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China expels three ‘Wall Street Journal’ journalists because of ‘racist’ Wuhan coronavirus headline

The headline used the phrase “the sick man of Asia”—a phrase that holds negative historical connotations for the country.

China expels three ‘Wall Street Journal’ journalists because of ‘racist’ Wuhan coronavirus headline
[Photo: AbsolutVision/Unsplash]

China has expelled three Wall Street Journal journalists from the country after the paper ran an op-ed in early February that Chinese officials claim was racist, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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That op-ed was titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” and was written by Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College, not a journalist for the WSJ. In the piece, Mead wrote, “China’s financial markets are probably more dangerous in the long run than China’s wildlife markets” and went on to examine the economic consequences of the virus on the country.

But the headline was widely picked up by Chinese media and shared on social media in the country, causing outrage among citizens for its alleged racism. As the WSJ notes, the phrase “sick man of Asia” holds historical significance for Chinese citizens:

The phrase ‘sick man of Asia’ was used by both outsiders and Chinese intellectuals to refer to a weakened China’s exploitation by European powers and Japan in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a period now described in Chinese history textbooks as the ‘century of humiliation.’

As a result of public anger over the op-ed’s headline using the phrase, China announced on Wednesday that it was expelling three Wall Street Journal journalists from the country. None of the journalists worked on the op-ed in question, nor would have been involved in commissioning the piece since the WSJ’s news department and opinion pages are run separately to uphold editorial objectivity. The expulsion of the three journalists marks the first time China has expelled foreign correspondents in 22 years. After the expulsion was announced, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said:

Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility. The Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, an organization that represents foreign journalists in China, quickly released a statement on Twitter, condemning the journalists’ expulsions, saying, “The action taken against The Journal correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents.”

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