That Time the Chinese Communists Used a Few Words to Make Themselves Look Good

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) doesn’t get as much publicity as it should. The people who run China’s government do horrible things. Prof. Perry Link is an expert on China and explains one way the party easily manipulated the rest of the world using the power of propaganda: 

Does the CCP’s Department of Propaganda (later renamed the Department of Publicity) lie? [Author and dissident] Su Xiaokang gently told me that the question is naïve. The CCP system, he explained, has an entirely different way of measuring the value of statements. Truth and falsity are incidental. A statement is valuable if its “social effects” are “good,” and the effects count as good if they support the power interests of the CCP. (For politically innocuous matters like weather reports or basketball scores, support of the party does not apply, but avoidance of harm to the party still does.) Hence a “good” statement might be true, half-true, or untrue—that is beside the point.

A tendency toward including truth does become relevant when someone judges that a statement will influence people more effectively if a bit of verisimilitude is supplied. But truth is never the first criterion, and in that sense neither is lying. American democracy’s headache with a president who lies is a fundamentally different problem from China’s living under the CCP’s propaganda apparatus, whose roots date from the 1940s and whose experts by now are very good at what they do.

Readers of the Western press, whether aware of it or not, have seen examples of that expertise. In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the international wing of the Xinhua News Agency instituted frequent use of the phrase “lifted from poverty.” This was what “China” (meaning the CCP) had done for hundreds of millions of Chinese people. The world’s media—The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Kyodo News, the BBC, and many others—picked up the phrase, as did Western politicians on both the left and the right. The World Bank used it in official reports. Those words were, in short, highly successful in achieving the intended effect: the world came to believe that the CCP was doing great good.

A more transparent account of what it had done, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, is that it released its controls on the Chinese people so that, for the first time in decades, they could make money for themselves; hundreds of millions responded by working long hours at low wages without the protection of labor unions, workers’ compensation insurance, a free press, or independent courts; and, yes, they made great amounts of money, escaping poverty for themselves and simultaneously catapulting the CCP elite, who still rode high above them, to truly spectacular wealth.

In short, the word “lifted” [requires] analysis of who lifted whom. That question did not normally occur to people around the world who read the words “China lifted.” The grammar of such sentences, combined with the formula China = CCP, left no need for a question. Was this word-engineering deliberate? Anyone who doubts that it was should note that CCP media used the “China lifted” phrase in publications in English, French, German, and other foreign languages but not in Chinese-language media at home. That made good sense. What would happen if the CCP started telling the Chinese people that “we lifted you”? The people would know better. Both sides know better. To make such an assertion might generate unfortunate “social effects,” such as a greater number of demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, roadblocks, and other examples of what the Ministry of Public Security labels “masses incidents” and counts in the tens of thousands per year.

China On the Rise

The Atlantic has a typically long article about China’s construction of an enormous radio telescope:

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Almost twice as wide as the dish at America’s Arecibo Observatory, in the Puerto Rican jungle [recently destroyed], the new Chinese dish is the largest in the world, if not the universe. Though it is sensitive enough to detect spy satellites even when they’re not broadcasting, its main uses will be scientific, including an unusual one: The dish is Earth’s first flagship observatory custom-built to listen for a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence.

[It’s] the world’s most sensitive telescope in the part of the radio spectrum that is “classically considered to be the most probable place for an extraterrestrial transmitter”. After the dish is calibrated, it will start scanning large sections of the sky. If such a sign comes down from the heavens during the next decade, China may well hear it first.

If that isn’t enough, they’re planning to put a radio observatory on the dark side of the Moon, where there is even less interference from terrestrial radio waves.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Chinese have a “rail-linked urban megastructure” that required the country to pour “more concrete from 2011 to 2013 than America did during the entire 20th century” The country “has already built rail lines in Africa, and it hopes to fire bullet trains into Europe and North America, the latter by way of a tunnel under the Bering Sea”. The author of the article marvels at “smooth, spaceship-white” trains “whooshing by . . . at almost 200 miles an hour”.

China built the world’s fastest supercomputer, has spent heavily on medical research and planted a “great green wall” of forests in its northwest as a last-ditch effort to halt the Gobi Desert’s spread. Now China is bringing its immense resources to bear on the fundamental sciences. The country plans to build an atom smasher that will conjure thousands of “god particles” out of the ether, in the same time it took CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to strain out a handful. It is also eyeing Mars. In the technopoetic idiom of the 21st century, nothing would symbolize China’s rise like a high-definition shot of a Chinese astronaut setting foot on the red planet. Nothing except, perhaps, first contact.

China’s gross domestic product is still only about 2/3 of America’s, but they’ll probably spend more on research and development than we do in the coming decade.

When we saw the Soviet Union as our competition in the 50s and 60s, we got busy. The Soviet Union no longer exists.

Today, there are more than 100 cities in China with populations over one million. China is making its presence known.

Shanghai-Skyline-Night-Big-Bus-Tours-01-2017

Connecting the Dots

There might possibly be a subtle connection between these two items in the news. I have my suspicions.

From The Washington Post:

As coronavirus cases surge in states across the South and West of the United States, health experts in countries with falling case numbers are watching with a growing sense of alarm and disbelief, with many wondering why virus-stricken U.S. states continue to reopen and why the advice of scientists is often ignored.

“It really does feel like the U.S. has given up,” said Siouxsie Wiles, an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand — a country that has confirmed only three new cases over the last three weeks and where citizens have now largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines…. “It’s hard to see how [the U.S. economic reopening] ends. There are just going to be more and more people infected, and more and more deaths. It’s heartbreaking.”

China’s actions over the past week stand in stark contrast to those of the United States. In the wake of a new cluster of more than 150 new cases that emerged in Beijing, authorities sealed off neighborhoods, launched a mass testing campaign and imposed travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, President Txxxx maintains that the United States will not shut down a second time, although a surge in cases has convinced governors in some states, including Arizona, to walk back their opposition to mandatory face coverings in public.

Commentators and experts in Europe, where cases have continued to decline, voiced concerns over the state of the U.S. response. A headline on the website of Germany’s public broadcaster read: “Has the U.S. given up its fight against coronavirus?” Switzerland’s conservative Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper concluded, “U.S. increasingly accepts rising covid-19 numbers.”

“The only thing one can say with certainty: There’s nothing surprising about this development,” a journalist wrote in the paper, referring to crowded U.S. beaches and pools during Memorial Day weekend in May….

“Many scientists appeared to have reached an adequate assessment of the situation early on [in the United States], but this didn’t translate into a political action plan,” said Thomas Gerlinger, a professor of health sciences at the University of Bielefeld in Germany.

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Confirmed cases:   Red = United States   Blue = European Union

From Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times:

The American news cycle has become so manic and surreal that there hasn’t been much time to reflect on the revelation, in the new book by the former national security adviser John Bolton, that Dxxxx Txxxx encouraged President Xi Jinping of China in the building of concentration camps for its Muslim Uighur minority.

Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened” … describes a conversation Txxxx had with Xi at the opening dinner of the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, with only their interpreters present: “Xi explained to Txxxx why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Txxxx said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

It is impossible, at this late date, to be shocked by the behavior of our depraved president. Nor is it surprising, given Txxxx’s treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, that he is pro-concentration camp.

But Americans should know that China’s detention of over a million people largely on religious grounds — a project that reports say includes torture, sterilization and forcing Uighur women to sleep with members of China’s Han majority to promote “ethnic unity” — is happening with our president’s behind-the-scenes approval….

There is information here that deserves whatever attention people can muster in the midst of plague and mass protest. Bolton provides, albeit belatedly, firsthand confirmation that Txxxx did exactly what he was impeached for — leveraging American military aid in exchange for Ukraine’s help in smearing Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden: “Aug. 20, I took Txxxx’s temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes….

Don’t buy this book. John Bolton doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for withholding testimony he had a duty to provide months ago. But don’t dismiss it either. The president cheered China’s concentration camps. At this point in the Txxxx era, it’s a constant challenge not to let oneself be bored by evil.

Unquote.

Coronavirus cases are rising in 81 countries and 20 states, including Oklahoma, where the president is holding an indoor rally tomorrow.

Two days ago, he said the virus is “dying out” and some people may be wearing masks simply to indicate disapproval of him.