This is a disgusting bit of race-baiting. Someone claiming to support Ron Paul’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination has posted an attack ad against Jon Huntsman — who frankly isn’t one of the top contenders — that plays up Huntsman’s connections to China.
It begins with an ominous challenge asking whether the candidate represents “American values or Chinese?” Then it show him speaking Mandarin and asks “Weak on China? Wonder why?” before showing Huntsman with his adopted Chinese daughter.
That’s a stupid stretch for even an ignorant person, that a presidential candidate would secretly support the People’s Republic of China because he has an adopted Chinese daughter. The next clip shows Huntsman, a Mormon businessman and former governor of Utah as well as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China (he quit the post in April to run for president), holding his other adopted daughter, who is from India.
The video ends with an icky Photoshopped image of Huntsman’s face superimposed on a portrait of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.
The video preys on peoples’ irrational and race-based fears of the Chinese (and, by projection, all Asians), a theme that’s unforunately been a part of American culture since the earliest days of Chinese immigration and the rise of enduring stereotypes such as the evil Fu Manchu and “Dragon Lady,” to the widely parodied 2010 TV ad featuring an evil Chinese Professor chortling about the fall of the United States because of wasteful government spending.
The Huffington Post has Huntsman’s response:
“First of all, it is just stupid. Second of all, yeah, I lived overseas four times … I speak Chinese, of course I do. If someone wants to poke fun of me for speaking Chinese, that’s okay. The thing I object to is bringing forward pictures and videos of my adopted daughters and suggesting that there is some sinister motive there. I have a daughter from China who was abandoned at two months of age and left in a vegetable market, picked up by the police and sent to an orphanage.”
“I have a second daughter who was born in India in a very rural village … and left for dead the day she was born,” he added. “And luckily she was picked up before the animals got her, and she was sent to an orphanage for her safety, was raised and now she is in my family. So I have two little girls who are a daily reminder that there are a lot of kids in this world who don’t have the breaks that you do and face a very uncertain future … and now these two girls are on the presidential campaign trail. I say, how cool is that?”
China bashing is already rampant, and it’s unfortunate that because of the changing balance of world economic power (and China’s growing military capability), the U.S. has pointed out that China is one of the reasons we need to maintain strength even as it scales down the military. But it’s not helpful when ignorant politicos leverage the existing mistrust about China to create more fear and suspicion, and unfairly smear presidential candidates with a broad racist brush.
The other side-effect of such commentary is that Asian Americans often get lumped in and painted with that same brush. You only need to look back at America’s fear and hatred for Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor and how it led to the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent — half of them U.S.-born and therefore ctizens, and most of those still just children — in concentration camps during World War II.
Seen in such historical context, this ad and other uneducated, overwrought anti-Chinese propaganda appear not just ludicrous, but frightening … they’re much scarier than the fear they try to instill about the Chinese.