How Taiwan’s Success with COVID-19 Negatively Impacts US-China Relations

A guest post today from UNC junior Morgan Hanchard, a 2019 Phillips Ambassador to Shanghai, China, and a double-major in HIstory and Peace, War & Defense:

As COVID-19 swept across the globe, its effects presented differently in differing regions.  Some countries saw lethal numbers of cases, in which population densities significantly decreased.  In some countries, the virus was tackled effectively, minimizing damage to populations.  Taiwan’s number of confirmed cases has yet to reach the 500 mark, largely due to their universal healthcare system.  To praise Taiwan for its success in handling the pandemic, the United States sent a U.S. Cabinet member to Taiwan, simultaneously hoping to learn from their “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19.  On August 10, United States Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, spent three days in Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-Wen, demonstrating Washington’s support for positive U.S.-Taiwan relations.

However, this success comes at a cost.  With tensions between the United States and China at a breaking point as President Trump continuously demonizes China, even calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” Azar’s trip to Taiwan cannot ignore its geopolitical intentions.  This interaction was a foreign policy rarity.  Azar is the highest U.S official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when the Taiwan Relations Act was signed into effect under the Carter Administration.  This legislation ended all diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan, under the terms that the United States solely recognize the People’ Republic of China, breaking ties with Taiwan completely.  By sending a delegation into Taiwan, which is not lawfully recognized by the United States, the Trump Administration is likely to spark controversy within Beijing.

On August 11, Azar spoke at National Taiwan University, where he stated that “in these trying times, the United States knows that we will always have a friend in Taiwan.”  In addition, Azar praised Taiwan’s democratic values, implying that Taiwan’s success can be contributed to its democratic society.  This statement set off anger in Beijing and amongst the Chinese Communist Party, as the U.S. gets dangerously closer to brinkmanship with China.  Azar claims that his trip was solely based on public health issues and Washington’s effort to gain insight on their treatment methods.  Even with COVID-19 in mind, the political consequences within U.S.-China relations cannot be ignored.  By ameliorating their relationship with Taiwan, Washington runs the risk of pushing tensions with Beijing to the brink. China may view Azar’s visit to Taiwan as a challenge to its sovereignty, polarizing the two sides even further.  The Trump administration is utilizing Taiwan as a strategic ploy to provoke China, which could seriously taint the bilateral relationship.

Find out more about this story at the Washington Post, CNN, or the Wall Street Journal.

US visa rule leaves many Asian students in panic

Normally, overseas students studying at American universities must be taking courses in-person to fulfill the requirements for a US visa, but this regulation was suspended starting March 2020 “for the duration of the emergency,” in light of so many schools quickly going virtual because of COVID-19. On July 6, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement  changed its guidance, instead saying that students must take classes in-person or lose their eligibility to remain in the United States.

After the US announced that international students were required to be enrolled in in-person courses or be sent to their home countries, many students were in a panic. Speaking on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announcement that students would lose their student visas, Ifat Gazia, a PhD student from Kashmir, said “this order is basically pushing students to chose between disease and deportation.”

This policy affects over a million foreign students, but the Chinese student population is the largest, and it faces significant restrictions on traveling home. According to ICE, nearly 80 percent of all international students in the US are from Asia, with the majority coming from China and India. The administration stood by the policy, without particular accommodations for students from Asian countries also navigating the crisis. “You don’t get a visa for taking online classes from, let’s say, the University of Phoenix, so why would you if you were just taking online classes regularly?” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing.

There are nearly 370,000 Chinese students and and 194,000 Indian students in the U.S. “This unjust and discriminatory attack on international students cuts to the core of our mission of education and research,” Johns Hopkins University Provost Sunil Kumar said.

“If ICE sends me sends me and other Kasmiri students back, we would be left with no remote learning option. I will have to take a leave from my university and sit back home until this order is revoked,” said Gazia, referencing the Indian government-imposed internet blockade in Kashmir. In a similar way, many websites, including Google and Facebook that are used by US universities to communicate with students, are blocked in China.

According to an Institute of International Education report, in which they cited the US Department of Commerce, international students contributed $45 billion to the US economy in 2018. NAFSA has said that foreign students supported over 450,000 jobs in the US during the 2018-2019 academic year. John Hopkins joined the growing list of universities suing the Trump administration to block this rule on foreign students, led by Harvard and MIT.

On July 14, 2020, the government effectively conceded the point, reaching a settlement in the Harvard-MIT suit, and allowing students to remain in the US in these extraordinary times.

Author: Camryn Thomas

Across the U.S., People Take Action to Stop Anti-Asian Racism

Since COVID-19 made world news, prejudice against people of Asian descent has become more apparent and violent. An increase in Asian-directed hate crimes and discrimination since late December has raised safety concerns for those in the Asian American community. In response, people and organizations have risen up to combat this issue.

In mid-March, Russell Jeung, professor and head of the Asian American Studies department at San Francisco State University, partnered with the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and the organization Chinese for Affirmative Action to launch the website “Stop AAPI Hate,”  which tracks racist crimes reported by users. According to Jeung, in the past two months there have been 1900 reported incidents, and likely more as many incidents go unreported. 

Cities have come together to adopt resolutions in support of Asian American communities against coronavirus-related discrimination. The Irvine City Council’s resolution called on law enforcement to work with state and federal authorities to investigate COVID-19-related hate crimes and threats, and collect and publicly report data on these. The Orange County (CA) Board of Supervisors, along with Garden Grove and Santa Clara County, has also passed resolutions denouncing xenophobia and racism.

“COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not by race or ethnicity,” said Irvine Councilmember Farrah Khan.

“No amount of fear and panic excuses acts of prejudice [and] discrimination,” said Jennifer Wang, chief operating officer of the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center.

On the East Coast, NCAAT (North Carolina Asian Americans Together), an organization working to support equality, has also offered a way for people to report acts of discrimination during the pandemic. 

Information in this post was gathered from the FOX 10 Phoenix article found here, the Voices of OC article found here, and the WNCT9 article found here.

Link to OC Human Relations form here.

Link to NCAAT bias reporting form here. 

 

Author: Camryn Thomas

 

Town of Chapel Hill Expresses Support to Community Members

Town of Chapel Hill Building Integrated Communities partners recently created these videos featuring Police Chief Blue expressing support to community members, particularly residents with Asian ancestry, who have faced racism and discrimination.

Town partners are “committed to being a place for everyone and want our community, including community members of Asian descent, to know that we support them. Please share these videos and let us know if you hear of any incidents of discrimination in the community.”

Burmese: https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillgov/videos/594237504514033

English: https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillgov/videos/2554810641441393

Karen: https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillgov/videos/2602529020029037

Mandarin Chinese: https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillgov/videos/155948839173628

Spanish: https://www.facebook.com/chapelhillgov/videos/156319632465536

To learn more about resources for immigrants and how local governments are supporting communities during the COVID-19 crisis, visit https://migration.unc.edu/covid-19-resources-in-north-carolina/