Anti-China forces try to whip up fear

By Tom Fowdy (China Daily) 10:01, February 02, 2024

An otherwise small incident occurred recently in London, when some Chinese tourists asked that they not be filmed while a British man was playing on a public piano and livestreaming on YouTube.

The scene devolved into a confrontation. The response of mainstream media, as well as that of anti-China activists and politicians online, was to claim that it was an example of "Chinese interference "in the United Kingdom, and that the personal preferences of the people involved had malign political purposes, as if they were being controlled by China.

That such an incident was exaggerated in this way is not unusual in the China discourse of some Western media. Every single event or development, no matter how large, is commonly blown out of proportion and never taken at face value or as something trivial, but depicted as a part of a deliberate geopolitical plot by China to impose its will on the world. In doing so, nothing that stems from China is depicted as having its own agency or decision-making, but rather is always under the control of the state authorities.

In other words, everything and everyone from China is taken as part of a grand conspiracy against the West in some way, even things as benign as a Chinese language class through a Confucius Institute.

However, a closer inspection of such discourse clearly suggests that it isn't true, that people are quick to stigmatize and accuse Chinese people, organizations and companies as acting on behalf of the government on often baseless or unconvincing evidence, and that it does not matter how unreasonable specific claims may be.

In doing so, the mainstream media and anti-China figures deliberately cultivate a culture of fear pertaining to all things China in order to advance their political objectives and also stifle opposition debate. This has irreversible consequences for ordinary Chinese people.

In pushing this fear, they have learned that they can use the ideological argument of "anti-Communism" as a facade to hide, justify and push other prejudices regarding China, or pretty much anything they dislike.

The biggest contemporary example of this was the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby China was viciously scapegoated as being responsible for a global pandemic.

In other words, linking and associating people and things with the Communist Party of China is a vehicle for discrediting and attacking them by portraying their words, actions and deeds in strictly conspiracy terms, thus invoking fear and suspicion. It does not matter how irrational it may be in logical terms; hence, British media will even say that a Chinese coffee machine can spy on you.

Rarely mentioned is how the CPC has managed to lead the Chinese in getting rid of absolute poverty, lifting millions to a good and prosperous life.

Therefore, a confrontation in London is exaggerated by the media into being the culpability of China and its government as a whole. Chinese people are depicted as not having their own opinions, lives or preferences, but instead are determined to force their ideology on other countries in a top-down scheme from the country's leadership.

Therefore, as populist movements have swept the West, such as those involving Brexit and former US president Donald Trump, it has become a popular tactic for political opponents to blame these outcomes not on voter discontent or social fractures, but on foreign interference, which has the negative impact of closing down domestic debate and making some opinions unacceptable.

The same thing is happening about China, whereby the mainstream media are all too quick to push hysteria over small incidents and thus whip up anti-China fear, which they claim is targeted at only the government, but for all practical purposes has an impact on everyone.

The author is a British political and international relations analyst.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Zhong Wenxing)


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