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Nationalism During the Pndemic
According to Smith (2000), nationalism refers to two ideas: one belongs to a nation, and the other is the corresponding political ideology, which holds that the territorial borders and a country should be coincidental. Nationalism has two distinct aspects; one is ethnic or cultural nationalism, and the other is civic nationalism, which defines national membership in adherence to specific principles of democracy and justice.  


Nationalism is not seen so often until something big happens, such as famine, economic collapse, or pandemic, as in the current situation. In many countries, people have witnessed discrimination against Asian people. 

From the example of the discrimination against Asian people, the tendency of ethnic nationalism can be observed. Those examples reflect Smith, G.'s definitions of Nationalism[AS1]. [AS2] However, though there is research about the occurrence of nationalism, the opinions about the causes of nationalism vary depending on the researchers. In the same way, the cause of this nationalism revival after the pandemic is unclear yet. 


Discrimination against Asian Population during Pandemic 


Historically, there are many examples of the local population being fearful towards people from outside, potentially leading to discrimination. The models, including Black people being uneducated savages, the Jews wanting to dominate the world, the Muslims being religious radicals, etc., can lead to discrimination.  


Diseases are often the reason for that process. For example, in the 1980s, Haitian immigrants were blamed for spreading HIV/AIDS in the U.S. When the Ebola outbreak took place in West Africa in 2014, though there were only nine recorded deaths in the U.S, the fear towards the West African population increased. Covid-19 is no exception (ADL, 2020). After the pandemic, just because it is highly likely that the virus occurs in China, people in other countries discriminate against Chinese and against other Asian people, who are not necessarily Chinese.  


Those are all connected to anxiety and fear from the local population, potentially facilitating racial stereotypes. Potentially when problems occur, they are the ones who can be blamed for, even though they are not the reasons for the issues. 


There is some research about the correspondence between nationalism and anxieties towards immigration. For Example, Xenophobia- the fear or hatred of people from abroad- is the central concept of the anxieties towards immigrants. Some argue that this can be the reason for discrimination since the occurrence of the pandemic. As mentioned, the fear of the virus could quickly become fear of Asian people. Brown (2021) points out that some psychological research on politics and germs suggests that fear of strangers arises naturally, politically, and culturally.  


According to a report from HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, Xenophobia is extensively spread after COVID-19, and the case that xenophobia developed into discrimination was seen worldwide. [AS3] The spread of xenophobia has increased harassment with violence or hate speech against Asian immigrants worldwide.  

However, is xenophobia occurring just because of the national response? 


Kim and Sundstorm (2014) argue that xenophobia is a different concept from nativism and racism, even though those three words are connected historically or socially. They say that xenophobia is not only about fear but also envy, resentment, and feelings of contradiction, which is based on the One Mind imperative or often being referred to as civic ostracism. Nativism focuses on the maintenance of policies within each country, while racism includes more historical perspectives related to the concept of nationality. These are different from xenophobia, but at the same time, xenophobia can also be understood from these concepts. 


Here is the Example that Xenophobia is becoming nativism; it morphs into racism. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the governments to "act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate." 


Xenophobia may not be sole because people feel uncertain about COVID-19, but some country's politicians also use hate speech against one particular ethnic group. In the case of Muslims in Myanmar, the indigenous political class has spread hate speech to justify their racist policy. Coll (2021) also cites two examples that Donald Trump "created a level of anxiety in the country." He claimed the ban on travel from West Africa was to prevent Ebola from entering the United States. Then, something similar happened during the pandemic. He claimed the cause of COVID-19 was in China. 


Considering that the China-United Stated trade war was ongoing at that time, his blame on China is not simply coming from the fear of the virus but also from the political strategies. [AS5]  It can be said that the reason that people start to feel xenophobia towards immigrants can be politically led. COVID-19 is spread naturally, and xenophobia is spread intentionally by various national leaders for their interests. [AS6]   

In an article in the UK, Hirsch (2021) said, "we have to avoid 'integration' becoming another form of racism." The U.K.'s most senior counterterrorism officer, Neil Basu, also said, "Integration is not assimilation." Integration, here, is the process of being accepted as they are, while assimilation is the process of being taken if they follow the dominant culture or customs.  


Though people think the same between integration and assimilation, that aspect of assimilation, expecting them to follow their own culture, can cause the feeling of exclusion among immigrants. Hirsch (2021) describes people are more easily radicalized when they feel excluded, not because they don't feel assimilated. Since assimilation is based on the idea that one culture is superior to another, it can never give a sense of belonging.  


Beyond that, the feeling of being up and being left behind can lead to rejection. Therefore, we should distinguish integration and assimilation not to repeat the history of exclusion, which the post politicians caused. 




The anxiety of immigrants always lurks. The rise of nationalism has been seen worldwide, especially during this pandemic. Some nationalism is already happening across the country. Xenophobia is one of the reasons, and it occurs when people are in a vulnerable situation, which may seem to have some causes and effects on immigrants. Even though there are no consequences between those vulnerabilities and immigrants, some are still fearful of the immigrants. Nationalism catalyzes xenophobia.  


At the same time, in terms of the rise of xenophobia, the intentions of nations' leaders could be intervened. Some fuel anxieties to make them believe the demagogy, which will work in their favor. They used pandemics for their political strategies. Various national leaders increase the tensions amongst the local population and sometimes make them popular in their countries.

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