Three China reads: 1, the Uighurs

11 Apr

Silence? What silence?

Few things are more predictable than the demonising by corporate media of ‘regimes’ which obstruct, directly or indirectly, the will of Wall Street. But while the general truth of this may be acknowledged within intellectual circles, its applicability to any specific target of propaganda blitz has a way of inducing localised amnesia until the heat dies down. And nothing has rattled Wall Street more than the rise, faster than foretold, of China from sweatshop for the West to global challenger of dollar hegemony.

Obama’s 2011/12 pivot to Asia was continued under Trump and, as Blinken’s Alaska hectoring of Yang Jiechi made clear, will continue under Joe Biden too. The media onslaught on alleged Beijing wrongdoing – an onslaught which, given Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and given infanticidal sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere, is nothing if not brazen – now eclipses those on Putin, Assad and Maduro combined.1

Sadly, wall to wall propaganda does work – ask Don Draper, up on Madison Avenue. The same manipulation of fear and heart’s yearning applies whether we’re being sold a superior drinking experience, or tales subliminally orientalist of The Other delighting in evil for evil’s sake. And to top it all, we the recipients fondly believe we arrived at our opinions all by ourselves!

Many who deem themselves critical thinkers make, at some level of consciousness, the smoke = fire equation. It helps that, in a textbook triumph of narrative over factuality, most in the West labour – this too is largely at instinctive levels way deeper than conscious reason – under two delusions. One is that we have independent media whose primary aim is to bring us the truth, the other that “we are the good guys”.


In the relentless demonising of China, the strand pertaining to Xinjiang’s Uighurs is current front runner, overshadowing tales of South China Sea ‘aggressions’, an undervalued renminbi, or an Upper Mekong dammed to the fury of downstream neighbours. My recommended piece today is therefore a 7,000 worder written last month by Roderic Day under the header, The Xinjiang Propaganda Blitz.

The real Xinjiang story is not so difficult to understand:

  1. The rise of Xi Jinping and the Belt & Road Initiative posed a serious challenge to American supremacy much earlier than they were expecting, so
  2. the US amped up their funding of terrorism in the region, as per the “Afghan Trap” doctrine outlined by [Carter’s Russia hawk, Zbigniew] Brzezinski, but
  3. instead of sending in the PLA, repeating the error of the Soviets, China reacted by building schools and vocational programs.
  4. As a result, the US and its allies desperately pivoted to accusing them of “genocide,” despite lack of evidence.

I’ve yet to see any evidence whatsoever challenging this basic understanding.


Note (a) the geo-significance of Xinjiang to Belt & Road; (b) its proximity to US occupied Afghanistan2 and Washington friendly former USSR Republics; (c) the West’s long record of weaponising Islamist terror – here for instance – against its enemies.

As it happens, we learned this week of suspended death sentences handed down to two former education officials in the province. Typical of corporate media coverage is this April 9 report by the Guardian’s Helen Davidson. Based in Taiwan, she begins:

A Chinese court has issued a suspended death sentence to the former directors of the Xinjiang education department for charges including writing and publishing school textbooks it said were designed to “split the country”.

Sattar Sawut and his deputy, Shirzat Bawudun, were given death sentences with a two-year reprieve, while five other Uyghur men, including editors, were given lengthy jail terms, according to state media.

The date of the convictions and sentences are unknown but were revealed in a state media film released in the last week, amid a PR offensive by the Chinese government pushing back on international criticism of its abuses in the Xinjiang region.

I note that “charges including …” phrase. Why does Helen Davidson not find out what the other charges were? (Or failing that, tell us what steps she took to that end.) Could it be that “charges including writing and publishing school textbooks” also include murder, treason or incitement to the same? Assuming this journalist is honest – an assumption I’m prepared to make until I’m shown to be wrong3 – why doesn’t she do her job?

I note too the dismissal of any attempt to counter Western propaganda (an oxymoron to the liberal mind) as “a PR offensive”. And the assertion as indisputable fact of “abuses” for which evidence is thin and, as Roderic Day shows, reliant on pitifully few and heavily tainted sources.

In a post a month ago I wrote:

I leave room for the possibility of Bashar al-Assad being as bad as our corporate media and politicians say. Ditto that China really might mistreat its Uyghurs and Russia may indeed have serious corruption which – being over and above the legacy of Yeltsin, and Western policies in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR  – can be laid at Putin’s door. All things considered, I’m minded to think such accusations false or hugely hyped but there’s an outside chance they are neither.4 My broader point is twofold. One, our rulers have every reason to lie to us about such things. Likewise our media, whose business model ensures they stay on-message re matters (such as going to war, or taking down a Jeremy Corbyn) of core importance to said rulers. Two, even if allegations against states resisting the US orbit are true, they are demonstrably not why those states are demonised

On which note, and a commendation of Roderic Day’s 7,000 worder – here’s the link again – I’ll end.

See also part 2 on the nature of China’s democracy.

* * *

  1. That the target of veiled media Sinophobia is less personalised – usually “the CCP” – than with Assad, Chavez/Maduro or Putin is likely a reflection of the nature of China’s governance, to be explored in my second China read.
  2. Today’s Caitlin Johnstone post cites CNN as saying “Concerns are mounting from bipartisan US lawmakers and Afghan women’s rights activists that the hard-won gains for women and civil society in Afghanistan could be lost if the United States makes a precipitous withdrawal from the country.” But of course!
  3. Actually the line between mendacity and self serving credulity is not always pin sharp. As I’ve said before, journalists who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please owners. Owners who know what’s good for them please advertisers and, in the cash-strapped Guardian’s case, wealthy Democrat supporting US donors. In extremis, those owners also fear security services wrath, as with MI5 and the Guardian after the Snowden revelations.
  4. One aspect of the human condition which has long served us well – but not so well in the modern era, where greater complexity follows from high volumes of information and misinformation – is the disproportionate influence on our political assessments of personal experience. In an age where we routinely form opinions – resistent, once formed, to logical and evidential challenge – on matters beyond the ken of everyday experience, that grip can lead us astray. My writings have drawn comment from pals who have had some contact with Uighur, Tibetan or Syrian refugees. Only one of them qualified her admirably tentative conclusions in light of two fundamentals of polling. One is the folly of generalising from tiny samples. (This applies in spades when their stories chime with corporate narratives.) The other is that these tiny samples pose the additional problem of statistical bias. Few on the left would take as gospel everything said by Cuban contras in Florida about the ‘regime’ in Havana. Yet many on the left drop their guard when it comes to Uighur, Tibetan and/or Syrian emigres. At issue is not whether such voices are subjectively honest. Many will be, I’m sure. Likewise some at least of the Cubans in Florida. At issue is how representative their views are of the millions who never left.

14 Replies to “Three China reads: 1, the Uighurs

    • Thanks Dave. At once interesting and dismaying is how these propaganda blitzes crumble under the most cursory inspection. That’s because they seldom get it, so those who craft the narratives needn’t go to much trouble. Most folk are too busy with the demands of everyday life, and too steeped in dominant ideology, to give them a moment’s critical attention.

      Related of course is the fact that, as noted in my post, we in the West:

      labour … under two delusions. One is that we have independent media whose primary aim is to bring us the truth, the other that “we are the good guys”.

      • The term Independent media in these contexts also applies to the Independent Media and associated factions of the “left” which seems to be using this issue in yet another depressingly familiar sectarian based purity spiral of who on the “left” represents the bestest gang..

        So we get this article from the AWL:

        Which dishonestly misframes , with an obvious sectarian motive, this article from the Morning Star:

        Totally and deliberately missing the point, in order to pathetically score points, that, to quote:

        “The left does not need to unite in defence of China. But it does need to unite against the new cold war. That means opposing sanctions on China as we oppose the hypocritical and punitive sanctions the US and its allies slap on other “enemy” countries, whether democratic socialist Venezuela or theocratic, repressive Iran. Our enemy is at home. ”

        Blissfully unaware and unconcerned that they are volunteering as useful idiot foot soldiers for and in support of an Imperial Agenda.

        • Blissfully unaware and unconcerned that they are volunteering as useful idiot foot soldiers for and in support of an Imperial Agenda.

          Sadly, yes.

    • Yeah, I read that piece on born again Adrian Zenz.

      Just today a friend sent me this link to a Morning Star piece – Xinjiang: staying afloat in a wave of disinformation – which begins:

      As long as communists have existed, the class we seek to topple have told lies about us. The more powerful our threat, the more extreme the lie. The more lurid and sensational the better — like the recent Netflix documentary on the Russian Revolution, which claimed that Lenin kept a 12-year-old maid in a cage while he was exiled in Siberia.

      Claims that Cuba had “concentration camps for gays” and Fidel Castro was turning children into tinned food turned out to be similarly untrue, but they got their job done — providing justification for Operation Peter Pan, the Bay of Pigs invasion and hundreds of terror attacks by the Cuban exiles.

      The latest red scare propaganda targets China and its autonomous region of Xinjiang. Many people will have seen statistics that refer to “one million Muslims” being held in concentration camps and various other human rights abuses — even “genocide.” It is crucial that the public are aware of where the main allegations come from and gain a picture of what is really going on in Xinjiang.

      One man’s word against a nation …

      That one man being, of course, Adrian Zenz: by his own words a man who believes God placed him on this planet to wage holy war on communism.

    • Ta for the link Susan. I haven’t yet read it but will get to it in due c. Consortium is one of those outlets I check quite often.

      As for my own read recommends being long, well … what can I say? In many though not all cases I try to give a sense of what the piece is saying. I sense from emailed feedback and/or comments below the line that some people, too busy to read at source, gain from my introductions. Half a loaf is better than no bread, as my dear old gran so often said.

      In any case, folk currently too busy or simply not in the mood may return to them at any point weeks, months or even years down the line.

    • Hi bevin. Glad you found them useful. But you are already highly informed and properly sceptical. If even one reader looks outside the Overton Window as a result of my China reads then I’ll be thrilled.

      I speak as one who, these past few days, has studied BTL comment at the Guardian on sinophobic pieces like Simon Tisdall’s, cited in part 2. And similar at the Economist. I rarely do these days but since we’re experiencing a full-on propaganda blitz from all wings of corporate media on China, I made an exception – even making a comment or two myself, an even rarer occurrence though I was once a frequent BTL warrior.

      Though there’s the usual mix of lazy, smug, sneering recycling of views spoonfed to us all our lives, it was refreshing to see just how much BTL pushback those pieces got. I give a few samples of both, again in part 2.

  1. Hi Phillip,
    Good to see you bringing a little sanity to the increasingly strident MSM “Genocide” claims. We here in NZ are walking a delicately balance path between membership of the 5 eyes intelligence(??) partnership and a desire for an independent and honest foreign policy.
    Last week our Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta gave a speech to the NZ China Association that marked a return to sanity
    It started in Te Reo, which means there are a group of diplomats who have become aware that this is a bi cultural nation, and continues on to emphasis the things we have in common with China, before commenting on the differences. She suggested resolving these with diplomacy rather than rhetoric.. Altogether remarkable for our first indigenous foreign minister, she complete with kauae tattoo. The Chinese were reportedly delighted to be accorded respect -they have had a century of humiliation, as have Maori.
    It will be interesting to see how this challenge to ‘rules based world order” will be met…
    Meanwhile, the colonial brigade have reacted predictably, lead by the evangelical Scott Morrison of Australia

    • Hi David

      Thanks for your comment – always good to get an Antipodean slant. Thanks too for the link. I read about Nanaia Mahuta’s speech but haven’t yet heard it.

      It will be interesting to see how this challenge to ‘rules based world order” will be met…

      Indeed. China is the issue most divisive of neocon v neolib approaches. Nothing in US history, hence its repertoire of responses, has prepared it for a nuclear rival, allied to another nuclear power, overtaking it economically. I don’t think the truly insane wing of neoconservatism will be allowed to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. We can’t rule out such strikes but China and Russia can’t be so simply neutralised and even the out and out nutcases of the John Bolton stripe know that.

      That said, who knows how crazy things can get? In any case, the greater danger I see as one provocative bluff too many triggering WW3 by accident.

      Lovely world innit?

  2. Hi Phillip

    An interesting piece! Sadly, it fails to dance in a more ‘balanced’ arena and mention the CCP’s tight grip of control over the Chinese people. And much of western media. And yes…Wall Street!

    In fact, isn’t Wall Street largely responsible for the China’s ascension? Doesn’t it still maintain close ties to the CCP because of the ‘China market’? Isn’t Wall Street robbing America of the teeth to act more assertively against the CCP? Some argue that it’s not only America weakened—but the entire free world—given what is at stake if the balance of power shifts favourably for China.

    If the West is indeed engaging in a propaganda campaign, it is certainly not bearing much fruit. Very few that I know—even now—can put their finger to Tibet on a world map, nor spell Xinjiang. Most in the ‘land of the free’ seem blissfully unaware that a tyrannical Titan is due to become proprietor of the world’s largest economy. Nor do they show awareness that the Chinese Communist Party is solely responsible for an estimated 40 million deaths of its own people. Perhaps then, the west should become more assertive in its propaganda methods, and take a leaf from Beijing: Spend billions on overseas propaganda and use an army of online trolls to aggressively push their narrative upon the world.

    As a free man with a free voice, and one whom owns books by the Dalai Lama, and values his internal organs; I feel inclined to point out the ramifications of a Chinese led world order as opposed to an American one. I highly doubt it would prove advantageous for the prosperity of freedom and human rights on global scale (only longevity of CCP rule), given the CCP’s atrocities committed against both Chinese and ethnic minorities alike since it was baptised some seventy years ago, of which, the evidence is all quite plentiful.

    Therefore I can only hope you are right, and that there is some propaganda by the west being initiated, to counter Beijing’s narrative. Although, the west really only need rely on the truth to dispel the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to the free world. We in the west are so preoccupied with being critical of ourselves, we forget there are those that do not tolerate criticism. Which is perhaps the reason why it was easier for you to write an article that challenges allegations of genocide (despite satellite imagery, witness testimony, and most tellingly: China not allowing UN unfettered access to Xinjiang to easily prove otherwise) than it is for you to write an article critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe you have wrote about the CCP’s use of propaganda against the west too? Have you considered the possibility that the CCP, which had little qualms with running tanks over Chinese people, and is engaged in illegal organ harvesting (as verified by independent tribunal in London recently) – might just well be engaged in cultural genocide of not only those in Xinjiang, but also Tibetans too. Tibet being the ‘practice ground’ for it’s oppression over the past half a century. Tibet has vast water and mineral reserves, which is why China rules it with an iron fist. Similarly, Xinjiang is it’s gateway to economic and political leverage over the Mid East and Europe. The destruction of other cultures cements control for CCP’s global domination.

    We had the chance to stand up to the CCP for its treatment against the long suffering Tibetans. We didn’t. We put profit before human rights. And by not holding the CCP responsible for its actions in Tibet, it has done similar now in Xinjiang. And now it strips Hong Kong’s people of their freedoms…and it now, it expresses desire to invade democratic Taiwan—potentially triggering WW3.

    With that all considered, do you think perhaps…you might have chosen the wrong side?

    • Thanks for this Lee. And apologies for being so late to approve and reply. My WP settings are (a) that a comment by one who has not previously commented awaits moderation and (b) I get an email alert for all comments. For reasons I can’t fathom, I have stopped receiving such alerts for a fortnight at least, despite having that setting switched on.

      As to the substance, though I appreciate the courtesy with which you frame them, I disagree with so many of your remarks that I will respond to them above the line in a dedicated post. I’ll email you when it is up.

      Thanks again,


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