There was massive backlash against the Wall Street Journal’s article, “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?” The article, which talked about previous Western attitudes toward population control in China and China’s current population decrease, brought into question whether the Wall Street Journal supports the Asian American community, especially in the wake of the shootings aimed at Asian communities in California days before the article’s release.
The article’s title was, overall, insensitive to Asian Americans, especially when considering that many people were on edge because of the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings. The release of the article contributed to the rising visibility of anti-Asian hatred. In addition, its content revealed the author’s positive opinions concerning China’s population decline within a global context. The title was based on a book released in 1959 titled “Too Many Asians,” which stated that Western societies needed to prevent Asian societies from having more children in order to control the global population and handle their resources. The article, originally titled “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?” adds to the active hatred against the Asian community.
The article was written by The Wall Street Journal’s Chief Editorial Editor, William McGurn. The article attempted to link the previous decade’s overpopulation and poverty issues to previous Chinese population growth.
In the end, McGurn states that there were many factors in the Chinese population decline and that it should have happened decades ago, stating, “If only that were the message being sent 50 years ago — when it might have made a difference.” He argued this by linking previous world leaders and organizations’ views — from the 1960s to the 1970s — on overpopulation and poverty to Western groups pushing population control onto China.
McGurn has written previous articles about Asians, whether it be about politicians, movements or overall communities. One article, titled “Asian-Americans Feel the Hate,” talks about the issues in Asian American communities while undermining the Stop Asian Hate movement’s credibility or Asian hate crimes themselves. McGurn does this by saying that peoples’ “woke obsession with race and hate works” to diminish the crimes themselves, and by questioning if an Asian hate crime would still be a hate crime if it was done by a non-white person.
In “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?,” none of McGurn’s sources linked issues of overpopulation and poverty with China’s population rises and falls. These weren’t linked because he discussed sources talking about decades’ worth of population issues from different viewpoints, as if putting the ideas next to each other would somehow magically connect them. It was evident that McGurn’s opinions of the decrease in the current Chinese population were positive. It is a wild stance and leaves the audience questioning whether McGurn even believes the sentiment of his piece’s original title.
The article received backlash for its title, stance and general timing of release. “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?” was published on Jan. 23, which was two days after the Monterey Park shooting and the same day as the Half Moon Bay shooting, both targeting Asian communities in California. There was a clear backlash against this article, with some calling the article “disgusting” and the writer “racist.” The backlash was called for, considering that it was insensitive to recent shootings, in which many Asian families lost loved ones, as well as the question itself of whether there are too many Asians in Western society.
This backlash made the company retract the print version, with the online version still on the Wall Street Journal’s website. The title of the article was changed to “China and the Population Bomb That Wasn’t,” which did not stop the backlash it was receiving. It does not seem like the Wall Street Journal will be removing this piece based on McGurn’s position at the Wall Street Journal and his previous articles that took similar stances.
The article’s title reinforces the idea that there are too many immigrants or minorities in America. Even though the article is about China, the Wall Street Journal and the author are both in America, which makes many viewers think that this article is about America. The article’s headline gives no indication that it is about China specifically, given that it just refers to them as “Asians.” Many viewers will just glance at article titles without reading them, which is how it reinforces the idea that there are too many Asians in America. People will not know the context unless they read it, but that doesn’t stop the article from being hurtful in its title alone.
These types of articles enforce discriminatory mindsets, which are often followed by hate crimes, hateful incidents and online hatred, all of which have already increased significantly since COVID-19. Many of these reports range from verbal assault to being spat on in the face to the most recent shootings in California. “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?” supports the idea that there should be fewer Asians in the world, making the community feel unwelcome and exposing them to a continuous feeling of discomfort while living in America. The author may not have been trying to make this point when the article was originally being written, but it is hard for someone to view a piece they made with the same perspective as someone who is reading it for the first time. However, it is clear that there is some resentment or dislike toward the Chinese community based on the different transitions and wording alone. McGurn was not arguing that overpopulation in general had to do with poverty, but instead attempting to directly relate it to the Chinese population and blame them for previous world issues.
Publications and articles such as these bolster the idea that Asians and other minorities are objects of hatred in America. Instead, topics about overpopulation should be written with more of a worldly perspective, thinking of different perspectives and contributing to the bigger picture. This is the opposite of what McGurn does in his column, which focuses the attention of one nation.
Moving forward, and based on his previous works, the minimum that McGurn should do is stop focusing on the Asian community. Based on his previous articles, he doesn’t write about their issues in a truthful way. Even though there were many people voicing their concerns about a “racist” writing for The Wall Street Journal, there is a lot of doubt that his removal is likely given that he is The Wall Street Journal’s chief editorial editor.
Sydney Lee is a sophomore majoring in English.