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Wanted: Yellow Peril

The recent war of words between China and the U.S. in the spy plane incident has raised tensions in the Asian American community.

In addition, the Bush administration has taken a hard line toward North Korea and Vietnam, old communist enemies.

The "active" Bush policy toward Asia comes at a time when many Americans still hold negative perceptions of Asian Americans.

A national survey by the well-known research firm Yankelovich Partners found that about one-quarter of Americans would not approve of intermarriage with an Asian, and nearly a third felt that Chinese Americans were more loyal to China than to the United States.

The news comes as a wakeup call to the community including the growing number of Asian Hapas. The perception that Asians do not suffer discrimination has never looked so wrong.

With the U.S. economy in a sputter, one wonders if Bush's aggressive moves toward Asia will not increase if only to divert attention from the nation's real problems.

Without the threat of the Soviet bear, U.S. policy-makers have struggled to find an "enemy" to focus the billions of dollars alloted to national defense and intelligence organizations.

For some time now there has been talk of a "shift" in focus from the threat of communism to that posed by what should probably be called the "Oriental" threat. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other religious ideologies now are seen as more dangerous than Marxism or Maoism according to the theory.

The economic realities of the trade deficit and of Asian immigration help fuel the xenophobia even more.

Of course, the Asian problem is just one facet of a continuing problem in U.S. race relations. The recent Cincinnati riots demonstrated yet again that in many American communities there are simmering tensions that can explode at any time.

The problem of racial profiling just won't seem to go away. Asian Americans got a major taste of it during the Wen Ho Lee case. Yet, most Asians really don't know the worst of it. Rarely will they be pulled over simply for driving an expensive car.

But Asians have a special place in American race history. That of the "yellow peril." Nothing quite conjures up such a vision of imminent invasion. Of seductive temptresses and cunning leaders with sparse beards.

Yes, it is deja vu for the old-timers. For those who were shipped off to relocation camps and for the few left who remember when it was illegal for Asians to intermarry or for Asian immigrants to own land.

Maybe it is time to live up to the image of the yellow peril. At least to those who focus their malicious energies toward the Asian community. Let them know that if they want to mess around they are facing a machine every bit as nefarious as the yellow emperor's legendary armies.