Behind the Smokescreen: West’s China Cold War Agenda
FEATURED RESEARCH PAPER, 16 Aug 2021
Lund, Oslo and Beijing August 6, 2021 – Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Day
The China Cold War Agenda as Dangerous Decline and Decay
What happened to the US perception of China?
By way of introduction, let’s flashback to 2011. Watch then US Vice President Joe Biden speak in a Chinese classroom – President Xi listening carefully – about how good it is for both China and the US that China grows, how they have nothing to fear from each other and how cooperation and educational exchange programs will yield mutually beneficial results.
And less than ten years later, the US began to develop a new China Cold War Agenda, CCWA, fierce and fast. We must ask: Why? What happened to the US and Mr Biden?
Recent years have seen a marked shift in how Western government, research and media look at China. Especially the last couple of years, we have witnessed how, daily, a systematically negative attitude bordering on demonisation has been promoted. And according to reliable surveys, it has caused a significant intensification – ”historic highs” – in citizens’ unfavourable views of China in many countries.
This could have been caused by some sudden policies and actions by China perceived as negative around the world. We fail, however, to see any such abrupt moves that could have caused such a significant and uniform attitudinal change. It is more realistic to hypothesise that this increasingly negative attitude is manufactured, orchestrated, and correlates with other initiatives and policies pursued by the US and its NATO allies in roughly the same period.
During the past two years, there has also been a substantial increase in Western attention to China concerning various issues. One immediately thinks of the Coronavirus, human rights violations, genocide in Xinjiang, riots in Hong Kong, the Taiwan issue or security threats from Huawei and other Chinese businesses as some of the headline concerns in news, commentaries, documentaries and also research and policy debates.
China has increasingly been a priority for political debates, foreign policy agendas and mainstream media in Western nations with narratives and accusations piling up with more extreme accusations by the day followed by condemnations, warnings or restrictions by trade, sanctions, media narratives, diplomacy, militarism, cultural exchange or education.
Yet another dimension of this change is that China has been narrowed down, so to speak. Most media and people, including foreign policy officers, only need one hand to point out how they view China and what they think about China. Finding nuanced notes or different perspectives in these media productions, opinions and discussions is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
It is possible to summarise these – negative-only – themes into a few types: dictatorial menace to the free world + human rights violations + security threats + exploitations through the Belt and Road Initiative + territorial aggressions (Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, South China sea) and forced labour.
In general, Western media do not report on, and politicians do not bother about, the obvious fact that something positive is (also) happening in China – be it the uplifting of some 850 million people out of poverty, the tremendously fast socio-economic development the last forty years, the Belt And Road Initiative (BRI) – humanity’s largest-ever civilian cooperation project involving today 80+ countries.
While the Chinese are curious about and have learnt from the West for decades – and tens of millions of them travel to the West as tourists every year – the general curiosity about China in the West is rather close to zero. Chinese culture has not been assimilated into the West while lots of elements of Western lifestyle, music, theatre, ballet, art and the English language has been welcomed and assimilated into the Chinese society.
This second TFF report
This report is the second in a series from TFF. The first was ”The Xinjiang Genocide Determination As Agenda” (April 2021). It had a more narrow focus than we have here in that it investigated the quality of the Xinjiang genocide accusation’s documentation (as presented in an allegedly authoritative, independent report). It concluded that there was too much deficient scholarship, untrustworthy sources and most of it produced by many scholars who seem to have a less noble agenda, such as ” weaponising” human rights issues in service of an even more hawkish US foreign policy in general and vis-a-vis China in particular.
In what follows, we provide an overview of how – and how fast – the downward spiralling of negative China themes came about, including insights and perspectives for broader and deeper analysis in a series of forthcoming TFF reports.
We offer an account of what we believe is an orchestrated policy and media campaign, which we call the China Cold War Agenda, CCWA. It has deplorable undertones of a Sinophobia and racism that builds on old historical elements and may remind us of the ”Yellow Peril”. It is virtually devoid of deeper factual knowledge about China – its history, people, culture, values, ways of thinking, socio-economic system and political outlook. We cannot but present a substantial criticism of Western mainstream media in general and their coverage of the US/NATO-China relations in particular.
None of the authors come from the media world – but we have used media ourselves and been consumers of media for quite a few decades. TFF being a research-based public education foundation – and completely independent of state and corporate funding – has always interacted with media. We know how to critique politicising media and media that serve war instead of public information based on facts, diverse and factual sources and as objective as humanly possible.
As peace researcher Johan Galtung has stated somewhere – ”If truth is war’s first victim, complexity is the second.” The reduction of the world’s complexity into a typical Western dichotomy of bad guys versus good guys, them versus us, the West versus the Rest – with no wish to understand the issues or problems that stand between the parties in any conflict – has become unbearable from both a scholarly and a public service perspective.
Furthermore, this reduction of substantial knowledge-based reporting and media analysis has opened the gates for a flood of more or less fake narratives, a click economy, smart and short statements without substance or explanation.
It is on these deplorable features contemporary wars – cold or warm – are sold.
We are deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of the fact that what we witness these years is an extremisation of the China themes, whether fabricated or not. The media no longer seem to ask critical questions to those in power; they do far too little source and fact-checking, bring forward fake news and omit – omission can be worse – facts, perspectives, expertise and news sources that don’t fit the ongoing construction of the overarching China Cold War Agenda – CCWA.
Furthermore, up to about 20 years ago, media – particularly mainstream media – would always take some slight interest in alternative perspectives, kinds of analyses and sources. Today, this is all gone when it comes to security and foreign policy issues. There is now a homogenised ”party line” in the news, editorials, features and debate sections of these media.
The woefully insufficient attendance to fact-checking, cross-cultural considerations and consequences regarding the intense push forward of the China themes threatens to substitute journalistic professionalism with sheer deception and propaganda. It also means ending the media’s role as a critical examiner of the powers that be.
The CCWA promotion is a huge and dangerous example of this rapidly developing decay of the whole idea of free media. Any society ends when it becomes impossible for the citizens to know what is fact-based and what is not.
In contrast to TFF’s first report, the main purpose of this second report is not solely to check sources and facts, to verify reality or determine what facts are true or false. Rather, it advances perspectives, considerations and consequences of the Western China policy themes which – if not stopped now – are likely to have very destructive consequences for single societies, for the Occident as well as the Orient (in civilisational terms), and for humanity’s problem-solving capacity today and far into the future. It will also be self-destructive to the US.
Indeed, we are asking: Can humanity solve the real problems we are facing within the time we seem to have available – climate change, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, nuclear abolition, de-militarisation – if the West continues with its CCWA and establishes a Cold War relationship with China the next 10, 20 or more years?
Such a Cold War with armament back-up will, in our view, result in a devastating, self-destructive loss of human creativity, human and financial resources, which, instead, ought to be deployed to the solution of those overarching problems that face us all. It will be harmful to China, to the West itself and to humanity. And not only in terms of resources diverted but also because it is an essential – and existential – truth that none of these real problems can be solved without the constructive participation of both the United States and China, given their central role in the present and future global politics and development.
Thus the subtitle: Why this must stop. It simply must – for the common good of humankind. A new multi-decade Cold War is an irresponsible project in these very times. Those promoting it should lose the right to lead because such a Cold War – the CCWA – is to mis-lead humanity.
Balance and symmetry
Since China and the US/West are parties to a complex conflict formation, why do we study only the West’s negative Agenda? It would seem both fair and relevant to include an analysis of China’s use of policies, media and propaganda as well as the image it seeks to create of itself and the US. As conflict analysts, we would agree with such a point or objection.
However, we would answer it by pointing out that there is an urgency and an a-symmetry at play here. While China is certainly playing its cards and asserting its role vis-a-vis the West – as could be witnessed in the recent Alaska meeting between the top foreign policy actors of both China and the US – we do not see any signs of a similar Agenda, of a systematic, orchestrated anti-US or anti-West campaign emanating in Beijing.
What we do see is a Chinese foreign policy establishment which, while pursuing its own national and international goals, repeatedly emphasises the need for global cooperation, win-win solutions, international law, non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries and a global adherence to the principles embedded in the UN Charter.
By and large, when China raises its voice more loudly, it is in response to various aspects of the larger Western CCWA. It doesn’t seem to have an inner need for confrontation or manifesting its own power by antagonising or belittling others.
Where do we stand?
None of TFF’s reports shall be read as an endorsement of everything China does or as a critical-only, ”anti-American” position. We are not judging or analysing in this report whether or not human rights violations are taking place in China. This is not the purpose of our message in this report, and TFF is not a human rights organisation.
What we question is the scholarly quality of the Western accusations against China. We also question the increasing ”politicisation” or ”weaponisation” – of human rights arguments, i.e. using human rights analyses as a tool to promote an indisputably hawkish US foreign policy.
Further, we question the right of the US/West to point fingers at China when it is so obviously a systematic – and in many ways a much bigger – violator of human rights. We also question that the US can be a judge or that the West’s human rights definition is the only one possible that can and should be applied with no understanding of China’s culture, history, society and ways of thinking. Most likely, the US/West would find it unacceptable if judged by Chinese standards only.
It is our firm belief that even if China would be the greatest violator of human rights as the West wants us to believe by committing all the terrible crimes it is accused of, the world needs to witness more intelligent conflict-handling attitudes and policies than confrontation, demonisation, withdrawal from cooperation and condescending policies rooted in on of the most pervasive racist ideas in Western culture: the age-old Yellow Peril idea.
They are not conducive to help victims of human rights anywhere, and a much more sophisticated policy and interaction will be essential for the future.
In other words, the US and the West should put its own human rights in order instead of diverting attention to somebody else. As Eric Clapton’s song goes: ”Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.”
We consider these motivations and aims fully in line with decent, qualified and independent scholarship and public education. We shall, therefore, not engage in debates or respond to criticism or attacks that build on questioning motives or slinging around mud – as is often done against those who work for conflict analysis and peaceful resolution instead of militarism and advocate nonviolence in line with the UN Charter norm that ”peace shall be established by peaceful means.”
What about the Smokescreen in the title?
We use it in the sense of ”something designed to obscure, confuse, or mislead.” We have chosen it because our studies have convinced us that those who mastermind the Western human rights concern and the genocide determination by a series of Western countries primarily function as a smokescreen for building the CCWA and that this Agenda also serves as a smokescreen for the fact that the US/West is in decline – a diversion of attention to others from one’s own crisis while also serving militarist-interventionist interests.
Finally, this report also shows how the CCWA can be seen as a smokescreen designed to obscure, confuse, or mislead the world about the human rights violations and other violence committed for decades by the West/US/NATO itself.
(1) This report is the second in a TFF series about China and the West’s policies vis-a-vis China. TFF’s first China report – “The Xinjiang Genocide Determination As Agenda” was published in April 2021. In this report, we outline the main think tanks, civil society organisations – not the least in the politicised human rights community – that are the main producers of narratives. It is a widespread network, and while we have connected quite a few dots, there may well be much more to dig up in future articles or reports. The reports can be read independently of each other and will, eventually, become a book.
(2) While this second report also deals with, among others, the agenda-making around the Xinjiang genocide accusations, it is much broader than the first report. By utilising some basic concepts, theories, facts and a diversity of reliable sources, this report reveals a pattern: the systematic US development of a China Cold War Agenda, CCWA, with many elements and dimensions.
(3) We argue that, as a response to the ongoing changes in the international (dis)order, the CCWA will have devastating consequences for the world in general and the US itself in particular. And that, therefore, it must be highlighted and stopped before it becomes more harmful.
(4) This CCWA is rooted much less in what China is and does than in psycho-political dynamics inside the declining US and West itself. It is not fully understandable with rational theories of, say, political science and international relations; it takes culture, psychological theories and more to interpret this in the realm of the irrational. That realm is dangerous – as all declining empires are in the handling of their weakness and demise. Given the comparatively extreme militarism of the US, the situation is extremely worrying and contravenes any sensible definition of stability, security and peace – to use NATO’s mantra.
(5) The CCWA is closely related to what we call the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC. Its creators are academics doing sub-standard academic work to satisfy the results wanted by their funders; it’s commissioned works. The funding invariably comes from governments, ministries and military corporations with an immediate interest in more armament, interventionism and other confrontational policies rather than in conflict-resolution, negotiations, cooperation and genuine security and peace.
(6) Western mainstream media no longer serve their classical roles as carriers of facts from diverse perspectives to provide fact-based, source-checked public education, to do so freely and critically and thereby serve as a sort of Fourth Estate. Instead, they are very clearly part of a huge orchestrated campaign designed to promote worldviews and perspectives that are negative-only about China and justifies the imperial militarist interests of the MIMAC – thus the second “M” in that acronym. It also serves to maintain the US as global leader in the future.
(7) In consequence, the report outlines the anti-China themes and the accusation industry which make up the CCWA. Further, it exemplifies some more pro- or positive China themes that you are not likely to ever hear or see in the mainstream media. Fake and omission – the latter often the more important – are part and parcel of that second ”M.”
(8) We outline the classical mainstream Media Manipulation Methods, MMM, to help people understand better the mechanisms by which they are objects of systematic manipulation in this field (not the only one, however). We know that it is easier to deceive people than to convince deceived people that they’ve been taken for a ride.
(9) The tragedy is that it is the West itself – nobody else – who undermines the noble principles of free media, fair hearing and the roles of the independent power-critical press, which are so fundamental to an enlightened democracy.
(10) In these and other ways, this report points out that the CCWA is essentially self-destructive of the West’s own values and that that reaction mechanism is more harmful to the West than China – if at all – can be perceived to be.
(11) The analysis also sheds light on the terrorism issues that flow from the Xinjiang accusation industry and compare China’s way of handling terrorism with that of the United States. The US costs to other people are much higher than China’s, and it seems that the US’ Global War on Terror, GWOT, has increased the world’s terror problems a multitude of times whereas China states that it has seen no terrorist attacks in Xinjiang over the last 3-4 years.
(12) This and other parts of the analysis brought forward give rise to the chapter, Don’t Throw Stones When You Live in A Glass House – where, by several essentially important criteria, we show how the United States itself suffers from the problems it accuses China of – just to a much larger extent. Each criterion is divided into the official “We do…”, “They do…” and contrasted by a fact-based reality description.
(13) We find it important to back up our arguments with concrete examples – some of which will require the reader’s concentration. These issues are complicated. We hope, however, to have entered some summaries here and there so you’ll get the gist of the argument even though you may have gotten lost in the details. A real plot has many threads, doesn’t it?
(14) We’d like to point out that none of the authors is or has ever been ”anti-American” or ”anti-Western” – the invective used as a cheap accusation, framing, cancelling and meant to derail any serious criticism of the United States foreign policy. To be “anti” a people, a group of citizens, a nation or a civilisation would equal some kind of racism. Rather, we present this analysis with a fair amount of sorrow, old enough as we are to have experienced the dynamics, innovativeness and cultural creativity that the United States also stood for once upon a time – even seeking under Presidents such as John F. Kennedy (his peace speech a few months before he was murdered in 1963) and Jimmy Carter’s moral-based vision to be a leader in the struggle for a more peaceful world – something Nixon and Kissinger did brilliantly with China’s Prime Minister Chou Enlai in their own way back in 1970-72.
(15) Finally, we argue that allies and friends of the US must now step up and lend it a helping hand.
China and the West – Competition Not Cooperation
China and Western nations have always been defined by their differences, culturally, historically, economically and politically, during the era of globalisation which has been taken place since World War II.
Since 1978, China gradually opened up to the world, diplomatically and economically. China joined the World Trade Organisation, WTO, in 2001 and Western nations had expected – even earlier – a reform in China towards a parallel political democracy model as in the West. Instead, China continued its own path of governance. Reality has gradually come to light in the West, namely that China has succeeded in building a well-ordered, well-functioning, fast-developing society based on an eclectic philosophy and economic and political principles different from those in the West that displays a growing middle class, industrialisation and innovation, not to mention a miraculous eradication of poverty, lifting about 850 million out of it in a few decades.
Since the colonial era and industrial revolution, this is the first time a country with a significantly different – from the West – form of government, culture, and past has accomplished this social and economic achievement.
Given how backwards China was just four decades ago, this is bound to not only surprise but also be perceived as a huge challenge to those who, for centuries, have seen themselves (and been seen) as the only role model and, therefore, the undisputed leader of the world.
Until about a decade ago, the view on China in the West was binary. On the one hand, the country was seen as an autocratic, Communist system, a copycat and unreliable trade partner. But, on the other hand, it had grown into the land in which Western capitalist corporations could exploit the cheap but increasingly well-educated labour force and locate polluting parts of its own production; it became a fast-growing economy with vast business opportunities for Western companies.
The last ten years have seen an accelerated diversion from this binary but fairly stable view. China has spread its wings in various new ways, unfamiliar to Western nations. Chinese businesses have actively gone abroad for investment and market expansion. Chinese high-tech unicorns have successfully popped up with innovations and new business models. The Chinese people have started to travel to all corners of the world. Chinese politicians have stood up in the global geopolitical arena with their own views and suggestions.
The keynote speech ‘Jointly Shoulder Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth’ by President Xi Jinping at the opening of the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, together with the interview with Ma Yun (Jack Ma), co-founder of the Alibaba Group, at the same event can be seen as two of several turning points in the same direction.
China’s overwhelming appearance on the world stage in recent years has triggered lots of alarm bells in Western nations. The Trump campaign made what he called the ‘unfair’ trade position with China a high priority during the presidential campaign in 2015, followed by an intensive trade war after becoming president.
The United States’ China Cold War Agenda – CCWA – was expanded to diplomatic, political and ideological levels when the turmoil in Hong Kong broke out in 2018. Then Western reports began to appear about human rights violations in the Xinjiang Autonomous region during that same year. These events quickly progressed and expanded to formulations of China policy agendas in Western nations about how to deal with China. The US House of Representatives passed the ‘Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act’ in December 2019.
In June 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a remarkable speech, “Communist China and the Free World’s Future.” We recommend that you study it by reading it because it offers numerous insights as to why there is a Cold War. Also, Western media did not cover it in spite of how sensational – even fateful – it was.
Its clear message was that China is one big threat to the future of the free world; he presented a long list of conflict issues and argued that it was time to recognise that China has disappointed the West by not changing – that is, towards a Western model – and has become a” Frankenstein” that doesn’t want to cooperate with but to raid the US.
Pompeo maintained that “the CCP regime is a Marxist-Leninist regime. General Secretary Xi Jinping is a true believer in a bankrupt totalitarian ideology. It’s this ideology, it’s this ideology that informs his decades-long desire for global hegemony of Chinese communism.”
The former Secretary of State continues with statements like these -” We know that the People’s Liberation Army is not a normal army, too. Its purpose is to uphold the absolute rule of the Chinese Communist Party elites and expand a Chinese empire, not to protect the Chinese people.” And ” We must also engage and empower the Chinese people – a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”
Further, “Communists almost always lie. The biggest lie that they tell is to think that they speak for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed, and scared to speak out.”
To Pompeo, the entire world – the UN, NATO, G7, G20, etc. – must stand together and change China, a process that shall be lead by the US: “Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because our founding principles give us that opportunity.” And, finally here: “If the free world doesn’t change – doesn’t change, communist China will surely change us.”
To summarise it crudely, it’s either/or, no co-existence possible. It’s competition – win or lose. Not cooperation.
There is a risk that such speeches obtain a kind of inflationary character and are perceived as made only for domestic consumption. Perhaps that is a reason why it did not raise Western eyebrows – kind of “that is what he has to say” or “well, that’s the way Pompeo states it, but…”
However, this is a very dangerous kind of reasoning. First, if China’s foreign minister had held a similarly provocative and aggressive speech, it would have obtained wide coverage everywhere in the West: Look how dangerous those Chinese are! That’s how they think! We’ve got to arm ourselves against this Yellow Peril 2.0!
Secondly, when Western media deliberately tone down or omit reporting a speech such as Pompeo’s, anything China might do or say in response to it becomes inexplicable, indefensible and a sign of its fundamentally out-of-the-blue aggressiveness.
Downplaying or omitting what “we” ourselves do and blowing up what “they” do – and stating that what we do is defence while what “they” do is aggression – has become a standard operating media procedure in Western scholarship, media and government statements. West It automatically makes” them” our enemy, or the independent actor, against which” we” – legitimately – only re-act and defend ourselves.
Speeches of this type are policies in the making and not just empty words. Being in the receiving end of Mr Pompeo’s barrage, the Chinese would be foolish to ignore such a speech, and its consequences may one day come back like a boomerang – which will, of course, be determined as an example of China’s aggressive policies out of the blue.
Even worse, the small group that de facto makes decision may, sooner rather than later, suffer from believing these enemy images themselves and develop what psychologist Irving Janis conceptualised as “groupthink”. That is “a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible.” To that, you may add that such conformity over time shapes their conviction that they cannot be wrong and that, therefore, they can also safely set aside ethical considerations.
The Biden/Blinken administration’s adhere to the Obama and Trump administrations’ policies, including Pompeo’s speech. It aggravates them with non-documented genocide accusations and legislative acts such a S.1169 – Strategic Competition Act of 2021 and S.1260 – Endless Frontier Act (to which we shall return). Only political novices, or propagandists, can believe that such policies and speeches are only “words” and don’t need to be conveyed to a larger audience.
In passing, one can hardly help noticing how anti-intellectual, one-sided, il-willed and self-justifying Pompeo’s words are. One must indeed worry about the level of knowledge remaining inside the walls of the State Department and about the politico-military consequences of such dangerous intellectual decay or political autism. The intellectual level of this speech isn’t worthy of someone who insists on being the world’s leader.
Pompeo’s speech, unfortunately, was not a lone swallow. It was supplemented with similar ideological speeches by other members of Trump’s cabinet in the months after that. This marked the beginning of an even faster massive rollout of statements, agendas and reports by think tanks, near-governmental organisations and governments in the Western world, predominantly focusing on human rights violations, dictatorship, security threats, and the aggressive behaviour of China.
The last action by Mike Pompeo before resigning in January 2021 was the formal accusation of China committing genocide in Xinjiang. This accusation, or “determination” has been confirmed and taken over by the new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in the Biden administration while the parliaments of Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Lithuania have then followed suit and also formally accused China of genocide. In times of narratives, fake and omission and no source-checking, who bothers that State Department has never published one word as documentation for its accusation?
Last year the United States and other countries started to take action to ban Chinese companies, media, students and cultural exchanges while implementing further legal and trade policies against China.
Virtually without exception, the mainstream Western media have walked down the same cul de sac. They seem to pursue a mission to highlight and spread the accusations without checking facts, omissions or sources.
The political agendas amplified by these media have revolved essentially around 5 China themes, or narratives: China is a dictatorial menace, or threat, to the free world + human rights violations + security threats through theft and technology like Huawei + exploitation of countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative + territorial aggressions (Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, South China sea). But there are more as we point out later.
The Chinese government has firmly stepped up in reciprocation and condemned these accusations through different channels. It has published reports, the details and arguments of which, as a rule, are ignored by Western media and politicians who would never quote Chinese media. It boils down to the standard mantra that “China denies” – which of course implies that China is actually just lying. Chinese diplomats have intensified their participation in this media war, especially on social media, and being called ‘wolf warriors’.
The in-depth reply by Yang Jiechi, Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, to the introductory accusations made by Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, concerning Xinjiang and Hong Kong at the Alaska summit in March 2021 was a critical moment of such reciprocation.
It was the first time that China publicly criticised the USA for its own human rights violation records and stated that the US democracy model could and should not be a blueprint or yardstick for the whole world and that it was a long time ago the US was in a position to teach China lessons.
This ”frank” exchange of views between the US host and the Chinese guests may be seen as a significant historical moment in the changing correlations of forces on the road to a new multi-polar and more balanced world order.
In the next section, we shall provide a brief overview of the origins and development of the accusation of human rights violations and genocide in Xinjiang. This theme is currently leading in Western media coverage and keeping parliaments busy.
The Xinjiang Genocide Accusations As Agenda – and its sources
On April 27, 2021, TFF published “The Xinjiang Genocide Determination As Agenda. A Critical Analysis Of A Report By The Newlines Institute And The Raoul Wallenberg Center.” It has 29 pages and a 6-point Executive Summary, in which, among other things, we say that “the Report and the two institutes behind it are not “independent” and the report does not present new materials.
Co-produced with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, it’s the product of cooperation among individuals from at least six, more or less inter-connected, interest groups, or milieus, which are more Near– than Non-governmental – namely:
Christian fundamentalism + hawkish conservative U.S. foreign policy circles + Muslim Brotherhood circles + extreme anti-Communism + pro-Israel lobby circles + the politicising human rights machinery (in which human rights concerns tend to serve various types of interventions by the United States of America).
For a report published by independent scholars from an independent institute, this is problematic,” and we continued:
“The Report comes through as containing both fake or dubious but also, significantly and systematically, biased choices of sources and as deliberately leaving out fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts and facts.
For an institute that professes to be based on solid scholarship and values, this is problematic.”
The report has reached many millions of people, the Chinese government and leading Chinese (and Chinese international) and Asian media, other media, social media and various alternative Western media. World-renowned China expert Colin Mackerras has called it “the most detailed and scholarly report so far questioning Pompeo’s “Determination” (of Xinjiang being a genocide).
2.1 The compact Western mainstream media silence
What we – but not our readers – know is that TFF PressInfo, our mail service, has been dispatched four times to more than 2000 journalists and editors around the world and over 4000 other individuals and organisations – mainly in the Western world.
We have also sent it to some 20 leading reporters at e.g. CNN, Reuters, The Guardian, Aljazeera and Nordic public service media who have written about Xinjiang, reported from China and/or made documentaries, accompanied by a diplomatic letter simply alerting the recipients to the fact that the sources underlying the accusation are either non-existing/anonymous or not trustworthy and reveals amateurish scholarship.
We did not receive one single response from any of these 2000+ Western media people, neither from those who learned about our report through mass mails or through our personal letters to them.
The Western mainstream media silence is compact.
It is as if they are on a mission and have been instructed to write only the 8-10 standard, negative stories about China and to not discuss what they do and ignore/cancel counter information no matter its quality. If this is not the case, it would be reasonable to expect some reaction from some people: anything but compact silence.
This silence has developed gradually to become compact. TFF – and other independent research outfits serving public education – have been ignored for its revelations of “different” perspectives, whether concerning Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Iran or other hotspots where we have been on the ground and carried out professional conflict analysis and taken other perspectives than the official Western mainstream narratives.
However, the silencing and/or framing turned compact, particularly in the case of Syria which we have documented in details here.
Over the last 20 or so years, a tremendous effort has been directed at the mainstream private and public service media to hammer out only one simplified truth about hugely complex international matters. Hardly by coincidence, they are always compatible with the foreign – normally interventionist – policies of the U.S. and NATO allies.
So weak is the foundation of those policies and their support among citizens that these governments now seem unwilling to uphold any ideals as to professional checking of sources, diversity, objectivity and freedom of the press.
That freedom seems to be twisted into the freedom to select, distort, fake or omit as much as is considered necessary and desired by a series of elites. And these elites belong to what we call the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – an immensely powerful synergetic, interconnected power structure which, so to speak, run the real policy but has never been elected to any office.
We’re not whining. Over a year, TFF reaches millions on the Internet, social media and other media and channels. But the overarching tragedy is that the free press and free research so highly cherished in the West and promoted around the world as its unique contribution to human civilisation is being trampled on by the West itself while it steps up its efforts to accuse others of not accepting and adhering to those “universalised” Western values.
The main sources building up the “Xinjiang Genocide Determination” documentation will be analysed and questioned in the next section. We find it important to do exactly that since these sources have been taken for granted as the truth by politicians and media without even the slightest fact-checking or analysis, including their conspicuous relations with the MIMAC.
2.2 The six primary sources behind the Xinjiang genocide documentation
Numerous reports, governments’ foreign policies and countless news items in Western nations have been dedicated to human rights violations in China during the past years. One might expect a wide range of sources, perspectives and critical research, but that is not what an empirical investigation results in. On the contrary.
The Xinjiang genocide accusation/determination is extremely hard, and nobody should shout ‘genocide’ without rock-solid, openly checkable evidence.
Secretary of State Pompeo accompanied his “determination” in January 2021 with a reference to Nazi Germany’s extermination and concentration camps for Jews. By that, he implicitly cast China’s president Xi Jinping in the role of a modern-day Hitler. Yet, up until today, neither he, his successor Antony Blinken nor State Department has published a shred of evidence.
Besides the Newlines Institute/Raoul Wallenberg Centre report about the Uyghur Genocide, which we analysed critically in TFF’s first report, practically all reports/documentation, documentaries, news and political debates about human rights in Xinjiang can be traced back to, or are derivatives of, only six basic sources:
- Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD);
- Dr Adrian Zenz;
- Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI);
- A number of U.S./Western so-called think tanks and Near-Governmental Organisations;
- Witness testimonies on two anonymous databases on the Internet, and
- Victims who tell Western mainstream media what they have experienced.
In the first TFF report, we documented some of the rather serious source and reliability problems pertaining to the testimonies and other reports from these six sources.
Here follows a selection of problematic issues and documentary materials produced by these primary sources and our arguments as to why they are problematic from the perspective of independent scholarly work.
2.3 Problematic issues, materials and producers
We shall now consider some issues and dimensions that illustrate why the Xinjiang genocide accusation is not credible and should not be trusted. Some of them are based on amateurish social science practices; others have been used to draw extreme political conclusions out of proportion with the said documentation, violating both methodological validity and reliability.
2.3.1 The number issue
How many Uyghurs are in how many detention camps and facilities?
In July 2018, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) submitted a report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with the estimation that roughly one million ethnic Uyghurs had been sent to ‘re-education’ detention camps and roughly two million had been forced to attend ‘re-education’ programs in Xinjiang.
In September 2018, Adrian Zenz published the report “Thoroughly Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude” – China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang in the Central Asian Survey Journal. Its main conclusion was that Xinjiang’s total re-education internment figure might be estimated at just over one million.
In November 2018, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a report, Mapping Xinjiang’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps, which included 28 re-education camps detected on heat maps and satellite images. The report mentions that these 28 locations are a small sample of the total network of re-education camps in Xinjiang and further states that “Estimates of the total number vary, but recent media reports have identified roughly 180 facilities and some estimates range as high as 1,200 across the region. “Significantly, these figures, which are all estimates, are based on small samples and on unidentified “media reports.”
In June 2020, Adrian Zenz published a second report, ”Sterilisations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang,” on the website of the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based conservative defence policy think tank.
This report contained the first documentation underlying the genocide accusation.
In September 2020, ASPI published a report Documenting Xinjiang’s Detention System identifying and mapping more than 380 suspected detention facilities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Dr Adrian Zenz became the foremost Xinjiang human rights violations expert overnight for Western governments and media in 2018 when he published his first report with the estimated number of over one million detainees in Xinjiang’s re-education camps.
Zenz’s main conclusion in the report on page 29 is that “While there is no certainty, it is reasonable to speculate that the total number of detainees might range anywhere between several hundred thousand and just over one million.” (our italics).
Significantly, this conclusion is based on extrapolations and estimates of a single source: the Istiqlal TV report picked up and published by Naoko Mizutani, a researcher of contemporary Chinese history whose article appeared in Newsweek Japan in March 2018. Who is she? She’s a Japanese scholar of contemporary Chinese history who was barred from entering China in 2010 – here is the China Daily version.
This is how researchers at the Qiaocollective explains it: “March 13, 2018 Newsweek Japan article (Japanese-language) by Naoko Mizutani (Japanese researcher previously barred from China for her support of Rebiya Kadeer) reporting “890,000 or more” detainees based on an unverified “leak” by Istiqlal TV (Uyghur-language, “leaked information” at 3:14), a Turkey-based media platform advocating for separatism from China. Also runs the English-language Turkistan Times. As an aside, Rebiya Kadeer has also previously visited the Yasukuni Shrine on May 14, 2012. The Yasukuni Shrine honors, among others, 1068 war criminals, including 14 Class A war criminals, as ruled by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.” (About Rebiya Kadeer here).
Naoko Mizutani writes in Newsweek (Google Translation): “According to detailed leaked data, 20-40% of the Uighur population is detained in the “re-education” camp of the Chinese Communist Party in the Uighur-dense area of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
On February 14, the Internet “Istecral TV” [presumably Istiqlal, the present authors] operated by an asylum Uighur organisation in Istanbul, Turkey, was imprisoned in a detention facility in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, saying that it was “obtained from a reliable local public security source.” Announced the number of Uighurs and Kazakhs … I don’t know when the number of detainees leaked was, but it’s safe to assume that it was created in 2017, when the containment began in a big way. The data cover 71% of the Uighur population of 12.12 million, but the number of inmates will probably increase further if non-prefectural data are revealed. Although the number of detainees exceeding 890,000 is not the data for the entire Xinjiang area, many can be read from this figure.”
First, it is clear that Mizutani has taken sides with her books and her support of Mme Kadeer and that the latter’s visit to the extremely controversial Yusukuni Shrine for Japanese war criminals can be seen as a remarkably insensitive, if not deliberately, provocative act in the eyes of official China (and very many in Japan too).
Secondly, Adrian Zenz bases himself – and so does everybody who refers to his scholarship – on a Uyghur TV Channel that brings data from an anonymous but hypothetically “reliable local public security source” while not even knowing which years are covered. Again, this has nothing to do with scholarship.
In fairness, he does say the whole thing is speculative. The problem is that everybody who refers to him either have never read his conclusion above or have conveyed them as fact-based documentation – as Mike Pompeo seems, cynically, to do.
As an example of so-called fact-based documentation and conclusions, read how the otherwise high-respected Brookings Institution’s scholars, James Millward and Dahlia Peterson, convey their findings in “China’s System of Oppression in Xinjiang: How It Developed and How To Curb It” (September 2020) by using Zenz’s findings as fact-based evidence and then backing them up with some other sources with estimates up to 3 million:
“Adrian Zenz calculated the initial estimates of numbers interned on the basis of camp size, local quotas, and Chinese documents. Ibid. In February 2018, a Uyghur activist media outlet in Turkey released a document it says was leaked by a “believable member of the security services on the ground” in Xinjiang. The document, dating from late 2017 or early 2018, tabulates precise numbers of internees in county-level detention centers, amounting to 892,329 (it excluded municipal-level administrative units, notably the large cities of Ürümqi, Khotan, and Yining). Naoko Mizutani “水谷尚子, “ウイグル絶望収容所の収監者数は89万人以上” [“[The number of internees in Uyghur despair camps exceeds 890,000], Newsweek Japan, March 13, 2018, https://www.newsweekjapan.jp/stories/world/2018/03/89-3_1.php. Though the document’s provenance cannot be confirmed, if genuine it supports the estimates of a million or more total internees. Randall Schriver, then assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense, estimated that up to three million Xinjiang Muslims were interned in the camps. Phil Stewart, “China putting minority Muslims in ‘concentration camps,’ U.S. says,” Reuters, May 3, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-concentrationcamps/china-putting-minority-muslims-in-concentration-camps-us-says-idUSKCN1S925K. These figures and figures quoted in media accounts generally do not include over 300,000 newly put in prison in 2017-2018, though they are also victims of the algorithm-aided round-up of supposed extremists. Shawn Zhang and other researchers gathered further evidence of the internment system’s scale from satellite images and coordinates from Google Earth and other open sources. Journalists were able to confirm the identification of sites as internment camps by visiting some of them on the ground. See Shawn Zhang, “List of Re-education Camps in Xinjiang 新疆再教育集中营列表,” Medium, May 20, 2018, https://medium.com/@shawnwzhang/list-of-re-education-camps-in-xinjiang-%E6%96%B0%E7%96%86%E5%86%8D%E6%95%99%E8%82%B2%E9%9B%86%E4%B8%AD%E8%90%A5%E5%88%97%E8%A1%A8-99720372419c; Shawn Zhang, “Xinjiang Re-education Camps List by Cities,” Medium, May 20, 2019, https://medium.com/@shawnwzhang/xinjiang-re-education-camps-list-by-cities-f4ed0a6e095a; and other photo essays posted on by Zhang on Medium, https://medium.com/@shawnwzhang. A more extensive BuzzFeed News investigation identified through satelite imagery 268 compounds with prison features built since 2017 in Xinjiang and through other sources verified 92 of these as detention centers. Megha Rajagapolan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, “China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims,” BuzzFeed News, August 27, 2020, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/meghara/china-new-internment-camps-xinjiang-uighurs-muslims.”
To put it crudely, it goes around and around: Scholars, media and politics feed upon and repeat each other, connected by the same value-orientation, namely exposing and criticising China. The essential documentation is minimal and non-verifiable/anonymous but on the basis of it, significant conclusions are drawn and the “truth” rapidly vibrates throughout media, academia and politics.
We do not take a stand on the number issue. What we do is to point out that what has been presented as facts thousands of times throughout Western media, big and small, are not empirical facts based on serious scholarship; they are estimates, extrapolations, hearsay etc. based on extremely few, non-verified/verifiable sources and conveyed by people with one common and significant ideological orientation.
2.3.2 Funding and policy affiliations
Where does the funding come from to produce the Xinjiang Genocide accusations? What political interests are behind?
All social and political movements have to find funds somewhere. They are likely to seek and find such funds where there is a political, moral or other interest in supporting their cause. So too for the various Uyghur organisations operating in the US and elsewhere.
It is obvious from what follows that the United States – and mostly right-wing, anti-Communist, pro-armament/intervention and anti-China circles – are the main political and economic supporters of the Uyghur cause. We have documented this in TFF’s first report about the Newlines report. However, there is more below.
A considerable proportion of Uyghur and other organisations in opposition to Beijing get funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, NED. Here are some details with sources that any reader may check to verify.
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), which published the report “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” in July 2018 is a Washington DC-based NGO of domestic and overseas Chinese human rights activists and groups. The organisation receives funds – at least in 2015 and in 2016 – from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which itself is funded primarily by the US Congress. See NED’s homepage here.
In passing, here is how NED is presented on Wikipedia: It is a US agency that was founded in 1983 with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad. While sometimes referred to as a non-governmental organisation, the NED functions as a quasi-autonomous near-governmental organisation.
In 1986, NED’s then (founding) President Carl Gershman (also an adviser to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation with Adrian Zenz, see later) said that the NED was created because “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidised by the CIA. We saw that in the 1960’s and that’s why it has been discontinued.”
In 2004, American author Brendan I. Koerner wrote, “Depending on whom you ask, the NED is either a nonprofit champion of liberty or an ideologically driven meddler in world affairs.” Further – “those who spearheaded (the) creation of NED have long acknowledged it was part of an effort to move from covert to overt efforts to foster democracy” and cited as evidence a 1991 interview in which then-NED president Allen Weinstein said, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
NED’s President and CEO since July 2021, Damon Wilson, and his career is well-described here. In it you’ll also read that “NED’s leadership transition takes place at a time when China, Russia, and other authoritarian powers are increasingly using their influence against democracies and to thwart democratic progress. NED’s support for more than 2,000 projects in 100 countries has never been more critical…”
The Russian and Chinese governments have taken determined measures to guard against the influence of NED inside their own countries. China has also imposed sanctions on NED and similar US near-governmental “front” organisations that operate through seemingly independent activists – a method that has gained momentum since the days of the dissolution of Yugoslavia about 30 years ago – usually within the framework of regime-change policies.
According to Wikipedia, NED also offers funding to the Uyghur World Congress in Munich represented by Dolkun Isa, advocating for democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur people and the use of peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to help Uyghurs achieve self-determination.
However, NED’s own funding search engine (which covers grants the last three years) does not confirm this today.
In summary, the leading advocacy organisations for the Uyghurs – Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the Uyghur World Congress – accept and receive funding from NED, a near-governmental organisation that operates in the spirit of, if not in direct coordination with, the US government and the CIA.
And not only that. NED has a page “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act Builds on Work of NED Grantees” from May 2020. We quote some of the text because it indicates, in NED’s own words, how NED sees the world:
“The U.S. Congress approved new legislation – the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 – condemning the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for continued human rights violations against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China. The Chinese government has imprisoned between one million to three million Uyghurs in concentration camps in the region, deprived them of freedom of movement and subjected them to invasive surveillance, physical torture, and forced labor … To further human rights and human dignity for all people in China, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has awarded $8,758,300 to Uyghur groups since 2004, serving as the only institutional funder for Uyghur advocacy and human rights organisations.” (Our italics).
The page lists these initiatives: 1) World Uyghur Congress: A recipient of NED’s 2019 Democracy Award, 2) Uyghur Human Rights Project, 3) Campaign for Uyghurs, 4) The Uyghur Transitional Justice Database Project – the latter being anonymous (like https://shahit.biz/eng/): it offers figures of about 5000 interned and disappeared and of camps and prisons.
Strangely, its latest data are collected as far back as in January 2020, and only three witnesses are accessible, and of them only one single shows both text and photo. A fourth one is empty (accessed on June 3, 2021).
We have not attempted to do a complete analysis over several years of NED’s support/grants to Chinese dissident groups, so there is probably much more to be found about this particular foreign interference-type of work for freedom, democracy and human rights. In 2018, the Hidden Harmonies China Blog gave a quite comprehensive rundown of NED’s anti-Beijing support.
Finally, inside an article about why it is not true that “the UN” has reported massive internment camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang, The Grayzone – Investigative News and Investigative Journalism on Empire presents lots of hard facts about NED’s support to the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), the World Uyghur Congress and other organisations and also points out how leading Western mainstream media do not check sources.
There are many more funding and political affiliation connections throughout this report. To mention just one: the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) established by Uyghurs and Kazakhs and other peoples from ”East Turkistan” (= Xinjiang) is located in Washington D.C. and was declared a government inside room HC-6 of the US Capitol Building in 2004. Here ETGE’s own homepage.
2.3.3 Databases and witness statements
The Victim Databases and the credibility of witnesses
Many reports and media bring forward witnesses. Let us first look into the victim databases which have been referred to in almost all publications and news.
The first-mentioned database offers figures of about 5000 interned and disappeared in camps and prisons, but, as mentioned above, the latest documentation dates as far back as to January 2020 and only three witnesses are accessible, of which only one shows both text and photo. A fourth one is empty (accessed on June 3, 2021). The Xinjiang Victims Database contains “15730 ethnic-minority individuals interned since January 2017.”
The most important basis for the numbers offered in CHRD’s report is the extrapolation, estimates and presumptions derived from the numbers provided by only 8 ethnic Uyghur interviewees from 8 villages in the Kashgar Prefecture. They report how many people in their village were taken to re-education camps. In its publications, CHRD mentions dozens of interviews.
In February 2021, Uyghur key witness Tursunay Ziyawudun gave an interview to BBC in which she details systematic mass rape, sexual abuse, and torture against Uyghurs in re-education camps. BBC reports that “She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.” Furthermore, “then police began interrogating Ziawudun about her absent husband, she said, knocking her on the floor when she resisted and kicking her in the abdomen.”
In earlier interviews in October 2019 with the Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights organisation and February 2020 with Buzzfeed in Almaty, she did not mention rape and, in the latter, stated explicitly that “I wasn’t beaten or abused,” she said. “The hardest part was mental. It’s something I can’t explain – you suffer mentally.”
This witness resettled from Kazakhstan to Washington DC in September 2020 with the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) support, which claims that she is “a critical witness.” It should be observed that Tursunay Ziyawudun gave all three interviews when she was out of China; it is therefore enigmatic why her account changed so markedly over time. Whatever the reason may be, it does not add to the credibility of this critically important witness.
During the last few years, several Uyghurs have given their witness accounts in Western media.
Therefore, let us now look at the witness testimonies. There have been several refutations by the Chinese Foreign Ministry – one more here as an example. As for the UHRP (Uyghur Human Rights Project) bringing key witness Tursunay Ziyawudun to the USA in September 2020 (since then having changed her testimony, see above), the mission of this organisation is following as described on their website: ‘The Uyghur Human Rights Project promotes the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples in East Turkistan, referred to by the Chinese government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, through research-based advocacy’
The UHRP is funded (again) by the US government-supported National Endowment of Democracy (NED), as is the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
In addition, we showed in the first TFF report on these matters that the main Xinjiang Victims Database referred to everywhere is on a .biz address and complete anonymous (https://shahit.biz/eng/).
A simple scholarly rule of thumb is that homepages that do not inform their visitors about who owns it, who is responsible for it, who writes and posts and also do not offer a contact address – e-mail, phone or street address – should never be trusted. Researchers who anyhow do so are amateurs. If they use such sources even to prove a genocide, they obviously have a political agenda and behave grossly irresponsibly.
There is also a series of psychological dilemmas surrounding the process of interviewing witnesses to – and victims of – serious human rights violations. How are they selected, and how representative are the witnesses? How does one secure that witnesses tell the truth – it is challenging to check given the very sensitive issues the witnesses often talk about?
Further, can witnesses be trusted, or can it be expected that at least some of them might have rather strong reasons to exaggerate what they have experienced, seen or heard – such as trying, through their story to achieve either a kind of revenge over the perpetrator and/or cover-up, or justification, for a kind of behaviour of their own that they may not want to talk about. It seems that the majority of victims in such situations – understandably – swear their own and their group’s innocence.
Surprisingly from a scholarly viewpoint, these – admittedly very sensitive – issues are never touched upon in the type of reports we have come across. While most commentators, scholars and human rights organisations routinely and without documentation state or imply that all Chinese authorities disinform, lie or are desperate in their denials and propaganda, they seem to trust any witnesses’ statement without hesitation. Relevant motive analyses do not apply equally to all involved parties.
However, let us not get stuck with the problems of methodology and psychology. There is an essential political context too.
2.3.4 Politicisation, weaponisation and Adrian Zenz
On human rights, there is only one interpretation possible
Adrian Zenz’ concluding remarks in his 2018 report are fascinating as indicators of the ideology production underpinning what is going on in the emerging Western Cold War policy vis-a-vis China, the China Cold War Agenda (CCWA).
Among the formulations he uses in his conclusions are: “indoctrination”, “campaign of coercive social re-engineering”, “with Xinjiang as the ‘core hub’ of the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing appears determined to pursue a definite solution to the Uyghur question” (one must appreciate that Zenz does not write “Final Solution”), “Communist regimes have long considered political re-education as a core instrument for achieving lasting social control through “thought reform”, ultimately resulting in an imagined ‘New Socialist Man’”, “one potential way forward would be to prescribe different forms of re-education treatments for individuals with low scores in the upcoming nationwide social credit system” and “Just as Xinjiang has become China’s testing ground for cutting-edge surveillance technology, the state may use the experiences gathered from re-education this large Muslim minority group for it social re-engineering efforts across the nation.” (Read all of it here).
Remember the Agenda: only negative things can happen in the Chinese Dictatorship. Xinjiang is just a test case of what will likely spread all over China very soon.
So no benefit of the doubt shall apply to that civilisation. Moreover, there cannot exist any other explanations, in whole or in part, but the legendary Communist dictatorships’ evil.
Zenz’ number went up from about 1.0 million to 1.5 million in his speeches and interviews in the months after the publication of his report (here). Since then, Zenz has been a regular Xinjiang specialist guest at mainstream US/Western media and testified before the US Congress and the Canadian House of Commons.
In June 2020, his second report appeared with the claim of genocide in Xinjiang. An investigation by Grayzone of this report concludes with data abuse of population figures, framing health care services into genocide evidence through framing pictural sources and blatant misuse of statistic sources and data. Even so, a conclusion that Uyghur women would have 4 to 8 UID surgeries per day in Xinjiang (!)
Zenz’s second report may have served as a backup for Mike Pompeo’s statement that genocide is happening in Xinjiang, followed by the Canadian, Dutch, Belgian parliaments verdicts earlier this year, and recently the British House of Commons, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
Since he is so frequently used as the expert on Xinjiang, it may be helpful to ask: Who is Dr Adrian Zenz? TFF’s first report contains more information about his background, but here are some highlights.
Here is the Wikipedia entry for Adrian Zenz. He is a German anthropologist who used to work at the European School of Culture and Theology, which is related to the Columbia International University, a Bible College not to be confused with Columbia University. Dr Zenz is a born-again Christian and has stated that he feels that God has told him to pursue this research – 17:00 minutes into this Washington Watch interview – on Chinese Muslims and other minority groups in China.
Since October 2019, he is a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) in Washington, DC, and here is a presentation of him in conjunction with a widely circulated article of his published in 2018 by Jamestown Foundation, where he is also an analyst. Jamestown was set up on the initiative of the CIA and remains an arch-conservative foundation with a board composed of corporate, business and investment people, former US government officials, former CIA leaders and militaries and some experts on terrorism.
It does not seem obvious why a human rights report by Dr Zenz would end up being published by such an organisation (and with another extremely “hawkish” outfit like the Journal of Political Risk by the Corr Analytics) rather than by a scholarly journal or as a report from a genuine human rights organisation.
The VOC was established by a unanimous act of the US Congress and George. W. Bush was its honorary chairman 2003-2009, i.e. during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. VOC proudly states in its 2019 report that ”Since joining VOC, Dr Zenz has been mentioned over 240 times in over 120 media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the BBC, and has conducted broadcast interviews with NPR, Bloomberg, and CNN, as well as top German newswires Deutsche Welle and Tagesschau” – that is, within just the three months. (See picture below from the VOC).
It speaks volumes of the type of uniformity of expertise sought by these media – something that is confirmed by the above presentation of media sources underlying The Report. One must wonder whether there was no other expert on human rights in Xinjiang than Dr Zenz? Did the Western mainstream media ever look for other experts? For somebody who would question the genocide determination?
Finally, Zenz serves as an adviser to the IPAC – Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China – which does campaigns and letters based upon the usual sources and has Sen Marco Rubio and Sen Bob Menendez as US members.
We shall now turn to other primary sources behind the Xinjiang genocide accusation.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has published numerous reports about Xinjiang. When one searches its homepage with the word “Xinjiang,” 35 reports appear. One needs only to read their titles, the titles of other publications and a few shorter articles – not the least by executive director Peter Jennings, who has lived virtually all his professional life in military defence circles – to get the main Cold War/militarist/armament thrust of ASPI.
It published Mapping Xinjiang’s re-education’ camps in 2018 which identifies 28 locations based on satellite images and heat mapping and states that “This is not meant to suggest that the scope and scale of the system is small. Agence France-Presse (AFP) estimates there are at least 181 such facilities in Xinjiang, while research by German-based academic Adrian Zenz suggests there may be as many as 1,200 facilities. Instead, this report and its underlying database aim to create a repository of existing research into the Xinjiang camps in order to save for posterity the information that China’s censors are rapidly deleting from the public record.”
One notices that we are again getting wildly different estimates and a Western news agency as one of the primary sources (but with no details). Various Chinese reports and media have countered with texts, interviews, videos and images from on the ground – never quoted in Western mainstream media and also not appearing in Western search engines such as Google. Two of numerous examples here and here.
Interestingly, the 2018 report acknowledges that “this project would not have been possible without the crucial ongoing work of Shawn Zhang, Adrian Zenz and…” Shawn Zhang’s attitudes to China are well explained by himself in this article in which Adrian Zenz’ – perhaps a bit paradoxically – airs his criticism of satellite images, doubting what they actually tell.
In 2020, ASPI launched the” Xinjiang Data Project” which seems to gather most of the institute’s documentation of “mass internment camps, surveillance and emerging technologies, forced labour and supply chains, the ‘re-education’campaign, deliberate cultural destruction and other human rights issues “that makes up “the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing program of human rights abuses and tech-enhanced authoritarianism in Xinjiang, and explores its global implications.”
ASPI was established by the Australian Government in 2001. Its funding is indicated on its homepage and comes from the Australian Department of Defence, US State Department, US Department of Defence, Embassies of Japan, Israel and the Netherlands, and weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman. 85% is government funding, 3% defence industry, 11% private sector and 1% civil society and universities.
Obviously, there is a match between the funding and the policy and publication profile: It serves to a very high degree the “military-industrial complex” (Eisenhower), provides the enemy images and the arguments for higher military budgets. Moreover, there is very little genuine research based on social science methodology.
Again this is conspicuous exactly because ASPI on its “About” page conveys what is a grossly misleading labelling “ASPI is an independent, non-partisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice for Australian and global leaders … one of the most authoritative and widely quoted contributors to public discussion of strategic policy” and states that its Xinjiang Data Project “brings together rigorous, empirical research.”
Anyone with a social science background would ask: Independent, really – with that military funding and government relation? Non-partisan – with those relations to the military and military industry – and the United States? Rigorous research – with that systematically slanted anti-China policy orientation?
This is delusional. It is also a sad example of how marketing terminology inflates important work and how genuine scholarship is squeezed out to enable commissioned pro-armament and Cold War policies at a sufficiently low academic level to be used, and probably appreciated, by decision-makers and media who most likely believe that they are getting the real thing. Hardly surprising, many of ASPI’s research staff have only a Bachelor or Masters degree or a non-academic background).
Research is an open search and re-search endeavour, a testing of hypotheses and counter-hypotheses and an unbiased empirical investigation based on methodological rules. One does not know apriori what kind of results a project will yield.
ASPI’s work is, very clearly, commissioned and pre-determined. It is unthinkable that it would publish something critical about the West or, say, armament and new weapons systems and something just slightly positive about China and the possibility that Australia/the West could gain from cooperation. Or, say, about Gandhian nonviolence, true conflict-resolution – they do not know what that would be – or reconciliation.
Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr criticised ASPI in February 2020 for having a “one-sided, pro-American view of the world” while Geoff Raby, former Australian ambassador to China (2007-2011), stated in October 2020 that “The Canberra-based institute has become a go-to think tank for many Western media outlets in terms of framing the public’s understanding of and attitude toward China.”
To summarise what we have said so far – and we understand if it is all quite complex in all its details and perhaps bewildering to the reader: It goes around and around, lots of reports quotes the same figures and authors without checking basic sources and their validity, thus doing sub-standard academic and media work.
Some facts and accounts are undoubtedly substantial and trustworthy, but they are systematically mixed with estimates (that change over time), extrapolations, biased selection of sources, fake and omission of important aspects – made to fit a political agenda more than a truth derived at through serious multi-dimensional study.
Based on all that, the public is handed a truth with only a very limited value but which – through repetition of the same “documentary” materials – becomes the truth. Politicians blindly trust those media in the, perhaps convenient, belief that they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And that is not true.
This Cold War propaganda – the China Cold War Agenda – can go on for years – until someone plays the role of the child in H. C. Andersen’s 1837 story, The Emperor’s New Clothes:
“Two swindlers arrive at the capital city of an emperor who spends lavishly on clothing at the expense of state matters. Posing as weavers, they offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. The emperor hires them, and they set up looms and go to work.
A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool. Finally, the weavers report that the emperor’s suit is finished. They mime dressing him and he sets off in a procession before the whole city.
The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear inept or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realise that everyone has been fooled. Although startled, the emperor continues the procession, walking more proudly than ever.”
Some Facts About the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR): History and Terrorism
When Western media and politicians talk about the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR, hereafter called Xinjiang), they often simply claim that Xinjiang was previously an independent country called ‘East Turkistan’ which was then ‘annexed by China’. ’Territorial aggression’ is a popular phrase these days with the Western media in their (anti-)China reporting.
In this chapter, we offer a brief introduction to the ancient but also recent history of Xinjiang, separating the facts from the political and media narratives. Towards the end, we reflect on why these Western narratives appear repeatedly.
3.1 Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) was called Xiyu (Western regions) when it was under the control by the Han Dynasty since 60 BC. The area has had a dynamic, complex history with Persians, Mongols and other ethnicities having influenced or occupied parts during the long history of Xinjiang.
However, even at times in ancient history when Xinjiang was not under direct Chinese political control during past two millennia, Xinjiang always has had an intertwined and close relation with the different dynasties of China, culturally, administratively and commercially.
The vast territory of Xinjiang was home to the main routes of the historic Silk Road from the 2nd century BC to the 18th century.
Xinjiang was an integral part from China’s Qing Dynasty from the late 1750’s until 1912 when the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. During the turbulent era of the short-lived Republic of China (1912-1949), Xinjiang was under administrative control of the Republic of China and witnessed several rebellions including an invasion from the Soviet Union with two short-lived separatist attempts in different parts of Xinjiang until the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
In 1949 the People’s Liberation Army entered Xinjiang, where the Kuomintang commander surrendered the province to them. The People’s Republic of China changed the province status of Xinjiang to an autonomous region, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on October 1, 1955.
In other words, the region has been part of or closely related to China for more than 2,000 years, and the geographical area of Xinjiang as it is today has been an administrative part of China since the 1750s.
3.2 Xinjiang in recent history
In April 1990, the Baren Township conflict took place in the South-West of Xinjiang, a terrorist attack followed by armed conflict between the terrorist organisation, ETIM (see later) and Chinese government forces.
According to a Chinese account, the ETIM has since then committed over 200 acts of terrorism, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries between 1990 and 2001. The organisation has also been linked to terrorist attacks inside China and other countries until 2016, and it is linked to Al-Qaeda.
The ETIM (East Turkistan Islamic Movement) – other names include Turkistan Islamic Party TIP and East Turkistan Islamic Party – is a Muslim separatist group founded in 1989 by militant Uyghurs. Its goal is to establish an independent state in what is today’s Xinjiang.
In 1998 ETIM moved their headquarters to Kabul and took shelter in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. It is well-known that it has also been fighting with thousands of men alongside other terrorist groups in Syria, based in Idlib and participating in the 4,5-year long occupation of Eastern Aleppo (see later).
The very influential US Council on Foreign Relations has a detailed account from 2014 on its homepage. ETIM was classified as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations Security Council (2002), the European Union (2004) and by the United States. (2004-2020).
However, the United States – former Secretary-of-State, Mike Pompeo – unilaterally revoked the designation of ETIM as a terrorist organisation in October 2020. One must assume that the US did that as part of its strategy to build a Cold War against China.
Where does the term ‘East Turkistan’ come from? It first popped up in the late 19th century mentioned by Russian Turkologists and later on in the 20th century by Uyghur separatists as their name for today’s entire XUAR – which implies the carving out a future independent state from China’s largest region, as large as Iran.
Several Western media, Uyghur radicals, the UHRP (Uyghur Human Rights Project) as well as the World Uyghur Congress maintain that the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) was previously an independent country called ‘East Turkistan’.
This is stated despite the historical data that Xinjiang has been an integral part of China since the 1750s and has never been a separate nation state at the current territory of Xinjiang.
The term has been used for two short-lived separatist attempts inside Xinjiang breaking away as Islamic enclaves during the turbulent last days of the Republic of China before the People’s Liberation Army took over in 1949. ‘The ‘First East Turkistan Republic’ existed for five months in 1933-1934 around the city of Kashgar in South-West Xinjiang.
The ‘Second East Turkistan Republic‘ was a Soviet Union satellite state for five years from 1944-1949 during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, and comprised three districts in Xinjiang bordering the Soviet Union (Ili, Tarbaghatay and Altay).
While history is complex and often interpreted to fit one’s own ‘desired’ perspective, it is an indisputable fact that there has never been a nation-state called ‘East Turkistan’ in what is Xinjiang today no matter what Western media and politicians want us to believe.
Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Turkistan’ has this to say: “Of Persian origin (see -stan), the term “Turkestan” (ترکستان) has never referred to a single nation-state. Iranian geographers first used the word to describe the place of Turkic peoples. “Turkistan” is used to describe any place where Turkic peoples lived.
For the discerning reader, we recommend a recent Italian scholarly report for further historical knowledge about these matters, ”Xinjiang. Understanding Complexity, Building Peace” (2021) from Istituto Diplomatico Internazionale in Rome.
3.3 Counterproductive US meddling in Chinese affairs
If the United States would want to create trouble for Beijing – to fish in troubled waters – and slow down its development, Xinjiang would be of particular strategic significance. It is huge, an essential ”hub” of the Belt And Road Initiative, BRI, and falls in line with a typical US foreign policy method: Support critical/ethnic minorities, or separatists, to ”disturb” the central government or produce regime change, and support terrorism when it is in ”our” interest – like in, say, Croatia, Kosovo, with the Kurds in Iraq, and in Syria – based on the simple, classical but usually dead wrong rule of thumb: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
It deserves particular mention that ETIM as a political project is also connected with serious and widespread terrorism – Uyghur terrorists fighting outside China such as in Syria. Here is a detailed report by Associated Press from 2017; while the terrorist practices are framed as a result of China’s repression of this group, it clearly shows that the major motive for the roughly 5000 Uyghur fighters in Syria was to obtain the necessary on-the-ground training alongside al-Qaeda and then go back to China and fight.
While ’East Turkistan’ never had a de facto or de jure existence in Xinjiang, it does exist elsewhere – namely in Washington of all places.
Uyghur separatists have set up an exile government – The ’East Turkistan Government In Exile’ (ETGE). On this homepage, one can read about its President, Prime Minister, parliament, goals and program. And on Wikipedia, one can also learn where this exile government draws its political support and how it works to achieve its independence.
Though not recognised as as an independent state or a government-in-exile by any nation, it was declared a Government inside room HC-6 of the US Capitol Building in 2004. In spite of that hosting on US territory, it seems that the exile government is not even happy with President Biden.
It can safely be assumed that there is a motive behind the US playing the role of host to the extremist Uyghur separatist cause – and it is not mediation, good offices or peaceful conflict-resolution.
Conspicuously, virtually all the mainstream media news and the think tank reports omit that Washington hosts and lends substantial political support to an organisation that seeks to carve out the largest unit of China and make it an independent state – or that a group of Uyghurs have been fighting as terrorists in Xinjiang, in neighbouring countries and the Middle East. Neither do they bother to ask why such an organisation was suddenly taken off the US list of terrorist organisations.
They also regularly omit the fact that the US bombed the base of ETIM together with the Talibans in February 2018 – according to NBC News. And that Uyghur fighters were locked up in Guantanamo as ”enemy combatants” in the US war on terrorism – as reported by CNN.
An accurate example of falsifying history or omitting terrorism is a report by the Canadian House of Commons from last year as a base for the Xinjiang genocide accusation. They falsified and omitted facts about the history of Xinjiang by using an overwhelming majority of sources from the mentioned government-in-exile. Twisting history to meet and convince the simple narrative. More here in this report’s footnote 10.
Finally, why is it important to include such facts in the discussion about Xinjiang?
Because most of the Western media and human rights reports on Xinjiang tone down or omit mention of the terrorist or historical aspect of the Xinjiang conflict formation. (See the sub-section about Amnesty International’s recent report later). This facilitates and frames the interpretation that China is simply doing ethnic cleansing for no other reason: China does what it does because the Uyghurs are Muslims – some reporters even trying to make us believe (perhaps because they believe it themselves and do not know better) that all Muslims in China are repressed and that the root cause simply is that they are Muslims.
When it has suited US/NATO interests, they have supported Muslims – as in Bosnia Hercegovina and Kosovo. Otherwise, these interests have mass-killed Muslims throughout the Middle East for decades and plundered their (oil) wealth. So it is hard to believe that the US/NATO should now be genuinely concerned about any Muslims in China, except as a policy of weaponising human rights, disrupting China’s development and building a new Cold War.
Smokescreening – Media Manipulation Methods (MMM) Promoted by Governments and Media
4.1 Nine Media Manipulation Methods, MMM
The preceding analysis has offered hard evidence that there are numerous severe and documentable problems with the Western mainstream media coverage of the US/Western accusation, or ”determination” – that there is a genocide in Xinjiang.
Moreover, we have outlined in an earlier section how TFF’s first report has been omitted, or cancelled, completely by Western mainstream media, the silence being compact, no cracks in its (dis)information wall. No wish for dialogue.
These problems grow out of an anti-China – or Sinophobic – agenda. Like other political agendas, we see two types of warfare operating in parallel: the actual hot or cold war on the ground and the information/propaganda warfare taking place across the spectrum of various media – from the local printed newspaper over influencing government policies to world digital media and a wealth of homepages, social media and video channels.
They invariably use one or more of the following nine media manipulation methods, MMM:
- Fake – lies, deception, inventions or whatever else that cannot be judged/verified as empirically valid; presentation of institutes and scholars as ‘independent’ and defining publications as based on scholarly research when they are not – are typical examples.
- Omission – leaving out essential perspectives, facts, analyses, experts/expertise, literature, counter views, possible alternative hypothesis and explanations of found results. When taken together, the omission is often much more distortive than fake (and less easy for the public to detect).
- Censorship – meaning a government tells the media (by law or less open and verifiable methods) what the limits are, what can be dealt with and how – and what cannot be dealt with without consequences. When a few of the countless millions of possible stories that could be told from around the world are selected for the front- pages, it is also the result of censorship, not only omission.
- Self-censorship – news bureaus, editors, reports and journalists know the standard operating procedures and stick to them because it is convenient and typically secures that they keep their job. Particularly young people who enter a media organisation will have to adapt to the local ‘culture’, will not be the first to challenge those procedures and will eventually pass them on to later generations – meaning that a kind of group think develops. Censorship and self-censorship define the discourse and its framework and what the truth is, commonly understood/accepted as part of that local culture and perceived as ‘natural’ – that is, also politically correct. Depending to some extent on how substantial these two “ships” are, they by definition militate against good journalistic practises such as striving for objectivity, solid check of sources (and the confirmation of what is true only based on several sources confirming the same facts independently of each other), a fair hearing of all sides and no mixing of reporting and opinions.
- Framing – is a somewhat difficult concept because it can mean many different things. It can mean setting the frames of “what are we talking about here?” Then there is framing as orientation and interpretation – “In social theory, framing is a kind of interpretation, perhaps a set of anecdotes, historical events and stereotypes that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.” In other words, people build a series of mental “filters” through biological and cultural influences. They then use these filters to make sense of the world. The choices they then make are influenced by their creation of a frame.
Media framing builds on these dimensions but adds something specific – “the parameters of the discussion itself – the words, symbols, overall content, and tone used to frame the topic. When compared to agenda setting, framing includes a broader range of cognitive processes – such as moral evaluations, causal reasoning, appeals to principles, and recommendations for treatment of problems.” Simply put, it’s about how a story is packaged. It may also be the more prominent story inside which a news item/story appears.
- Constructed narratives – stories that more or less substitute for reality and makes reality-check superfluous or even dangerous (for the maintenance of the fake/omission report). Narratives are often gross simplifications of a complex reality and use everyday ways of thinking that everybody can relate to without much knowledge of the substantive issues. Boiling down a complex conflict to a struggle between the archetypical good guys (all on one side, ours perhaps) versus the bad guys (all gathered on “their” side) – known from fairytales, dramas and movies – is an example which, of course also implies a huge distortion and in addition may use fake and omission.
- Propaganda and other distortions – let us quote the Cambridge Dictionary: “information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions” – one example being political/wartime propaganda. The italics are added here because the intention is what distinguishes propaganda from, say, wrong or incomplete information conveyed by someone who did not do a good job or misunderstood things but did not intend to deceive anyone.
- Psychological warfare or psychological operations (PsyOps) – close, of course, to propaganda but often defined as influencing other people, not our own. However, that is not the case today. Undoubtedly, governments also do PsyOps on their own citizens – such as constantly instilling in them a sense of being threatened by foreign countries, weapons, terrorists – or China. Some has called this fearology – governance by instigating fear. People who fear are much more willing to accept controls and limitations and to obey than those who do not fear – as we have seen when it comes to accepting all kinds of measures to combat terrorism and pandemics. PsyOps are broader and aim to influence a target audience’s value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behaviour. It can be used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviours favourable to the originator’s objectives and are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag tactics.
- Cancel culture – a more recent term – is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrown out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism have been “cancelled” mostly because of their views or behaviours. The expression “cancel culture” has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in free speech and censorship debates. From another perspective, it is a demand/punishment having to do with someone who is politically (non)correct and/or challenges the framework of the “Zeitgeist.”
These methods are a manifest part of today’s Western mainstream media and political reality. While each has its distinct character, they also overlap and are used in clusters that fit the chosen political agenda.
4.2 The decline of Western media and research standards
When we look at the problematic issues we have touched upon in our first report and in this report, it is indeed remarkable that no mainstream Western media or governments claiming human rights violations or genocide in Xinjiang have conducted even a cursory or random fact- and source-checking, analysis of data, background check of the institutes and scholars and their affiliations, or have thought about the possible political motives behind the genocide determination and the consistently negative-only China coverage.
Or perhaps not! Because, if we take into account the nine methods just listed, it is not that strange.
What we find in all these reports, documents and media stories is neither high-level scholarship nor intended objective public education media work. Instead, they make up information that has been processed through one or more of the nine methods to fit a political agenda – which we define more broadly as a new China Cold War Agenda, CCWA.
Classical quality scholarship and media reporting keep as far away from such processing as they can. They try to keep their integrity and intellectual freedom to explore and protect their end products from any such politicising influences.
Furthermore, instead of being free, the types of think tank and media reports we deal with here and in the first TFF report is commissioned instead of genuine and qualified research and media products.
That may be considered natural; governments have always – to some extent – tried to co-opt scholars and journalists to deliver politically correct services in favour of the policies of the day. The fraud – or fake and omission – consists in disguising these propaganda products as independent quality research and media products that deliver the objective truth to the public. They simply do not. They do not even seem to try.
Those who have been observing, or practising, either research or media work over the last 40-50 years cannot but see today’s commissioned – and therefore politicised and anti-intellectual – research and media as expressions of a tragic decay in the Western classical professional values and standards.
However, we have seen it before – in the Soviet Union in the decades leading up to its decline and fall. At “scientific” conferences, the politically checked “party line” research papers were read aloud to an audience and discussions afterwards dead dull. Likewise, the leading daily, “Pravda” – meaning truth – conveyed anything but the truth. The crucial difference is that while most Soviet citizens knew that Pravda produced a lot of fake and omission and lost faith in their media, a majority of people in the West today still trust what they read in US/NATO/EU media when it comes to international affairs such as China.
Those who are still independent and whose work is based neither on corporative nor state funding now have a huge public education task: presenting the complex facts, criticising the commissioned research and media produced about it – and coming up with alternatives. That task is essential if we shall avoid a terrible multi-decade time-, creativity- and resource-wasting US/NATO-driven Cold War against China.
And this argument is relevant and valid no matter what one thinks about China.
If we think China is mostly interesting, great or admirable, the Western Cold War research and media is grossly unfair and bound to create negative feelings in both the Chinese government and people.
If in contrast, we have mostly negative views about China and think it is a dictatorial, destructive country and a danger to the West, a Cold War policy is about the most counterproductive path to take. Instead, various types of engagement, rapprochement and dialogue would stand a much better chance of reducing the tension and danger.
In short, we should learn a little from the First Cold War in Europe when civilian and military confidence-building measures and NGO cross-border contacts played a vitally important role.
The essential difference is that, unlike the Soviet Union, China is not about to decline and dissolve. However, the Western empire, which triumphalistically declared itself the winner and absurdly argued that the age of ideologies was over, is now declining and about to fall.
Humanity is moving towards catastrophe – either with a’ bang’ in warfare, including nuclear war, or with a ‘whimper’ in ecological decay, poverty, populism, nationalism, inequality, authoritarianism, racism, white supremacism, what have you. Or, with both – the whimper turning into a bang.
Simply put, we do not have one day to waste on futile Cold Wars anywhere – and least of all between the two most important countries without which humanity cannot solve the global problems.
So, why does the US choose such a counterproductive policy that will be destructive to China, the rest of the world and, even more so, to the US itself?
One major hypothesis would be that this choice is more about the US itself and its decline and coming fall than about China per se. Washington believes that there are threats and enemies virtually everywhere and seeks confrontation/competition while Beijing looks for cooperation and mutual benefits. One of the authors, Jan Oberg, has written about this and how to avoid it here, here and here.
The mentioned media manipulation methods, MMM, set themselves through in the selection of China themes in our media. Let us now look at some of them.
The China Themes – and Non-Themes – in Western Governments and Media
In the introduction, we have referred to some of the most typical China themes. However, there are more; they are fairly easy to list and they are all negative:
- Human rights are trampled upon, and the Xinjiang genocide is just the worst of many cases.
- Authoritarianism, dictatorship, Xin Jinping is a” thug”, no democracy, party congresses are just rubber-stamping; China is one huge surveillance society.
- People in Hong Kong are generally suppressed. China has broken its side of the agreement about Hong Kong.
- China may occupy Taiwan anytime, and the West must stand with Taiwan, also militarily.
- China’s armament is rapid on all fronts; it is becoming a formidable military challenge.
- In the South China Sea, China operates aggressively.
- China misuses trade relations – has students, agents/students that infiltrate and steal research, and it does not respect Western economic sanctions on other countries.
- The Belt and Road Initiative, BRI, is a new nasty way for China to exploit dozens of countries and make them dependent on China in the future, not least because they will be accumulating debts, and China will then buy them up. In short, a new colonialism and world dominance.
- China collects data and information worldwide, Huawei and 5G is all about information gathering, data being delivered directly to Beijing.
- Generally, China is a big challenge to the world, a threat and not a possible partner for a trustful cooperation. It must be outcompeted, and the US must remain globally dominant – “we are leading the world again” as Joe Biden has stated it repeatedly since becoming president.
Tibet as a theme has fallen somewhat behind but may come up again when a successor to Dalai Lama shall be found.
So has the ideological conflict about the best socio-political system that dominated the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The West is not fighting Communism per se – for that China has borrowed far too much from the West – such as capitalism, consumerism and cultural influences. However, one exception is the exceptional speech by Mike Pompeo, who sees China as a system “we” must change before “they change us” and in which he explicitly points to Chinese Communism and the Party as the main challenge.
Indeed, there is almost no interest in the West in what kind of unique, multi-dimensional, or eclectic/diverse society China has developed during the last 40 or so years. Or in how they did it.
Now, contrast those China themes with just a selection of Non-Themes – that is, rather more positive aspects of China that virtually never reach Western citizens – although, of course, experts and some professionals know them well:
- China’s opening-up to the West policies which were introduced in 1978.
- The immense, historically unique socio-economic development since then – from basic human need satisfaction toward a welfare state.
- The alleviation of basic poverty, lifting about 850 million out of poverty in the same period, thereby contributing to human rights (survival should be seen as a human right, shouldn’t it?) and overall world development. The goal was reached before schedule and announced in late 2020 – hardly noticed in the West.
- The 100th anniversary of the party in 2021. It has 90+ million members, the system builds on meritocracy, and the Chinese have much more trust in their government than citizens in the West have in their governments.
- The Belt and Road Initiative, BRI – extremely few have ever heard about this cooperative project, the largest ever involving about 140 countries.
- The building of a transport and communication infrastructure throughout China. For example, in 2018, the US had 54 kilometres of high-speed rails with a max speed of 240 km, China 27 000 with 350 km/hour max speed.
- The amazing development of culture and arts – enormous production in various fields, museums, galleries, and art spaces sprouting all over China – Shanghai is becoming the next world centre of contemporary art.
- China’s long-term planned experimental future cities and regions; Shenzhen was only the first and now a high-tech world leader with about 13 million inhabitants in 2021 but only 30 000 in the 1970s.
- The philosophy, policy and long-term implications of historically uniquely high investments in education and science.
- Since the Chinese are so different from us and have achieved amazing things in just a few decades: What is their social cosmology? How do they think about the present and the future? How do Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and their history and experiences (also with the West) shape their policies, and how do they think about us in the West? The Chinese have a tremendous advantage in that they have studied the West, its music, literature, political philosophy and assimilated Western elements in their society, and millions have learned English. How curious has the West been about China, and what has it ever thought it could learn from it?
Would it not be possible to produce something interesting in media, politics and research on such issues? Of course it would – but such projects and perspectives are omitted and the relevant experts cancelled.
People in the West may not have thought much about these sets of China themes and non-themes? Virtually everything that could be deemed positive about China has fallen to (self)censorship. Moreover, we do not think about what it is we are not seeing and hearing.
Furthermore, most Westerners have probably not seen any Chinese art or entertainment films or documentaries. Most likely, they cannot mention a leading Chinese composer, painter, rock musician or author – but may have seen calligraphies and eaten at a Chinese restaurant (with only one of the four classical or eight modern Chinese cuisines and not the modern Chinese Islamic cuisine).
The West has seen itself – and been seen – as # 1 on most dimensions – and therefore it has been a teacher. If someone is # 2 or #35 in a ranking order, s/he always has somebody higher up to learn from and be inspired by. Over time, however, others are catching up and listening less and less willingly to the Master. A Master who does not sense the need for new learning will, eventually, become the illiterate and move downwards.
Therefore, it is not too strong to say that the official US/NATO/EU world is illiterate about both historical and contemporary China.
Unfortunately, Biden’s team is devoid of expertise on China, as pointed out by William H. Overholt here. The less the West and its leaders know and therefore understand, the more China may look frightening and the higher the risk that the West chooses a fatally wrong, or destructive, strategy to deal with it.
Therefore, the West would do wise to drop the CCWA and, instead, go through a literacy campaign assisted by Sun Tzu and become curious and get a more balanced image of today’s China. And of itself.
Concrete Smokescreening and Media Manipulation Methods (MMM) Used Against China
Based upon a selection of those earlier mentioned, problematic sources, media and governments in predominantly Western nations have repeatedly condemned China concerning Xinjiang and the other negative China themes. They have given legitimacy to them by echoing these sources with zero fact- and source-checking. Untrustworthy materials have acquired status as indisputable truths simply by being repeated again and again as if in an echo chamber. The sources of the documentation and the ideological affiliations of most of the authors have never been checked or questioned, alternative systematically interpretations omitted. In short, fake, omission and repetition embracing and reinforcing.
The US government and the Canadian, Dutch, British, Lithuanian and Czech parliaments have ”determined” that the Chinese government is responsible for genocide in Xinjiang. However, unless they have access to intelligence information the rest of us do not have, they base their extremely grave accusations on the sources we have documented not to be factual, reliable, and trustworthy.
It would be easy to write hundreds of pages with examples of how Western mainstream media frame the China themes on a daily basis – China as aggressive and authoritarian in stark contrast to ”us” in the free Western, democratic world with freedom of expression and free media.
It is also easy to imagine how the editorial morning meetings of national mainstream media teams include the deliberate selection of negative China themes and how to frame China.
The framing, of course, does not bring any new information, perspectives or sources. It brings more of the same. The repetition of the same stories and framing by many leading media that people still seem to trust does the trick – then it must be true! So many cannot possibly be wrong, can they?
6.1 Some random examples
Listen here to special advisor to the UN Secretary-General (2001-2018), Columbia University professor and director, Center for Sustainable Development in the Earth Institute, economist Jeffrey Sachs strongly and repeatedly criticising and opposing the BBC’s blatant attempt at framing China in a news program on April 21, 2021, which was supposed to be about climate change.
And here is what you may do when on a day the editors do not find a topical China story: You dig up an 11-year old investigative report. That is what the Dutch NOS news agency did on April 17, 2021. It reported security and privacy issues at the Dutch telecom provider KPN back in 2000. It stated that suppliers such as Huawei (and Ericsson or Nokia) could easily and without limitations bug and tap into any mobile conversation within their network. This’ news’ report framed China with the title ‘Report on KPN confirms years of rumours about China’s espionage’. While both KPN and Huawei denied any evidence of tapping or espionage in response to this news item, the framing of China as a security threat and aggressor had already been created.
Framing is most effectively done through the little hidden details in a headline or news item, which immediately and subconsciously confirms one or more of the negative China themes in people’s minds.
Framing and other media manipulation methods, MMM, was also done when a national children news TV broadcast in the Netherlands stated in a headline that ‘China is murdering Uyghurs’ as one way to explain the genocide motion approved by the Dutch parliament to children. Moreover, it falsified history in this news item by informing the children that “in earlier days, Xinjiang was a separate country called East Turkestan but now belongs to China” – thereby framing China as an aggressive occupier.
If one searches “Xinjiang” on the homepage of the state public service Swedish-language Radio Sweden, one gets 13 reports and 178 articles from 2009 till today, all headlines indicating the same Xinjiang narrative: huge systematic human rights violations also with comments such as “while the world looks on”.
You do not have to listen to more than a few commentaries before you understand that China is judged by Western standards, the People’s Congress is just a rubber stamp, people are not consulted at all, it is arming militarily (without mention of the US presence around it); it is likely to soon “take back” Taiwan with military means, it’s environmental policies are awful and its project carbon emission neutrality by 2060 not good enough and not realistic.
Most likely, you do not understand Danish. Still, here the state public service Danish Broadcasting Corporation (Danmark Radio) presents the Newlines report (of course without checking its documentation), headline “Report: China tries to exterminate the Uyghurs as people.” Since the report is not questioned, its sources not checked, and no counter expertise is invited to comment on it, the “truth” conveyed is that China, by implication, does try to exterminate the Uyghurs as people.
The video “Explainer” called “China’s Muslims” (as if all Muslims were repressed) in the article doesn’t fail to mention any of the now classical elements of the Xinjiang genocide narrative without counter-evidence or presentation of diverse perspectives. The Chinese government is called a “regime” and, as you sense, the historical background presented is that Xinjiang is actually ’East Turkistan’ but occupied by the regime that has settled millions of Han Chinese in the region to control the Uyghurs.
This is why there has been violence – not a word about extremist Uyghurs’ relations to terrorism or China’s right to fight terrorism in its manner, a right granted blindly by the same media to the United States and Denmark itself over two decades. When the US/NATO countries fight terrorism and destroy entire countries and millions upon millions are suffering, it is – in contrast – very understandable.
In this “Explainer”, a woman who says that it is all the fault of the Chinese dictatorship is Rebiya Kadeer, the famous Uyghur millionaire businesswoman and political activist who fled to the US in 2005 and has been in the leadership of the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association. So that clip must be pretty old, and the producers must be ignorant about who they feature without indicating her name.
Another woman in the Explainer is Sayragul Sauytbay, a Xinjiang-born Kazakh woman who says she got out of a detention camp and fled to Kazakhstan illegally but was denied asylum in Kazakhstan. She made it to the US – but we are not told how – and was given a medal by Mike Pompeo (and Melania Trump) in 2020.
Further, she was mentioned as an important witness by Marc Rubio in 2019 and is now living in Sweden. According to the Chinese Global Times, she never worked in a camp (neither as an intern nor as a teacher), and she fled to Kazakhstan because of suspected loan fraud. It also tells that Ms Sauytbay is one of four to five women who are repeatedly featured as witnesses, particularly by BBC, but are in reality “actors.”
Finally, here is a report on Facebook from the US Embassy in Kazakhstan, filed by Radio Free Europe/Liberty, about her journey. There is also a sequence in which her sister back home says she has invented her story.
At the bottom of the Denmark Radio article, you find a reference to a longer documentary by the public service’s program “Horisont”. It draws upon a documentary from ABC in Australia. It, too, conveys all the Xinjiang narrative and China framing elements – which you will sense even without any command of the Danish language. None of the listed producers has any specialised knowledge about China, human rights or international politics.
We provide these few European examples to show that framing and other MMM are not only happening in the United States but also in Europe.
Once again, it would be impossible to list and analyse each and every news item of today’s China framing. It has erupted like a volcano the last couple of years. These examples illustrate the problems with the absence of knowledge and source-checking and overall content framework; what we see in them are mixtures of all the nine media manipulation methods, MMM.
Furthermore, there is a careful selection of headlines and combinations of texts and images and no mention of any doubt, no attempt to give a fair hearing or representation of China’s perspective. If there is, official Chinese representatives deny what is implicitly conveyed: Indisputable crimes against humanity for no good reason except Communist authoritarianism. Only Western sources are used, and independent research of these images and texts is conspicuously absent.
Doesn’t this look a lot like an immense digitisation of airborne leaflet propaganda, the old form of psychological warfare with flyers being dropped from aeroplanes? And with you at the receiving end – no space or time for fact-checking, questioning or balance, not to mention intelligent, logical or critical reasoning or dialogue. Take the flyer or throw it away!
6.2 Fake, omission, self censorship and the ’party line’: Cancel dissenters!
If critical voices or ‘disturbing’ data pop up to question or debunk sources and the commissioned reports that frame China, be sure they would be cancelled by complete silence in the mainstream media. Or otherwise stigmatised, threatened or legally charged.
Such is the standard operating procedure in what we call the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-MEDIA-ACADEMIC Complex.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has dedicated two posts on its homepage to those who do not believe in the US/NATO/ASPI Xinjiang narrative – people and news sites who have a critical eye or present different perspectives from the largely unchallenged Xinjiang narrative of human rights violations and genocide. ASPI calls them ‘strange bedfellows on Xinjiang’ and ‘China’s disinformation on Xinjiang is political warfare, not diplomacy’.
Judging from the writings of ASPI authors Jake Wallis and Albert Zhang, only one interpretation is possible. Whatever official China sources, Grayzone or any other critic may point out or state, it is “propaganda,”denial (of genocide), fringe, conspirational, apologetics and deflecting concerns about Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and others, inauthentic, misleading narratives and disinformation – and on and on and on…
It’s pretty easy to deal with such a barrage if you know the concept of psychological projection, which can be defined as: “a defence mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others. For example, a bully may project his or her own feelings of vulnerability onto the target, or a person who is confused may project feelings of confusion and inadequacy onto other people. Projection incorporates blame shifting and can manifest as shame dumping.”
In simplified parlance, it means: Blame or condemn others for doing what you do yourself much more or worse. Never look at yourself in the mirror!
Psycho-politically, you accuse – ex- or implicitly – those who question the Western well-lubricated media warfare machinery of being dishonest, biased and agents of China – or “genocide deniers” – while forgetting the extent to which your own written words, reports and institute operations are paid by the governments and corporations of warfare, death and destruction. ASPI poses as ‘independent’ (see above) but is, in fact, totally dependent on funding sources which are pro-warfare, pro-Cold War with China and pro-media campaigning.
For these researchers, the sheer possibility that there could be other methods, other points of departure and interpretations of research results just does not exist. Therefore, through a classical Western dichotomisation, people either support ASPI’s results or they are operators with evil motives. What “we” do is noble fact-based diplomacy; what “they” do is political warfare.
It also does not occur to them that the information warfare is a-symmetric in the extreme – that the US/Western information and propaganda machinery has been built over about 70 years, been given billions of dollars and has a strength and a worldwide reach that today’s China and what they call “fringe” media can only dream of. (See later how the US, in particular, is now financing the destruction of its own ideals of free media).
There is little use in arguing in rational or political science terms about all this. Instead, a psycho-political approach to understanding these mechanisms is rather more fruitful.
Debates are silenced and dissidents – a much needed concept now in the West – are cancelled. The genocide motion in the Dutch parliament was approved without an independent substantial investigation or debate. The only remark which came forward during the motion plea was that the motion should be delayed to provide time for a study of the detailed evidence since the genocide accusation is a very serious matter.
Motion petitioner Sjoerd Sjoerdstra responded that the evidence was indeed there and a vote against the motion would be showing your conscience to the rest of the Netherlands. (The statement taken off the original link).
Here is a recent example of opinion control. Marcus Reubenstein, the editor of APAC News in Australia, has been legally sued for defamation in April 2021 by Federal Government employee Geoff Wade after publishing Wade’s harassment of primary school children (of Chinese descent, born in Australia). Wade twittered to his 14,000 followers the location of these children’s private Chinese classes and the times and days of the week they could be found there – and stating also that their Chinese language teacher is allegedly connected to the Chinese Communist Party. See the story here.
Reubenstein has been sued by Wade’s lawyers, the law firm Meyer Vandenberg, which has been given more than $20 million in federal government contracts; the firm has also represented the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in defamation cases. Wade has written extensively for ASPI, more than a dozen reports in total. See Reubenstein’s campaign against anti-China social media influencers here and his excellent article, “Where is the Asian hate coming from?” And here is a video with independent journalist Michael West giving you the larger background to the Reubenstein case. This is just one example of Australia’s China debate getting more rancorous with harassment, threats and lawsuits.
The Grayzone, an independent news homepage in the USA dedicated to investigative journalism and analysis on politics and empire, along with its founder and editor Max Blumenthal, has been slammed by most of those who guard the anti-China and Xinjiang genocide narratives. The Grayzone is known for its investigations of biased, selective geopolitical narratives published in the Western mainstream media or advanced by Western governments.
In an interview with the Chinese Global Times in April 2020, Max Blumenthal said his US-based news outlet is not anti-US or pro-China as some people claimed. It “speaks for the people in the West who are opposed to war and who are skeptical of the narratives that were being fed.”
In spite of its quality work – or perhaps because of it – Grayzone is one of the “cancelled” or blocked media in the Western mainstream political and media world. And not only people and organisations are cancelled; facts and information are also cancelled in relation to the China themes – when they do not willingly adapt to, or obey, the narrative which, grosso modo, aims at justifying the new Cold War.
The investigations by Grayzone are, from a scholarly perspective, very detailed and substantial. Its reports are backed up by solid evidence – a result of meticulous searching for sources and sources of sources. In terms of journalistic quality standards, we judge them way higher than the large majority of mainstream media, which tend only to select telegrams and news reports from a handful of Western news bureaus and edit them – a method that does not qualify as professional media work and undermines criteria such as diversity, truthful public education, reporting as objectively as possible and give all sides a fair hearing – not to speak of the press as the informal Fourth Estate supplementing the legislative, executive ad judicial branches.
When it comes to Xinjiang and other dominant US/Western foreign policy areas, mainstream media delivers little but opinion-forming media work – banal reductionist, simplified political propaganda revolving around “them bad, we good.”
No observant and reasonably knowledgeable media user could fail to see also the increasing homogenisation: so-called leading – or perhaps, rather, misleading – media selecting the same few negative-only China themes and presenting them in the same manner.
6.3 Really? The World Bank gave loans to the ”concentration camps”?
Western media have often reported that what China calls the Xinjiang Vocational Education and Training Centers are, in reality, detention camps, prisons or concentration camps. To make this credible, there has been virtually no mention in those Western media that the World Bank provided a US $ 50 million loan to China for such a center in 2015.
The World Bank also released a statement in November 2019 that it conducted a review on this project in Xinjiang after having received a series of serious allegations as to what it really was. The statement provides the information that the Bank launched a fact-finding review, and World Bank senior managers travelled to Xinjiang to gather information directly. The team conducted a thorough review of project documents, engaged in discussions with project staff, and visited schools directly financed by the project, as well as their partner schools that were subjects of allegations. This World Bank investigation, the statement concludes, does not confirm any of the allegations.
Furthermore, it mentioned that ‘In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced. Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed.’
Based on this second remark, The New York Times (along with other news agencies) made – weird – headlines with ‘World Bank Scales Back Project in China’s Xinjiang Region: The decision came after allegations, which the bank could not substantiate, that its money was being used to fund Muslim internment camps.’
Unless readers would read it extremely carefully or had prior knowledge of the issue, what is conveyed is that the World Bank scales down because of allegations which it could not substantiate. The essential point, however, is that the World Bank has not found any evidence that the investigated centre is not an education and vocational training centre in contrast to the allegations.
The New York Times distorts the central theme of the World Bank investigative team’s statement. Why? What is its motive?
Case Studies of the Forced Labour Accusations
7.1 ASPI and Adrian Zenz again
Another anti-China theme concerns accusations about forced Uyghur labour being dispatched out of Xinjiang to work in other parts of China; it peaked in March and April 2021.
Once again, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Adrian Zenz are at the accusation trigger.
ASPI published a report on March 1, “Uyghurs For Sale” ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang” written mainly by journalist, analyst and comedian Vicky Xiuzhong Xu (born 1994 in China) with Danielle Cave, Dr James Leibold, Kelsey Munro, Nathan Ruser. Note in passing that a person who is ‘for sale’ is a slave; China has brought back slavery to our world.
Let us look a bit at who the report’s main author is and how she is connected.
ABC News In-Depth has produced a fascinating 30-minute documentary with and about Vicky Xu, in particular, her change from a pro-China nationalist to a staunch dissident. The Wikipedia entry and the documentary emphasise that she began to review her previous pro-China attitudes after interviewing a Chinese dissident, Wu Lebao. She’s been an undergraduate in political science at the University of Melbourne with an exchange semester at Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the moment, she has a break from media and research work to write her memoirs.
In that documentary, Vicky Xu’s life story and personal conversion is commented on by a series of people who help to tell her story and interpret her ‘convert’ path to the viewer. One of them is Damien Cave, New York Times’ Bureau Chief in Australia. One hears that, earlier, Vicky Xu had sent a report from China to the New York Times about a mismanaged natural catastrophe – but not how an unknown young female journalist got printed by the NYT. She then worked for the NYT before joining ASPI. She also says that she is now (March 2020) working for ASPI on this report and adds (27:33) that it is a project in collaboration with the Washington Post but, apart from footnotes to four reports by that newspaper, the WP is not mentioned in the final report.
This is a rather unusual life path for a rather young former Chinese patriot. One must indeed wonder whether a single interview with a dissident was the only reason behind what she calls her psychologically taxing and guilt-creating conversion or Vicky Xu also got a little help from somewhere.
It should be pointed out that on March 9, Adrian Zenz and the executive director of Workers Rights Consortium, Scott Nova, published a letter (on workersrights.org) addressed to audit firms and certification body executives, strongly urging them to refrain from labour rights audits as a matter of professional ethics, moral responsibility, and legal compliance.Along with using another article by Zenz from December 2019 ‘Beyond the Camps: Beijing’s Long-Term Scheme of Coercive Labor, Poverty Alleviation and Social Control in Xinjiang’ published in The Journal of Political Risk– a journal we have dealt with in TFF’s first report because of its close connections to extremely hawkish and anti-Chinese policies.
Dr Zenz had also produced “Coercive Labor in Xinjiang: Labor Transfer and the Mobilisation of Ethnic Minorities to Pick Cotton” in December 2020, which was published by the highly profiled anti-Communist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) in partnership with the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Global Policy. We’ve described these two ideology-producing, low-scholarly institutions in TFF’s first report.
The report’s Executive Summary states, among other things, that: “Between 2017 and 2019, we estimate that at least 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to factories through labour transfer programs under a central government policy known as ‘Xinjiang Aid’ and “ASPI’s research has identified 82 foreign and Chinese companies potentially directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019.”
The authors state that the estimate of 80 000 “is based on data collected from Chinese state media and official government notices.” How this was done is not spelt out, but obviously, the Chinese government is not trying to hide this labour arrangement since the authors can make such an estimate based on official Chinese sources. They merely provide us with an interpretation very different from China’s.
The concrete forced labour claims in the ASPI report seems based on two main sources: a) labour transfers reported by the Chinese government itself and local media, and b) anonymous statements published on in online magazine called Bitter Winter. However, this article which ASPI refers to in its Executive Summary (note 27), is written by Ye Ling, which is a “pseudonym for security reasons,” and the few forced labour Uyghur workers Ye Ling quotes are anonymous too (perhaps naturally, since they are all extremely critical of their situation).
Moreover, Ye Ling’s reports are also the source of notes 44 and 45. In short, the essential documentation is completely anonymous.
Who and what is the Bitter Winter magazine? It is a daily online magazine launched in 2018 focussing on human rights and China and published by CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions, founded in 1988 by professor Massimo Introvigne in Turin. More about CESNUR here.
When reading the above links, one will quickly detect that this magazine, its founding organisation and editor-in-chief is connected with a politically problematic and controversial organisation which – like everything else ASPI does – is anti-China in the extreme. The right political attitude repeatedly seems much more important than scholarship qualities.
CESNUR studies new religious movements and opposes anti-cult movements. However, the organisation received considerable criticism from various Western media and scholars in past decades for alleged personal and financial ties to various cults it studies as well as expressing sympathies or defending well-known cult attacks or mass suicides such as the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway and the 1994 mass suicide or killing of 53 members of the Order of the Solar Temple in Switzerland and Canada. More here.
ASPI’s forced labour report states that The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided ASPI with funding of £10,000, which was used towards this report.
In summary, the most – if not only – reliable source of this whole thing, paradoxically, is the government of China. The China which we are repeatedly told we cannot trust according to the accusation industry.
7.2 The best US think tank ”connects the dots”
‘Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang; Forced Labor, Forced Assimilation, and Western Supply Chains’ is the title of a 30-page report published by the Washington-based Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in October 2019. CSIS and ASPI have a joint work plan/dialogue on cyber security, set in motion in 2016, that includes high-level politicians, defence, security and intelligence experts. (It is not clear from the CSIS whether this continued after 2016).
CSIS is primarily funded by, among others, the governments of the US, Australia, Japan and Taiwan and receives smaller donations from Australia, South Korea, Turkey, the EU and a series of other Western governments, most of which are NATO members. It’s also supported by many huge corporations, including leading weapons producers such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which also fund ASPI.
Even a cursory look at CSIS’ leadership, Board of Trustees, its CEO, experts and counselors will convince the reader that CSIS is a traditional Realpolitik, conservative gathering of militaries, defence ministers, diplomats, corporations, CEOs, bankers, national security council members, and weapons experts.
Reading Wikipedia, one learns that “In the University of Pennsylvania’s 2019 Global Go To Think Tanks Report, CSIS ”is ranked the number one think tank in the United States across all fields, the Top Defense and National Security Think Tank in the world, and the 4th best think tank in the world overall.” CSIS has been named the number one think tank for Defense and National Security for the past seven years, and has been declared the ‘Center of Excellence’.”
However, of genuine independent scholarly work, there is little. It is, once again, hawkish interests’ commissioned work – on an annual budget of US$ 32 million. In those circles – integral parts of the MIMAC, Military-Industrial-Media Academic Complex – funding never seems to be a problem. However, intellectual quality, theory and concept-based knowledge, solid, comprehensive analysis evidently is a problem.
By chance, we stumbled upon a May 2021 CSIS video “Recognition and History: Understanding Kosovo-Serbia Relations” and were appalled by its extremely superficial presentation of old media stereotypes, complete ignorance about history and deceptive perspectives on Western policies; indeed, its text should not pass a first-year MA writing assignment. Why?
Because, contrary to what is stated in this video explainer, Yugoslavia was not an “empire”. President Milosevic was not “the butcher of the Balkans,” and his behaviour can not possibly (except for propaganda purposes) explain the dissolution of that extremely complex country. Kosovo was an autonomous unit within Serbia (like Voivodina) and not an “Albanian-majority province in Yugoslavia.” Contrary to what the video tells, Milosevic did not bring back Kosovo’s autonomy; he cancelled it. Refugees did not flee because of Serb ethnic cleansing; they fled because of NATO’s extremely hard and sustained bombing. And, of course, the illegality of that NATO war on Serbia which violated both international law and NATO’s Charter is not mentioned.
Furthermore, saying that the KLA – Kosovo Liberation Army – was a response to the repression without mentioning how it was created and by whom – the German Intelligence Service, BND, and CIA – is pure ignorance, propaganda or both. Of scholarship, there is nothing. (The video does not even mention Dr Ibrahim Rugova, the prominent nationalist, independence-seeking but non-violent Kosovo-Albanian leader).
This completely incompetent, history-distorting fake- and fault-filled 4 min video has been supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. One of its presenters is Heather A. Conley, CSIS Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and Director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program. She has received two State Department Meritorious Honor Awards, is frequently featured as a foreign policy analyst and Europe expert on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR, and PBS – something which, once again, is an indicator of today’s rule of thumb: It does not matter what you know or do not know, what matters is your verbal ability to express, in public relations style devoid of every (self)critical thought, support for US/NATO policies.
With this passing the quality control within “the number one think tank in the United States across all fields, the “Top Defense and National Security Think Tank” in the world, and the 4th best think tank in the world overall” – you have a first-class example of the intellectual decay of the West. It would, in consequence, seem that intellectual-scholarly armament is the only armament the United States needs.
So this is the institution that “connects the dots in Xinjiang” when it cannot even connect Kosovo right. About the content of CSIS connecting-the-dots report, it states that “We examined existing, publicly available research on forced labor in Xinjiang, particularly the work of Adrian Zenz”, “examined satellite imagery” (ASPI), “We also conducted interviews with a number of detainees who were forced to work or their family members.”
However, the latter-mentioned remain – once again – undisclosed and anonymous (which of course may be understandable), but, remarkably, there is no hints even as to how these interviews were conducted. It would have been highly interesting – from a social science methodology viewpoint – to learn how the two authors obtained permission to get into these prison-like forced labour factories, select and interview detained workers there – given the repeated information we get that China is not open and does not permit access by foreigners to any of these institutions. If the authors managed to do this on-site, it would have been worth a paragraph or two, given its “scoop”-like character.
The first paragraph of the report states that – ”The Chinese government has detained and ’reeducated’ more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic and religious minorities (“minorities”) in Xinjiang in an effort to fully secure and control the population there…This is believed to be the largest-scale detention of religious minorities since World War II. Held without charges or trial, detainees are unable to leave or even communicate with their loved ones.*) They are subjected to what the Chinese government calls ’reeducation’ and ’vocational training,’ which includes intensive Mandarin classes, praising the Chinese Communist Party, and in some instances, job training.” [ *) The documentation for this assertion is footnote 2, which only refers to “Various interviews with former detainees.” (Our italics) ].
Obviously, this is not fact-based research only. It’s below-standard in terms of scholarship with no source-checking, and it should not be taken seriously as documentation underlying the accusation of China’s policies. Note also how formulations make it clear to the reader that China’s perceptions cannot be trusted.
The report was published two weeks after The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was re-introduced to the US House of Representatives. The legislation is an updated version of the one passed in the House of Representatives on September 22, 2020. Here is Aljazeera’s take on it with some highly political statements. Republican Senator Tom Cotton called China’s government “a new evil empire” and “If I were a corporate leader in America, I would pack up and get out,” he said.
7.3 The Better Cotton Initiative and the stories of the great architect of future China and BBC’s Nazi Germany-China parallel
The Better Cotton Initiative announced in October 2020 that it was ceasing all field-level activities in Xinjiang due to sustained allegations of forced labour and human rights abuses there. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a Swiss-based non-profit, multi-stakeholder governance group that promotes better standards in cotton farming and practices across 21 countries.
Since the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of October 2020 adhered to the ASPI and Zenz reports of March 2021, Western media have jumped onto the wagon of accusing China of using forced labour in Xinjiang’s cotton industry. Terms such as “slaves” and “slave labour” are used in reporting by, among others, ABC News, BBC and The Guardian.
Much to the surprise of many, in March 2021, the BCI Shanghai office issued a statement: “Since 2012, the Xinjiang project site has performed second-party credibility audits and third-party verifications over the years, and has never found a single case related to incidents of forced labor.”
The accusation has caused an uproar among Western brands which have decided to close factories and boycott Xinjiang cotton and other produce while Chinese consumers are boycotting Western apparel brands. In April 2021, BCI removed the statement from their website without further notice. Despite several media asking for an explanation, BCI did not follow-up, other than that there had been a cyber attack on its site – “we took down the statement in response to DDoS attacks and would eventually ‘repost relevant information’”.
Companies that decided to keep buying from or operating their production in Xinjiang, such as Volkswagen or Hugo Boss, were immediately accused of moral irresponsibility. Newsweek blamed both companies for not learning from their history. The article blames Volkswagen for having been ‘so involved with the enslavement of Jews and thousands of other forced labourers across Europe during the Nazi era that one executive was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials for his role in the slave labor program.’
It also mentions Hugo Boss: ‘This is a company that employed an estimated 140 forced labourers during World War II, many of whom were forced to manufacture SS officer uniforms’. Similarly, BBC reminds its readers of Volkswagen with a picture of Hitler inspecting a VW model car.
And not only that, BBC’s John Sudworth, in a video interview in this article, keeps pounding moralistic questions to – a very patient – VW boss Stephan Wollenstein in this style “…because of your roots in Nazi Germany, there is a special moral obligation: Why do you have a plant (in Xinjiang) given that context?”
The remarkable context/framing made up by Sudworth – who as BBC reporter has operated in China in a way that he and his crew were attacked and has then moved to Taiwan – is that Xinjiang/China is comparable to Nazi-Germany and, by implication, that President Xi Jinping is a modern-day Hitler.
Suppose you want an object lesson in framing. In that case, this is it – in text, Hitler photo and by exhibiting moralism in matters about “the other” (China) but never making a moral judgement about US/NATO policies.
Finally, concerning the accusations of forced labour in the cotton industry in Xinjiang (here is Wikipedia’s account), it deserves mention that an early book was produced by The Citizen Power Institute of the Citizen Power Initiatives for China.” According to an August 2019 book by Han Lianchao, Vice President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, forced labour is so commonplace in Xinjiang that it is difficult to separate the forced labour economy from the regular economy.
Han Lianchao estimates that there are 500,000 to 800,000 people held in the more than seventy prisons in Xinjiang and that these prisoners are used for forced labor in numerous industries. Han further suspects that the million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang re-education labour are likely also used for forced labor in a similar manner.” (Wikipedia).
The Citizens Power Initiatives for China describes its mission as “advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China. Our movements are embedded with the belief that such a transition can be achieved through structural reform of the current system of government that by its very nature denies universally recognised political and social rights to its citizens.”
This is a mission statement in more than one way. In passing, one may wonder how Washington and the American people would feel about a similar China-based and financed organisation working to bring about a US transition to, say, a Communist Party-led society à la today’s China?
It’s founder is Dr. Yang Jianli who presents himself as “a scholar and human rights activist, a world-renowned architect and leader for China’s democracy.” He seems to count Dalai Lama, Nancy Pelosi, the late Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Liu Xiabo (whom he represented at the Nobel ceremony), Hillary Clinton and John McCain and other senators among his friends. His own presentation and that of Wikipedia differ quite substantially.
In 2004, he was sentenced to five years in prison in China for espionage and illegal entry of China (he had entered on a friend’s passport as he is not a US citizen). The espionage charge was related to Taiwan. He was released in 2007 and returned to the US. Dr Yang doesn’t have a Chinese passport and only a US residence permit – on which he has both left and re-entered the US. In 2020, Yang applied for United States citizenship but was rejected due to his former membership in the Communist Party of China. In response, Yang sued the federal government, which agreed to make him eligible to apply for citizenship again in four years.
While he has earned two PhDs in the US, none of them has to do with architecture. Instead, he argues, others call him “the architect of China’s future” in this personal interview. Here is his homepage.
The Citizen Power Initiatives for China book has the title,” Cotton: The Fabric Full of Lies. A report on forced and prison labor in Xinjiang, China, and the nexus to global supply chains” and states that “the total number of prisoners in Xinjiang is a highly-guarded state secret. Based on an internet post by a Chinese prison officer, he revealed that a large prison in China often holds about 10,000 inmates. Based on that we estimate the population of prisoners in Xinjiang is at least half a million since Xinjiang prisons are large prisons.” A few pages later, it mentions that “Adding prisoners transferred from China proper and together with prisons in the XPCC system, the total number of inmates is likely between
500,000 to 800,000. By law, all these prisoners must work be reformed or transformed by both political re-indoctrination and hard labor.” [The XPCC System refers to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps established in 1954 on the order of Mao Zedong, authors’ addition].
Han’s book tells us that “Since violent protests broke out on July 5, 2009 in Urumqi, which resulted in many deaths, the CCP began to launch a series of campaigns to suppress Uighurs. The reeducation camps or “education/transformation (教育转化) camps” are one of the measures, which is modeled after China’s effective suppression of Falun Gong practitioners since the 1990s. Many Uighurs have been forced into the camps to be brainwashed until they give up their religion and support the CCP’s policy.” (p 19). And then comes – “These extrajudicial detainees could also be in regular prisons, black jails, detention centers, and re-education camps. It is very hard to estimate how many there are.
Since Xi Jinping became Chairman of the CCP, he has orchestrated much more repressive policies in Xinjiang. A massive number of Uighurs and other ethnic groups have been sent to internment camps.
Adrian Zenz, a leading researcher on China’s ethnic policies, says that an estimated 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims could be held in re-education centers in the Xinjiang region, an increase from Zenz’s earlier estimation of 1 million.”
This latter estimate, up from 1 to 1,5 million, is “documented” by a note to a Reuters article by Stephanie Nebehay about what Adrian Zenz has stated at an event organised by the US mission in Geneva and US ambassador Kelley Currie.
Next, the report informs us that an “Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s recent investigative report shows new evidence that China is sending Uighurs from the so-called re-education camps into factories and then forcing them to work, and that more people are being forced to work in textile and garment factories.”
Here is the ABC report, the main author of which is Sophie McNeill, who is now with Human Rights Watch; the article and the video make a fine piece of systematically anti-China reporting. Throughout the program, there is only one perspective and one type of interpretation.
Interpretation is an important word. Lots of the stated sources and the footage used in this and other documentaries are official Chinese. Obviously, the Chinese authorities consider what they do correct and make images and lots of facts publicly available – to journalists and researchers who then use them whichever way they want.
This means that quite a lot of what is going on in Xinjiang is in the open (which does not preclude, of course, that there could be facilities not made publicly available). Nevertheless, the interpretations media such as ABC present are just the opposite – namely that these open sources reveal – reveal is a very frequently used word by McNeill too in that documentary – that crimes against humanity, genocide or whatever is going on. And what Chinese authorities call vocational training and admit are there also to change people’s minds away from extremist thoughts and offer them social and economic opportunities are nothing but ‘detention centres,’ ’prisons’ and forced labour factories.
This systematic and uniform media interpretation is rooted in some assumptions about and attitudes to China and its government – most often, of course, called’ regime’. They also make use of one or more of the nine MMMs – Media Manipulation Methods – that have been outlined earlier.
In the above – admittedly complicated – background stories, we encounter once again a pattern: Those who publish these anti-China reports are, almost without exception, people who have strong individual motives to feel hateful toward China – and they are happily picked up and supported in various ways by the United States. It’s never spelt out how they got to live in the US, set up their organisations there or what might have been the reason(s) why they fled China. Except one, of course: That it is China.
We round off this chapter by letting you ponder BBC’s bad taste framing of the whole issue and of Stephan Wollenstein, Volkswagen’s CEO in China. The photo conveys that VW in China uses forced labour as it did in Nazi Germany: China = Nazi Germany, Xi Jinping = Hitler. And while Wollenstein does a lot of explaining, BBC states that he defended Volkswagen’s presence. Here is an illustrative example of media elevating themselves to moral judges – based on dubious sources and never giving the accused a fair hearing?
“The company was founded by the ruling German Nazi Party in 1937 and used forced labour – including concentration camp prisoners – in its factories during WWII.” And take note of the insinuating “But” under the photo.
The China Accusation Industry – What’s Next?
8.1 Slow genocide non-Zenz
“Beijing has begun suppressing Uyghur birth rates to “optimise” ethnic population ratios for counterterrorism purposes. In southern Xinjiang alone, where Uyghurs are concentrated, this would reduce population growth by preventing between 2.6 and 4.5 million births by 2040, likely shrinking the number of Uyghurs as a whole,” it states.
Zenz seems to argue that if you take a Muslim country without official birth limitations like Pakistan, the fertility rate is 3.3 children per family. China has limitations on Han Chinese of 2 children and on minorities, including the Uyghurs, of 3 children. While the Uyghur population does grow, it can be said that it grows more slowly than it would without the 3-child limitation. That difference extrapolated to 2040 seems to be what could cause this new type of genocide, i.e. genocide on unborn children (in spite of overall population growth).
It must be assumed that this is a creative innovation in genocide research and adding up earlier genocide figures over time, Zenz is now approaching the 6 million Jews of the Holocaust, whether intended or not. One may also ask: If the Uyghurs get a better education than before, are given jobs and get better incomes and, thereby, achieve an ever-higher living standard and then gets relatively fewer children which should be expected – would the fewer children being born then also count as genocide on non-born children?
It seems as if we are at the border of the bizarre – the struggle to invent one argument after the other to “document” that China is evil.
The report was shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of publication. Why? Reuters’ Cate Cadell does not question any of the motives, data or interpretations but emphasises that Zenz’ study is considered sound by other scholars who have read it and only reports that China denies the accusations. When the anyhow visits Reuters’ homepage, note the general orientation of Cate Cadell’s reports about China. TFF has alerted her personally to the source checking problem in her writings about Xinjiang but received no response.
8.2 Amnesty International’s participation in the CCWA
Also, while we worked on this report, Amnesty International published “Like We Were Enemies In War. China’s mass internment, torture and persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang” (160 pages, no author mentioned). Basically, the sources are the same as in all the other reports we have mentioned in this and the first TFF report – however, a little less Adrian Zenz than usual but more ASPI and Western media.
The executive summary starts with a huge political omission/accusation:
“Since 2017, under the guise of a campaign against “terrorism”, the government of China has carried out massive and systematic abuses against Muslims living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Far from a legitimate response to the purported terrorist threat, the government’s campaign evinces a clear intent to target parts of Xinjiang’s population collectively on the basis of religion and ethnicity and to use severe violence and intimidation to root out Islamic religious beliefs and Turkic Muslim ethno-cultural practices. The government aims to replace these beliefs and practices with secular state-sanctioned views and behaviours, and, ultimately, to forcibly assimilate members of these ethnic groups into a homogenous Chinese nation possessing a unified language, culture, and unwavering loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). To achieve this political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation, the government undertook a campaign of arbitrary mass detention. Huge numbers of men and women from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been detained. They include hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons as well as hundreds of thousands – perhaps 1 million or more – who have been sent to what the government refers to as “training” or “education” centres. These facilities are more accurately described as internment camps. Detainees in these camps are subjected to a ceaseless indoctrination campaign as well as physical and psychological torture and other forms of ill-treatment.” (our italics).
With these formulations, Amnesty’s readers will understand that there has been no terrorism in China. What happens in Xinjiang is exclusively ethnic/religious cleansing because of people’s identity and religion. What China calls the facilities is a lie – otherwise, why the quotation marks? Amnesty’s interpretation of why China does what it does – assimilation and to create “unwavering loyalty to the CCP” – is nothing but taking a political stand in conformity with the Western anti-China campaign, or the CCWA as we have coined it.
The researchers at Amnesty International can hardly be ignorant about terrorism in Xinjiang in relation to the political project called ”East Turkistan” (see Chapter 3 above). It takes little more than this entry on Wikipedia here and here to learn about it. Such background must have been deliberately omitted for a reason – so as to fit the overall conclusion above. Such omissions, or distortion, certainly do not lend credibility to Amnesty’s work.
“One hundred twenty-eight people were interviewed for this report: 55 former detainees of internment camps in Xinjiang (39 men and 16 women), 15 other witnesses who lived in or visited Xinjiang since 2017, and 68 family members of people from Xinjiang who are currently missing or detained. The majority of the interviewees were Kazakh, a minority were Uyghurs, and a small number were Kyrgyz or Han Chinese. What is new in this report is that “Forty-four of the 55 former detainees interviewed for this report had never shared any part of their stories publicly before.”
Quite shockingly, Amnesty refers to the database that we have pointed out as anonymous and therefore not trustworthy as documentation of genocide, the Xinjiang Victims Database and shahit.biz/eng/#filter.
Amnesty states that “According to the Xinjiang Victims Database – a website run by human rights researchers and activists that aggregates and synthesizes all publicly available testimony related to Xinjiang internment camps – excluding the former detainees interviewed publicly for the first time in this report, fewer than 40 former detainees have ever spoken publicly”. There is no ”About” on that .biz address, so Amnesty must have special information about it. From a social science viewpoint, this is obvious fraud until the opposite has been proved.
Amnesty also reflects at length on the difficulties for foreign reporters and others to operate in Xinjiang. Among others, it mentions BBC and CNN staff who has encountered troubles. It does not mention any of those (also Westerners) who have been to Xinjiang and not encountered any problems – some of whom we have listed in the Appendix of the first TFF report.
Amnesty manages to distort history in other ways. For example, no objective, serious account and reports would deny the existence of terrorism in Xinjiang, spearheaded by Muslim minority separatists who fight for an independent ”East Turkistan” republic and uses terrorist methods. We have dealt with this above.
Has Amnesty never heard about ETIM (see Chapter 3 of this report)? Does it not know that there is an East Turkistan Exile Government with a homepage that tells the world about its President, Prime Minister, Parliament, views and programs? (This website is not anonymous and more credible than shahit.biz).
Does Amnesty not know that that government of exile’s Prime Minister is Salih Hudayar who ”was born to a Uyghur business family in Atush, East Turkistan and studied International Studies and Politics at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Army National Guard from 2011-2013. He is currently pursuing a Masters in National Security Studies from the American Military University”- as it states on its homepage?
And it continues – ”On June 4, 2000, Salih Hudayar fled to the United States with his family, where they became political refugees. He grew up in Oklahoma, and despite being so young, he began to spread awareness about East Turkistan and the situation there. He moved to Washington, DC in summer 2017 and founded the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM)”?
We would like to suggest that US AI walks over and checks it. Because AI is on 600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the exile government is on 1325 G Street NW, both Washington DC.
In addition to this grossly biased report, it deserves mention that we have not been able to find that Amnesty International has ever published a report or launched a consolidated campaign, with a focus on the human rights violations committed in a series of Muslim countries by the US and its allies during their Global War On Terror since 2001.
Using its search engine, you’ll also find that it has issued no statement or article when Qasem Soleimani was liquidated by the US in early 2020 and has never had a campaign against US economic sanctions’ huge human rights violations, also not those on Iran. Likewise, Amnesty never published a report on CIA’s human rights violations, or the human rights aspects of drone warfare, or the human rights aspects of NATO countries’ military intervention in Syria. Only the “regime’s” human rights violations were documented, by the way in a virtually (re)constructed report because Amnesty had not been on the ground.
In conclusion, today’s Amnesty International seems to base itself on the unacceptable but US/NATO-pleasing assumption that some people have more human rights than others – to paraphrase George Orwell.
The very experienced and politically conscious Jack Healey, former executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), has something essential to say on all this:
“Human rights organizations should be beyond politics. They must aim to protect rights for all people, even (or especially) when that protection brings them into conflict with the governments seeking to ignore those rights. For these ideals to progress, human rights must create change. Blurring boundaries between human rights organizations and governments risks losing public trust. If such breaches of trust happen with too many organizations and too many times, the public may come to see rights groups at-large as another case of bait-and-switch. They may view human rights work as insincere public relations cover for selfish agendas…”
We now have accusations about forced labour/slavery in prisons, in the re-education camps, in the cotton, solar energy industries and fishery, in the thread and yarn and tomato products industry, in the production of gloves, hair products, textile and garment industries. Here is a list from the US government’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
It is safe to predict that this accusation industry has not come to an end yet.
Western media automatically inform us about these reports and the legislative and political work of the West to stop such human rights violations and take various messages such as sanctions. They do not inform us about researchers’, politicians’ and media’s criticism and refutations. They are also fewer such refutations found in Western search engines such as Google. In most of the cases, they merely state that China “denies” as if that were to give it a fair hearing.
There shall be only one truth. Constructed by one or more of the Media Manipulation Methods (MMM) we listed earlier.
8.3 Beijing’s coming invasion of Taiwan/ROC
Recently, we have seen a media build-up serving to boost the fear that China will soon launch a military attack against Taiwan. Speculative articles and exclusively Western and often military expert opinions have started circulating the mainstream media and – once again – casting China in the role of the habitual aggressor.
The fact that President Xi Jinping told the country’s military and armed police force to get ‘combat ready’ to defend national sovereignty and security in January 2021 has quickly been framed as proof that China plans to invade Taiwan. Two US admirals fed the narrative in March 2021 when saying that Beijing’s invasion would take place within six years or less.
Western media – conspicuously for those who know – omit every mention of the US spy and warplanes that fly near the shores of China, see here and here, while US and European warships are encircling China in the South China Sea.
On June 24, CNN posted – top front-page – an interview with the foreign minister of Taiwan Joseph Wu, saying that “we need to prepare for military conflict with China.”
As in so many other conflict situations, it is crucial to challenge perspectives in this medialised China Cold War Agenda, CCWA. So read this thought-provoking quote from an excellent article by Tom Ingelhardt of Tom’s Dispatch:
“Now, here’s the one thing that doesn’t seem to strike anyone in Congress, at the Coast Guard Academy, or at the New York Times as particularly strange: that American ships should be protecting “maritime freedom” on the other side of the globe, or that the Coast Guard should be partnering for the same. Imagine, just for a second, that Chinese naval vessels and their Coast Guard equivalent were patrolling our coasts, or parts of the Caribbean, while edging ever closer to Florida. You know just what an uproar of shock and outrage, what cries of horror would result. But it’s assumed that the equivalent on the other side of the globe is a role too obvious even to bother to explain and that our leaders should indeed be crying out in horror at China’s challenges to it.”
So, China to be ‘combat ready,’ could only mean invasion of Taiwan, right? The US does absolutely nothing but keeping the stability and peace over there, right?
The wider conflict formation with China, Taiwan and the US is extremely complex, very dangerous and could be fateful with a view to the future. It was recently revealed by Daniel Ellsberg that, in 1958, US President Eisenhower rejected military chiefs’ demand for bombing China with nuclear weapons as part of a Taiwan Strait crisis.
And a recent analysis from the arch-conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University that the Taiwan issue, if handled wrongly by the US, could mean the end of the US Empire.
This is not the place to analyse the larger Taiwan conflict formation and its risks. But what Western mainstream media hardly ever mention are facts like these which we have adapted from a Danish-language article on China and Western attitudes to it by the eminent Danish China scholar and former diplomat, Carsten Boyer Thøgersen who has 45 years of experience with and in China:
- Since 1684, when Taiwan became a part of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese on both sides of the Strait have seen it as part of China – except between 1999 and 2008 and since 2016 after the election of Tsai Ing-wen as president.
- Since it is the US that spearheads Taiwan’s future independence from China, it should be pointed out that the US (Richard Nixon) and China (Chou Enlai) signed the Shanghai Communiqué of February 28, 1972 which states (Point 12): “The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan.”
- Furthermore, it is Beijing’s official policy that Taiwan is a status issue and not about forcing its own political system upon Taiwan. It wants peaceful unification and will fully respect the Taiwanese lifestyle: “Under the premise of ensuring national sovereignty, security, and development interests, after peaceful reunification, the social system and way of life of Taiwan compatriots will be fully respected,” it said. “Private property, religious beliefs, and legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots will be fully protected.” – here quoted from The Straits Times, November 5, 2019.
- Taking the above factors into account, it must also be pointed out that there is only single-digit percentage attitudes among the 22 million Taiwanese in favour of both immediate unification and immediate independence. Here is a 2019 article on the facts of the extremely complex opinion and attitude structures.
These essentially important aspects of the Taiwan issue are omitted from virtually all Western media reports, although common and easily accessible facts for anyone who wants to acquire facts and to produce honest public education and unbiased reporting. CNN is not among them, as can be seen above.
It seems reasonable to ponder that if the US did not see itself as a global empire with an exceptional(ist) right to full-spectrum dominance, things would be so much easier in this world.
8.4 The next items of the China Accusation Industry with its racist overtones
If you wonder what new China-negative stories and issues will come up, good places to look for them would be the new – sensational, but largely omitted – US anti-China Acts: S.1169 – Strategic Competition Act of 2021 and the S.1260 – United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 and the EAGLE Act “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement 5Act’.
We deal with S.1169 in Chapter 11, but you may also read about it here. Among its many efforts is the allocation of US$ 1500 million in the next five years to produce anti-China media coverage.
Here follows an excerpt from S.1260, which is meant to give the US a technological edge that contains also a number of interference policies such as:
“Removal of members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that commit human rights abuses. Sec. 3306. Policy with respect to Tibet. Sec. 3307. United States policy and international engagement on the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists. Sec. 3308. Sense of Congress on treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sec. 3309. Development and deployment of internet freedom and Great Firewall circumvention tools for the people of Hong Kong.”
Under ”SEC. 3002. FINDINGS,” one finds no less than 28 points – many with several sub-points – that shall serve as evidence for the framing of China as, simply, one big threat to the entire world (and why US leadership, as mentioned, is more needed than ever). Learn more about S.1260 in Chapter 11.
The relations between these three legal initiatives – each of hundreds of pages – can be difficult for foreigners to figure out. However, in this article, the Editors of National Review sort out this “sprawling, cobbled-together bill” to some extent but find the legislation disappointing and “toothless” vis-a-vis aggressive China.
They also lament that The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has gathered 65+ NGOs in the United States state their relevant and truthful criticism of these laws as based on a Cold War mentality. National Review doesn’t mince words: “At least three of the 65 groups that signed a Quincy Institute–sponsored letter against the Strategic Competition Act echo Beijing’s line on the Uyghur genocide. The reflexive progressive opposition to the legislation is based on the cynical and indefensible claim that a tough U.S. stance toward China, as the letter puts it, “inevitably feeds racism, violence, xenophobia, and white nationalism.”
So, they too are probably genocide deniers and should therefore be cancelled.
The general, official US attitudes to China as such – and not to specific aspects of its policies – displays openly racist overtones.
Anti-Chinese sentiments in the US is nothing new but could be said to date back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the “yellow peril” associated with, among others, populist, sensationalist yellow press pioneer, William Randolph Hearst and G. G. Rupert’s book, The Yellow Peril. Or Orient vs Occident published in 1911.
Fast forward to Donald Trump’s calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and the above-mentioned anti-Chinese Acts of the Biden Administration.
But is this really racism? That can, of course, be debated, but both sides seem to accuse the other side of racist policies and characteristics of their respective societies.
Here just two recent reports from two leading US media – China bashes US over racism and US and China clash at UN meeting on combatting racism. (About the cartoon here).
Much inspiration to the complex thought figures underlying the yellow peril – one of the most pervasive Western racist ideas – can be found in John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats’ “Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear” (Verso, London 2014).
It goes without saying that the Biden Administration’s decision to order a review of the Covid-19 origins, including the revived Wuhan lab leak hypothesis, can be seen as part of the CCWA in a situation where the US itself has handled the pandemic much less successfully than China.
In summary, it seems that the Biden/Blinken Administration and its lawmakers have China on their brains. It bodes ill for the future of the world – also because it is legislation based mainly upon psycho-politics which, by definition, is devoid of rational political thinking and decision-making that integrates facts, analyses and sound longterm policy thinking with society’s basic values.
Be sure items will be added one-by-one to the China Cold War Agenda, CCWA.
Until somebody starts to think.
Don’t Throw Stones When You Live In a Glass House
It is no surprise if Western people see China only through negative lenses, as an evil actor in international relations, a habitual human rights violator, and a threat. How would they think otherwise given the above-mentioned media and political culture devoid of pluralist perspective and balance?
While earlier, we have focused mostly on the deficient documentation and politicisation of the Xinjiang issue, similar observations and use of MMM can be applied to the nine other standard negative stories we listed in Chapter 5.
Primary sources (or feeders) on each China theme and the overall CCWA are just a handful of Western media spreading them as bone dry grass spreading the fire in no time. Without any broader perspective, critical questions and without fact- and source checking.
One must ask how it is possible that rather few think tanks, political groups, circles around a rather anonymous MIMAC and the mainstream media and their Mainstream Media Manipulations, MMM, have come to be perceived as professional, independent and academical messengers of the truth behind the extreme accusations against China?
Why are there so few critically investigative initiatives like, say, Grayzone, Istituto Diplomatico Internazionale and TFF, just a few independent vloggers and researchers and Westerners who have multi-decade experiences from living in China – who are challenging these manipulated truths in the public domain?
Whatever the answers may be, mainstream media such as BBC certainly do not like the implicit criticism and their information monopoly being challenged from below, so to speak. Silencing may be a first option, as we have pointed out, the next may be framing and questioning of motives – because to them, there can only be one correct interpretation Pravda-style.
Moreover, why – actually – has it dawned upon only a tiny minority who connects the dots that the US and its allies are conducting a systematic, orchestrated build-up to a new multi-decade Cold War with China – a China Cold War Agenda, CCWA?
Has the West become a closed society with only one truth practised by small, quite anonymous elites to the detriment of democracy, free media, free speech and the right to have more perspectives on the world? A civilisation with far too few whistleblowers who can tell the majority that the emperor is actually naked – as in the fairytale by H. C. Andersen?
Have the far majority of Westerners stopped asking urgently important – indeed existential – questions about ourselves and about others? Even stopped challenging the official truths? That used to be the task of the free press and free research – which has now become playgrounds for politically correct opinion-making disregarding public education professionalism, broader perspectives and possible truths.
Has Western societies – in the larger perspective – reached the point Martin Luther King emphasised as catastrophic: “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true” (Often paraphrased into: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” which he seems to never having uttered).
If so, we face an indicator of Western civilisation’s decay. Like with individual human beings, the moment a society or civilisation stops being curious, it will have lost it. Historically, the West has always been immensely curious about the world; think of all those who sailed to all corners of the world to find answers to questions like: How did other people, civilisations and cultures live? What did they produce? Who were their gods?
That was how the West learned something, took it home, used – and also misused (colonialism, imperialism) – it.
Here we come to another troubling trend that may have something more profound to do with the US/Western attitude to contemporary China: When it is no longer possible to do mission, rule and control: cancel/omit/demonise/project/outcompete! Treat the world out there as a strategic object, not as a subject – see the rest as tools for your own aggrandisement rather than as colleagues, collaborators or friends.
So, here is a simple four-fold table built on America and China having two classical characteristics – good sides and bad sides:
America – talks only about themes within III, never about I, which could promote mutual understanding and cooperation and never about II, which could meaning learning from China, e.g. how to eradicate poverty or build infrastructure.
Further, it never talks about IV, which would mean accepting that you yourself have bad sides (too). Attitude II runs on denial, IV on psycho-political projection: transferring one’s own bad sides onto the other.
IV means criticising China – China being evil – because it does bad things that we do much more ourselves (but deny/omit and cancel every mention of).
Below we offer some indicators of psycho-political projection/accusation coupled with denial about one’s own not-so-good sides.
9.1 Indicators of projection accusation: We, Them & Reality
We/West have free media not controlled by our states/governments/parties.
They/China have state-controlled media, so no debate and only non-trustworthy information.
In reality: The US has many state-financed and controlled media (see elsewhere in this report). It is able to influence mainstream media to homogenise, cancel dissent and present narratives that fit US foreign policy interests. (Free media could not possibly be so uniform was it not for some kind of orchestration).
We secure the freedom of sea transport thousands of kilometres away from our shores. Our military and interventions serve democracy and freedom. We see China as the single most significant threat to the world and the West, so we try to keep world peace against the – rising, aggressive -” yellow peril.”
They increase their armament in the South China Sea to an unacceptable, threatening degree.
In reality: US military expenditures are minimum about US$ 750 billion (in reality considerably higher), China’s 260 billion – and the overall presence of China is local and regional, that of the US global. China has 5 aircraft carriers, the US 80. China has one military base outside its border; the US has over 700 military bases in 120 countries.
Propaganda and lies
We tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
They lie, steal and cheat, and we cannot trust the Communist Party or anything the Chinese media say – that is also why we close down their stations and omit/cancel what they present as facts.
In reality, former CIA director and Sec of State, Pompeo said that “we lied, cheated and stole – we had entire training courses – and it reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” (Watch him say that 29:15 into this conversation) (but that was just a joke, right?)
By now, it is well-known that the US lied about the babies that were thrown out of incubators in Kuwait City, about Saddam’s nuclear weapons, about Milosevic being Europe’s new Hitler as Clinton called him who planned a genocide on Albanians in Kosovo while about 100 000 of them lived in Belgrade.
By now it is well-known that the US is second to none in influencing other countries policies or carrying out regime-change – it has influenced elections and done regime-change in more than 80 countries between the Second World war and 2000 – and that while fighting a global war on terrorists, the US has, in reality, cooperated with terrorists when, as in Syria where they were aligned against Bashar al-Assad’s regime -” my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.
Again and again, the US has used Psy-Ops to mobilise popular opinion in favour of warfare. About Ukraine, the official Western media narrative is that Russia annexed/invaded Crimea out of the blue as if nothing happened before in Kiev, a President was made to flee, and as if the US was not involved in any of it.
Democracy versus dictatorship
We are liberal democracies with free elections.
They are a dictatorship with one man on top with his clique who decide everything and repress/kill those who voice disagreement. The “democratic” Peoples Congress is nothing but a rubber stamp.
In reality: There are many and serious flaws in Western democracies – such as the influence of money, particularly in the US. The many elements of local democracy in Chinese policy-making is never mentioned. The Chinese Communist Party (which is actually not the only political party) has more than 90 million people and an elaborate exam-based procedure for becoming a member – which points more in the direction of a meritocracy. Moreover, if all it did was repress and kill people, why do everyone who goes abroad as tourists – over 150 million annually – not seek asylum abroad but return back?
Prisons and forced labour
We do have prisons, but forced labour is against our Constitution. If it happens, it’s by exception.
They have forced labour – see the reports we have dealt with in preceding sections here.
In reality: Even the US Homeland Security mentions forced labour in the US – but omit that in its prisons. The US has the world’s highest number of incarcerated citizens, 2,2 million in 2016, and is also the country with the highest per-capita incarceration with a marked increase since 1980. (China with a population four times larger than the US, has 1,7 million incarcerated).
Consult Wikipedia here about penal labour in prisons; see also the very long list of US companies that are provided tax incentives to contract prison labour. And here about the Prison-Industrial Complex in the land of the – once – free. These facts do not prevent the United States from telling the world how many human rights China trample upon in terms of forced labour.
Wealth and wealth gaps
We run a liberal capitalist economy and seek reforms to create welfare societies.
They are communist socialists with a leadership that de facto steals from the people.
In reality, you may see here the facts about wealth and inequality in the two countries and how China has done much better economically in a very short time and how – while income disparities have indeed grown in China – it has also uplifted its poorest to a much better situation today than that of the poorest in the US.
War on terrorism
We were hit by real terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and set up an international coalition to fight a Global War On Terror. Our philosophy is simply: we kill terrorists, and we saved the world from much terrorism by killing Osama Bin Laden.
They fooled us back then by making us believe that they also had a terrorism problem, but they did not. We should not have cooperated with them back then. They call freedom/separatist fighters terrorists, and that is why we support China’s dissidents, of which most have their headquarters in the US.
They use terrorism as a – racist – pretext for eradicating their Muslim minorities.
In reality: China has not started a global war on terrorists and conducts no wars outside its territory. It has surely used harsh measures to control potential terrorists and contained wide circles of potential terrorists inside China. In that process, human rights may very well have been trampled upon. In a much-needed comparative perspective, the US and its allies who participated in Global War on Terror and did failed wars abroad causing millions to die, suffer or flee – in Muslim countries, in particular – do not have the clean hands needed to point credibly to whatever dirty hands China might have…
Surveillance and the Security State
We do have surveillance, but we do not spy on friends (or almost not). NSA, Google, Facebook, CIA, etc. collect many data worldwide, but that is for security. We do not use it to control our people.
They do exactly that. You can walk nowhere without being on a screen, face-recognition everywhere. No personal freedom or right to privacy is possible.
In reality: The US has 15 CCTV – closed circuit TV – per 100 inhabitants, China has 14. After these two top surveillance societies much further down come the UK with 8, Germany with 6, the Netherlands with 6, Australia and Japan with each 4 CCTVs – figures from PreciseSecurity. NSA, social media and Google do censorship/de-ranking and check and track its users permanently. While China surely also check and track and does censorship, it’s unlikely to be something to point fingers at if the West looks itself in the mirror.
9.2 Atrocity propaganda – it’s about the US itself and will create a boomerang
So, while the US has indeed a lot of manifestly good and innovative sides and has also been an inspiration to the world since 1945, the fact is that it is Second to None when it comes to several dark sides – such as its domestic poverty, failing democracy, exceptionalism, interventionism, militarism and ever-ongoing attempts to dominate the world with both a bible and a sword.
There is the philosophy of balancing good and bad – yin and yang. In all good is also the bad. However, when the bad is getting too big, enemies must be supplied on an assembly line basis to justify one’s policies. That is when the dark sides outweigh the light sides and the country become dependent, like a drug addict, on the tools of military and other projective power tools – to control.
These examples are related, of course, to the classics of atrocity propaganda: the spreading of information about the crimes committed by an enemy, which can be factual, but often includes or features deliberately fabricated or exaggerated information. This can involve photographs, videos, illustrations, interviews, and other forms of information, presentations and reporting. To get them through to citizens, various media types are needed – and in-between agents such as consultancy firms, Near-Governmental Organisations, think tanks etc., that can make it all look as solid fact-based documentation. Marketing companies are also hired not to tell the truth but to sell a narrative.
Moreover, at the end of the propaganda supply chain come the mainstream media, and the more yellow journalism they emulate, the easier it may be to make people accept what is, normally, pretty unacceptable behaviour.
The offensive US blame game should stop. It reveals more negative features about the United States’ need for psycho-political projection in times of decline than it does about China.
The authors of this report firmly believe that the fast-growing accusation industry against China with ever new themes and literally zero questioning or balance in media or politics call for a reflection – a pause. What is actually happening on the lines is of course about China, but between the lines, we find what is going on in the US, NATO and in Western media and politics in general.
Could it be that intelligent, logical and critical reasoning has been meticulously silenced in the West by a carefully orchestrated merger of an immense ‘digital airborne leaflet’ and ‘atrocity’ campaign against China? And, if so, in whose interest does this happen?
Sooner or later, a boomerang effect is likely to manifest itself – and the credibility of the US will decline in the eyes of people around the world – when they find out that they have been taken for a ride repeatedly. As we have pointed out, President Biden talked in Geneva about the credibility price to be paid for harmful activities but implicitly freed his own.
So, Washington would do wise to be inspired by the words Eric Clapton sings: ”Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!”
The China Themes – Terrorism Costs and Results
So far we have been quite deep down in details and examples; reality is concrete. But there is also a larger picture and, regrettably, it isn’t kind to the US and other West, its politicians and media.
10.1 The costs of the US and China fighting against terrorism
Here is a larger picture – or framework – on human rights as practised in the West. The Watson Institute International and Public Affairs at Brown University in Rhode Island, the US, gives us unique insights into the human costs of war. Its reports, however, do not get anything near the media attention the genocide accusation reports and other reports in the CCWA campaign do. Continue reading, and you will understand why.
Here is a summary of the costs of war since September 11, 2001, from the Institute’s front-page (accessed on June 13, 2021):
- Over 801,000 people have died due to direct war violence, and several times as many indirectly.
- Over 335,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting.
- 37 million – is the number of war refugees and displaced persons.
- The US federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $6.4 trillion dollars.
- The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries.
- The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the US and abroad.
- 7,057 US servicemen have been killed and 30,177 committed suicide in the post-9/11 wars.
All the research-based results are summarised here.
In September 2020, the ‘Costs of War’ project published a – deeply disturbing – research report “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars”. It spells out the (human) costs of the Global War on Terror, GWOT, the ongoing military campaign launched by the USA, UK and their allies after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
At least 37 million people (with estimates up to 59 million) have fled their homes in the eight most violent wars of the military campaign since 2001 for war violent, economic, political or religious motives. In addition to displacing at least 37 million, the wars have killed and injured millions and torn apart neighbourhoods, communities, and entire societies, impoverishing people in economic and other ways. An estimated 770,000 to 801,000 civilians and combatants on all sides, have died in just Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen since US forces began fighting in those countries. That is only the number of combatants and civilians who have died in combat. Many more have died as a result of disease, hunger, and malnutrition caused by the wars and the destruction of health care systems, employment, sanitation, and other local infrastructures.
While researchers are still calculating these “indirect deaths,” the total may exceed 3.1 million. The total number injured and traumatised surely extends into the tens of millions.
Should such solid research-based data not merit at least as much immediate Western media front-page attention, political debates and accusations as the current China accusations?
Are the millions of victims of US militarism and foreign policies not worthy victims? Are innocent victims of US/Western violence not in the same human category as Chinese Uyghurs and Kazakhs? Should this not be analysed further by, say, Amnesty International and some of the think tanks that are busy promoting – whether intentionally or not – the US-driven China Cold War Agenda?
Yes, these are rhetorical questions. But they are urgently relevant ethically and politically. Human rights violations must never degenerate into an exclusive Western ‘stick’ to be applied at will in support of nasty agendas such as mass killing wars, interventionism and other militarism.
Even the possession of nuclear weapons is a human rights violation – at minimum, of the right to peace in everyday life. Anyone who would use nuclear weapons must have a genocidal intention – indeed an omni-cidal intention: Killing a major part, if not all, of humanity. Sadly, of course, institutions driven by militarism’s money and fame are more interested in a new Cold War on China than in nuclear abolition.
It’s reasonable to hypothesise that China would get enormous worldwide goodwill if it took some initiative towards abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide, for instance taking a first safe unilateral step in the spirit of GRIT – Graduated Reciprocation In Tension Reduction – as proposed by Charles Osgood in 1962.
Such a step would not only give China a positive edge in humanity’s eyes. It would be in accordance with international law, the importance of which China always rightly emphasises over the “liberal” US rules-based international order. In particular, since the possession of nuclear weapons was outlawed by the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW, from January 2021.
10.2 Hidden agendas behind fighting terrorism
Retired US Army Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson delivered a speech in August 2018 at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity on why the Americans are in Afghanistan and how the CIA looks at the Uyghurs and wants to use them. Listen to him here.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson was a former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Since the end of his military career, Wilkerson has criticised many aspects of the Iraq War, including his own preparation of Powell’s presentation to the UN, as well as other aspects of American policy in the Middle East.
He mentions in his speech that ‘two of the objectives for the US troops were to have a presence in Afghanistan to disrupt China’s Belt and Road Initiative and to leap on and stabilise Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile if necessary. ‘And the third reason the US is there is because there are 20 million Uyghurs, and they do not like Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Province in western China. And if the CIA has to mount an operation using those Uygurs, as [Turkish President] Erdogan has done in Turkey against Assad] … Well, the CIA would want to destabilise China, and that would be the best way to do it.’
While Wilkerson gets the number of Uyghurs wrong, his points about terrorism, the Belt and Road Initiative and a strategy to destabilise China makes sense – as we have pointed out in Chapter 3. The US has used various dissatisfied, independence-seeking minorities before – say, the Kurds, the Bosnian Muslims, the Kosovo-Albanians – when it saw it strategically fit. Only to drop them later, when they were no longer useful.
10.3 Two vitally different ways of combatting terrorism
In summary, about the costs of war, one could advance a radically different hypothesis as to why the US needs to demonise China for its handling of terrorism – namely that China has been more successful than the US in combatting terrorism. China has chosen a socio-psychological diagnosis with a focus on changing attitudes among Xinjiang’s extremists/terrorists and potential terrorists under their influence. While people may not like the magnitude or methods by which China has handled its terrorism problem, the vast majority of Uyghurs and Kazakhs are peaceful citizens, and Muslims in general are well-integrated in the Chinese society.
Official representatives of China have stated that there has been no terrorist attacks the last three-four years in Xinjiang.
Immediately after 9/11 2001, the United States, under the Bush administration, chose the killing strategy: We get rid of terrorism by killing terrorists. It’s often been stated by experts that that is counterproductive because for each terrorist you kill, several new ones will appear. According to the latest Global Terror Index, terrorism worldwide cost about 16 000 lives in 2019, an overall decrease but with new types of terrorism emerging. If we go back to the year 2000, US State Department states that ”The number of casualties caused by terrorists also increased in 2000. During the year, 405 persons were killed and 791 were wounded, up from the 1999 totals of 233 dead and 706 wounded.”
So until 2001, international terrorism was a comparatively negligible problem.
However, the net result of the US-led Global War on Terror, GWOT, over twenty years is that 16 000 people die annually now, while 405 in 2000, i.e. before 2001. That is a 40 times increase in the problem supposed to be solved! In other words, the Global War on Terror has increased the original problem by a factor of 40 – probably the most counterproductive war ever fought – and fought with the tremendous human costs mentioned above and with a price tag of US $ 6,400 000 000 000 000 !
Irrespective of which estimates one chooses to rely on concerning possible human rights violations in Xinjiang, they are small compared with those of the US worldwide in its fight against terrorism. China’s policies have reduced terrorism while the US policies has lead to a 40 times increase today. Even if one considers the factor that China has been fighting terrorism inside its own territory and the US globally, the Chinese strategy and policy have been far more effective and cost much fewer human lives than that of the US and its GWOT allies.
US Laws For the Anti-China CCWA and Confrontation – Not For Cooperation With China
11.1 Not empty words
By 2021, the second year into the global Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical perspectives have changed dramatically. When we compare the attitudes of the two largest nations, the USA and China, it is only China that advocates global cooperation and dialogue. In contrast, the United States in particular and the West pursue somewhat mixed, negative or confrontational policies – not only with China but also with a series of other countries, Russia and Iran in particular.
The title of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote at the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) on April 19, 2021 was “Pulling Together Through Adversity and Toward a Shared Future for All”, and it was expressive of a fundamental attitude of Chinese foreign policy: “As we are going through the Covid-19 pandemic, people of all countries have more clearly realised that it is necessary to abandon the cold-war mentality and zero-sum game, and oppose any form of new cold war and ideological confrontation.”
President Joe Biden, however, delivered a quite different message.
In his first speech to Congress on April 28, 2021, since becoming President, Biden stated that America is back and it will lead the world and, to a standing ovation, he laid out the basic US foreign policy attitude: “We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century.”
Biden’s words are not hollow. The US Senate passed the S.1169 – Strategic Competition Act of 2021 in June. The more than 280-page bill starts out with these words: “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is leveraging its political, diplomatic, economic, military, technological, and ideological power to become a strategic, near-peer, global competitor of the United States. The policies increasingly pursued by the PRC in these domains are contrary to the interests and values of the United States, its partners, and much of the rest of the world.” And then, it targets an array of notable economic and geopolitical priorities for the US Government.
Secondly, there is the S.1260 – United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021- also called the ”Endless Frontier Act.” This bill establishes a Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and establishes various programs and activities. The goals of the directorate shall be, among other things, the strengthening of US leadership in critical technologies through basic research in key technology focus areas, such as artificial intelligence, high performance computing, and advanced manufacturing, and the commercialisation of those technologies to businesses in the United States.” (Our italics)
Contrary to what one might think, S.1260 contains a lot beyond technological issues:
“Sec. 3301. Authorisation of appropriations for promotion of democracy in Hong Kong. Sec. 3302. Imposition of sanctions relating to forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sec. 3303. Imposition of sanctions with respect to systematic rape, coercive abortion, forced sterilisation, or involuntary contraceptive implantation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sec. 3304. Report on corrupt activities of senior officials of Government of the People’s Republic of China. Sec. 3305. Removal of members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that commit human rights abuses. Sec. 3306. Policy with respect to Tibet. Sec. 3307. United States policy and international engagement on the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists. Sec. 3308. Sense of Congress on treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sec. 3309. Development and deployment of internet freedom and Great Firewall circumvention tools for the people of Hong Kong. Sec. 3310. Enhancing transparency on international agreements and non-binding instruments. Sec. 3311. Authorisation of appropriations for protecting human rights in the People’s Republic of China. Sec. 3312. Diplomatic boycott of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games and the XIII Paralympic Winter Games. Sec. 3313. Repeal of sunset applicable to authority under Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.”
This is quite something for a country that persistently maintains that interference by others in its domestic affairs must be condemned and punished with sanctions or worse. It’s also quite something for a foreign policy that – allegedly – also aims at cooperating with China in selected fields such as climate.
Clearly, all this is win/lose thinking – they must lose, we shall win. It is an integral part of the China Cold War Agenda, CCWA. We should connect the dots between this kind of attitudes, law-making and the accusation industry we have analysed in this report.
And this is not all.
There is also the forthcoming Eagle Act. On May 26, the South China Morning Post, SCMP, reported this: “US efforts to address competition with China progressed on Tuesday when the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee introduced sweeping legislation to boost economic competitiveness and push Beijing on human rights. Representative Gregory Meeks introduced the “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act,” or Eagle Act, as the US Senate separately heads towards a vote on its own legislative package seeking to counter China.” (out italics).
It also says that “The House bill includes provisions to increase US support for Taiwan and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. And it mandates a review to assess Chinese companies listing on US financial markets, including whether they have contributed to human rights violations. The measure also calls for cooperation with China in areas of common interest, especially climate change.” Read the Eagle Act here.
11.2 Human rights as a primary tool for a world-dominating foreign policy that is impossible and self-destructive
Human rights is now a major foreign policy weapon. The Eagle Act is basically about gathering the US and allies behind an anti-China policy under the subheading “To revitalise and reassert United States leadership, investment, and engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.” (our italics). Conspicuously, the text also refers to NATO countries as partners in this new intensified endeavour.
Not even an amateur psychologist could believe that this type of win/lose, confrontational Cold War – not only in words but also in legislation – would make China more intent on coming around, acquiesce or subordinate itself to US leadership. Without any doubt, US policies – the China Cold War Agenda, CCWA – will be perceived in Beijing as a deliberate slap in its face and a loud “No” to win/win, cooperative policies in the foreseeable future. The US seeks a new version of full-spectrum global dominance, this time with a unified focus on combatting China and keeping it down as the main obstacle to such an imperial(ist) long-term goal.
All this is, of course, a sign of the US’ increasing intellectual and political weakness. But it is – exactly for that reason – not without its dangers, particularly when the US maintains its vast military superiority. If you battle, you are like to battle in areas where you are the strongest.
And how may the United States react if and when it recognises that it is not going to be the world’s only leader but will have to cooperate with China to maintain some leadership role?
Our view is that the US does not understand China and does not seem to want to understand it. It does not want to cooperate with China and has now, through legislation as well as military and political doctrines already in place, decided to compete for a global leadership role in the future. Furthermore, we predict that the US and the rest of the West will become the loser because of this fatally tragic, grumpy out-of-time insistence on empire, supremacy and global dominance. And because the West has no vision anymore, except clinging to a power position of times gone.
Other countries will turn away from the West and cooperate in new ways. The US, together with a few allies without the slightest independent foreign and security thinking – small ones such as, say, Denmark – will continue the civilisational decline and end up, sooner or later, as a peripheral West to The Rest.
How to prevent this Cold War from escalating to the level of a Warm War is one of humanity’s largest existential challenges.
11.3 The propaganda role of the media in the CCWA
So, how will these types of law-based Cold War policies be marketed? One basic answer is: by trying to control the media. The S.1169 Act, therefore, openly includes the pledge for hundreds of millions of dollars to USAGM (US Agency for Global Media) for media-focused initiatives against China.
This includes up to $300 million a year, specifically spreading information on the “negative impact” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in participating countries. Furthermore, funding “anti-Chinese influence” programs, a scheme to “train journalists” with the goal of countering Beijing, and millions more in funding for Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.
Most Westerners seem to live with the illusion that Western media are free of state influence. That is not the case. The USAGM, as mentioned above, is a state agency that funds and directs a series of US media around the world. They are state-sponsored like their kin in Russia and China. And, as expected, they shall, first of all, serve US foreign policy goals and, in other ways, promote US thoughts and institutions. USAGM’s standards, principles and policies are conveniently and openly available to anyone who seeks information here.
So much for the independence of US/Western ’free’ media. With these laws, peaceful cooperation with China and the West’s freedom of the press – and freedom of expression – will be things of the past.
It is indeed a tragedy that the US – and no one else – undermines its own finest values instead of strengthening them.
11.4 Inevitable world order changes and the forthcoming TFF report
In 2019, John Mearsheimer – by no means a radical or anti-American but a very solid academic – wrote in International Security:
“By 2019, it was clear that the liberal international order was in deep trouble. The tectonic plates that underpin it are shifting, and little can be done to repair and rescue it. Indeed, that order was destined to fail from the start, as it contained the seeds of its own destruction. The fall of the liberal international order horrifies the Western elites who built it and who have benefited from it in many ways.” … “The United States has been committed to turning China and Russia into liberal democracies and absorbing them into the U.S.-dominated liberal world order. US leaders have not only made their intentions clear, but they have also relied on nongovernmental organisations and various subtle strategies to push Beijing and Moscow toward embracing liberal democracy. In effect, the aim is peaceful regime change. Predictably, China and Russia have resisted the unipole’s efforts for the same reason that minor powers have contested US efforts to shape their domestic politics, and indeed for the same reason that Americans now recoil at the idea of Russia interfering in their country’s politics. In a world in which nationalism is the most powerful political ideology, self-determination and sovereignty matter hugely for all countries.”
He distinguished between the Cold War Order 1945-1989 and the International Liberal Order 1990-2019. We see them as a continuum and shall maintain that that Western ”rules-based” (so much talked about today and very different from that of the UN and international law) liberal order was hopeless from Day One because it was based on a woefully wrong but convenient self-aggrandising interpretation of the collapse of the first-mentioned order. And while it was extremely US-centered and the US was self-centred, China rose about the same time as Russia. Predictably, the latter got up from being on its knees.
Might it not be that the West has finally woken up to the fact that other nations – and not only China and Russia – have developed to the extent that they must be seriously reckoned with for the future of humanity in the world? They challenge the Western unipolar view of the world, led by the USA, and they and many others now work to achieve a new multi-polar world order in which no single system or set of values dominates all the rest.
Might it not be that the US – because of its global reach sees enemies everywhere – indeed cannot live without appointing enemies, one after the other? And might it not be that the US itself feels challenged because it is – as sure as a law of nature – becoming weaker and denies that it has run out of its classical dynamics and innovative capacity?
This is where you may return to what we said in the first paragraph of this report’s introduction: Flashback to 2011 and watch then US Vice President Joe Biden speak in a Chinese classroom. That was a sign of the US still feeling strong. No reason to panic – strong enough to invite China to become stronger and seeking mutual benefits. But now, only ten years later?
Instead of facing that challenge in a well-considered and dignified way to benefit both humanity’s future and its own, what we see today is the US/West basing itself on confrontation, competition, punishment, anger, media manipulation – fake and omission – and even more military might despite the obvious: None of the fundamental problems of humanity and the Western part of it can be solved by military means. It’s a complete waste in response to an inner perceived weakness, if not panic. Part and parcel of it is the China Cold War Agenda, CCWA, that we have outlined important dimensions of in this report.
The CCWA is a strategy to maintain world dominance and confrontation instead of a strategy for change and cooperation. In this specific sense, the US with its empire and militarism, must now be seen as a negative or destructive dysfunctional actor in global affairs. It’s reached a moment when its negative influence on the rest of the world is larger than its positive impact. That’s another indicator of imperial decline and eventual fall.
The CCWA will only make the decline of the US more painful, faster and potentially more destructive both to the US itself and to the rest of the world.
In TFF’s third report, we shall predict and analyse some long-term consequences of this catastrophic CCWA strategy. We take a look at why the West sees China as a mortal danger and offer perspectives on the US/Western psycho-political projection disorder.
The perspective will be macro-historical, less material and “political” and more civilisational and ways-of-thinking focused.
This third report will also seek to outline what must be done instead to facilitate peaceful change towards a new multi-polar and more peaceful world order.
Finally, we shall attempt to outline some answers to what is perhaps the most important question of all at this moment of global history: How can the world lend the US a hand to change its policies, find a new place in the future world order and thereby lower the risk of a catastrophe for humankind?
Tags: Anglo America, China, Cold War III, Competition, Hegemony, Imperialism, Nuclear war, Pentagon, South China Sea, US Military, USA, West
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