China Papers: propaganda as part of the new cold war?
In our media there is a buzz about ‘China Papers’, leaked Chinese documents that would show that China is massively locking up Uyghur Muslims and brainwashing. What’s up with it? What is the connection with the sprawling new cold war?
The documents come from an unknown “high-ranking source in the party” and were originally leaked in the New York Times. Among those who declare that they are real, we find people who work for the Pentagon and for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Not really objective assessors. In addition, the documents are stripped of any context and framed for demonizing China.
For example, in most media an internal speech by President Xi, calling for “absolutely no compassion,” is invoked as the ultimate proof of massive imprisonment and ill-treatment of Uighur Muslims, on the orders of supreme authority.
What is the real story? In March 2014, Uyghur terrorists carried out an attack with knives on travelers at Kunming train station (in Yunnan province). 150 people were injured and 31 were killed. A few weeks later, President Xi came to Xinjiang to discuss the situation. He called for the “fight against terrorism, infiltration of radicalism and separatism” by using the “organs of state power” and showing “absolutely no pity.” Is there a government somewhere that does show compassion for terrorism, radicalism and separatism? The accusation against the Chinese president sounds even more hollow when Western armies in the Middle East are waging war against IS and France and Great Britain are sending commands to kill their own Syrian fighters.
Numbers grabbed from the sky
Going through the 400 pages of ‘China Papers’ it appears that the conclusions as in the example cited above largely amount to a process of intention. No major claim against China is proven by facts.
The most important of those claims was originally “that the Chinese government might hold up to one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in internment camps and prisons in the last three years.” This has meanwhile been scaled up by our media to ‘more than a million, perhaps one and a half to two million’ in ‘concentration camps’ without further instructions. In the China Papers, however, there is nothing specific about the numbers of people involved.
The original claim comes from the head of Adrian Zenz, China specialist at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (founded by the US Congress in 1993) who, following talks with separatists living abroad, united in the US-funded World Uighur Congress the estimate is that ‘hundreds of thousands to maybe a million Uyghurs are stuck’. That estimate found its way through the American expert Gay McDougall to the panel discussion of the UN human rights committee. Reuters picked them up there, immediately introduced them as a fact recognized by the UN and spread them worldwide via the mainstream media. A shadowy organization, the US-funded Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) served as a “reliable” source.
Afterwards, Zenz tried to give substance to his claim, with satellite photos of ‘camps’ and statistics on public safety budgets in Xinjiang. To the extent that these elements are real, they remain susceptible to a great deal of interpretation. The Chinese government, for its part, has called the quoted numbers ‘ridiculously overrated’.
Hide or condone terrorism
China fights terrorism, radicalism and separatism in Xinjiang and is open and clear about that. Terrorism is real, with numerous major attacks in China over the past ten years. Hundreds – thousands – Uighur fighters from the ETIP (East Turkestan Islamic Party) fight in foreign hot spots such as Afghanistan and Syria; the risk of return via Turkey is real.
Separatism is real and actively supported by the US. The American NED pays the World Uyghur Congress that strives for independence from Xinjiang. Radicalism is real and in 2010 led to a pogrom with nearly 200 dead Han Chinese in the streets of Urumqi. Our media keep silent about the racist nature of this pogrom or condone this and other facts as an uprising against an authoritarian regime. They only focus on real or invented measures taken by China that they take out of context and present them as overly repressive and unjustified.
In response to the numerous and serious attacks, China has responded with increased repression and control in Xinjiang, and also in all public places elsewhere in China. The population demanded safety. Is there a country that responds differently to attacks? Why judge China and the West with two sizes and two weights? The immediate result of the policy is there: there has been no attack in China for more than three years.
Training is called suppression
In the longer term, China is striving to eliminate the economic disadvantage of the Uyghurs, which is an important breeding ground for radicalism. It is not sufficient to accelerate the development of the Xinjiang region through investments in infrastructure to open up the oases that make up the region. Eliminating economic deprivation also requires a better education rate for the Uighur minority, who mainly come from a rural environment, hardly speak Chinese and get worse jobs in the city than the usually trained Han. A large-scale retraining of adults in the Chinese language, knowledge of Chinese laws and institutions, specific vocational training and interpretation of Islam by moderate Islam teachers is a logical initiative.
However, the image in our media has been thoroughly skewed. In addition to training for adult citizens, there are two other systems for re-education. Convicted criminals must follow deradicalisation and retraining programs in prison. Criminals who have served their sentence but still pose a threat to society because of their radicalism must follow similar programs in closed centers. The Western media make this an amalgam. The China Papers contain reports that are clearly about prisons. Photos show prisons and people in prison suits. However, the reader is told that all of this applies to more than one million innocent civilians who would be locked up in camps, or in “concentration camps.”
A responsible official from the Xinjiang region has stated that 90% of the people involved have already ended their program. You will also rarely find this information with us.
Propaganda and cold war
The Chinese government has organized numerous visits to adult education institutions for diplomats and journalists from all countries. They have been able to see with their own eyes how things are going in these institutions and can talk to those involved. It makes no difference to Western media: the horror reporting continues. For this, uncritical witnesses are presented who are invariably Uyghur living abroad from circles of the Uyghur World Congress.
Somewhat ridiculous is the Western concern for the protection of Islam; in Xinjiang, not with us. Representatives from all countries with large numbers of Muslims have accepted the invitation to visit Xinjiang. None of those governments have criticized the Chinese approach, several have believed China for its attempts to combat the radical abuse of Islam.
China has 21 million Muslims, with 36,000 mosques, 45,000 imams and 10 Islamic schools. Halal food is available everywhere and popular, including with non-Muslims. There are prominent mosques in all major cities, and often newly built.
22 Western countries plus Japan issued a joint statement this summer denouncing China for its policy in Xinjiang. 36 Third World countries respond promptly with a joint statement of support for China.
Clearly, then, it is about more or less suppression of an ethnic and religious minority. The US has launched a new kind of cold war against China: economically, technologically, militarily, diplomatically and last but not least through propaganda. A large part of the Western world follows the US in this propaganda offensive.
The involvement in this campaign is of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a group of 220 independent investigative journalists. Are it ideological prejudices against China that allow these journalists to go along with anything but independent, critical or objective propaganda?
The campaign around the China Papers fits in seamlessly with the widening new cold war being waged from the US against China. After President Trump signed a law last week that would allow the US to undermine Hong Kong economically and thus hit China indirectly, this week after the Senate, the US Congress approved a bill that would allow the US to impose sanctions on China if they think Uyghurs in Xinjiang are treated badly. These sanctions are directed against Chinese companies, but also against individual Chinese government officials. Like the Hong Kong law, this proposal was also supported by a large majority by Democrats and Republicans. The legal text still needs to be coordinated between Congress and Senate and then signed by Trump before it can take effect.