This article has been made free for everyone, thanks to Medium Members. For more information on the novel coronavirus and Covid-19, visit

What’s Wrong With ‘The Chinese Virus’?

An anthropologist explores the controversial labels for COVID-19, especially ‘the Chinese Virus’ and other problematic coronavirus names

Mar 23 · 7 min read
In Trump’s notes for a COVID-19 briefing on March 19, the word ‘corona’ was crossed out and replaced with ‘Chinese’ virus. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Hugh Gusterson

Most Americans take it for granted that in the 1960s, more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers died in something called the Vietnam War…

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade