Even American officials who reject the same disparaging language China highlighted in a scathing new report criticizing the U.S. say they cannot let up on publicly pressuring Beijing.
CHINA ON WEDNESDAY attempted to exploit a troubling rise in violence against Asian Americans, calling for U.S. political leaders to take a softer tone in challenging Beijing – and turn to its advantage escalating scrutiny in the U.S. about the dangers of demonizing adversaries.
The Chinese Communist Party, through its state information service, released its annual "Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States," which this year centers on domestic turmoil and demand for greater social justice. The report's contents begin with the now-infamous plea from George Floyd before his death: "I can't breathe!"
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Though clearly state-sponsored propaganda, Wednesday's report highlights a linkage between racist rhetoric and subsequent violence that many in the U.S., too, have drawn to help explain shocking and not completely understood nationwide trends.
And it comes as the U.S. government grapples with how to direct American attention toward the country it considers its defining enemy for the foreseeable future while not also endangering its own citizens.
"Since the pandemic began, the incidents of Asian Americans being humiliated and even assaulted in public have been found everywhere, and some American politicians have misled the public on purpose," the report states.
Photos: Violence Against Asian Americans
Demonstrators wearing face masks take part in a rally "Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power" to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, California, on March 13, 2021. - Reports of attacks, primarily against Asian-American elders, have spiked in recent months -- fuelled, activists believe, by talk of the "Chinese virus" by former president Donald Trump and others. (Photo by RINGO CHIU / AFP) (Photo by RINGO CHIU/AFP via Getty Images)
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It doesn't mention former President Donald Trump by name but makes unmistakable references to derogatory references he espoused in public remarks. Trump and his most loyal advisers made blaming China for the virus a cornerstone of the administration's foreign policy in his final year in office while largely shirking responsibility for the domestic fallout.
And it serves as the latest example of well-worn tactics by China to play up supposed human rights concerns internationally while quashing any attention to its own troubles. The EU this week issued new sanctions against senior Chinese officials for their role in the treatment of the predominantly Muslim Uighur people in the western Xinjiang Province, a move that sparked outrage by Beijing and threats of retaliation.
Little data exists about anti-Asian violence in the U.S. However, an incident in the Atlanta area this month in which a white man fatally shot eight people – six of them Asian women – has thrust into national intention an already troubling rise in crimes and discrimination against people of Asian descent in the U.S. Prior to this attack, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum directing the Justice Department to work more closely with Asian American communities to better understand the violent trends, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this month.
The Chinese report references assessments from U.S. officials about troubling trends in violence directed at Asian Americans, including from UCLA law professor E. Tendayi Achiume, who in 2017 was appointed U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Rhetoric from Trump and others who have employed disparaging terms to reference COVID-19 have helped create "an environment where violence is more permissible and attacks are more permissiblem," Achiume told NBC News last year.
Some leaders in Congress, including those who have heavily criticized Trump and his provocative rhetoric, have acknowledged the tenuous and at-times dangerous balance that exists between identifying legitimate foreign threats abroad and the kind of vitriol those warnings can incite at home.
"We have witnessed a disturbing rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, crimes that tear at the very fabric of what makes this country so strong," Rep. Ami Bera, the son of Indian immigrants, said during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee meeting about U.S. policy toward China. The California Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee on Asia said "diversity, including, and respect for human rights makes us stronger at home, but also abroad."
"As elected leaders, we have a duty to be mindful of our language and to distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese and Chinese-American people."
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Others in government remain firm: The U.S. cannot back down in identifying potential dangers abroad.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was asked multiple times on Tuesday about the effect of rhetoric from military leaders, who in recent months have centered on China as the primary threat facing American interests internationally.
"I couldn't speak for the sinister motivations of people that would perpetrate violence on Asian Americans or people of Asian descent. I don't think there's anything that justifies that," Kirby said. "I also think we owe it to the American people to speak frankly about Beijing and their activities, about their modernization and about the opaqueness of their intentions."
He referenced Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's description of China as a "pacing challenge" – a carefully crafted term apparently designed to marshal the military's resources toward Beijing without unnecessarily provoking it with more forceful words like "enemy" or "adversary."
"And we stand by that," Kirby said of Austin's description. "But I certainly am in no position to offer a view about linkage here."
Paul D. Shinkman, Senior Writer, National Security
Paul Shinkman is a national security correspondent. He joined U.S. News & World Report in 2012 ... READ MORE
Tags: China, race, human rights, world news
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