Category Archives: China

Media Wars: How rumours about a million Uyghur internees in China is fake news

Ben Norton and Ajit Singh write: Numerous major media outlets, from Reuters to The Intercept, have claimed that the United Nations has reports that the Chinese government is holding as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims in “internment camps.” But a close examination of these news stories, and of the evidence behind them — or the lack thereof — demonstrates that the extraordinary claim is simply not true.

A spokesperson from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed in a statement to the Grayzone that the allegation of Chinese “camps” was not made by the United Nations, but rather by a member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN as a whole. That member happened to be the only American on the committee, and one with no background of scholarship or research on China.

Moreover, this accusation is based on the thinly sourced reports of a Chinese opposition group that receives funding from foreign governments and is closely tied to exiled pro-US activists. While there have been many on-the-ground reports highlighting discrimination that Uighur Muslims have faced at the hands of the Chinese authorities, information about camps containing one million prisoners has originated almost exclusively from media outlets and organizations funded and weaponized by the American government to turn up the heat on Beijing.

A blatant falsehood introduced by Reuters and echoed across mainstream media

On August 10, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination conducted its regular review of China’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The review, which is conducted periodically for all 179 parties to the Convention, has generated a frenzied response by the Western corporate press — one which is uniformly misleading.

On the day of the review, Reuters published a report with an explosive headline: “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.”

The claim was feverishly reproduced by outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post to denounce China and call for international action. Even The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan belted out the breathless headline, “One Million Muslim Uighurs Have Been Detained by China, the U.N. Says. Where’s the Global Outrage?” The impression readers were given was that the UN had conducted an investigation and had formally and collectively made such charges against China. In fact, the UN had done no such thing.

The headline of Reuters’ report attributed its explosive claim to the UN; yet the body of the article ascribed it simply to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And this committee’s official website makes it clear that it is “a body of independent experts,” not UN officials.

What’s more, a look at the OHCHR’s official news release on the committee’s presentation of the report showed that the only mention of alleged re-education “camps” in China was made by its sole American member, Gay McDougall. This claim was then echoed by a Mauritanian member, Yemhelhe Mint Mohamed.

During the committee’s regular review of China, McDougall commented that she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports” alleging mass detentions of millions of Uighurs Muslim minorities in “internment camps.” The Associated Press reported that McDougall “did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the hearing.” (Note that the headline of the AP news wire is much weaker than that of Reuters: “UN panel concerned at reported Chinese detention of Uighurs.”)

Video of the session confirms that McDougall provided no sourcing to back up her remarkable claim.

This is to say, one American member of an independent UN body made a provocative claim that China was interning 1 million Muslims, but failed to provide a single named source. And Reuters and the Western corporate media ran with it anyway, attributing the unsubstantiated allegations of one US individual to the UN as a whole.

In an email to the Grayzone Project, OHCHR spokesperson Julia Gronnevet confirmed that the CERD was not representative of the UN as a whole. “You are correct that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an independent body,” Gronnevet wrote. “Quoted comments were made during public sessions of the Committee when members were reviewing State parties.”

Thus the OHCHR implicitly acknowledged that the comments by McDougall, the lone American member of an independent committee, were not representative of any finding by the UN as a whole. The report by Reuters is simply false.

“Credible reports” from a government-funded opposition group with zero transparency

In addition to this irresponsible misreporting, Reuters and other Western outlets have attempted to fill in the gaps left by McDougall, referring to reports made by so-called “activist group” the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). Conveniently left out of the story is that this organization is headquartered in Washington, DC.

CHRD, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from unnamed governments, advocates full-time against the Chinese government and has spent years campaigning on behalf of extreme right-wing opposition figures.

CHRD is not at all transparent about its funding or personnel. Its annual reports contain notes stating, “This report has been produced with the financial support of generous donors.” But the donors are never named.

Publicly available 990 IRS filing forms reviewed by the Grayzone show that the organization is substantially funded by government grants. In fact, in 2015 virtually all of the organization’s revenue came from government grants.

CHRD’s 2015 form 990 discloses that $819,553 of its $820,023 revenue that year (99.94 percent) came from government grants. A measly $395 came from investments, with another $75 from other sources. According to its 2016 form 990, CHRD received $859,091 in government grants in that year.

Which government provided these grants is not clear. The Grayzone did not receive a response to several emailed interview requests sent to the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

However, it appears likely that CHRD could be receiving funding from the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

A search of the NED’s grants database shows funding from 2014 and 2015 totaling approximately half a million dollars to “support the work of Chinese human rights defenders.” It is not clear if this is a reference to the organization specifically, but the description accompanying the grants matches that of CHRD.

CHRD has used its generous funding to provide grants to opposition activists inside China, bankrolling dozens upon dozens of projects in the country.

On its tax forms, CHRD lists its address as the Washington, DC office of Human Rights Watch. HRW has long been criticized for its revolving door with the US government and its excessively disproportionate focus on designated enemies of Washington like China, Venezuela, Syria, and Russia.

Human Rights Watch did not respond to an email from the Grayzone inquiring about its relationship with CHRD.

CHRD’s forms 990 also reveal that the board of the organization is a Who’s Who of exiled Chinese anti-government activists.

The chair of the group is the US-based activist Su Xiaokang, who proclaimed that the Chinese public supposedly “wants the U.S. to watch over activists, and is disappointed when Washington fails.” Fellow US-based dissident Teng Biao is a CHRD director who has sarcastically boasted of how the Chinese communist party dubbed him a “reactionary.”

CHRD’s secretary is the American academic Perry Link, who has built his public reputation on winding up on the Chinese government’s academic “blacklist.” Link testified for the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2014, claiming that the Chinese government is threatening academic freedom in the US.

In his congressional testimony, CHRD secretary Link insisted the US government should crack down on the Chinese government’s Confucius Institute organization and instead fund its own pro-US Chinese-language programs. Link characterized Chinese-language programs as a potential American weapon against the Chinese communist party, arguing they could “very arguably do more to blunt the CPC’s advance than the [B-2 Spirit Bomber] airplane could.”

These are some of the pro-US, anti-Chinese government figures who lead the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Otherwise, there is very little publicly available information about CHRD. It appears to largely be the brainchild of its international director, Renee Xia, an opposition activist who has publicly called for the US government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials under the Magnitsky Act.

Support for the “non violence advocate” who loves America’s wars

CHRD’s founder, Xia, was a strong supporter of the imprisoned hard-right neoconservative Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and she campaigned years for his release.

An archived version of the group’s website shows that as far back as 2010, CHRD was vociferously advocating on behalf of Liu, while likening the Chinese government to Nazi Germany.

While Liu Xiaobo became a cause celebre of the Western liberal intelligensia, he was a staunch supporter of colonialism, a fan of the most blood-soaked US military campaigns, and a hardcore libertarian.

As writers Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong reported in The Guardian in 2010, Liu led numerous US government-funded right-wing organizations that advocated mass privatization and the Westernization of China. He also expressed openly racist views against the Chinese. “To choose Westernisation is to choose to be human,” Liu insisted, lamenting that traditional Chinese culture had made its population “wimpy, spineless, and fucked up.”

While CHRD described Liu as an “advocate of non-violence,” he practically worshiped President George W. Bush and strongly supported the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, as well as the war in Afghanistan. “Non-violence advocate” Liu was even a fan of America’s wars in Korea and Vietnam, which killed millions of civilians.

CHRD’s most recent China report — the one cited by Reuters and other outlets to give credence to the allegations of Uyghur re-education camps — further highlights the organization’s links to Washington and compromised impartiality.

Most sources on the Uighur “camps” story are US government-linked

The most-cited source in the CHRD report, accounting for more than one-fifth of the 101 references, is Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news agency created by the US government. Along with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Televisión Martí, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia is operated by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency of the US government under the supervision of the State Department. Describing its work as “vital to U.S. national interests,” BBG’s primary broadcasting standard is to be “consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.”

The near-total reliance on Washington-linked sources is characteristic of Western reporting on Uighurs Muslims in China, and the country in general, which regularly features sensational headlines and allegations. In addition to CHRD and RFA, it is common for reports to cite the World Uighur Congress, an organization funded by the NED. At a recent NED event, Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal interviewed World Uighur Congress chairman Omer Kanat, who took credit for furnishing many of the claims of internment camps to Western media.

Another favorite congressional and mainstream media source for information about China is the Jamestown Foundation, a neoconservative think tank founded during the height of the Cold War by Reagan administration personnel with the support of then-CIA Director William J. Casey.  Former Jamestown board members include Dick Cheney and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The latest incident of misreporting by Reuters is part of a trend of increasingly hostile, Cold War-like coverage of China by the Western press that coincides with Washington’s push for conflict with Beijing. In a series of policy statements, the Trump administration has repeatedly identified the “threat” posed by “economic and military ascendance” of China, with Defense Secretary James Mattis declaring that “Great Power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

Growing anxious about its diminishing global dominance, the United States seeks to forestall the rise of of an alternative node of international power. A longstanding component of US imperialism is the use of ostensibly impartial “civil society groups” and “think tanks” to promote narratives in the media supportive of US foreign policy goals. Often under the guise of “humanitarian concern,” such stories aim to stir up public outrage and weaponize it to advance imperial ambitions.

This time-tested program is at the heart of the intensifying campaign against China, and as the latest raft of bogus stories demonstrated, the corporate media is eager to play along.

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Xi Ping: “The Communist Party is the guarantor of the interests of the people”

The 19th Communist Party Plenary Conference has consolidated Xi Jinping as the Chinese leader for the next fifteen years. His speech points to plans that take him to 2035, when the next national milestone is to be reached on China’s path to becoming a global power by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic. So, the strong inference is that Xi is likely to remain in office through the 2030s.He is now China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, evidenced by the fact that an entirely new body of “Xi Jinping thought” has been elaborated – and incorporated into the Party’s constitution.

Clearly, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign over the last five years helped him consolidate his position. Since the campaign began, some 278,000 officials have been punished, including 440 at ministerial rank and above – several of which were Xi’s politburo rivals. And, rather than loosening the screws, Xi’s report to the 19th National Congress suggested just the opposite: the Party should prepare for further tightening.

The new Politburo Standing Committee has been shaped by Xi. Li Zhanshu, who will chair the National People’s Congress, and Zhao Leji, who will chair the Party’s disciplinary authority, are both members of Xi’s inner circle. Han Zheng, the executive vice premier, and Wang Huning, who is in charge of all CPC affairs, are both protégés of former president Jiang Zemin. And Premier Li Keqiang and Wang Yang (likely to be Chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee) are from the Tuanpai, the Communist Youth League faction. This political balance will likely favor Xi enough to allow him to secure a third term as president.

Xi’s speech sees China as remaining under the governance of the CPC- a Leninist party that monopolizes state power. Political transformation in the foreseeable future is highly unlikely. Xi states that China will never import a political system from anywhere else in the world. “China’s socialist democracy,” he argues, “is the broadest, most genuine, and most effective democracy to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people,” and it now represents an alternative model for the rest of the developing world. China’s official media have now moved beyond the conventional arguments that democratic decision-making has been ineffective in bringing about long-term economic development, a new set of arguments has been unveiled: Western democracy is corrupt, hypocritical, and fails to meet the needs of the poor.

The edited published version of Xi’s speech provides an invaluable glimpse of the contours of Xi’s strategic vision. It is a vision of a new type of great power relations, by which Xi means geopolitical parity between the US and China. China is to shape the rules governing a new international system that includes not only the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, but also China’s own institutional innovations in the form of the Belt and Road Initiative, the New Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Xi’s thought stresses a ”global community of common destiny for all humankind,” as fundamental. This is a departure for China in the long historical scheme of things, since China has never taken on such a role.

The economy remains centre stage and China’s capacity to delivery on its ambitions shouldn’t be scoffed at. Since Den Xiaoping began to institute structural economic reforms in 1978, China has lifted some 650m people out of poverty. By contrast, middle class incomes in Western economies have stagnated. Whilst Western governments led by the US and UK have, in the 1980-2007 period, deregulated and allowed a major shift from the real to the financial economy, the only real growth that has been experienced by Western companies has been due to their ability to shift their cost base to China, and other developing economies partially dragged along in the wake of Chinese growth.

China may have (quite naturally) slowed, but will still add around $1 trillion or more to its nominal GDP, giving it a $12 trillion economy by the end of this year – thus doubling the economy since 2010. Although this is only two-thirds the size of the US economy, this amount is actually larger than the entire GDP of Indonesia or Turkey, and almost as large as the Mexican economy.

Furthermore, growth has shifted away from the previous export-led model. Official data shows private consumption in China accounting for just 39.2% of GDP, rising from 35.5% of GDP in 2010, an increase that amounts to an additional $2.58 trillion since 2010 – an increment actually larger than the entire Indian economy. The growth of Chinese consumption is easily the most important factor in global consumption growth today. If this trend continued up to 2020, the new number would be 41.5% of GDP, adding another $2 trillion. This will represent the most substantial injection of activity into the global economy in the next few years.

The China credit bubble

We discussed China’s credit bubble on February 7, 2015 in a piece called ‘Capitalism died a long time ago’ ( see: http://different-traditions.com/?p=2416).

It was pointed out just before the crisis in 2007, that China’s GDP has doubled, expanding by $5 trillion in 7 years, but that it took a $21 trillion expansion of debt to accomplish this. Thus China’s Ponzi scheme actually created $4 of debt for every $1 of additional GDP.

Now we begin to see some results. As Doug Noland points out (in: http://creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/weekly-commentary-china.html) we have had a revelatory stock market melt-down in China, and goes on:

Never have so many Chinese owned (over-priced and poorly constructed) apartments. Never have Chinese citizens, governments, financial institutions and corporations accumulated so much debt. Never have the Chinese had so much invested in securities markets. China has zero experience with a multi-trillion (yuan or dollars) “shadow banking system.” Never have so many invested so much in “wealth management” vehicles and other sophisticated financial products, without a clue as to where their “money” was directed. And when it comes to corruption, I seriously doubt history offers a like comparison.

The Chinese – apartment owners, bankers, Internet financiers and policymakers – have never experienced the downside of a massive Credit Bubble. Never has China experienced Trillions of “money” that retains “moneyness” chiefly on the perception that the all-knowing central government will safeguard its value. Never have Chinese finance and spending had such major impacts around the world. China does, however, have a long history of financial panics.

A week after blaming short sellers and foreigners and employing unprecedented market intervention, officials this week espouse a preference for market forces to play a prominent role in setting the value of the Chinese currency. Credibility – so vital in markets and as the bedrock of money and Credit – can dissolve so quickly. Clearly, the Chinese will rely on market forces only so long as the markets are operating consistent with their policy aims.

Chinese officials hold grand ambitions for global economic, financial and military supremacy – a vision brought into keen focus during this protracted Bubble period. In the near-term, however, their fixation has shifted to ensuring that everything doesn’t come crashing down. Collapse would see the focus shift to villainizing foreigners, maintaining social order and retaining power.

 

Capitalism died a long time ago

We will all pay for this.

One could argue that capitalism died around 1913 when the US Fed was founded, but a more sober appraisal could be that the period 1913-1971 was a transition period towards the centralised state finance capitalism we have today.

China’s rise in the past 35 years has been a copy of the West’s state finance capitalism, and its  success to date is proof of the fact that you don’t need a free economy and society to build a Ponzi scheme such as ours.

Since just before the crisis in 2007, China’s GDP has doubled, expanding by $5 trillion in 7 years. A graph below shows that it took a $21 trillion expansion of debt to accomplish this: so China’s Ponzi created $4 of debt for every $1 of additional GDP.

China's debt

The orgy of construction fueled by that debt, much of which is in non-revenue public facilities  or straight-out owned by local government, now weighs heavily on the Chinese economy – the only economy that has been propping up world activity since 2007.

Capitalism in our great-grandfather’s day would have it that debt was managed by myriad businesses, enterprises and small banks that would fail if they made the wrong investment. Now we have situation where centralised state finance capitalism is, through ZIRP, completely distorting markets across the board. We will all pay for this.