STANDING UP TO SINOPHOBIA: From Fu Manchu to Bat SoupOnline event hosted by The Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 6th April 2021
Contribution by Anna Chen
HOW RACISM HAS ITS ROOTS IN POLITICS
So here we are in April 2021 as America’s anti-Chinese pogrom goes full blown. We’re seeing almost daily attacks on Asian people who’ve been caught up in this vicious wave of sinophobia. Britain is thankfully further behind but is being dragged in the same direction.
In the deadly Atlanta attack, six out of eight people who lost their lives were Asian women.
After Atlanta, we saw a brief display of crocodile tears from the government and media but then a return to business as usual.
Because this isn’t about being nice to minority victims. This is about turning a group of people – in this case 1.4 billion human beings – into a dehumanised blob so that the American superpower can retain top position as ruling hegemon in a unipolar world.
President Joe Biden finally admitted to what Victor Gao calls “Tonya Harding Syndrome” — with the declining superpower trying to smash the kneecaps of its upcoming rival. Biden declared that “China will never grow wealthier or more powerful than us on my watch”, despite China having four times the population, a lot of talent and an aim to raise the tide that floats all boats (see poverty eradication).
We’ve been assailed by a relentless Case for the Prosecution with no right of reply, obscene stories invented by an obscenely resourced psychological operations campaign. And here was Biden threatening that China would not overtake the US by any metric.
I first realised that China was the probable endgame of the Project for America in the 21st Century in 2005 when Dubbya Bush stood in the rubble of a destroyed Iraq and suddenly declared China to be a competitor. It came as America was ticking off its wars in a never ending stream of horror: in this latest round, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. And I guessed that China stood at the end of that list, somewhere near Russia.
Bush had first called China a competitor during his election campaign of 2000.
The same year that Bush was putting China in the crosshairs, Prime Minister Tony Blair was badly mishandling the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in Britain. The countryside was full of flaming pyres of dead livestock. Farmers were going bust and committing suicide.
A few months later, in March 2001, a government office — the Northumberland branch of the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) — briefed the press that the outbreak had been started by a Chinese restaurant in the north of England whose leftovers, they claimed, had contaminated food collected for pigswill.
It was absurd. It didn’t matter there was no science to back it up, or that Chinese restaurants buy their meat at the same place as everyone else: at the butchers. Or that the price of food and meat in the fourth richest economy in the world was at a near all time low, meaning that speculation about antelope meat being smuggled in by a Chinese Mr Big was as unhinged as the vision of herds of wildebeest roaming the plains of the Chinese serengeti – that is, it didn’t exist.
It was enough to use the method favoured by Goebbels that powered this character assassination — of linking the scapegoated group to filth and pestilence. And we know that the Big Lie, if repeated enough times, becomes gospel truth.
This was the first time I’d seen a government in the developed world blatantly triggering hate and disgust to divert problems onto a scapegoat. It seemed so crude and cruel and archaic.
Luckily, most Brits were too sceptical to buy into this, and many seemed quite outraged by it.
Chinese Brits held an unprecedented protest in London’s Chinatown and a delegation presented the Case for the Defence to the minister, Nick Brown, who seemed genuinely shocked and ended up publicly vindicating us.
However, there was no rectification or apology from the press. It was as if someone was testing out how effective scapegoating us would be.
It was like going back in time to the 19th and early 20th centuries when Yellow Peril imagery dehumanised the Chinese using tropes of over-sexualised, maleveolent, dirty Other, most famously expressed in Sax Rohmer’s FU MANCHU books, whose clever, cruel villain possessed “a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan”. That is to say, he’s smarter than us, almost like us but not quite. Fu Manchu was the embodiment of the evil Other, which is really only a mirror for all the cruelty we were doing in Empire.
So where did this vilification of an entire race begin?
To locate its origins, we’d have to travel in our time machine back past the Cold War and China’s revolution to liberate itself; past the deportation from Liverpool of thousands of Chinese sailors who’d run our British merchant navy during World War 2; past the United States Exclusion Act of 1882 which was designed specifically to keep out Chinese and which didn't end until 1943; past the 19th century lynchings in America when to have bad luck meant you had only an unenviable Chinaman’s Chance, and it took ten Chinese voices to carry the same weight as one white person … and even then, not so much. And past the Chinese who built north America’s rairoads from sea to shining sea.
This monstering of the Chinese began in earnest during the 19th century OPIUM WARS when Britain forced cheap, mass-produced opium grown in stolen Bengal onto China at gunpoint, turning what had been an expensive aristocratic vice into a nationwide addiction.
The narco-capitalists proceeded to smear their victims as sub-human and deserving of the crimes committed against them.
Not only was China plundered, their great treasures stolen, but the famed Summer Palace was looted and burnt to the ground by the French. Tens of thousands were massacred. Great chunks of China, like Hong Kong, were bitten off by the invading imperial powers that followed Britain. In the first great case of industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property, Britain stole China's tea trade and transplanted smuggled tea plants to India. America joined in the opium trade and took advantage of the unfair treaties forced onto a weak Qing government. Astor, Forbes, HSBC, Jardine, Matheson, the Midland Bank ... the opium trade made fortunes and helped finance the West’s industrial revolutions.
It was a carve-up that led to more than a century of suffering from which China’s only emerged in the last 40 years.
People who are convinced of their own superiority have to justify their savagery against their neighbours on this small, blue planet. And, as happened to native Americans, enslaved Africans and Aboriginal Australians among others, they have to dehumanise their victims.
SO WHY NOW?
Why is this happening now only five years after Christine Lagarde observed that the world economy was coming up evenly together with growing stability, prosperity and optimism? And little more than a decade after China saved the global economy from America’s devastating 2008 crash which threatened to plunge us all into a depression?
By allowing global currencies to devalue against the yuan, taking a huge hit in the process, China had acted as the world’s shock absorber and stabilised us. Consumption of foreign goods was stimulated by the Chinese government. China also bought a ton of American debt and helped kick-start the longest bull run in American markets ever. So if you made money from that, just remember how different things could have been.
And this is the thanks they get.
So why this hate for China? Unfortunately, the West is in trouble and losing their lead as its capitalism enters geriatric old age. No universal healthcare in the US. Crumbling infrastructure. Rising poverty with tent cities springing up everywhere. Treasure spent on endless wars. The richest zero point one percent owning the same as the bottom 90 percent. The whole system is built on the upward suck of national wealth by the billionaire class who own the government. They’ve sucked their country dry and are looking elsewhere.
In Britain, austerity laid low the economy, Brexit chaos threatens to finish it off, and Covid mishandling means we are dying in large numbers with no end in sight.
Meanwhile, China has the world’s only positive GDP growth in 2020. It’s the world’s growth engine as well as our lifeboat. It invested in its people, raising over 800 million out of absolute poverty — that’s well over twice the population of the US. It’s built them homes, created jobs, extended life expectancy and gradually given them a prosperity that Mr Spock would have been proud of. “Live long and prosper” might well be the motto of modern China.
Not only that, but having stood up to President Trump’s vicious trade war, after some initial fumbles, China then protected its people from the new coronavirus.
While America shockingly closed down its pandemic team and the CDC office in Beijing that was supposed to have helped China monitor and contain any new diseases, China identified, sequenced and shared the virus’s gene code with international scientists in record time.
It amazed the world with its unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and Hubei province, with a population of 64 million, almost the same size as the British Isles. By day 43 of its 76-day lockdown, China had eradicated the Covid-19 virus bar flare-ups.
China bought us time which Trump’s Covid superspreader policy proceeded to squander: stigmatising masks, holding massive rallies and playing down the danger which we now know he was aware of as far back as his briefing by the NSA right at the start on 28th January 2020.
When Trump performed his U-turn in March 2020, the White House issued instructions for politicians to incessently blame China as reported by The Daily Beast, the Independent and Politico. So we’ve had lab creations, bat soup and twisted timelines … and it’s been a revelation as to which politicians and media have gone along with it.
It's been long discussed that the objective is to "contain China". The way Trump claimed that China's wealth is all America's doing, this suggests plunder as well. On top of everything else, let's not forget that Xinjiang happens to have the second largest oil field in the world as well as being China’s old Silk Route into the Middle East and Europe which now has the Belt and Road running through it.
Washington’s think tanks, such as CIMSEC, have stated an aim of “Preparing the American public for competition and conflict”. The only thing holding a fractured America together today is hatred for a common enemy. Fears are rising and the motivation is high.
As US Covid deaths continue to rise, the economy implodes with $28 trillion dollars in debt to date and race relations deteriorate, America needs a pressure valve and they have decided that China is its safety release.
I've long seen the WESTWORLD TV series as a potent metaphor for the current situation with Chinese cast as the hosts upon whom the guests can inflict any horror they want.
So to the China haters spinning this atrocity porn, every drop of poison, every toxic word, every lurid rape fantasy: what you’re saying about China doesn’t tell us who they are. It tells us who you are.Further reading:
A reservoir of scapegoats: How Chinese in Britain challenged the Foot and Mouth disease smear campaign of 2001.
"I will not flinch from...WAR!" Our ruling elite just might be stupid and sociopathic enough to go to war with China.
The Struggle with China is not a Replay of the Cold War: Remarks to the Asia American Forum by former Ambassador Chas Freeman
The Opening to China Part I: the First Opium War, the United States, and the Treaty of Wangxia, 1839–1844
The Opening to China Part II: the Second Opium War, the United States, and the Treaty of Tianjin, 1857–1859