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Pankaj Mishra

Calling It the ‘Chinese Virus’ Only Boosts China

Both abuse and gratitude abroad are strengthening Chinese nationalism at home. 

Chinese anti-epidemic specialists land in Milan.

Chinese anti-epidemic specialists land in Milan.

Photographer: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

An old pestilence has accompanied the spread of the new coronavirus in the United States: Sinophobia. President Donald Trump, who until recently insisted on calling the disease the “ Chinese virus,” and Republican politicians with their puns (“Kung Flu”) haven’t been above stoking racial prejudice. Many Asian-Americans born in or long resident in the U.S. have been brutally reminded of their “foreign” ancestry. 

Ironically, this wave of Sinophobia could help consolidate what is proving to be the most successful nationalism of the modern era.