The project is about the social aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It will contribute to a book that we (Barry Sautman, HKUST; Yan Hairong, HK Polytechnic University) are writing. Western (mainly US) politicians and media have made claims that Chinese infect the world, that their eating habits have caused the epidemic, and that they have been deceitful and incompetent in dealing with the disease. These notions are being spread globally, but have no factual basis. Each of them is a present-day counterpart to the original Yellow Peril ideology that was present in the West during the late 19th Century and 20th Century. The project examines detailed empirical data about each of these notions. It places them in the context of the larger mobilization by US elites against China that has proceeded during the last few years. The project also looks at the actions taken by China and Chinese in comparison with the actions of other countries and peoples.
Students will mainly do desktop research in the social sciences, although some topics may also involve reading epidemiological or virological studies. Each student will have several discrete topics to research, but they may work in a team on some topics. Data will be gathered through our library's databases of academic and non-academic articles, as well as social media. Research will be in English, Chinese or other languages students can read. The findings will be recorded and analyzed in writing by students as we go along and will also be discussed each week in a one-hour meeting (in-person and Zoom). In addition to the book, the results may contribute to several papers that will be submitted to leading academic journals.
Students will learn how to gather and analyze data related to a subject with which they have had little or no previous knowledge. They will also learn about a key aspect of critical thinking: how to parse claims that are widely believed and that seem to have some merit, but actually have little or no empirical foundation. For some topics that they will research, students will also gain experience in integrating concepts and theories with the data they uncover.