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It’s remarkable how much of the propaganda that America creates about China feels like projection. The United States, which frequently censors dissenting voices, persecutes Muslims and disfavored ethnic groups, is controlled by an oligarchic corporate regime that keeps half of its own people in poverty, and perpetuates the largest empire in history, is accusing China of all the atrocities that it’s committed itself.
This “accuse your enemy of that which you are guilty” strategy is useful for America’s goal with China, which is to destroy a power that’s threatening to ruin its quest for imperial hegemony. Communist China has been an obstacle to the American empire right from the start, with China having fought on the side of the DPRK amid America’s genocidal invasion of Korea. It’s now continuing its role as a bulwark against imperialism by working to protect Venezuela from a potential invasion, by backing Syria in its fight against U.S.-backed terrorists, and by remaining loyal to north Korea as the capitalist world wages war against the DPRK. So as China continues to move towards becoming the world’s dominant economic and military power, America has every reason to sabotage China.
The propaganda aspect of this sabotage effort, ironically, depends on painting China as the exact kind of imperialist menace that the U.S. is. I debunked many of the lies that make up this false image of China in one of my articles from last month, but that essay requires a second volume. Here I’ll cover the fraudulence of the major concepts about China that are instilled into Westerners.
Big lie #1: “China is imperialist”
Once again, the irony of America’s propaganda about China is absurd. The U.S. constantly wages wars of imperialist aggression under the false pretense of “liberating” its victim nations, and when China actually intervenes in another country in order to free it, the U.S. characterizes China’s actions as “imperialist.”
China’s 1951 intervention in Tibet wasn’t just supported by a wide range of Tibetans and motivated by a desire to free the country from the horrors of its former feudal system. It was followed by a series of U.S. actions in Tibet that were truly imperialist and unjustifiable. In response to the revolution that China brought to Tibet, the CIA began a campaign of agitation, funding and arms for the anti-Chinese Tibetan factions, and dirty political tricks which led to a U.S.-manufactured 1959 uprising within Tibet against the country’s new government. This uprising failed to gain popular support, especially among those who had been abused under the feudal order.
To justify this sabotage of the Tibetan liberation struggle that Mao helped lead, the U.S. and its sepatatist partners within Tibet have tried to paint China as the villain. But as is explained in this assessment from East Asia Forum’s Barry Sautman, neither the claims of Chinese imperialism nor the ones of unjustified Chinese social repression in Tibet have merit:
The point to stress is that there is no repression of Tibetans simply for being Tibetan. Nor does the Chinese government repress religion per se. Instead, Tibetans receive a range of preferential policies, and authorised religions in China receive state support. Where religious organisations pose no political threat, they are regulated by the state and can generally function openly, especially among ethnic minorities. The relation between religious organisations and the state is informed by longstanding Chinese traditions; separatism is another story. Under international law, states may make separatism illegal. The Chinese government, based on China’s history of cycles of territorial unity and disunity, makes use of that right.
The U.S. has used the charge of imperialism to delegitimize essentially all of China’s additional projects to involve itself abroad. This is particularly true when it comes to China’s role in Africa, which has been distorted by numerous myths. One of these myths is that China has followed the “neo-colonial” patterns in Africa, which is refuted by an honest examination of what China has been doing; unlike is the case for a neo-colonialist project, wherein a country is put under the authority of another nation and/or has had its economic autonomy taken away from it, there’s not one African country that’s politically directed by China, China controls no African banking system, and no African country is obliged to exclude non-Chinese products.
There are many other facets to the myth about Chinese “imperialism” in Africa, from the demonstrably false claim that Chinese enterprises only employ Chinese workers (a survey of 1000 African companies has shown that 89 percent of their employees are African) to the one that China has been engaged in massive land grabs (a Johns Hopkins University study has found that the largest Chinese farms in Africa aren’t even growing food for export to China) to the one about how China is trapping African nations in debt (the debts that African nations owe to China make up less than 2 percent of Africa’s foreign debt, and all indications show that China is giving these nations money so they can make up gaps in their infrastructure financing). And these claims all omit the fact that the U.S. has actually been exploiting countries in such ways.
Americans aren’t supposed to think about how their government invaded Iraq so that it could let American corporations profit from Iraq’s destruction, or how the U.S. has been installing puppet governments into sovereign countries for the last century, or how the U.S. uses the IMF to trap nations into debt so that it can impose destructive neoliberal reforms onto them. Our country’s transgressions need to be projected onto China, whose foreign policy model been misrepresented not just in the case of Africa but in the context of the country’s entire relationship to the world.
The loans that China has given out have in many cases worked towards freeing other countries from Western imperialism; in 2013, China gave Laos the equivalent of $32 million in interest free credits so that Laos could help free itself from the debt slavery that it’s suffered at the hands of the World Bank. This reflects the overall nature of the foreign investments that China makes, which is one of socialist economic development rather than capitalist imperialism. The vast majority of the foreign loans that China makes are socialist state investments rather than private capitalist investments, and they’re done for the purpose of helping improve the livelihoods of both the Chinese people and those in the countries that China works with. China, as well as its ally Russia, have been made out to be menacing pillagers in a world where the U.S./NATO empire is by far the biggest perpetrator of exploitation and violent conquest.
Big lie #2: “China is totalitarian”
The degree of social repression that China’s government carries out has been slanderously and hyperbolically exaggerated by Western imperialist narratives. These narratives have been deeply ingrained into the American psyche over the course of the last generation, which is the era in which we’ve often heard about the so-called Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The hoax surrounding the events in Tiananmen Square started with a series of false accounts of what happened when the Chinese government cleared the square of the “pro-democracy” protesters on June 4, 1989. According to China, about 300 had died in clashes, many of whom were part of the People’s Liberation Army. By the most well documented accounts, these altercations were instigated when the protesters set fire to unarmed soldiers and lynched them with their corpses hung on nooses. But according to sources from the Western media which were less reliable to say the least, the soldiers were actually the ones who’d carried out the mass slaughter.
The New York Times, in a prelude to its famous fraudulent story about WMDs in Iraq, said that “thousands” of protesters had been killed in Tiananmen Square. The casualty figures claimed throughout the U.S. media ranged from 2,600 to 8,000 to “tens of thousands,” but these ridiculous inconsistencies in the lies that Americans were being told didn’t shatter the emotionally powerful new Western perception that an oppressive government had brutally slaughtered its people for wanting freedom. To help buttress this fragile lie that they were trying to sell, America’s anti-Chinese propagandists presented additional outrageous accounts of what had taken place; eight days after the confrontation in the square, the New York Times published an “eyewitness” report about Tiananmen from the student Wen Wei Po which was so clearly fabricated that the Times’ correspondent in Beijing Nicholas Kristof took exception to the main points in the article.
Predictably, the incident that these fabricated reports were based off of was instigated by American destabilization efforts within China, with the U.S. having been actively involved in efforts to promote the “pro-democracy” protests through a well-funded propaganda machine within China. The strategic disinformation which was put out by the U.S.-backed radio station Voice of America (which falsely claimed that some PLA members were firing against others and that China’s Prime Minister Li Peng had been shot) greatly contributed to the unrest of that time and therefore to the horrific anti-PLA violence that ensued.
All of this makes it no surprise that cables released by WikiLeaks have since shown that no bloodshed among protesters took place when China put down the protests in Tiananmen Square.
A similar incident of U.S.-manufactured outrage against China was carried out last month, conveniently coinciding with the anti-Chinese media propaganda blitz that’s accompanied the thirty year anniversary of the fictitious “Tiananmen Square Massacre.” This latest spectacle has come in the form of the recent Hong Kong protests, which have been heavily covered throughout the American media with the same theme about how the Chinese people are simply standing up for “democracy.” But as China Daily’s Ian Goodrum has assessed in an interview with MintPress News, the extradition law that the protests are centered around doesn’t justify such characterizations:
It’s unfortunate there’s been all this hullabaloo over what is a fairly routine and reasonable adjustment to the law. As the law reads right now, there’s no legal way to prevent criminals in other parts of China from escaping charges by fleeing to Hong Kong. It would be like Louisiana — which, you’ll remember, has a unique justice system — refusing to send fugitives to Texas or California for crimes committed in those states.
Honestly, this is something that should have been part of the agreement made in advance of the 1997 handover. Back then bad actors used irrational fear of the mainland to kick the can down the road and we’re seeing the consequences today.
So why have these protests happened? Well we know that the American NGO-industrial complex has been doing all it can to help the protesters and spread their anti-China narratives, and that most of the protesters are emphatically supportive of British colonialism despite its brutally repressive and undemocratic nature in comparison to that of the Chinese authorities (elections didn’t even exist in Hong Kong until 1986). And since most of Hong Kong’s population stands on the side of the People’s Republic of China and its just policy to combat sex tourism and unlawful asylum-seeking in Hong Kong, the imperialist agenda behind these protests is extremely apparent. As MintPress News’ Alex Rubinstein has observed, “Something about the Hong Kong protests’ messaging seems tailor-made for Western audiences. Most signs [from the protests] I am seeing also happen to be in English.”
These kinds of artificially created street dramas are a standard American regime change agitation tactic, paralleled by this year’s right-wing anti-Maduro demonstrations in Venezuela. And they reflect upon the deeply suspicious, U.S.-tainted undercurrents behind all of the other stories we hear about China’s supposed totalitarianism.
Another fishy media narrative about China is the one which involves Ai Weiwei. No doubt Weiwei has been mistreated by Chinese authorities, such as when he was beaten by Chinese police in 2009. But the facts surrounding his legal case have been presented with consistent bias among Western media outlets, and the “humanitarian” U.S. regime change network has done everything possible to exploit Weiwei to further its agenda.
When Weiwei was arrested in 2011 on charges of tax fraud, the Western media reflexively condemned China and claimed that Weiwei’s detention was motivated by his political views. As China Daily’s Mo Nong has written, this display from the media was the symptom of an “ideological bias” which Western reporters look to China through. “Ideological confrontation is the default mode for some Westerners and Western media when it comes to issues of human rights,” lamented Nong in a 2011 column. “For these people, it has become an intuitive reaction to point their fingers at China when anyone they consider a dissident is detained or arrested on legal grounds…With such a mentality, they consider anyone who criticizes the political system of China and the Chinese authorities as they do, heroes or heroines, regardless of what these people have done, or how they behave, or what effect their activities will have on the future of this country and its people.’
Weiwei has since been characterized by the American media as an innocent victim of political repression, and has been aided by organizations which seek to manufacture consent for America’s destabilization efforts in China. In 2016, Weiwei spoke at a New York City event for the Council on Foreign Relations, a notoriously pro-imperialist Washington think tank. Weiwei has also collaborated with Amnesty International, a group that’s deliberately misled Americans about Syria, Venezuela, and other Washington regime change target countries. And in 2013, Weiwei received the Human Rights Foundation’s Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent-an award that the HRF has also been politically biased enough to give to Park Sang-hak, a man who’s been known to plan violent protests against the DPRK and collaborate with American intelligence.
You only need to look a little bit beneath the surface to see how frequently the anti-China stories we see in our media are connected to the American regime change complex. And in addition to this propaganda network’s role in the narratives I’ve mentioned so far, it regularly makes up outrageous atrocity stories to influence public opinion about China.
In my last China article, I detailed how the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders has used the money it receives from Western governments to spread baseless claims which reinforce the completely fabricated narrative that China is holding millions of Muslims in concentration camps. I’ve since learned that another Chinese opposition group, called “China Tribunal,” has propagated similarly suspect claims about the Chinese government harvesting organs from prisoners. Even as they’ve released their “Final Judgement & Report” about this allegation, they apparently haven’t even been able to publish the “full report” on their findings, which supposedly contains all of the evidence they need to support their assertions. And buried deep in their report was this telling paragraph:
Representatives of both the Transplantation Society and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have spoken out on behalf of recent changes in human transplant systems in the PRC, particularly the development of COTRS (see above) and the voluntary donor scheme. They argue that changes are being made and external criticism is not warranted. They have supported a transition for the sourcing of organs from death-row prisoners and suggested that executed prisoners are no longer used.
All of these charges against China, along with the misleadingly presented Western portrayals of China’s “Orwellian” social credit system, make up the main arguments for why China is “totalitarian.” The purpose of these hoaxes is to give basis to an extremely dark and sinister view of China’s government which isn’t supported by the facts.
Despite instances of Chinese police brutality-like the one that Weiwei has experienced-the Chinese government is overall far more tolerant of dissent than the U.S. government is. Unlike is the case in America, political social media posts in China aren’t especially likely to be censored. And as Nong’s column also stated, China doesn’t take political prisoners like the U.S. does: “Ai’s political discrepancy with the Chinese government is one thing; his alleged involvement in illegal economic activities is another. China has established its socialist legal system after decades of progress. Everybody, including Ai, is equal in the eye of the Chinese law.”
Big lie #3: “China isn’t on the side of the world’s poor and working people”
It’s always been a strategy of the capitalist class to make poor and working people hate the socialist political leaders and movements which are actually fighting for their interests. The myth that the Soviet Union and Mao’s China weren’t “really socialist” has worked as a way to stop people from trying to emulate the Marxist social development of these countries. The same deceptive practice is now being applied to modern China.
Headlines like “China’s Leaders Confront an Unlikely Foe: Ardent Young Communists” and “Is China’s Version of Capitalism Winning?” are representative of the perspective about China’s economic system that’s always presented in today’s American media. The old red-baiting propaganda approach isn’t what’s now used to demonize China, but rather the narrative that China is a plutocratic dystopia where workers are oppressed by a fraudulently socialist regime. (Irony is again found in the fact that America is ruled by such a plutocracy.)
My last essay about China refutes the talking points that claim China is capitalist, including the one which involves China’s treatment of the Marxist students. The reason why these talking points hold such prominence in Western capitalist-influenced media outlets and academic circles is clear: the capitalist class wants to break international worker solidarity with the Chinese Communist Party. This theory is supported by the fact that China holds a gargantuan amount of national resources and wields vast propaganda power, which it’s using to advance the worldwide anti-capitalist movement.
China is using its military and economic strength to support and defend the revolutionary governments in Cuba, Venezuela, and the DPRK; during his visit to Pyongyang this month, Xi Jinping said that “We strongly support DPRK’s socialist construction,” a statement which reflects the major pivot towards Chinese anti-American resistance that’s signified in this latest summit between Xi and Kim Jong Un. China is also using its massive online propaganda presence to spread Xi Jinping’s socialist teachings to people both within China and around the world, which has predictably provoked alarmist headlines from the Western media about the need to beware of China’s messaging campaign. This additional effort to vilify China ties in with the economic warfare and military threats that the U.S. is directing against China and its allies (which are justified through the bogus narrative that China poses any kind of threat to the wellbeing of the American people).
As the U.S. and China fight out their current cold war, the global left must stand in solidarity with China, both for the sake of peace and for the sake of the worldwide socialist movement. In a 1994 interview, Fidel Castro himself urged socialists not to abandon China’s revolution, stating:
If you want to talk about socialism, let us not forget what socialism achieved in China. At one time it was the land of hunger, poverty, disasters. Today there is none of that. Today China can feed, dress, educate, and care for the health of 1.2 billion people. I think China is a socialist country, and Vietnam is a socialist nation as well. And they insist that they have introduced all the necessary reforms in order to motivate national development and to continue seeking the objectives of socialism. There are no fully pure regimes or systems. In Cuba, for instance, we have many forms of private property. We have hundreds of thousands of farm owners. In some cases they own up to 110 acres. In Europe they would be considered large landholders. Practically all Cubans own their own home and, what is more, we welcome foreign investment. But that does not mean that Cuba has stopped being socialist.
The global left must ignore the nay-sayings about China’s socialist project and recognize the point that Castro was making, which is that socialists need to function on the basis of dialectical materialism (the philosophy which states that revolutionaries have to work through the obstacles they’ll inevitably face and deal with capitalist opposition through pragmatism and realism).
What does dialectical materialism say we need to do while we go forward in this moment? It says that like the CCP, the global left has to overcome a vast amount of capitalist and imperialist opposition. It also says that if we can build a strong and unified global socialist movement, and keep away from false capitalist solutions like social democracy, we’ll be able to win out against a capitalist power structure which is at an unprecedentedly vulnerable point. Amid rising discontent with global inequality, the ongoing collapse of the American empire, the climate crisis, and a looming global financial crash, capitalism is collapsing right now. By the 2030s, which is when the U.S. empire will no doubt have come to an end, capitalism will have experienced a momentous series of shocks.
And largely thanks to China, socialism will be in an immensely strong state by that point. The socialist columnist Saikat Bhattacharya recently wrote that “By 2035, the Communist Party of China has assessed that China will outcompete the USA not only in production but also in finance and military. It is then that socialism will be popular across the globe again. Following China, as different Third World countries will narrow per capita income gap and wage rate gap with imperialist countries, the capital’s bargaining power will reduce and working class bargaining power will rise considerably. Then working class revolutions will spring across the globe again. Belt Road Initiative is one way to develop the Third World quickly…Third World development will be followed by an increase in the power of the working class throughout the globe. Neoliberal globalization is already dying out and there is no strong political ideology strong enough to take the opportunity. Global communists must grasp the opportunity.”
Is it a coincidence that some of the promoters of Chinese regime change are roughly putting the 2030s as the time frame for when they hope to see communism defeated in China? Last year, the warmonger Bill Kristol tweeted that “regime change in China” should be “an important U.S. foreign policy goal of the next couple of decades,” a despicable statement which sadly reflects the ideal end goal of Washington’s project for great-power competition with China. Headlines like “Could There Be Another Chinese Revolution?” (which appropriately came from the New York Times last year) are conditioning Americans for this Soviet breakup 2.0 that our government hopes will soon happen in China.
Despite all of this, China is shaping up to be a far more formidable rival to the U.S. than the Soviet Union ever was, with China having the ability to undermine America’s economy and technological dominance in the same way that the U.S. did to the USSR. As an American who’s lived under the austerity politics, censorship regime, propaganda paradigm, and surveillance state of my country’s current capitalist government, I’m glad to see the socialist state of China get this upper hand. I welcome China’s coming era of hegemony, and I’ll always be grateful to the CCP for how it’s helped my cause of socialist revolution.
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