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Policy Summary

On Wednesday, during a White House news conference, President Trump was questioned in regard to allegations that Coronavirus-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, before escaping. The United States government has recently accused China of bearing the brunt of the responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic. When asked if he had discussed the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump responded, “I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory, I just don’t want to discuss, it’s inappropriate right now.” Following Wednesday’s news conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told Fox News Channel, “we know this virus originated in Wuhan, China.” The Secretary of State went on to say that the Institute of Virology was within mere miles from the market, where the virus first appeared. Pompeo demanded that Beijing “open up” and “come clean” on the pandemic’s origins.

President Donald Trump has been quoted as calling the virus, “China-virus”.  March 16th, was when President Trump and his administration first used the term while also introducing allegations that Beijing knowingly put the United States in danger by not disclosing information about the virus as early as possible. Soon after, Trump defended the racial term by saying, “it comes from China,” and said the label is “not racist.” The term offended many, with Chinese-Americans feeling specifically targeted. Following a sharp spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans across the nation, President Trump changed his tone on March 23rd when he tweeted, ““It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form” However, the hate crimes against the minority group have continued.

Soon, The Epoch Times was sharing news articles titled, “Democrats Would Rather Blame Trump Than China for the Pandemic” and “China Using Facebook Ads to Attack America, Spread Virus Disinformation.” The Epoch Times is run by members of the Falun Gong—also known as Falun Data. The Falun Gong are a group guided by a spiritual meditation system and form of qigong. The practice is performed through a series of slow-moving exercises for the mind and body. Due to the vast popularity of Falun Gong in China during the 1990s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) became concerned that soon the group would outnumber the members of the CCP.  Soon, Jiang Zemin, the former leader of CCP, initiated violent persecution of the members of the Fulan Gong. The motive for The Epoch Time’s support of President Trump’s anti-Chinese attacks may lie in the background of the founders.

Policy Analysis
When we talk about The Epoch Times, we need to keep in mind its cultural, political, and religious history. It is, first and foremost, a nonprofit news media outlet founded by persecuted members of the Falun Gong in response to what it defines as “communist repression and censorship” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Although the Epoch Times may officially disagree, it is essentially the public relations arm of the Falun Gong movement. It is the fastest-growing independent news media source in the U.S. and claims to be nonpartisan and free from the sway of any government, corporation, or political party. However, it altogether fails to suggest that it may be under the influence of a religious group.

When you watch a YouTube commercial for The Epoch Times, you are hit with a litany of conservative buzzwords such as “Deep State,” “traditional values,” and “fake news.” This would, off the top, seem to suggest that the nonpartisan part of their pitch may be fudging the lines. All of these buzzwords and the narrative that goes along with them is now a tried-and-true strategy by the right-wing, pro-Trump movement. Scrolling through The Epoch Times’ website, one see’s plenty of positive coverage of President Trump, an espousal of traditional and conservative values, and a lambasting of the CCP. Interestingly, the coronavirus is referred to in posted titles as the “CCP virus” rather than Trump’s preferred “China virus.” This, I believe, speaks to where The Epoch Times’ true loyalties lie and why the outlet has suddenly swung pro-Trump in the wake of the 2016 elections.

Trump has been, and promised to be while on the campaign trail, tough on China. He has waged a grueling trade war, repeatedly criticized the CCP, raged against communism, and is now blaming China for covering-up the coronavirus and causing the pandemic that threatens his re-election chances. Putting aside whether or not China is in fact responsible and any of these actions, one perceives an obvious pattern of Trump being more keen than past presidents to challenge China’s position on the world stage. He is, arguably, far more aggressive about his anti-CCP stance. This is a godsend for the Falun Gong. They have a man in the White House that attacks the CCP head-on. Trump’s anti-CCP agenda perfectly fits with the Falun Gong’s desires to see the regime toppled and an end to regime persecution.

It is no wonder that its mouthpiece, The Epoch Times, has re-defined itself as a rabidly pro-Trump, new-age conservative outlet. It can attract both Trump supporters and American conservatives with its already-present anti-CCP articles, stoke national anger, and direct this wrath towards ending regime. In addition, the Falun Gong movement shares the same beliefs as many main-stream American conservatives. It is all for a return to traditional values, is anti-abortion, and anti-LGBTQ. It’s a match made in heaven: an anti-CCP religious movement that has many of the same beliefs as the conservative tide, a president who is anti-CCP, an independent news outlet, and a listening right-wing audience.

All of this is not to say that the Falun Gong’s resentment of and desire to see the CCP toppled is not valid. The Falun Gong have been persecuted and had human rights atrocities committed against them. They have every reason to work towards the end of the CCP. However, as liberal-minded Americans, we must understand where right-wing supporters are receiving their news and why it is occurring. Ignoring this would be a great disservice to understanding our fellow Americans and the pro-Trump agenda that is being peddled.

Engagement Resources:

  • FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986.
  • ONA Ethics has created a “Build Your Own Ethics Code” project that recognizes that no single ethics code can reflect the needs of everyone in our widely varied profession. We believe the best hope for convincing all journalists to adopt and live by an ethics code is to give them ownership and flexibility in creating one.
  • The Ethical Journalism Network has already helped to strengthen ethical journalism in some of the most troubled and difficult corners of the world. They advise policymakers and human rights groups both in Europe and at a global level on hate speech, media literacy and media ethics.
  • Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of Asian Americans and all of those in need. Founded in 1974 to advocate for equal rights, AAFE has transformed in the past four decades to become one of New York’s preeminent housing, social service and community development organizations.
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus is the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving the low-income Asian Pacific American communities.

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

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