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    • There is no shortage of ignorance in comments under short-form videos.

Short-Form Content, Social Media, and Sinophobia

Rain Zeng ’26 Op/Ed Editor
The past few decades have seen a spread of East Asian culture, with phenomena like the internationalization of Japanese anime and the global rise of Korean pop culture.
The past few decades have seen a spread of East Asian culture, with phenomena like the internationalization of Japanese anime and the global rise of Korean pop culture. This diffusion has only become more rapid with
the help of social media. While appreciation of East Asian culture is on the rise, however, Sinophobia, or anti-Chinese sentiment is a fear or dislike of China, Chinese people and/or Chinese culture, runs rampant online and in real life.

Sinophobia is also connected to xenophobia, or prejudice against people from foreign countries. In the West, especially the United States, xenophobia against those of Asian descent is inextricably a part of history and
politics. In the past, this has meant the Chinese Exclusion Act, incarceration of 110,000 Japanese men, women, and children in internment camps, Ku Klux Klan attacks on Vietnamese refugees, and all manner of stereotyping, discrimination, and violence. Fortunately, with the increased popularity of foreign cultures, a certain amount of “cultural appreciation” is granted. But, of course, not all Asian cultures are created equal.

There seems to be a pattern in the perceptions of different Asian countries in the media. Japan is associated
with art, animation, and fashion. South Korea has all the beauty trends and talented entertainers. China boasts crazy technology, gross foods, and ancient architecture. The rest of East Asia and Southeast Asia is often overlooked. This may be an exaggeration, but it’s undeniable that certain niches are assigned to different countries, with varying connotations and status values.

These warped perceptions lead to content about Chinese culture, especially short-form content, being mislabeled on the internet. In one Instagram Reel with over 400,000 likes, food blogger Alexa Santos makes tanghulu. Originating from Northern China, tanghulu is a traditional dessert that has recently become popular in other Asian countries and the West. In her video, Alexa describes tanghulu as a “Chinese candied fruit snack,” but the comments seem to disagree. User @injiskzhan, represented by a profile picture of Hwang Yeji of K-pop group ITZY, writes: “It is KOREAN NOT CHINESE!” Despite being corrected in the thread of replies, the user defended the “Korean” label, citing TikTok as their source.

Such ignorance with respect to East Asian culture is not uncommon: Dozens of users questioned the origins
of this well-documented Chinese food. And curiously, some of them are from profiles of people who seem immersed in Asian culture to some degree. It may be that their social media algorithms have only shown them this particular food in a Korean context. After all, tanghulu is a reasonably popular food in South Korea. I get it — with social media, you are often primed to believe in only what you’re used to seeing. But this is a pattern I have seen in several online spaces: creators praise “Japanese fashion” in a mood board of a Chinese influencer’s outfits, and frequently cite “K-beauty” when referring to a makeup look from the popular Chinese app Xiaohongshu.

There is significant overlap between East Asian trends. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to do an image search to make sure your information is correct. And when it comes to content about Chinese foods lacking the same aesthetic appeal, no one has any problem believing their origins. One Reel shows hairy tofu, an Eastern Chinese delicacy. Although fermented food is a staple in almost every culture, it’s understandable that not everyone is a fan of edible mold (I don’t like blue cheese, either). Nonetheless, you don’t have to look far to see
Sinophobia in the video’s comments. User @prim1d remarks, “Don’t spread more virus from weird food plz [China].” When the conversation is about something less trendy from China, the fact that it is Chinese is emphasized. What’s frustrating is that the assumption seems to be that anything esthetically pleasing couldn’t possibly be Chinese.

Another way Chinese culture is dismissed is through anti-communist, anti-collectivist fear mongering. Since the Cold War, Chinese-Americans have been regarded with suspicion and animosity, often perceived as affiliates of the Chinese Communist Party. This resulted in a “New Red Scare,”  which resulted in the imprisonment, questioning, and firing of many Chinese-Americans. While this no longer happens, many people are still hardwired to associate Chinese culture with communism. Under a travel food influencer’s post about Chengdu’s street food in which she speaks positively about her experience, user @mxxjed writes, “How
much did CCP pay you for this propaganda.” Despite there being no mention of the CCP in the video, people still manage to reject content about Chinese culture with the same claims meant to inspire distrust and fear.

Back in January, CEOs of several social media companies, including TikTok, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on child safety. The senate hearing was significant in a number of ways,
but the dismissiveness with which TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was treated was jarring. Despite stating multiple times that he is a Singaporean citizen, he was repeatedly asked by Senator Tom Cotton if he was affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.

With the recent discussions of a TikTok ban, this phenomenon is more relevant than ever. In the name of
“national security” from China, US politicians seem to pull out all the stops to prevent anything connected to China from becoming too big of an influence, thereby creating even more distance between the two countries.

If there’s anything made clear by the hearing, it’s that anti-Chinese sentiment can affect all East Asians, as if
that wasn’t already cemented by the sharp interest in hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders of all different backgrounds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as international appreciation for one Asian culture is a positive for many Asian cultures, Asian hate is Asian hate – and we’ve seen that it doesn’t discriminate.

At the end of the day, there will always be people who are disrespectful in any space. Make no mistake:
It’s not a competition between Asian countries to win the West’s favor. I am glad to see people appreciating cultures from all over the world. Still, there needs to be more nuance and respect in conversations about East Asian cultures. Wherever there is content on social media about something Chinese, there are comments full of Sinophobic misinformation, stereotypes, and ignorance.

For a Chinese-American person whose identity has always been tied to Chinese food, music, and traditions, it’s saddening to see my culture mocked and canceled. If your cultural appreciation uplifts certain Asians while putting down others, it’s not very appreciative at all.
Editor in Chief 
Asher Joseph

Managing Editor 
Margaret Russell

Claire Billings
Jo Reymond
Rose Porosoff
Eric Roberts
Abby Rakotomavo
Elona Spiewak
Veena Scholand
Miriam Levin
Liliana Dumas
Saisha Ghai
Olivia Yu
Anya Mahajan
Rain Zeng
Winter Szarabajka
Aerin O'Brien

Karun Srihari
Samantha Bernstein
Hana Beauregard
Micah Betts
Elaina Paktuka
Edel Lee
Anjali van Bladel
Nate Gerber
Rebecca Li

Hailey Willey
Web Editors
Amelia Hudonogov-Foster
Anvi Pathak
Chloe Wang

Faculty Advisers
Stephen May
Elizabeth Gleason
Shanti Madison
The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
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