Recently, the international calls for an examination of Xinjiang and treatment of the Muslim Uighurs have been louder, after some groups pressured big companies such as Adidas, Nike, H&M, and Skechers to stop using Xinjiang cotton. They made accusations that it was produced in unethical ways, essentially using prison labor (yes, those in America ignore that they have the world’s largest prison population, of mostly people of color, many arrested for crimes created explicitly for racist persecution by white nationalists, like marijuana possession, and also use prison labor to manufacture goods and even fight fires but I have had little success in pointing out that hypocrisy).
It was interesting how the brands reacted. Most of them, Adidas, Nike, H&M, eager to avoid any controversy and appear woke at all costs, all emphasized that they were against slave labor and severed ties with Xinjiang. Only Skechers actually seemed to bother to investigate the claims on the ground. It’s telling, that they found everything to be above the board, normal working conditions, acceptable and humane treatment of workers, ‘fair’ payment according to the market. They put out a statement that the allegations were false. It’s interesting that, without any evidence, the brands that cut contracts with Xinjiang (giving jobs and work to a minority inside China in a developing previously fairly barren area) were applauded by the Twitterverse, and the one that did the work to investigate and continued to provide economic opportunities to the people in question was doubted and maligned. There is a real lack of trust that makes it hard to communicate. It’s been a problem for a while, it goes back farther than Trump and his claims of ‘Fake News’ but he tossed gasoline onto that fire and it’s going to take a lot of prisoners to put it out. For what it’s worth, baby Ethan’s father’s mother, essentially a cousin-in-law of my wife’s family has a cotton manufacturing business in Xinjiang Xiaolin has told me. When I asked her about it, how the cotton was produced she described and showed pictures of fancy new American John Deere tractors and equipment, not this bizarre image of malnourished slaves chained together picking by hand. I asked if the workers got paid a fair (market) wage, she said, of course, and invited me to go see the place some time. I think I would like to.
For a long time in the West, we had a single narrative; we bought into it, as western-centric as it was. It was pro-corporate and pro-elite and western-biased, but it was The News, and we believed it. Now it’s been fractured into a right-wing and left-wing spin, a corporate-military spin, and fringe theories and realities all spinning around, like a hyper manic pinball machine, a dizzying array of ping-pong balls firing off the stage in a crazy kaleidoscopic Bangkok vaudeville show. I can’t trust the Western media to discuss foreign policy honestly because their agenda is too skewed for the selfish interests of those who make pills, bombs and buy news stations, but just as much, you in the West wouldn’t trust a documentary from China’s state media setting the record straight, assuming it was a different flavor of propaganda, by its very interest, biased to be pro-Chinese. It gets weird when ex-pats on the ground showing their life are similarly distrusted when people tell me they, who’ve never been to Asia, know what my life must be like more than I do, who’s been here for close to a decade. Then there’s the Pushback, and Greyzone folks, and others that do push back against the popular Western narrative and show stories that the mainstream media buries, often in the pursuit of de-escalating the military-war machine from building consent to invade another country, but some of my friends and followers on social media write them off as Russian propagandists. Never mind, that Aaron Maté, son of the renowned healer, addiction and early childhood trauma specialist and Canadian doctor Gabor Maté comes from a line of truth-speakers and healers, the grandson of Hungarian jews persecuted by literal Nazis, when I brought him up, an old friend, without doing a cursory investigation and full of righteous fury, called me a bootlicker, and him a Nazi on the internet for pushing back against the popular narrative. We don’t speak anymore, sadly, but I don’t miss his mean-spirited words when he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong. My wife doesn’t get why I try, but I want to set the record straight.
It’s all really so confusing. But now, more than ever, it’s important to think clearly and ask good questions. One good question I have is if the Western media coverage of China is fair and unbiased, why don’t they ever report on our good news? Whether it’s our excellent COVID response (one of the best in the world), lifting more than 850 million people in the last few decades out of poverty, world-class cities, a phenomenal and affordable high-speed train system, or China’s vaccinee generosity to developing nations, I can’t find a single piece of good news about China from the West. It’s almost like they’re afraid to admit we’ve got a pretty good place here, and they’re afraid for you to know it, too. I sometimes feel that if they didn’t make us look like some kind of bad guys, you’d wonder why we are so happy, and what our secret was? That’s got to stop, in the name of peace and mutual prosperity, it has got to stop. For the record, we often print very good news from the West and think very highly of many western countries, products, and goods.
I wonder, why does the West want to convert everyone to be like it? Is that a universal property or a western property? Could you imagine if China went around trying to make everyone Chinese? In fact, I have books that show that centuries before European colonialism, Chinese sailors discovered North America and while they left artifacts, they did not seek to conquer. When the BBC reports about China taking back Hong Kong, it conveniently leaves out the colonialism and oppression, and aggression of the British that stole the territory in the first place for 100 years. Sure, they built some nice buildings, but I don’t believe in their arrogance, the BBC would ever consider that China might not want democracy inherently, that them being what historians call a civilization state, have a different way of doing things that people are absolutely positive about. It might sound crazy, but if you saw it, and lived here, you would believe it. Why not? The people have opportunities, a growing middle class, and their lives have continued to improve in fundamental ways over the last decades and they believe their children’s lives will continue to, so why wouldn’t they be positive and content?
Where do the Western claims that bash China so much that bother my friends and make them worried for me come from? This is one area that I’ve been digging into a little bit, and it’s quite interesting. While very serious, they seem to get data from a tiny number of people and often with questionable backgrounds and funding from very biased sources. And that’s worth thinking about, why there isn’t even a basic level of scrutiny to these claims, and how a handful of people with an obvious agenda get the mouthpiece of the BBC, NYT, and the other major networks, without anyone asking what I would consider meaningful for hard questions.
A good example would be that when the two spokeswomen claiming genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang are revealed to get funding from NED (a US Congress and military-funded center to push democracy into countries that don’t want it), that should be a red flag to a critical mind. Their own page states “The National Endowment for Democracy is a U.S. agency that was founded in 1983 with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad. While sometimes referred to as a non-governmental organization, the NED functions as a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization.” Funded by Congress, with an agenda to push back against non-Western-aligned countries, their testimony also has suspicious holes. I wonder how can normally “bulletproof” journalistic machines air their testimony without poking into it, be so convinced without objective and independent evidence? One woman (Rushan Abbas) claimed to be in a retraining center, but the BBC blurred out only the detail of her passport renewal date, later it was revealed, she renewed her passport while she was supposedly locked up, something that doesn’t make a lot of sense and undermines the veracity of her testimony. She also changed her story at least three times, going from mildly unpleasant and then later escalating it repeatedly with more and more details in regard to torture and rape, with an aim to further demonize the guardians and bureaucrats of the Xinjiang region. In the West, one can not question a claim of rape, so we immediately accept this as true, but we have seen in the past how easy it is to manipulate a Western audience to manufacture consent for war, and later, find out that the real war criminals were the ones making lies to justify the invasion. There are also issues where she claims her sister is in prison, and her mother has reported they just don’t talk to her and have broken off contact. These stories are common — someone claims their nephew was killed in a Xinjiang prison, and then their brother posts pictures, the family is happily living in another country and doesn’t understand why they’ve been used as propaganda. When asked how she felt about US-led genocides in the middle east, she seemed glib, not having a comment about that, very careful not to bite the hand that feeds. She’s got one job, discredit China, don’t talk about human rights with her unless that’s the narrative. Checking her website, she boasts about plenty of experience working for government agencies, homeland security, and the CIA. This is the witness put forth that they want to use to manufacture consent for war? So much hangs in the balance, so we must give this narrative a hard pass until concrete evidence comes forward to support them. We must not beat the drums for war again.
I would be swayed to see it for myself or read it from people who have first-hand experience and evidence and do not receive money from organizations trying to push a Western agenda on China, or militants pushing for violent independence. That hasn’t happened yet. I have seen Colin Powell’s former aid in the state department Lawrence Wilkerson explain why Afghanistan is so important to the US, because it’s their pipeline into disrupting China via Al Qaeda, using violent extremists to make issues and slow China’s progress (watch it for yourself).
I guess it bothers me, whatever the truth is, that we only hear half the story, without context, and that is an unfair depiction of China. With the history of racism in the West, I feel it’s part of a campaign of unfair treatment and portrayal as Other that really bothers me and feels unjust. What people don’t often acknowledge in the Xinjiang story is that fighting violent extremism and terrorism is hard and that the West hasn’t written the playbook on it yet. China had escalating terror attacks with bombs and machetes that left hundreds dead until they raised security to protect the region. Many locals claim to feel safer now and appreciate the rapid economic development in their lives. It is never judged against the American standard either because I don’t see ‘1 million dead and endless wars in 6 countries that create more orphans and more terrorism’ as inherently better than using mass surveillance or jails and ‘re-education centers’ to track and hold those who leave China to fight with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, get trained in violent terror tactics, and then come back to try to ferment violence and disorder. Every country enforces the right to protect its people from without and within, and create armies and jails for that purpose. I read that China blocked Facebook after Facebook refused to block accounts from Al-Qaeda from recruiting inside China, where as many as 10,000 Uighurs are believed to have left to go fight in the Middle East. China fears and monitors closely for their return and activities to prevent future violence. Xinjiang is too important to China, and I believe, for their new silk road and trade initiatives that in this way, similar to the USA, that they refuse to bargain with terrorists. Instead, they develop the Xinjiang region, pouring billions into building roads, shops, jobs, factories jobs, schools, and opportunities for a better life. This is the way to fight terrorism, and I wish people in the West would get to see that side of it and not just the biased news coverage.
The misinforming isn’t just politics when health is made political. I think about the vaccine business going on these days, and Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis, causing a blood clot in roughly one in 1 million patients. This has stopped the use of the two affordable vaccines, while the costly ones are rolling ahead as they paused their rollout, with one of six being fatal. This seems to be related to the adenovirus properties of the Oxford Astraezenica vaccine. Both are flagged and being studied further. Experts seem to think that unless “fixed,” they will not be recommended for use in women under 50, as those are the demographics of all affected patients in this extremely rare condition. Some criticize big pharma for playing up this rare condition (hell, birth control has a 1 in 10,000 chance for a clot, and people use it) and underplaying the for-profit vaccines’ side effects. There are billions and billions of dollars of profit to be made in a pandemic, so it’s natural to be skeptical but sad all the same to see this lack of trust so directly impeding our best efforts to right the ship. Then again, my mom told me about a 54-year-old woman who died yesterday in Quebec due to a blood clot from AstraZeneca. It’s hard to argue with it when it’s someone you know; it hits home. Pfizer has a rare case of facial paralysis, but while both are rare, no one has paused that money maker. A very real question we need to know, but I understand how difficult it is to study, is how infectious can the vaccinated be? And how will having a partly vaccinated relaxed portion of society mingling with a more (or less) cautious unvaccinated masked (or unmasked) population affect each other? Stay tuned, this year, to find out.
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