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Progressives around the world oppose the propaganda war against China

CARLOS MARTINEZ reports from a webinar exploring the ‘new cold war’ on China and its basis in racism, emotional narratives and the military-industrial complex

ON SATURDAY October 9, the Friends of Socialist China platform held an international webinar focused on opposing the propaganda warfare being waged by the US and its allies against the People’s Republic of China. 

The event was co-sponsored by the Morning Star, the Grayzone, Pivot to Peace, the International Manifesto Group, and Qiao Collective.

Introducing the event, Radhika Desai, professor of political studies, University of Manitoba, pointed out that, for decades, the West constructively engaged with China at an economic and diplomatic level. 

But the capitalist powers were suffering under two illusions: first, that the Communist Party of China would transform itself into a social democratic or even a neoliberal party that would lead China towards the type of financialised, neoliberal, unproductive capitalism that prevails in the West; second, that China would remain on the bottom rung of the global economic ladder, providing low-cost manufacturing for goods consumed in the West. 

Since neither of these dreams has been realised, the West has started to treat China as an existential threat, using propaganda to build support for its broader cold war strategy.

Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Socialist China co-editors, Danny Haiphong described the propaganda war against China as “an imperialist and racist set of fabrications wielded in the interests of US unipolar hegemony.” 

He noted that the relentless anti-China propaganda keeps people in the West ignorant of the achievements of Chinese socialism and thus prevents them learning from China’s experiences. 

Surely there is something to learn from China’s eradication of extreme poverty, particularly given poverty and inequality are rising rapidly in the major capitalist economies; surely there is something to learn from China’s hugely successful containment of Covid-19.

CGTN reporter Li Jingjing pointed out that any Chinese person who supports their government is liable to be accused by Westerners of being “brainwashed.” 

And yet the vast majority of Chinese people do support their government, not because of any sinister plot, but because China has been transformed in the 72 years following the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. 

From being a country characterised by mass poverty, starvation and backwardness, it has emerged as a major power in science and technology and has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty. 

Life has changed beyond recognition for most Chinese people, but one thing that hasn’t changed very much is the crass anti-China propaganda in the Western media.

China Daily EU bureau chief Chen Weihua observed that China-bashing has become a favourite sport for US politicians, particularly since the escalation of the new cold war under the Trump regime. 

He highlighted the anti-China bias of the US media which, in spite of its nominal independence, consistently supports US foreign policy objectives. 

Further, Chen Weihua condemned the way in which the US ruling class, having defined China as an enemy, relentlessly promotes a negative image of China, thereby generating broad anti-China opinion and building support for anti-China policy. 

Given the need for close co-operation between the US and China in solving common problems, such activity is highly dangerous.

Political analyst and popular YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill recalled president Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address in which he warned about the growing power of the military-industrial complex and its ability to exert undue influence on government policy. 

Sixty years later, these fears have been shown to be well-founded. For example, during the Iraq war from 2003, $100 billion of taxpayer money went to military contractors. 

With the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the putative “China threat” has now become the main cash cow for the military-industrial complex: bulking up the Indo-Pacific Command, the formation of new military alliances, the deployment of hypersonic missiles and reaper assassin drones, and much more.

Author and peace activist Jenny Clegg discussed the role of racism in bolstering the new cold war on China, talking in detail about the notorious fictional character Fu Manchu. 

Fu Manchu was the personification of the “menace from the East,” masterminding a dangerous conspiracy to undermine Western civilisation. 

Clegg pointed out that, emerging at the beginnings of the mass media era, the image of Fu Manchu came to “resonate into the deepest recesses of popular consciousness the world over,” and indeed it remains there to a significant degree. 

The enduring legacy of these and similar portrayals is that they psychologically prepare people in the West for anti-China policies.

Morning Star contributor Kenny Coyle pointed out that the propaganda war has both psychological and ideological elements. 

The psychological element induces us to suspend our critical faculties, presenting a strongly emotional narrative. 

Stories about genocide and concentration camps in Xinjiang aren’t designed to foment a critical and rational debate about ethnic policy in China; rather they are designed to evoke elements of historical memory. 

The ideological element to the propaganda war is based on promoting Western-style capitalist democracy as the only truly democratic system; the most advanced form of civilisation.

Grayzone assistant editor Ben Norton comprehensively debunked the notion, widely promoted in the West, that China is some kind of colonial or imperialist power in Latin America using “debt traps” to influence other countries’ economic and political strategies. 

Norton pointed out that China over the last three decades has developed extremely strong economic and diplomatic relations with progressive, socialist and anti-imperialist governments in Latin America. 

Latin America’s socialist leaders have long supported China’s role in the region, with Fidel Castro, for example, saying in 2004 that “China has become objectively the most promising hope and the best example for all countries of the Third World.”

US peace activist Michael Wong focused on countering the media narrative around Hong Kong, noting that the protest movement in 2019-20 was, in essence, an attempted colour revolution engineered by the US. 

The Western media presented these protests in simple and emotive terms as being peaceful and favouring democracy. 

Yet from the beginning, protesters were setting fires, beating up opponents, smashing up shops and attacking police with baseball bats and fire bombs. 

Protesters killed a senior citizen with a rock, and set another man on fire when he argued with them. 

Rioters were highly organised, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and other US assets; their leaders met with high-ranking US officials, including Mike Pompeo.

Following a short question and answer session, the meeting adopted a statement opposing the propaganda war against China, with the event’s speakers, co-sponsors and organisers of the event as initial signatories.

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