It would be impossible not to have noticed the onslaught against China in Britain’s media in recent years.
This targeted offensive has extended right across the monopoly owned press, the BBC and online media, focusing on COVID-19, the Uyghurs in Xinjang, Hong Kong, contested islands in the South China Sea and, most recently, Taiwan.
Despite our press here in Britain being famously ‘free and independent’, the allegations, the supposed evidence relied on and the editorial line are all strikingly uniform. And it’s a narrative that has been consistently trumpeted across the full spectrum of the media, both the ‘right’ and ‘left’.
This propaganda offensive has been built up in tandem with increasing and very real aggression and expansionism by the USA, Britain and NATO.
NATO has of course been expanding in Eastern Europe for decades. After having provoked the tragic invasion of Ukraine, NATO has managed to cynically exploit the situation it created by presenting itself as the only force for peace in Europe, rather than what it is – an aggressive first strike nuclear bloc soaked in blood.
But it’s not just in Europe that Britain, the USA and NATO have been expanding and rattling the sabre.
The USA and Britain have had a web of military bases across Asia for decades but since Obama’s so called ‘pivot to Asia’, the attention and resources of the imperialist powers have been transferred increasingly to South East Asia.
The USA conducts ever larger and more provocative military drills just off the Chinese coast with massive fleets, thousands of miles from the USA. Imagine what the reaction would be if China did the same.
Britain has also got firmly in on the act with the so-called ‘AUKUS’ pact which involves providing nuclear armed submarines to Australia. Again, we can only imagine the reaction of the imperialist powers and their obedient media if China were to act in the same way.
A new Cold War
Britain’s ruling class, in their subservient role to US imperialism, identify a threat in People’s China.
China’s model of peaceful economic development and cooperation represents a significant challenge to the USA’s domination of the whole planet, which has gone largely unchecked in the decades since the destruction of the Soviet Union.
As China comes to surpass the USA economically and as the USA buckles under its own contradictions, extreme poverty, inequality and racial oppression, the USA is lashing out. China is simultaneously the great ideological foe on the international stage and the source of much of the USA’s domestic trouble – from manufacturing job losses to the culture wars (apparently stoked via TikTok).
They are determined to provoke an arms race, surround and isolate China with hostile bases and undermine the country internally and externally.
Successive Tory governments have fallen in line with US policy to the letter. Not just under the nuclear umbrella but on the end of a leash. The paranoid anti-communist rhetoric coming out the Secretary of State’s mouth one day, is sure to be coming out the Foreign Secretary’s the next.
Many are quite correctly calling what we are seeing in Washington and London today the beginning of a new cold war. Likewise, many in the monopoly owned media and the Tory Party are openly calling for one.
All of the major parties in Britain now support the drive to war. The Greens and the SNP have abandoned even the pretense of any opposition to NATO in light of the Russian invasion. They all trumpet the same anti-communist rhetoric as the Tories and the US state department.
The achievements of the Chinese people have been truly stunning. Since throwing off foreign domination and doing away with feudal warlords, Chinese socialism has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty and is set to become the biggest economy in the world. Women and national minorities have achieved meaningful rights and recognition. There have been truly amazing scientific and economic achievements.
So much more could be said on all of the achievements of People’s China.
Internationally, and in stark contrast to the imperialist powers, China has been a force for peace in the world – resisting US and NATO aggression and calling for peace and respect for national sovereignty. China has also played a massive role in building infrastructure in developing countries.
I had the opportunity to visit Beijing earlier this year at the invitation of the All-China Youth Federation. What really struck me meeting young people there was the optimism of that society and the Chinese people.
In Britain working people and the youth are battered into submission, isolated and atomised, and forced to accept that we have to work harder, to be poorer and have less opportunities and control over our lives.
The young people I met had a confidence and a sense of collective hope about the future for themselves and for their society.
Sadly this is something I think you would struggle to find among young workers and students in Britain. And they were open and happy to discuss the difficult questions and the propaganda. They were concerned about the question of peace and had a sincere desire for their society to be better understood.
All this being said, it’s not for Britain’s communists to dogmatically defend each and every decision of the Chinese government or Communist Party. We are concerned with building Socialism in Britain and, more to the point, we can be sure they are more than capable of arguing their own case.
What can be said is that claims and arguments about China should be evaluated on the actual evidence.
The propaganda: fact or fiction?
People might still remember a few years back when the Tories were forced by the USA to cancel Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network. It cost taxpayers billions and set back our own modernisation. Even the Tories admitted that there is no evidence that Huawei has ever attempted espionage or been used as a vehicle for spying.
It was a decision made in Washington and imposed on Britain.
On Hong Kong, despite being the former colonial power and having no right to dictate to China, the Tory government has had the audacity to echo US rhetoric. Again there is no evidence that the Hong Kong or Chinese authorities have acted disproportionately in maintaining order.
What there is clear evidence of is US meddling, sponsoring groups and diplomats meeting anti-China activists. The actions of the Hong Kong police force compared with the mass incarceration, state violence and extra judicial killings which are daily life in the USA speaks for itself.
Perhaps most pervasively in our media, we see the claims of repression of Uyghurs in Xinjang. Despite the United States and Britain being the two countries responsible for the deaths of over 2.5 million Iraqis and the destabilisation of the entire Middle East, they now purport to be the champions of the rights of Muslims in China.
The strategic importance of Xinjiang in terms of mineral resources and its location on China’s western border, central to the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, is entirely coincidental.
The main source for most of these claims is the US citing a discredited born-again Christian anthropologist, Adrian Zenz. Other than alleged drone footage and unverified photos, there is no independent documentary evidence.
Objectively and given the spying capacity available to the US, it would be reasonable to think that it would be extremely difficult to conceal camps alleged to hold up to the claimed 2 to 5 million people.
What there is evidence of is a genuine risk of Islamic fundamentalism in Xinjang, with increasing terrorist attacks and mass stabbings across China since 2004. At least 5,000 jihadists from Xinjang are estimated to have fought with Islamic state in Syria. The jihadist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Xinjang is recognised as a terrorist movement by most governments including, as chance would have it, by the USA and Britain.
It’s worth noting that by and large very few Muslim countries and certainly none that are out with the orbit of the USA have condemned Chinese actions in Xinjang. In fact, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation which has 57 member states has commended China’s anti-jihadist framework.
Individuals and organisations should judge for themselves what is taking place in Xinjang and draw their own conclusions based on the evidence which can be relied upon.
Lately we have also seen the efforts to ratchet up the tension over Taiwan, a province which, even according to the USA’s own foreign policy is part of China. The US and British States and their compliant media’s openly seek to portray Taiwan as ‘China’s Ukraine’ and combine this with increasing military provocations. Just as in actual Ukraine, they are happy to gamble with the lives of others.
We might remember that before Taiwan, before Hong Kong and before Xinjiang the fixation of the western anti-China narrative was Tibet. But realising that traction in the west had faded, even long before the Dalai Lama publicly asked a little boy to suck his tongue, they have since moved on to more fertile ground.
Lately US propaganda has also taken increasingly bizarre and desperate turns. I’m sure everyone can share the deep and profound fear of the British State that the Chinese Communist Party are spying on them through TikTok or that weather balloons floating over the USA are in fact fiendishly obvious and easy to shoot down spy craft.
Now it might be easy to laugh off claims like this, but what is clear is that we are currently witnessing a concerted propaganda offensive conducted from Washington and London.
Their motivation is clear and we have to be on guard – because this propaganda is having its desired effect on working people, even among the left and the labour movement.
The world is more and more becoming a dangerous place for working people as a result of this new cold war. It is clear that imperialism, led by the United States, is growing increasingly dangerous and reckless in its desire to reassert dominance across the globe.
Britain’s ruling class have everything to gain from the new Cold War. The Tories talk of ‘taking back control’ in vague terms while firmly hanging onto Biden’s coattails. All of this will be at the expense of young people and workers in Britain and world peace. But only if we let them get away with it.
We are the ones with everything to lose.
Rejecting NATO aggression, whether that’s in Asia or Eastern Europe, does not amount to support for Putin or anything else of the sort. Opposing militarism and war is the real principled stance. Armed conflict and the nuclear arms race mean record profits for the arms manufacturers, austerity and dead workers.
In Britain, more cuts to services and regressive tax rises are being imposed on working people, as we are told to pay for the cost of living crisis. Yet at the same time we spend hundreds of billions to maintain nuclear weapons and an aggressive military. This is warfare over welfare.
There is every reason for Britain to have peaceful, constructive and mutually beneficial relations with China and our relations should be decided here in Britain, not by Washington and the Pentagon.
The Government doesn’t want to defend Britain from imagined threats, they want to obey the USA, protect the monopolies and financial interests in the City of London. They want to put us in the firing line of war and nuclear catastrophe.
Not being the lap dog of the United States and protecting working people – that’s real patriotism.
That’s what Communists are fighting for, and have been fighting for, for the last 100 years – an independent foreign policy based on peace, democracy and national sovereignty.
What can we do here in Britain?
We can learn about China, their history, their contemporary reality and we can talk to people about China, our family, our friends, our co-workers and in the broad movement. We can work to combat the myths and the stereotypes that are being used to underpin this new Cold War.
Crucially, there’s a massive job to be done to rebuild a broad and genuinely mass peace movement in Britain. Only a mass movement can win the fight against the drive to a new cold war.
Working people of Britain and the world have nothing to gain from imperialism’s reckless drive to war – a drive to war which deprives our communities, divides our planet and threatens the very existence of humanity.
We need a peace movement that’s fighting for:
- A foreign policy which is based on peace, cooperation and international development, not war and extortion.
- Immediate withdrawal from AUKUS, NATO and the web of US imperialism.
- Unilateral nuclear disarmament by the UK.
- Withdrawal of all UK military personnel from abroad and the closure of all foreign bases.
- The removal of all US and NATO bases from Britain.
- The reallocation of the defence budget for peaceful purposes including health, education, housing and job creation.
No to the New Cold War and death to imperialism.
Join the struggle for lasting peace.
Johnnie Hunter is the General Secretary of the Young Communist League