Americans are being manipulated by a campaign to make us consent to what’s effectively a paradigm of constant war with China. It’s not a clearcut case of preparing the public for a direct military invasion against the targeted country, as was the case with the Iraq WMD hoax. It’s the same situation to that of the U.S. empire’s recent campaign against Russia: a series of media demonizations against the disfavored country, which manufacture support for economic warfare and military buildup.
It’s also part of the real motive behind the anti-Russian propaganda effort. In order to maintain its hegemony in an increasingly multipolar world, the United States needs to work to undermine both China and its allies. We’re witnessing a vast series of hostilities that the U.S. is directing against world powers to which it was formerly ambivalent, with the potential consequence being an eventual outbreak of world war.
But Americans won’t see this if they don’t question the motives behind the headlines they read about China. Modern anti-Chinese propaganda primarily works through the reliable psychological manipulation tactic of sympathy. If an American has been told that the people of China are being oppressed by an Orwellian tracking system, or that China is committing genocide against a religious group, they’ll be more likely to support the empire’s attacks against China—and see anyone who questions these narratives as a shameful apologist for an evil government.
Alleging spectacular Chinese atrocities without providing evidence
It’s easy to buy into these narratives when the news you’re exposed to repeats them so ubiquitously—and often so subtly. A big part of the reason we’re now supposed to hate the Chinese government, the social credit system, is based in wild distortions and hyperbole.
We’ve all encountered the language about the social credit system. We’ve heard that it’s something out of a sci-fi dystopia, that it makes the Chinese people live in fear of a totalitarian government. But I recently encountered a commentator who approaches the issue through a more objective lens: the China Daily contributor and socialist pundit Ian Goodrum. In March, Goodrum tweeted that when it comes to the social credit system, people outside of China should “stop using facile pop culture references to demonize countries you haven’t bothered to understand.” His arguments began as follows:
First, some background on why the system exists. In China, a FICO-like system like what the US has wouldn’t be very useful, as very few Chinese are debt holders. Most people don’t take out loans for major purchases; they save instead. Also, and probably more importantly, before the system existed there wasn’t a unified set of consequence for businesses who failed to pay fines, uphold agreements or generally hold to acceptable standards of conduct. Unless the offense was criminal, few punishments existed. This context is helpful, but less relevant when it comes to the reporting about the system in the Western press. You’ve seen the headlines: “Black Mirror is real,” “God help us all,” etc.
As Goodrum illustrated, the actual consequences of this regulatory system are quite mundane. The penalties related to investment and finance violations are “Establishing restrictions in financial companies,” “Restrictions on issuing bonds,” “Restrictions on qualified investor status,” “Restrictions on the issues of shares,” and “Restrictions on establishing social organizations.” Others include the banning of becoming a civil servant and becoming a manager in a State-owned enterprise. These are sensible punishments that are most likely to affect high-income investors who’ve violated laws and ethics.
The description for the laws under the social credit system also say that people can be penalized with “Restrictions on riding trains and aircraft” and “Restrictions on conspicuous consumption travel.” As Goodrum assesses about the details of these penalties:
“In other words, if you’re on the ‘bad credit’ list, you can’t buy first-class plane tickets or luxury train tickets. You also can’t engage in ‘conspicuous consumption’ travel or send your kids to expensive private schools. Wow, just like that Netflix show!”
And when looking over the contents of the social credit system’s rules about restricting train travel, Goodrum wrote:
To sum up, the first set of violations is for specific rules related to train travel, like the issuing of fraudulent tickets or scalping. This is a universal ban from ticket purchases. The second list is a broader one, which carries the “high-class” punishments we saw earlier. The broader list includes the things you might expect, like financial deception or fraud, but also includes not paying out social security or employing entities who don’t. How terrible that they should be punished with a seat on a C- or D-class bullet train instead of G-class!
The Western media’s sensationalism around a mundane regulatory system has a clear agenda behind it. Last year, in reaction to a tweet by the author Nicholas Christakis, which hilariously described China’s social credit system as “So dystopian and authoritarian as to defy belief,” the shameless war promoter Bill Kristol tweeted: “Shouldn’t an important U.S. foreign policy goal of the next couple of decades be regime change in China?”
Kristol was echoing the sentiments of his allies in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the U.S. intelligence establishment. Replacing (or at least successfully strong-arming) China’s government would be a salvation for the U.S. empire, which is desperate for loyal allies as American influence rapidly declines around the globe. And as China continues to economically outpace the U.S., we’re going to keep seeing attempts from politicians and the mass media to make us hate and fear China’s government. Another line that’s used for this is the one about China holding a million Uighur Muslims in internment camps.
This charge has largely originated from a Reuters article from last August, which reads:
“U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.”
Reuters’ claim was repeated uncritically by the American media, including The Intercept. But in fact, a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has told indy news outlet the Grayzone that the United Nations did not actually make that claim. It was made by an independent committee which did not speak for the U.N. as a whole. In fact, the claim was made by Gay McDougall, the sole American member of that independent committee. These allegations, for which McDougall didn’t cite any sources, have been expanded upon by claims from the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an opposition group that’s funded by the U.S. government, and which has spent years consistently advocating against the Chinese government while promoting extreme right opposition figures as alternatives to the Chinese Communist Party.
These efforts to promote claims of anti-Muslim atrocities by the Chinese government bely the reality of the situation with China’s Uighurs. In fact, the Muslims who’ve been recently detained are the ones who’ve been involved in illegal operations to funnel money from Wahhabist extremist groups into Chinese Mosques. Whatever one wants to believe, these detentions are not in contradiction of the Chinese government’s stated commitment to uphold the rights of all religious and ethnic groups.
China has a variety of laws which protect the expression of religious belief, and which outlaw discrimination on the basis of religion. This is because the principle of ethnic unity is a major part of the Chinese Communist Party’s ideals, and it’s shown this by allowing efforts by Islamic institutions to train and educate Muslim students—mostly Uighurs—in Islam. In this light, I believe the claim that China is “eradicating Islam” is specious.
Like others in the American independent journalism community, I’ve spent much of the last couple of years exposing the encyclopedia of lies that the New Cold Warriors have directed against Russia. But what doesn’t get nearly as much attention from anti-imperialist voices is the propaganda that we’re fed about China. And the anti-Chinese hoaxes that have been carried out by the Western media are about as big as the ones about Russia.
As the author Godfree Roberts recently concluded, China is:
“being framed in an atrocity story sustained by artful censorship and loud, proud, bold and brassy propaganda. An expensive, in-your-face, preposterous conspiracy, sustained for two years at great financial and reputational cost to the nation. Wildly ambitious, batshit crazy and so self-destructive as to boggle the mind, it was one of many propaganda-driven frame-ups, another of which in progress as you read these lines. It checks all the boxes: big, bold, loud and proud, expensive, in-your-face, a preposterous hoax, daringly ambitious and utterly self-destructive.”
Roberts is referring to the claim that the Chinese government’s censorship program exists to suppress criticism of the state. As Roberts describes, China’s Chief Censor Wang Huning in many ways does the opposite of this. His online policies are focused on rooting out shady and dangerous behavior, such as infringement, libel, scamming, and spreading viruses. And Harvard’s Gary King has assessed about the political aspects of Huning’s rules that political dissent is very much permitted:
Contrary to much research and commentary, the purpose of the censorship program is not to suppress criticism of the State or the Communist Party. Indeed, despite widespread censorship of social critics, we find that when Chinese people write scathing criticisms of their government and its leaders the probability that their post will be censored does not increase. Instead, censored tweets were equally likely to be against the state, for the state, irrelevant, or factual reports about events. Negative, even vitriolic criticism of the state, its leaders and its policies are not more likely to be censored.
At their core, the Western denunciations of China’s censorship program are based in xenophobia and cultural misunderstanding. For two thousand years, China’s Chief Censor has been a designated public intellectual within Chinese society, one whose role is rooted in the Confucian idea that censorship is important for order. Censorship is an honored practice in China, and it operates under public scrutiny. The attacks against China’s censorship program upset Roberts so much because, as he writes:
“The China Hoax frames China’s Confucian politics and economics as if they were — or should be — Roman.”
Creating support for war while censoring those who object
When the United States has its people aghast at these fabricated horrors from the Chinese government, it can get regular Americans to share the U.S. empire’s desires for great power competition Click To Tweet. Recent American fears of China outdoing us as a nation, which have been capitalized on by Donald Trump with his rhetoric about how China is “killing us,” provide the foundations for cultivating war hysteria among the American public.
The recent Western demonizations of Russia have gone alongside media warnings that America is falling behind China militarily, like was the case with a Reuters article from last month which had the headline: “China’s Challenge: Xi’s army is replacing the U.S. as Asia’s mightiest.”
The headline was placed next to an appropriately menacing drawing of the Chinese president in front of a red-colored crowd of soldiers. Ian Goodrum reacted to the headline by writing:
“The US has the biggest military budget in the world — more than the next seven countries combined. Yet articles like this are being published constantly, in an effort to convince you China is the real threat. Don’t fall for their scam.”
Trump’s trade war is just one aspect of how the American ruling class is using this manufactured anti-China sentiment to enact measures to harm China. Unlike the tariffs, sanctions against China have universal support from the political establishment. This is more or less also the case for America’s efforts to militarily intimidate China—along with its allies Russia and North Korea—through war games and military buildup. By the definition of war as something that starts when two nations enter into hostile economic, diplomatic and military relations, the U.S. and China are currently at war, and they’ll continue to be so indefinitely.
As a consequence, the atmosphere within the United States has come to largely consist of anti-Chinese paranoia, which will only intensify as the war heats up. Last year at a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, politicians and officials used racist and McCarthyist rhetoric to construct a narrative of vast Chinese efforts to destroy the very foundations of America. Marco Rubio alleged that there’s a “counterintelligence risk posed to U.S. national security from Chinese students, particularly those in advanced programs in the sciences and mathematics” based on the claim that Beijing is sending spies into American schools. Other senators pressed intelligence officials about supposed Chinese and Russian efforts to “sow divisions” within American society.
This paranoia about China influencing American politics was expanded upon when Trump claimed last year (without evidence) that China was interfering in the 2018 elections, and when Trump claimed this week that China wants a Democrat to win in 2020. And like the hysteria around “Russian meddling,” it’s used to manufacture consent both for military buildup and for censorship against dissent.
The unprecedented measures to politically censor the Internet that Western governments and corporations have carried out in the last several years—under guise of fighting “foreign meddling”—have only added to the paradigm of political censorship which has long existed throughout the West. In his recent China article, Godfree Roberts reported that he and other China-friendly commentators have frequently had their voices silenced in a media environment that only favors negative stories about China (and that generally silences opposition to the pro-corporate, pro-imperialist narratives which the centers of power in America seek to push).
Dissenting voices and nuanced perspectives always come under attack during wartime. And America’s 21st century’s cold war with Russia and China is producing a high-tech version of the McCarthy era, where so-called “fake news” and “illegitimate content” are removed from the public sphere by an unaccountable circle of oligarchic censors.
Whatever injustices exist in China, it is the U.S./NATO imperialism that’s driving us towards a third world war.