Guo Ding, Kenny Zhang, Guangwei Ouyang, and Lu Chan: Malignant McCarthyism is more dangerous than coronavirus

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      By Guo Ding, Kenny Zhang, Guangwei Ouyang, and Lu Chan

      When a wildfire sparked the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents from Fort McMurray and its surrounding region four years ago, Canadians at home or abroad lent helping hands through all possible means to their fellow citizens. They were in urgent need to cope with the unprecedented natural disaster in northern Alberta.

      Four years later, when a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China on an unprecedented scale, thousands of the city's care workers were in life-threatening danger due to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Concerned Canadians, regardless of ethnic backgrounds, opened their hearts to support the Red Cross Canada’s China COVID-19 Response Appeal, as well as initiatives by Doctors Without Borders.

      Some Canadians spontaneously shipped protective gear to hospitals and individuals in the then epicentre of the pandemic.

      These are just a few of many examples demonstrating Canadians’ care and compassion for others, reflecting their fundamental principles and humanitarian values. But on April 30, 2020, these Canadian principles and values were attacked and smashed by Sam Cooper and Abigail Bimman on Global News.

      Their stories painted an incomplete, unbalanced, and distorted picture of Canadians of Chinese heritage. These reports conveyed an erroneous message to readers that China’s Communist government deliberately stockpiled PPE supplies and that certain so-called secret groups controlled by China were behind all this.

      They distorted the humanitarian responses to the pandemic by hundreds of thousands of Canadians, including those of Chinese origin, while attempting to confuse readers with their conspiracy theory of the Chinese government hoarding PPE from Canada and all over the globe.

      They used the term “Chinese nationals” in Canada to downplay the loyalty of Canadians of Chinese heritage, when the fact is that the majority of them are Canadian citizens and some of their ancestors came to Canada as early as in the 1800s, long before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was created. Chinese Canadians are not foreigners but nation builders of this great country.

      The Global news report racially stereotyped Chinese and Asian Canadians by calling “every overseas Chinese a warrior", whereas the original meaning of the source should have been read as “every overseas Chinese is a warrior against the pandemic.”

      In fact, every Canadian should be a warrior against the pandemic.

      The profiling and attack on Chinese Canadians reeked of McCarthyism, which was popular in the United States from the late 1940s to the 1950s, finally abandoned, and gradually forgotten at the end of the Cold War.

      If a new McCarthyist malignancy breaks out in our society, unfortunately, it will become a most dangerous political virus amid the COVID-19 spread and in the post-pandemic era.

      With fuel from narrow-minded populism and biased media, it will sooner or later evolve into a real witch hunt with great damage to Canadian society.

      Like the coronavirus attacking people regardless their age, gender, ethnicity, cultural background, or level of wealth, this political virus will eventually threaten all ethnic groups, starting with the Chinese Canadian community. From the country's chief public health officer to elected officials of all levels of government, a groundless assertion and accusation of “working for China” will put them in a situation where a political intensive care unit (ICU) wouldn’t be able to save their careers.

      Even businesspeople conducting legitimate businesses with China, academics involved in normal cultural and academic exchanges with China’s partners, and politicians undertaking regular contact with their counterparts in China are likely to become new victims of such charges from the new McCarthyism.

      It would be deadly wrong to take this news report only as an armchair exercise without any social consequences.

      A dramatic increase in random attacks recently on innocent Chinese and Asian Canadians, from pushing a 92-year-old senior onto the ground to knocking a young girl down to the street, demonstrate the impact that irresponsible journalism can play in this new wave of racism and hatred in Canada.

      This new McCarthyism may evolve into "ethnic cleansing", which would create an unprecedented human rights disaster and humanitarian tragedy in the modern history of Canada.

      It would be shameful to repeat the Chinese Exclusion Act or the Japanese Canadian internment in the 21st century. Many Chinese immigrants came to Canada after the horrifying Cultural Revolution, hoping to embrace a multicultural democratic society without having to live in fear of attacks. 

      History also tells us that if McCarthyism were to be reborn in Canada, Chinese Canadians would likely become the first victimized group, but they would definitely not be the last.

      In the past, the targets of McCarthyism were not just those under the influence of the Soviet Communist Party, but also politicians from opposition parties and innocent people in the United States.

      The new malignant McCarthyism is more complicated and dangerous than ever before. In addition to the widespread attacks on targeted groups, it also shows symptoms of various political stains such as racism, white supremacy, contempt for Asians, extreme ideology, antiglobalization, and division of community groups. It not only has a strong infectious ability but also easily triggers violence and racial attacks.

      Fortunately, we have seen a sign that the curve of the coronavirus pandemic has flattened, and it will ultimately be cured with a vaccine and specific medicines being developed.

      But unfortunately, the fight against a political virus remains a challenge for everyone in Canada for the foreseeable future.

      Guo Ding is a Vancouver journalist, columnist, and historian on the immigration history of Chinese Canadians. Kenny Zhang is a Vancouver-based writer. Guangwei Ouyang has a PhD and is a professor of philosophy based in New Westminster. Lu Chan is a Burnaby-based immigration lawyer. All are Canadian citizens. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.