Why China’s Uyghurs are back in the headlines
After months of silence, the Western media have refocused their attention on the Uyghurs of China’s Xinjiang region. The agenda is simple – to manufacture public consent for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece for RT pointing out that for the time being, the United States appeared to have shelved the Xinjiang issue – its accusation that China was waging genocide against the Turkic minority group known as the Uyghurs in the far-western province.
I noted that the Biden administration seemed to be strategically limiting confrontation with China, and creating some space for engagement, which resulted in the admittedly frosty Xi-Biden virtual summit last month.
Now that the summit is out of the way, and the Beijing Winter Olympics is on the horizon, it is no coincidence that, after months of silence on Xinjiang, the mainstream media in the West has started pushing new angles and so-called revelations, as well as a number of conspicuous anti-China reports.
In the past week alone, we’ve had attempts to deepen the links of Xi Jinping to the situation in Xinjiang via ‘leaked documents’, accusations that China is developing surveillance tech to target journalists, and a report about China extraditing “Taiwanese nationals” who are accused of fraud in other countries to its own territory.
It should be obvious – except for many it won’t be – that this tidal wave of anti-China propaganda is a deliberately coordinated effort to manufacture consent for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics and an attempt to humiliate China.
Numerous sources in the media have already suggested that the Biden administration has already decided on a boycott, and others, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, may follow suit. This explains the onslaught of anti-China atrocity propaganda, with much more to come, including the findings of the ‘Uyghur Tribunal’, which are scheduled to be published later this month.
It is pure, unbridled manipulation and political theatre, yet ultimately Western audiences will fall for it in the belief that what they are being fed is the objective, impartial truth on matters of concern.
In reality, it is a form of ‘manufacturing consent’ – a term most famously associated with linguist and media scholar Noam Chomsky, who penned a book of the same name. His essays on the matter are of unparalleled value. He explains to us that manufacturing consent is a construct whereby the US government effectively manipulates and coordinates mass media to replicate its narrative in order to buy public support for aggressive foreign policies under the guise of highlighting issues of “moral concern” – most usually claims of atrocities or other human rights abuses.
Chomsky's work explores how an army of think tanks, so-called experts, and other mediums are weaponised to establish talking points and set a stage of debate. Such coverage is always strictly according to preference, and deliberately and hypocritically ignores similar abuses or atrocities in other countries.
Why, for example, does the media talk about China, but not Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen? Why does it not demonize Vietnam as a similarly evil communist regime? Yet part of the process is that if the US intended to create a narrative against either country, it could.
This is how it controls public consciousness; the public buy into this because they are taught to believe they are enlightened, and that their ideology represents the ultimate political and moral truth.
Consequently, they assume that when it comes to foreign policy, their governments do not act out of self-interest or deception, but legitimately promote the values they profess to hold against a target demonized through the constant application of atrocity propaganda. They are conditioned to think the mainstream media is independent and impartial and that propaganda is only something adversarial countries do.
In line with this, cherry-picked experts are given a platform to legitimate these claims – such as German anti-communist scholar Adrian Zenz, who has become the constant ‘go-to man’ on Xinjiang – as well as dissidents, and a debate is generated on the grounds of ‘we must do something’, building up to the agenda the government in question wishes to push. For a historical example, see the notorious claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and so the UK and US had to go to war in Iraq.
Despite the level of deception involved in that effort, Western audiences don’t appear to have learned any lessons, and ‘genocide in Xinjiang’ is simply the latest claim periodically weaponised in this way to legitimate various policy goals of the US government.
Xinjiang and the Uyghurs have been an instrumental strategic tool used to reset US policy on China, largely throughout the Trump era – and to push allied countries to do the same. The Xinjiang claims first began appearing in 2018, when the Trump administration unleashed its trade war on Beijing and began to reorient US policy towards competition with China.
Their early usage involved legitimating allegations against Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and Hikvision, to justify sanctions against them. Throughout 2019, the issue was largely frozen in order to sustain trade talks between China and the US. Then in 2020, as the ‘phase one deal’ was completed and Trump sought to go all out against China in view of the election and the pandemic, the Xinjiang story was ramped up again at a greater intensity.
This pattern continued after Trump lost the election in a strategic bid to box Biden in on China, with the legally flawed declaration of ‘genocide’ by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In its early months, the Biden administration continued to weaponise Xinjiang with a view to setting the scene for its presidency, marshalling allies and undermining China’s Comprehensive Investment Agreement with the EU, before shelving the issue for a period of time. And now it has returned, in a bid to manufacture consent for a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, which, while largely symbolic and inconsequential, aims to deprive China of attaining any legitimacy from the event.
As just one example of how coordinated and deceitful the whole process is, within moments of the new Xinjiang ‘leaked documents’ being published in the media, you had members of the anti-China group IPAC immediately demanding a boycott in the British Parliament.
Yes, there are human rights problems in the tightly controlled Xinjiang region. It is a strict area of control owing to the legacy of ethnic conflict and terrorism. Beijing has sought to assimilate the Uyghur group in order to secure stability.
The new documents attempt to insinuate that Xi Jinping is complicit by affirming he made comments about assimilation, yet President Emmanuel Macron of France has arguably made harsher arguments for the same thing with regard to French Muslims.
Would the integration of French Muslims ever be characterised as ‘genocide’? The absurdity of this suggestion illustrates how the hysteria of the Xinjiang coverage deliberately omits what is a mixed picture, and ignores the prosperity and opportunity brought to Uyghurs, as well as affirmative action programs the Chinese government runs in their favour. Many Uyghurs are members and officials of the Communist Party.
In which case, the all-out crusade and posturing on the issue of the Uyghurs can be seen as a deliberately deceitful and opportunist act pushed by an American government which has a long and well documented history of waging atrocity propaganda to attract support for its highly aggressive foreign policy, under the guise of self-righteousness.
People should be aware of what is happening and not fall for it again.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.