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Kai's Diary, May 1: Be the Best that You Can Be (Part 4)


Part 4 of 4, in Kai’s essay, ‘Lack of Trust’ concerning Western bias and the pursuit of understanding in the time of COVID

China is planning to give out billions of doses of their vaccine to developing countries and is criticized for doing so by the West, who’s also criticized for not doing so, for vaccine hoarding is a global threat when developing countries desperately need the help. America has a billion doses, and developing countries are expected to wait until 2023 while COVID ravages their health system and people. It does feel like the West will criticize China for anything these days, just to deflect attention away from their own problems, and while the accusations leveled can often play to the heart or sound serious, often there is very little supporting evidence behind them and that in itself is problematic, in a history of spin and lies used to manufacture consent for war, coming up on twenty years since they paraded a tearful young girl in front of a camera to say how Iraqi soldiers were killing Kuwait babies, throwing them from incubators, on top of the weapons of mass destruction. Later, almost a million dead later, it was revealed none of those claims were true. No dead babies, no weapons of mass destruction, no reason to invade Iraq. One day America might face a war crimes tribunal if they ever agree to play fair. Although mainstream news barely touches it, we see that the chemical attack in Douma, Syria that killed 40 was actually revealed by the OPCW’s own chief inspectors to be staged, the report later changed by admin, not on the ground. Politicians called the inspectors out as ‘rogue agents spreading lies or incompetent ‘pseudo-science quacks,’ but it was their most veteran inspectors, their most credible scientists that said there was no chemical attack there.

It feels like I’m into Jason Bourne tinfoil hat stuff, but my very friends on social media are susceptible to the spin machine. How could you not be? They ask me how I can champion China’s COVID response for a year as an example of how to successfully use nonpharmaceutical when 1–3 million Uighurs in Xinjiang are being held in jails and/or coerced into forced labor to make Xinjiang cotton. It sounds very serious and is meant to silence me into being ashamed I moved to make a life here, I suppose, for being happy in a country that could do such bad things. I don’t get how one-sided and flimsy it all sounds without anyone really recognizing or questioning that. Three million? That would be 30% of the population, locked up? How would they even manage to house and feed that many people? It defies logic and commonsense.

It’s hard to believe that the whole world could buy a narrative presented by fewer characters than I have fingers but I will run it down again. Look closely at the sources for the stories and you see a very small recurring cast of characters. A group of people connected to an independence militia movement, formerly a terrorist group (East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), that the US just de-listed, allowing them to fundraise in a further effort to ferment violence and disruptions with China. Then there’s Rushan Abbas, a spokesperson who worked for the CIA in Guantanamo and gets paid from NED, a pro-democracy group funded by the military. In Australia, you have ASPI, a think tank funded by the Australian military, who employed a teenage “hacker” to use google earth to identify factories and large compounds and call them all prisons with blurry aerial photography. What they don’t recognize is that it’s common in China to live and work in the same place, I live at my school too and I am not a prisoner. And the ringleader is a German religious nut named Adrian Senz who’s the US expert for Xinjiang despite never having lived here. His primary qualifications are being vocally anti-Chinese and he believes all nazis are victims of communism, including children that weren’t born because of communism. Not abortion, but because of circumstances like increased social welfare leading to lower birth rates. Despite his lack of any qualifications, he happily takes money from the military. His figure of “1 million Uighurs” was a ‘guess’ from a supposed former prisoner, and he writes reports that misquote and fudge Chinese documents to use in media broadcasts, such as a report about how China has brought 850 million people out of poverty and has now required all citizens of China to have only two children (previously Han Chinese could only have one, and Uighur could have as many as they want).

The UTIs used to help with birth control were 8% in Xinjiang, but Zenz said it made up 80% of all the surgeries in China, being wrong by a factor of 10x and essentially saying that every woman in Xinjiang had 3 UTI birth control surgeries a day, every day, for years. They call this sterilization and genocide because it’s politically convenient to attack an economy that is booming when their own is in decline, and personally, this offends me that the media recites it, and people will believe it. It undermines real genocides and disrespects real victims of it.

No matter that Xinjiang has the fastest population growth in China. From 2015 to 2017, the annual growth rate was usually above 1.1 percent. It dropped to 0.613 percent in 2018, but was still twice the national average of about 0.3 percent, according to the central and regional government census. Senz and Abbas have made claims and the BBC and NYT print that up to 30% of people are in prison, based on literally no data, a 16-year-old on google earth taking pictures of schools and factories, without any idea of how a society could operate and feed and house 30% of its population in prison…an astounding figure. In China, people laugh at it, it’s painfully out of touch with reality. 

The problem I have with all of this is that America can start wars in five countries, bomb a million Muslims around the world in the name of its national security, persecute Muslims across the middle east, making up lies and stories to manufacture consent at home for their wars, and then has the gall to accuse China of genocide for locking up people it perceives as threats, re-educating them to deescalate extremism, building up their communities with economic opportunities and monitoring their families. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and if you believe Edward Snowdon, a pretty serious surveillance state of its own. This is despite the national incarceration rate being at its lowest in 20 years. About 25% of the world’s total prison population is in the United States, despite it being only 4% of the world’s population. The USA is holding over 2.19 million prisoners as of 2019 (1.38 million in federal and state prisons, 745,200 in jails), the vast majority of them are people of color, Blacks, Natives, Hispanics, and many of them for soft drug charges such as Marijuana, even as it becomes a billion-dollar industry for white CEOs across the country. Their 13th amendment allows the use of them in factories, plantations, even fighting fires for an average of $1-$5 per day. So when America calls out mass incarcerations and labor conditions, I can’t help but feel like it’s a lot of projection. But I don’t know for sure. I know my wife’s cousin has a cotton plantation in Xinjiang, and they use John Deere tractors, not slave labor. I know that sanctioning half a million jobs in Xinjiang by the west, forcing Adidas, Nike, and H&M to cancel their contracts, does not actually help the day-to-day lives of Xinjiang people to thrive. If anything, it will drive them back towards poverty and make them more susceptible to extremist thought. The sad thing is I think that’s the point.

There are interests in the West that want to create conflict, making their money selling guns and bombs. The complicated thing is I don’t think most people who watch TV are bad. They just see things and believe them, repeat them and post them. But it hurts those of us who live in China and love our lives because we see that this negative portrayal is not honest, or just or real. I haven’t been to Xinjiang, though, yet, so I guess that’s something I have to see for myself, to be sure. I’m planning to go, as soon as I can, this summer perhaps.

Eling Park is a natural oxygen bar in the heart of Chongqing.

I used to use this quote in music when I was younger, by Mario Savio, in live sets. “There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you cant take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to throw your body upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it and the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” It could mean many things to many people, but to me, it can represent the feelings of those of us that want to stop the eternal war machine and the corporate-capitalist machine to stop destroying our planet. They are powerful forces, but together, we are stronger, and so I have hope.

I have lost touch with friends and some family members for my work in fighting the COVID pandemic, championing the green new deal, and in trying to point out the flimsy nature of the sources the West uses to trash, countries compete with, including China, often before they attack them. I regret none of it because it seemed like the right thing to do. I think of a quote by Deitrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Although it is much simpler not to wade into such nuanced and complicated dialogues, I believe it is a mistake not to speak our minds and do our best.

Every country does things in the name of security, like jailing individuals for many years, that our empathetic hearts would find arduous, but we trust that it is for the greater good to preserve the rule of law and safety in society, while we try to work towards a more balanced system of justice, for all, not for some. I wonder how the Western media is able to hone in on politically convenient targets (i.e., its major competitor on the world stage) for the public to be outraged by while ignoring or washing over those that are not convenient. Saudi Arabi gets a pass for their murdering of Western journalists because the West is hungry for oil, but the changing testimonies of a handful of former CIA operatives is proof enough for the major networks to poison the amazing work China has done in the minds of millions around the world. And by that, I mean, raise 850 million people out of poverty and govern 1.4 billion people in one country that works very well together for the most part and is the safest place I’ve ever walked around in, day or night. That doesn’t seem right or fair, but I only know what I know, and until I go and see for myself, I can only speculate the truth. In the end, we trust what we see, what we experience, and what we discover.

Travel and learning foreign languages are the best ways to eliminate racism because when we go around the world, we see that people are just people and most governments are just people doing their best to thrive in a complicated world. I am excited for the end of the pandemic, one day, to get back to travel. I’ve seen a dozen countries and languages this decade since I left Canada and want to see 100 more in this fantastic experience called life. I trust we’ll get there. We have to.

US President Joe Biden, wow, that feels much nicer to say, less heavy than the former, made his first impassioned speech to congress. Acting like a moderate, his fairly progressive caucus is pushing for some real change and imploring the 10 Republicans they would need to fix their country to get on board. I wish him luck. In his speech, he said that the country that gets out from under the pandemic first would rule for the next 100 years, and he needed their help to help him get America back on track to compete with China. To be fair, China has 400% of America’s population, and most people subscribe to 996 cultures, 9 am-9 pm working, six days a week. I don’t know how America feels it can keep up with this engine as it’s now getting fired up, and with the pandemic in China effectively over since April 2020, China has worked to get back on track and even made a 3.4% GDP growth in 2020, one of the only countries in the world to maintain positive growth. That is to say, I guess, that I hope Joe gets the help and support he needs to make America better for his people, but it shouldn’t be to beat China or any other country, but because they want a nice place to live. Only fragile egos need to be the best, rather than be happy to work hard to be the best that they can be.

When I try to step back and be objective, which side, the West, spearheaded by the USA, or China, is more likely right here, I see what the facts can tell me. A simple google search reveals 7 governments the US has overthrown, 35 countries where the US supported fascists, drug lords, and terrorists, and 72 countries since the cold war that the US tried to forcibly change their governments. The US has been involved in 5 major wars and attacked at least as many others for one reason or another, for their own interests in resources, or global and financial dominance. When I do the same search for China, I get a much smaller list: skirmishes within its territories and along its borders. The only government the Chinese CPC seems to have toppled is the former Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese revolution 70 years ago.  America has 800 military bases in more than 70 countries around the world, while China so far has only one base outside of its territory, in Djibouti. I feel like it’s pretty clear who is being the aggressor here, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if, like when former president Donald Trump would attack his opponents, that there is a fair amount of projection going on. That said, I know you cannot manage a nation as big as America or China without making some tough choices, and to create a peaceful environment, they crack down pretty hard on those they deem to be threats. If you can give America a pass for all that, and trust that they’re doing what they do, in the ‘best interests of their people and the world, how can you not give China the same benefit of the doubt? I am not trying to apologize for that or invalidate the suffering of human experience at the hand of empires, but just try to be objective and clear-minded about why the voices on TV point out certain stories for us to get angry about while ignoring others that might be more blatant, and upsetting, but do not get our attention or our focus. There is a political calculus that goes beyond morality, a pragmatism when the West gives Saudi Arabia a pass because it needs an oil, because, well, they’re democratic, they’re allies, or, perhaps, they have no oil and pose no economic or military threat to the USA, so they don’t matter too much. This makes me sad when political calculus and manipulations can pretend to wear the cover of morality, for, like using the word genocide without cause, it dilutes the potency of these words, and as a writer, I do believe words matter.

On the topic of suffering, it hurts my heart to hear that as desperate as the fight in Indian cities is against the COVID outbreak, it is worse in the villages, where there are no hospitals, no oxygen, and no doctors, simply people with fevers, and headaches, gasping for breath, struggling to survive. It’s a tragedy, and it will get worse before it gets better, and all the aid in the world could arrive before it makes its way into those rural village blocks and alleviates their suffering. I am grateful, and lucky, that I and my family are healthy and safe, and I hope for the end of the pandemic soon. Stay home, wear a mask, get your vaccine, and save lives. That message hasn’t changed, and it’s still true today.

I visited China on a teaching tour in July of 2014, when I was still doing music, playing gigs and I didn’t expect it to change me so much. I fell in love with Chongqing, and have been here for seven years, marrying a wonderful wife and being accepted into a large Chinese family. I’ve been a mentor and teacher to thousands of bright students, had the privilege to be an editor and writer and podcaster for iChongqing, and publish my pandemic diary in English and Chinese both in China and around the world. The experience has connected me with many people, old friends and new, and a few that told me to give up. I’m glad I didn’t listen. It will take more than a few blurry photos and the easily discredited testimony of intelligence agents and extremists allied with violent terrorists to change my mind, but I’m listening with my heart and ears open, and hope that my readers can try their best to listen too.

One thing for certain, we need to communicate better and learn to trust again. If I can’t discuss world issues because I don’t believe their sources and they don’t believe mine, it makes for a pretty fragmented experience. I hope, soon, we can travel again, because travel is what kills natural prejudices and shows us that we are all human, we are all one.

I’m planning to finish and publish a few Amos the Amazing stories this summer and get them out as soon as possible. I feel like I might be able to write fiction again, after spending so long glued on the news and reporting the pandemic. I will keep blogging, but, want to tell some of the stories of my heart while I can. I want to publish them here, and maybe one day meet Zhang Yimou and see them on the screen. It is my dream, and everyone should have one. I made a new shirt to remind myself to work on it every day, so the stories in my heart could light my way through the darkness ahead.

Kai’s new Amos the Amazing Tshirt for his book about a Chongqing boy who discovers a world of magic.


A Tour in Chongqing, A Gain in Vision

A Land of Natural Beauty, A City with Cultural Appeal

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