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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Overlooked Tragedy of the Pandemic: How Media Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic has Led to an Increase in Anti-Asian Bias and Xenophobia


The media is a vital source of information, especially in times of crisis. Since the 2019 novel coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic, it has become a frequent topic of discussion in the media, and its mysterious origin has caused lots of speculation regarding its roots. Historically, scientists have named novel diseases based on the country or region in which it was thought to have originated; however, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) publicly discouraged this practice because of the stigma it tended to attach to people and places. Despite this warning and the WHO's deliberate name selection for the 2019 novel coronavirus — "COVID-19" — the media and many public figures, including former United States President Donald Trump, have consistently used stigmatizing language, such as "China virus," associating the virus with China because the first confirmed cases of the virus were discovered in Wuhan, China. Just as the WHO warned, this stigmatizing language has created a wave of violence and discrimination towards Asian Americans and caused considerable damage to U.S.-China relations. This Article explores the correlation between the presence of such stigmatizing rhetoric in the media and the damage to U.S.-China relations. It concludes by providing suggestions to combat the crisis of anti-Asian bias and xenophobia and encourages the U.S. and China to set aside their differences and work together to alleviate tensions and end the pandemic.

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