Can Trump trump coronavirus criticism with racism?

Can Trump trump coronavirus criticism with racism?

Have you ever seen a virus with a passport?

United States (US) President Donald Trump seems like he must have, since he continues to insist on calling the coronavirus the “China virus.”

However, according to the World Health Organization’s decision in 2015, outbreaks cannot be associated with a particular ethnic group based on where breakout, which is why Ebola or the Zika epidemic aren’t associated with a particular country or nation.

The H1N1 virus, which caused the death of at least 18,000 people, is not known as the “American virus.” The “Spanish Flu” seems to refer to a specific nation, but how many of us know that it actually originated in the US, and that Washington tried to hide the truth for a long time?

Trump’s words were unsurprisingly followed by a rise in racist incidents targeting Asians: what we are seeing across social media today in this regard is truly horrible. Those attacked were often not even Chinese.

When did Trump go wrong when it comes to the coronavirus? The answer is a little complicated.

Trump himself had not referred to the virus in a way that explicitly references China or Wuhan at first, unlike Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo.

Trump, who wrote “coronavirus” exactly 40 times on Twitter, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 25 and said, “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

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Trump’s change in language is erratic, once even saying the virus would “miraculously” go away by April, has taken a pragmatic approach since the virus breakout across the United States. Trump ended up facing heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic, and just before the presidential elections. Conveniently, the “coronavirus” became the  “Chinese virus” overnight, redirecting guilt for the situation abroad.

Trump and his team, who had praised China’s transparency just a week ago, are now trying to blame Beijing for everything, suggesting they withheld information.

“The situation would have been different if we knew a month or two ago,” the US leader said on March 21. US Secretary of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus also argues that China informed the world too late and destroyed evidence of coronavirus on January 3.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs say they informed the US on January 3, while the White House only informed their citizens in Wuhan on January 15.

Two separate reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post newspaper confirm Beijing’s account. Moreover, according to the Washington Post, the US leader ignored reports from his intelligence agencies over the weeks and did not even make an appointment to speak with authorities.


The White House’s effort to rebrand the pandemic as the “Chinese virus” is not only motivated by domestic politics. Washington is closing its doors to Europe, aggravated over numerous states violating sanctions against Iran, making sure everyone gets the message that even a pandemic won’t slow down the economic attacks on Iran. Washington is also preventing Venezuela from getting help from the IMF, doing their best to make sure China and its international allies are affected as much as possible by the outbreak.

Nonetheless, we must ask if calling it the “Chinese virus” will really help prevent the erosion of Washington’s power in the international arena.

According to Bloomberg, Washington and its international system have taken a stunning blow. Numerous other American journals expressed similar sentiments, arguing that Washington’s geopolitcal instability has been laid bare.


The international community, for the most part, believes that countries with different systems should share their experiences and learn from their mistakes in response to the crisis, coming together out of a concern for the common fate of humanity. Indeed, the US and China have managed to do exactly this before. During the Obama era, China and the US worked together on issues such as the climate crisis, putting aside their disagreements for the sake of the planet.

However, Trump is choosing to address problems with crass racism, playing an extremely primitive and dangerous game.

There is no guarantee that Trump, who claims that Mexican immigrants to the US carry diseases, publicly refers to countries in African as “sh*t-holes” and assigns the coronavirus a national passport, will not target another nation tomorrow. The international community needs to realize that they might very likely be next and take action before their turn arrives.

Gökhun Göçmen
Gökhun Göçmen, İstanbul based jounalist who is currently working for China Radio International (CRI) Turkish Service. He mainly focuses on China, Iran, Russia and Turkish foreign policy. His career includes as an asistant for Greece based Centre for Mediterranean Middle East and Islamic Studies (CEMMIS), editor for Turkish daily Aydınlik Newspaper and  news channel “Kanal 14”.  He has reported from on ground in  Syria, Iran, Lebanoon, Greece, China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Region.Göçmen appeared many international news channels such as Iran based Press TV, Russia based TV2 or Turkey based Ulusal Channel. He also wrote an article and gave an interview such as Sputnik, Teori, Yörünge, Stratejist.  Twiiter: @gokhungocmen

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June 2021