One cannot help but admire the sheer brass neck of China’s propagandists. On Wednesday, the Chinese State Council Information Office released “The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2020,” a 16-page document that opens with the quote: “I can’t breathe,” which were among the final words of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota.
Conveniently ignoring China’s egregious human rights record, including the systematic destruction of Tibetan and Mongolian culture, and the mass internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, the report accuses the US of gross human rights violations.
Ethnic minorities have been “devastated by racial discrimination,” “systemic racism and economic inequality” have “worsened,” the US has committed “systemic ethnic cleansing and massacres” of Native Americans and “an agenda of ‘America first’ isolationism” hangs over the country, the report says.
It paints a picture of a nation in the grips of “horrific” racism, pushed by a toxic cocktail of “white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.”
China’s propaganda scribes are masters at manipulating the US political zeitgeist. Through close observation of US society, fed back to Beijing by Chinese diplomats, they intuitively know which buttons to push and on which smoldering tinder to pour the gasoline.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, potent incantations of “racism,” “discrimination” and “xenophobia” against Chinese were repeatedly invoked by Beijing to cause confusion in US politics and hamper Washington’s response to the crisis.
The report reads like a plagiarized postgraduate thesis: stitched together with copied and pasted assertions made by US media pundits, politicians, think tanks, academics and UN committees, taken from one side of the political debate during the febrile atmosphere of a particularly fraught US presidential election.
Although framed through the lens of human rights, the report’s underlying aim is to discredit the US’ democratic system of government and those of other democracies — including Taiwan. To this end, the report includes clumsy Chinese Communist Party phraseology, such as “American democracy disorder” and “American democracy crisis,” and dwells heavily on “continued social unrest,” “political chaos,” “mass unemployment” and an alleged “food crisis,” which it attributes to the US’ “incompetent pandemic response.”
Since 1998, the office has been releasing an annual “China Human Rights Report” as a tit-for-tat retort to US criticisms of China’s human rights abuses in the US Department of State’s annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.”
However, what is different this year is the extent to which the US’ long-running “culture war” has metastasized throughout the entire US body politic, engulfed all its institutions and fanned out to other Western democracies. This has significantly opened up the number of attack vectors for China’s propagandists to exploit.
Since much of the governing US Democratic Party has spent the past year engaged in high-profile introspection, chiefly over the issue of systemic racism, it is politically impossible to issue a rejoinder when China levels this accusation. Beijing has naturally made hay of it, pouncing to conflate racism with genocide.
Despite all its manifest faults and contradictions, the US has over many decades demonstrated an uncanny ability at national rejuvenation. The essential difference that separates democracies and totalitarian regimes is that in democracies arguments are out in the open. While it can get messy at times, this ability to self-correct is the fundamental strength of democratic systems. The world is still waiting for China to self-correct from its seven-decade-long nightmare.
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
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