Asian Americans fear anti-China rhetoric will be weaponized in midterms
Some lawmakers and advocates are concerned anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail will be weaponized against Asian Americans.
Why it matters: In manufacturing-heavy, battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, both with primaries next month, blaming China is a tried-and-true way to appeal to workers who've seen jobs shipped overseas.
- Congressional debate over the COMPETES Act, which addresses semiconductor production and competitiveness with China, also is driving much of the conversation.
Driving the news: "It’s us-vs.-them," Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a U.S. Senate candidate, says in one ad driving concern on the Democratic side.
- "China’s winning. Workers are losing," Ryan says in the ad, framing the fight as "capitalism versus communism. I’m not backing down. Are you?"
- In Texas, Republican House candidate Shelley Luther tweeted that Chinese students, whom she called the "next generation of CCP leaders," should be banned from all Texas universities, per NBC News.
- In Pennsylvania, Republican House contender Jim Bognet ran an ad saying, "We’ll make China pay for the lies they told, the jobs they stole and the lives we’ve lost."
- In Wisconsin, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee took a more tepid tack. It ran an ad accusing Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson of "rewarding companies that outsource to China."
What they're saying: The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has issued guidance reminding politicians to "avoid xenophobic rhetoric" that exacerbates anti-Asian bigotry.
- Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), CAPAC's vice chair, who's called for Ryan to take down his ad, told Axios that some of the rhetoric campaigns are using this year "borders on fearmongering."
- She said it's important to acknowledge "challenges in the U.S.-China relationship" but when rhetoric puts a "target on our backs ... Asians in the United States end up paying the price: We are scapegoated simply because of our skin."
Ryan told Axios in a statement that the "recent rise in violence against Asian Americans is unacceptable."
- He emphasized that his ad sounds "the alarm on China's Communist government, which has subsidized major industries and manipulated their currency to displace workers here in Ohio."
- Historically, tropes have heightened hostility toward Asians in the U.S., especially in times of economic distress.
What we're watching: Biden administration officials also are grappling with how to separate their critiques of other governments from the individual citizens of those countries.
- CIA Director William Burns, appearing in Georgia last Thursday, emphasized the U.S. concern is with the People's Republic of China — not the people of China. "It is a profound mistake to conflate the two," he said.