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At the Crossroads: COVID-19, Racism, and Disinformation

This event is part a series dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, hosted at the The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Stay tuned for the May 25 event, "Beyond #StopAsianHate." Follow and learn more on Twitter with #AAPIatWilson.

Date & Time

May. 13, 2021
1:00pm – 2:00pm ET


For more than a year, we have been fighting three viruses: COVID-19, racism and disinformation. For Asian Americans, concerns about COVID-19 are accompanied by fears of violence, with the number of reported attacks on Asian Americans surging during the pandemic as much as by 145%, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. One cause of this increase is disinformation campaigns that specifically tie the spread of the pandemic to racist narratives, scapegoating Asian communities and Asian Americans as the agents for COVID-19.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars invites you to join us for a program that will shed light on this convergence, by examining the impact disinformation has had on Asian American communities, and its impact on our global standing. What has been the impact of disinformation on Asian Americans? How are certain groups targeted in disinformation? What has been the impact of these trends on diplomatic relations with Asian countries as well as US standing in the region?

This event is co-sponsored by the Wilson Center's Science and Technology Innovation Program, Asia Program, the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, and the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy. It is held in partnership with the Asian American Journalist Association.


  • Introduction: Ambassador Mark Green, President, Director, & CEO, The Wilson Center
  • Keynote address: Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA 33rd District) 
  • Panel:
    • Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Reporter, the Washington Post; President, Asian American Journalists Association
    • Prof. Jonathan Corpus Ong, Associate Professor, Global Digital Media, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    • Rui Zhong, Program Associate, Kissinger Institute on China, The Wilson Center
    • Moderator: Jean H. Lee, Director, Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy, The Wilson Center

Questions for the panel can be submitted via email at, via Twitter @AsiaProgram, or when you RSVP for the event.



  • “When America experiences fear, minority communities have been scapegoated.”

    “One of the reasons that you see a certain kind of hatred and discrimination against Asian-Americans is from something I call the “foreigner syndrome,” that when someone looks at me their first view is that I’m not American, or I’m a second-class citizen, or that I’m not of this country and I have dual loyalties in another country. And this isn’t even just from conspiracy theories or specific disinformation memes, this is embedded in our own government.” 

    “As we see a heating up of the rhetoric between the U.S. and China I think the situation could get worse, and it is my hope we can counter this with factual information and really drive home the link that you have to view Asian-Americans as you would view any other American, which is: they’re Americans.”

  • “We need to account how hate speech and right-wing ideology might travel internationally through social media, but we also need sociological and historical perspectives, nuancing how racism—and internalized racism—are experienced by AAPI communities, in our ethnic diversity, our sociolinguistic differences, [and] our class differences.”

    “We need to really understand how disinformation works, where it comes from, and who funds it. We need to know how disinformation can sow confusion, create divisiveness, and create enemies and scapegoats. Disinformation only works because it activates our community’s deep stories, anxieties, and fears, and we need to confront those too.”

    “The narratives targeting black communities...I would want to understand more how Black on Asian crimes are being reported in this manipulative kind of ecosystem that targets black communities and have these kinds of research speak to one another. I think we need more understanding there.”

  • “[In Chinese Media], violence against Asian Americans is framed in a way that showcases instability in the United States both in terms of law enforcement and in terms of cultural problems that the United States has.”

    “The impetus to really be specific about state actors, specific types of policies, is something that the foreign policy community should really try to focus on because U.S.-China state tensions are not going away. But how people approach making U.S.-China policy is something that is always a work in progress.”

    “It doesn’t matter what kind of foreign policy we have in the aftermath [of the Atlanta spa shooting] if the communities of Asian descent in the United States feel unsafe and unsupported.” 

  • “It’s really important, especially for journalists, to understand as we cover these recent attacks, that violence and harassment and racism against Asians in this country dates to the arrival of Asians in this country.”

    “Over the entirety of our time here, we have faced different eras and different types of violence and harassment, and it’s important to contextualize that this is not just a surge in attacks, not just a one-off incident around COVID but it’s actually a part of our longer history.”

    “Moving forward, there really needs to be some sort of cultural competency training for newsrooms year-round. It can’t be done on a breaking news situation. Because cultural competency around different communities is so different, we should be training our journalists and our editors and all of our news managers to understand how different communities interact, what their cultural boundaries are, what their limitations are, how to approach them, what context to keep in mind when you talk with them, [and] have language resources on hand.”

Hosted By

Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) serves as the bridge between technologists, policymakers, industry, and global stakeholders.  Read more

Indo-Pacific Program

The Indo-Pacific Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on US interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more

Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more

Thank you for your interest in this event. Please send any feedback or questions to our Events staff.