COVID-19 Mask provided to the East-West Center staff by the East-West Center Association (EWCA) Beijing Chapter.

Cooperation in the Face of COVID: China and Chinese Americans Aid Communities Across the United States


Thanks to its world-renowned universities, Connecticut has long been a destination for Chinese and Chinese American students. According to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) 2019 Open Doors Report, over 35% of international students in the state originated from China. Connecticut is also home to over 43,000 Chinese Americans, 23% of the state’s total Asian American population. It is such connections across the state and across the sea that facilitated a large donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Yale Medicine and the neighboring Yale New Haven Hospital from AMT Consulting, a management and IT consulting firm based in Shanghai, China. AMT donated over 7,700 N95 masks (another 14,000 are expected to arrive soon), while the Yale Chinese Parent Club donated 16 boxes of hazmat suits. Chinese American families around the state, many of whom are employees at nearby organizations, also donated 2,000 surgical masks.

Kansas City, Missouri’s Kansas City Chinese American Association acted quickly to help friends and family in China in early February when the virus reached its peak in Wuhan, China, raising $18,000 and sending 1,000 pairs of gloves to the epicenter. As the virus moved closer to home in Missouri, the Association banded together with Chinese American associations in California, Nebraska, and Ohio to raise funds to purchase PPE for the University of Kansas (KU) Health System. All told, they donated 500 N95 masks and 3,500 medical-grade masks in addition to a check for $2,000. Members of the Association belong to a robust community of between 10,000 – 20,000 Chinese Americans in the Kansas City area out of a total of over 31,000 in Missouri, roughly 20% of the Asian American population in the state.

The East-West Center’s own alumni in China, via the East-West Center Association (EWCA) Beijing Chapter, provided Center employees with a generous donation of 6,000 masks to thank the Center for a wonderful international exchange experience.

These examples just scratch the surface of the outreach that Chinese and Chinese American communities are doing throughout the United States. Unfortunately, for every instance of coming together in the face of this pandemic, Asian Americans, and Chinese Americans in particular, are facing discrimination and racist attacks as misinformation and fear surround the continuing developments of COVID-19 in the United States. There have also been press reports in the US and internationally about faulty masks and testing equipment exports from China. Attacks, both verbal and physical, have become so numerous around the country that the Asia Pacific Policy & Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action have jointly created a forum for Asian Americans to submit incident reports and track the attacks as they occur. Since the site launched on March 19th there have been over 1,100 reports of discrimination across the country. The Committee of 100, a nonprofit founded by I.M. Pei and Yo-Yo Ma to gather Chinese Americans together across a variety of disciplines, has released a statement condemning the attacks. As these regrettable events continue to unfold, researchers at the University of Maryland and University of Maryland, Baltimore County plan to study the effects of discrimination against Chinese Americans specifically related to COVID-19, to determine the long-term impacts of discrimination on this community more broadly. These developments are occurring in the broader context of troubled and complicated U.S.-China relations in the wake of COVID 19. How and whether these trends will impact each other remains to be seen and should continue to receive close attention.

Sarah Wang is a Programs Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington.