do it, but they’re engaged in mass murder and concentration camps right now, so maybe we should mistrust them.