Opinion | Who owns the truth on China?
Is China an irritant or a global threat?
By Philip Yeung, A Chinese-Canadian Contrarian and University Teacher
The West, and its press, watch with alarm as China grows an oversized footprint in world affairs. But forget the fire and fury for a moment, and you should see that while you may dislike China's success or its brash style, it is a serious miscalculation to perceive and paint China as a threat to the world order or to its neighbors.
First, without the US encirclement of China, there wouldn't have been any need to militarize the South China Sea islands. The US is bi-coastal, but China has only one coastline, leaving its flow of commerce totally at the mercy of the US and its huffing and puffing allies.
The West's other fault-finding with China is over Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
On both fronts, there is an unethical distortion of the truth.
"Who is the sinner of a thousand years?"
The mess in Hong Kong is ultimately not ideological in nature. It is an object lesson in how not to govern a city.
The "sinner of a thousand years" is not Beijing, but incompetent local leaders short on compassion and sadly out-of-touch.
Yet, no outside report on the city has delved into deeper social problems simmering in Hong Kong. The West has boiled it down simply to a fight for freedom.
Singapore and mainland China both rank low in the West's democracy ratings, but both are well-governed by purposive leaders sensitive to the needs of their people--orderly and high-achieving with their future in good hands.
But Hong Kong is a different kettle of fish. Agitators claim to be fighting for freedom--the freedom to rampage. They fight the wrong battles, for "independence", an outright rejection of the "one country, two systems" principle. What they demand is beyond the pale, full autonomy without accepting China's sovereignty. Their fight for "universal suffrage" is misguided. Unlike Singapore, Hong Kong lacks good leaders. In our context, "one person one vote" means only the right to vote for the feckless.
Our clueless leaders of Hong Kong have made an unholy mess of the city, leaving Beijing to clean up its aftermath, and getting blamed for it. As it is, the agitators have more freedom than they can handle.
Freedom is overrated
Speaking of freedom, a British long-time teacher in China said, "Freedom is overrated. The West peddles this idea that people in China are downtrodden. That is utter nonsense." Reports on China are penned by western journalists who go to China with a hostile agenda, to discredit it for being communist. They never know China as an ordinary resident.
It is time journalists cleared the cobwebs.
Stylistically, China may be an irritant, but strategically it is no threat to the world.
You may disapprove of China's political packaging, but that should not blind you to the good it has done. Like it or not, China is currently the country with an overabundance of opportunities for the talented and the ambitious. It has minted more billionaires and its people have grown taller faster than any other country; its infrastructure and transportation systems have left America in the dust. It is emphatically no North Korea.
A stubborn orthodoxy
But western journalists are too busy badmouthing China. Can you blame China for not trusting them to be objective? Denied access, they peevishly feel free to cook up stories of "forced sterilizations, abortions, systemic rape of minority women, and indiscriminate brainwashing" in Xinjiang, and present them as gospel truth without a shred of evidence. How do you square China's exemption of Muslim women from its strict one-child policy with alleged forced sterilizations? Systemic rape, by whom? Camp commanders? Given the party's iron discipline, you can immediately rule out this possibility. If true, perpetrators would face the death penalty. As for "brainwashing", it may be no more than de-radicalization and job training of extremists who, let's not forget, have left a trail of death and destruction in the West. How do you swat away these contradictions?
What happens to journalism's cardinal principle of "seeking the truth"? Where do the wild statistics of millions of minorities in captivity come from? They loathe China so much that they have come to believe in their own falsehoods. Even the respectable Economist can't resist working up its moral indignation at a country it is too blind to see.
China is doing too well to be a petty oppressor of minorities
China is doing so well in improving its people's livelihood that it makes no sense to "oppress" or "torture" its minorities. If there are horrible camps in Xinjiang, why are there none in Tibet or the southwest?
Why won't China grant these journalists open access to Xinjiang? The reason is simple, the terrorist attacks there have been provoked by hostile outside forces. These journalists, with their biases, could end up giving comfort to terrorists with their twisted reports. Their professional success depends on purveying sensational stories. A positive story on Xinjiang doesn't sell papers. There is an orthodoxy that China-bashing makes journalistic careers. The myth of China as a bad actor will therefore not die an early death.
The only truth about China that is believable, accordingly, can only be negative. Positivity on China has no market.
What a sad world we live in, where the West owns our morality. Truth has become a Western monopoly.
Silencing one-fifth of humanity
China, for its part, is woefully inadequate in combating western misperceptions. The bullhorns belong to CNN and BBC. When China tries to tell its own stories, it is muzzled, as Britain and Germany have both shut down China's state-owned CGTN. The media game in the West does not include an alternative Chinese voice. But a single voice is open to manipulation by hostile agencies. China must master the art of soft-pedaling its message.
A world with only one voice is downright dangerous and unfair. Everything China says is propaganda. Everything the BBC broadcasts is bankable. This cannot be good.
If your coverage is so one-sided and emotionally judgmental, how is that different from propaganda?
How can you shut up nearly one-fifth of humanity?
This ideological obsession has not only distorted the China story, but it has also distorted the very meaning of "freedom" itself.
Freedom as a livelihood concept, not just a political concept
Freedom is being wielded like a cudgel against China, bashing its government and hurting its people.
But Freedom is not just an abstract political concept. The vast majority of the population goes about their lives without any need for politics. To them, the freedom to be happy and satisfied with one's life is what matters. By this yardstick, people in China have far more freedom than their western counterparts, where the raging pandemic, gun violence, racial attacks, unsafe streets, and the yawning wealth gap make life miserable for those who are born on the wrong side of the tracks.
BBC, have you checked the misery index of western democracies lately?
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.