Emil Guillermo: Trump coins a new Asian slur–"Chinatown"

Image for Emil Guillermo: Trump coins a new Asian slur–"Chinatown"

If you were an Asian American watching that CNN Town Hall in New Hampshire this past week, then you know there’s cause for concern.

This was Donald Trump’s big national reveal of his new xenophobic tic.

The man who made the phrases “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” the scourge of Asian America–leading to thousands of transgressions, often violent, toward AAPIs during the pandemic–now has a new trick to deploy.

Considering how he loves to squint his eyes as he emphatically says, “CHY-nah,” it’s the perfect racist follow- up for 2024.

In this new campaign, Trump will now say “Chinatown” more times than a lost tourist with a hankering for egg rolls and sweet and sour pork.

Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown. With zeal.

In Trump’s mind, this is as emotionally charged and divisive as it gets in the next campaign.

And since it’s just us Asians, no one will notice, because no one notices us if we don’t speak out. Not even during AANHPI Heritage Month.

So let me be offended for us all.

The Chinatown slur is made to order for Trump.

When the topic of Mar-a-Lago and the unlawful handling of presidential documents comes up, as it will in this campaign, especially if more criminal indictments are to come, Trump is ready to have Chinatown on the tip of his tongue.

Why? Because Vice President Joe Biden once had an office in D.C.’s Chinatown. And that’s where Biden kept some of those presidential records he shouldn’t have had.

Of course, Biden has allowed the presidential archive to retrieve the documents. There was no need for a subpoena, as was the case with Trump’s haul of documents, many of which were highly classified.

But in Trump’s mind, the boxes are his bridge to get to another issue: The House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the president’s son, Hunter Biden.

That investigation has revealed some connections between Hunter Biden and Chinese-based energy companies owned by high level Chinese officials with connections to the Chinese military and the Chinese political elite.

Does Joe Biden have anything to do with that? No.

But Hunter Biden has big money deals with Chinese companies. And Joe Biden has those archive boxes in Chinatown.

It’s only relevant in the same illogical way Trump made the Obama “Birther” conspiracy a political thing, and a general nuisance. It made no sense and was based on a lie that Obama was not born in the U.S.

But if Trump lovers ate up that xenophobic smear, they’ll love the “Biden’s boxes in Chinatown” treachery.

It’s Trump’s 2024 racist smear.

Boxes in Chinatown.

To Trump, it’s proof Biden’s in bed, or at least in boxes, with the communists and President Xi.

And what of Trump’s bootlicking bromance with Putin in Helsinki in 2018?

Nothing like Biden’s boxes in Chinatown.

Trump has been practicing this since last month when the House Oversight Committee led by Rep. James Comer issued its report. Even the Wall Street Journal admits there’s no smoking gun in any of it, and nothing really connects the president to his son’s business dealings.

But Biden has boxes in Chinatown and that’s good enough for Trump, who started the CNN Town Hall with the first of many lies, that 2020 was a “rigged election.”

If that’s his barometer of truth, then he must really feel he has something with Biden’s boxes.

Yes, the boxes were in Chinatown. But they have nothing to do with anything. But it’s a real thing used to promote a lie— that it’s President Biden having a fiscal relationship with Chinese companies, not Hunter Biden. But don’t tell that to Trump. Or his devotees.

“He had boxes sent to Chinatown, Chinatown,” Trump said to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in response to questions about the Presidential Records Act. “Chinatown, where they don’t speak even English in that Chinatown we’re talking about.”

You mean in DC’s Chinatown, home of the big sports arena where all of metro Washington goes to see major athletic and pop cultural events? You mean in the mostly gentrified DC Chinatown of today, where English is more commonly spoken than Mandarin or Cantonese?

Trump carried on about the Presidential Records Act, just as CNN’s Collins continued to correct Trump in real time, especially when Trump said he could “automatically declassify documents when [he] took them.”

Trump glided over her objections and continued his harangue.

“Why is it that Biden had nine boxes in Chinatown? And he gets a lot of money from China.”

Collins should have corrected that too. So far, the business connection is between China and Hunter Biden.

Still, the rowdy live audience, which fed off Trump’s lies, clapped loudly at the Chinatown reference.

Just as they clapped when Trump said he would pardon some of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

Just as they clapped when he insulted E. Jean Carroll, the woman who just this week won a $5 million judgment against Trump, who was found by a jury liable for sexual abuse and defamation.

To hear the crowd’s applause is exactly why “boxes in Chinatown” will become a Trump thing. It lets him connect the president to China in an emotional way that brings out a divisive politician’s secret sauce—American xenophobia.

It’s one of the few things in all of politics that actually trickles down.

The negative feelings toward Biden’s boxes in Chinatown transfers to everyone’s negative feelings towards people in Chinatown.

And not just Chinese people, or people of Chinese descent, but all Asian Americans, everywhere.

We saw what happens when Trump scapegoated us with “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” slurs.

An attack on one of us is an attack on all, no matter if you’re Filipino, or Vietnamese, or Korean.

It’s all China to the perps.

And it’s all due to a modern form of Yellow Peril that has been on simmer for some time, mostly impacting Asian American scientists and professors accused of being spies. But as Washington/Beijing politics heats up, even the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has noted its leader Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28) has been “falsely and maliciously” accused of “misplaced loyalties.”

In a polarizing campaign, when the presidential documents issue possibly turns into indictments, it will be Trump’s cue to ramp up the “Biden’s boxes in Chinatown” rhetoric.

It may protect him, but it will clearly stoke anti-Asian sentiment and discrimination of our community as “perpetual foreigners.”

For others, the town hall was a showcase of Trump’s lies. We all should have noticed Trump’s hate. For AAPIs, the CNN Trump Town Hall was our direct warning.


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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