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Chinese cartoon depicts rule-breaking foreigners as trash to be sorted

While China is no stranger to xenophobia and racism, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hostility toward foreigners to an alarming new level. Driven by a string of news stories that put foreigners in a negative light for their irresponsible behavior during the outbreak, Chinese social media has been flooded with hateful and sometimes violent comments targeting the expatriate community. Over the weekend, the intolerance reached a fever pitch with a cartoon created by WeChat blog 锦鲤青年 (Koi Youth jǐnlǐ qīngnián), which sorts foreigners who “seek special treatment and run wild” in China into various categories, and depicts them as trash to be disposed of.

Published on April 2, the cartoon was featured in a WeChat post (in Chinese) titled “An illustrated handbook on how to sort foreign trash” (洋垃圾分类图鉴 yáng lājī fènlèi tújiàn). The artwork shows a worker in a full protective suit dealing with “foreign trash” and tossing it in garbage bins for wet, dry, recyclable, and hazardous waste.

There are a total of nine categories in the drawings, many of which contain specific references to recent news about foreigners coming under fire amid the coronavirus:

1. A foreigner who refuses to wear face masks and offends medical workers after coming to China as the virus spreads overseas.

Verdict: Wet trash for “returning kindness with ingratitude.”

2. A foreign basketball player who orders food delivery in the middle of the night while staying at a quarantine hotel.

Verdict: Recyclable trash for “abusing his privilege” but having the chance to be “educated” given his value to the Chinese team he plays for.

Reference: Ex-NBA star Young sorry for China coronavirus quarantine row.

Screen Shot 2020 04 06 at 4.06.44 PM

3. A foreigner who breaks home quarantine and goes out for a jog after traveling abroad.

Verdict: Dry trash for “exploiting freedom” at the expense of other people’s safety.

Reference: Bayer fires Australian Chinese employee after she breaks home quarantine in Beijing (note that the offender was ethnically Chinese).

4. A foreigner who illegally enters China to avoid the outbreak at home.

Verdict: Recyclable trash for “selfishly putting Chinese people in danger.”

5. A foreign “romance scammer” targeting Chinese women for sex and cash.

Verdict: Hazardous trash for committing heinous crimes in the name of “an open-minded outlook on dating.”

6. A foreigner who sings praises of China in public but secretly posts anti-China views on the internet.

Verdict: Wet trash for being two-faced and using freedom of speech as a defense when challenged.

7. A foreigner who violates Chinese quarantine regulations by leaving home to pick up a delivery without permission.

Verdict: Dry trash for “not conforming to Chinese rules” while in China.

Screen Shot 2020 04 06 at 4.07.11 PM

8. A foreigner who tested positive for COVID-19 attacks health workers.

Verdict: Hazardous trash for “reciprocating generosity with animosity.”

9. A foreigner who cuts in line for coronavirus testing and tells Chinese people in the queue to “get out.”

Verdict: “A giant piece of hazardous trash” that needs to be deported immediately.

Reference: Three Americans get heat for cutting in a COVID-19 testing line in Qingdao; Local government apologizes on their behalf.

The author concludes the cartoon with a few messages for “ungrateful foreigners” who have taken advantage of China’s “kindness” in the global fight against the pandemic:

China has contributed tremendously to the world during the crisis and sent supplies to virus-stricken countries. Some “foreign trash” have taken China’s kindness for granted! But you need to realize that it’s not our obligation to help you!”  

We don’t discriminate against any foreigners but at the same time, we will never condone any misconduct by foreigners.

As concerns over imported COVID-19 infections grow in China, so have fear and mistrust of foreigners, especially those recently returned from abroad. The xenophobic tone of the cartoon echoes scores of recent personal accounts of foreigners being confronted with uncomfortable experiences that include being denied services at local businesses and being called derogatory names in public.  

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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

20 Comments

  1. Luiz Reply

    While there have been incidents of discrimination against Chinese and Asians outside of China during the pandemic, there were also many voices of reason urging people not to sink to such deplorable behaviour. Now that we have discrimination against foreigners within China, where are the Chinese voices of reason reminding their countrymen not to sink to such lows?

    This to my mind is one big difference between China and the West. Yes, both can be horribly racist. But at least in the West one can count on there always being a very strong, loud, vocal opposition to racism. In China, in times such as these, one barely hears that opposition.

  2. Klara Mickalova Reply

    China has contributed tremendously to the world during the crisis and sent supplies to virus-stricken countries??? Citizens of PRC, backed by the Embassy of the PRC, were buying protective geras en masse in January and February in the Czech Republic. On March , the Czech Republic government sent tons and tons of medical supplies to PRC as a humanitarian donation (yes: high quality products made in the EU – for free). Three weeks later, PRC started SELLING incredubly ovepriced (twenty times of normal price and more), sub-standard quality Chinese medical products back to the Czech Republic. Plus claims that the PRC is the only country in the world which is HELPING (!!!) others, plus unwanted propaganda slogans on the boxes of the overpriced, commercially acquired cargo. Plus claims that the first wave of epidemy in China had been over and what started is the vawe brought in by trashy foreigners. Shame on the the PRC governments, the liars and criminals!!!

  3. Ashley Reply

    This kind of standard vitriol from Chinese netizens, constantly bereft of objectivity, is immensely depressing and sadly signifies the polarisation between China and the rest of the world that is set to occur even further as the global health and economic catastrophe of COVID-19 continues its inexorable march through both the developed and the developing world.

    The xenophobia of mainland Chinese is for once being matched by westerners, the hatred being spewed online from westerners of both left and right wing persuasion towards mainland Chinese is harrowing, although not all together surprising given that many people in the west are losing their jobs/homes/sense of security. And the developing world is even more severely affected. Global unity should prevail to try and beat this terrible disease.

  4. Roger Sanchez Reply

    If China were gone we’ll all be better off.. manufacturing and jobs will return, products will last longer, land fill will be reduced, pollution etc. They cannot be developed into a democratic nation, they are a low iq populace who due to their state run education care nothing for human rights, and only value and desire “luck”, wealth and power. There truly has never been a more wretched ideology, save islam.

    1. Luiz Reply

      I think your generalizations are a bit too much, frankly. In fact, gross generalizations of ANY kind are exactly what people should be rising up against. And I doubt you know enough about Islam to describe it as ‘wretched’.

    2. Adam Earl Reply

      You seemed to have scratched you as**le not your head before you wrote that piece, you narrow-minded, Fox-News-brained washed.

  5. paul Reply

    lol it’s ironic about foreigners cutting in line, when it’s the chinese are 100% more likely to cut in line.

  6. Alfredo Reply

    I would recommend to first read the cartoon. . . the author’s summary really takes things out of context. For example, the explanation for the NBA player is the the is ordering food at 3:00 am and says that if it’s not brought to his home he will go by himself to get it, thereby not violating his quarantine. No wonder this attitude leads to anger amongst the locals.

    This is not to say that I am condoning what’s happening. . . racism and xenophobes is rising in all countries against all foreign nationals that are seen as a threat. Against this backdrop, we need information to be as objective as possible. Otherwise we risk making things worse.

  7. Don Clarke Reply

    As expected, the WeChat post has already been harmonized off the web. May I suggest that when SC or anyone else makes a reference to a web source that has any possibility of being harmonized, they save it to an internet archive and post the link to the archived document?

  8. Feanor Reply

    I cannot fault Chinese people for being angry at unruly foreigners. Developed countries have this problem to a huge degree with foreigners refusing to live by the rules. Even poor countries have this problem with entitled, arrogant people from rich countries. Pointing this out does in no way insult any of these nations. These cartoons are also all based on actual cases. However, other countries have the same right to mock unruly immigrants and visitors from China when they refuse to accept the rules of the country they now live in.

  9. Konrad curze Reply

    I see no racism at all in this.

    How is it racist to ask foreigners to act respectfully?

    You behave in other’s country as they expect you to, or you leave.
    They owe you nothing.

    1. Brice Reply

      Except that Chinese are doing those exact same things tenfold…
      Woman attacking police officer, spitting in hospital, or while abroad, spreading their saliva all over the place, sending faulty medical equipment,…
      let’s not even talk about forging official documents (driving licenses, false claims to get visa,… fyi, I work with them I’m belgium, they were not shy to explain it. However, it is not my job to rat them out)

  10. Nota Reply

    the food delivery in China is working 24 hours per day. they just used the NBA star (and as other “foreign” people acknowledgement to put a blame and make monkey over them.

  11. Swen Goldpreis Reply

    I am really shoked by this new level of rassims in China. Some days ago I chatted with a former Chinese friend who actively spread the rumour that the virus was imported by US soldiers. Since conspiracy theories are generelly hard to falsify despite being utter nonsense I was willing to accept this as “diffrent oppinion”, but then she said she wished that china would threaten the US with military to make them “accept the truth”. Seriously? You are so much blinded that you would wish for a devasting war, I wondered and then deleted her from my friend list. But after I talked with several of other foreigners who lived in China, I came to the conclusion that this new radicalism is nothing unheard of.

  12. stevelaudig Reply

    “lol it’s ironic about foreigners cutting in line, when it’s the chinese are 100% more likely to cut in line.”

    I noticed at least two “line behaviors” in Han China. I’ll call them: 1. “get on a bus” line behavior which is, in effect, there is no line. There is a push and shove in the direction of the door; and, 2. “free admission day at the museum”. In this situation one can see a one person wide line snaking from the door of the museum out to the gate down the sidewalk and around the corner. There is no shoving, pushing etc. Now the odd thing is that the both lines may contain many of the same people but there is an understanding that shitty line behavior will have consequences in the museum line that will not in the bus line.

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