FOR 109 YEARS, since the Opium War in 1840, China has suffered foreign invasions, semi-colonialisation, extreme poverty, and demonisation. We toughed them out. With the founding of the new China in 1949, we drove out the last colonialists from our land. Since then no country has ever dared to invade us again. Rising from the ashes, generations of Chinese spent their whole life in epic nation building.
Today we have eliminated extreme poverty. How did we do it? Just ask any of the tens of millions of sunburned bespectacled youngsters shunning well-paid jobs in big cities and instead devoting the prime of their lives to teaching, planning, and building in remote barren hillsides across the nation. They are our best and brightest, many from Tsinghua and Beida and the like. Because of them, plus others before them and after them, 1.4 billion people are all set for shared prosperity.
But we still suffer international bad press and demonisation today. We have been unfairly painted as a backward evil villain for 200 years. Are we afraid?
Today, hegemonic countries smeared us as a dictator, aggressor, human rights abuser, freedom destroyer, democracy threatener. This is an injustice they can still do as they can no longer send troops to trample on our people and loot our homes and burn our palaces.
Since colonial times, hegemonic countries have built global media networks that have dominated world public opinion, leveraging English as the international language to drown out the whimpering cries of suppressed peoples.
Today, these media outlets controlled by a score of global conglomerates still control 80 per cent of global volume of international news. Like orchestrating the tsunami smear against Iraq for its “weapon of mass destruction”, they have spared no efforts in painting China as evil.
Hong Kong has always been hegemonic countries’ subversive base against China. Back in the 1950s when the newly founded People’s Republic of China was literally in tatters and had neither the ability nor the intention to pose any threat to any countries, the US News Service in Hong Kong had already been systematically mounting smear campaigns against China.
Renowned Chinese writer Eileen Chang, for example, openly and on the record said that the US Information Service (USIS) in Hong Kong commissioned her to publish books in the early 1950s to demonise China.
This was confirmed by de-classified foreign service archives in which the then Hong Kong chief of USIS, Mr Richard M. McCarthy, proudly declared that he “discovered” Eileen Chang, adding that the most effective way of using intellectuals to influence the course of China is through publications and books to organise the opposition forces. Credit to where credit is due, the US is the inventor and pioneer in the craft of smear campaigns: they have been ahead of the pack for a century.
Today, hegemonic countries’ China-bashing has reached a hysterical level never seen before and using tools unimagined before. Earlier this year the US Congress passed into law the “2021 Strategic Competition Act” that appropriated US$1.5 billion for organising anti-China public opinion.
This explains why the US is filled with “noble tender loving care” for the welfare of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang: at a time when the US is hit by the worse inflation in decades, the worst “Black Lives Matters” cases in decades, the highest mass shooting cases in decades, the worst insurrection in decades, the worst supply chain clog-ups in decades, the worst military retreat in decades, plus the worst national debt crisis in its entire history; and despite all these, plus other big problems, the US Government is instead turning its attention to the so-called “human right abuses” among Muslims in a remote place called Xinjiang few American know anything about.
How holy and noble the US is – except let us not forget the millions of civilian Muslim deaths in Iraq and Syria alone, plus the killing fields in so many countries throughout United States’ 245-year history: there were only 18 years when it was not waging wars against other countries.
The US has burned an average of US$300 million a day for 20 years in the Afghan war. The cost of playing the Afghan war game for one hour is more than enough to pay for years of manufacturing China-bashing fake news to supress China. Chinese people have endured unspeakable hardship for more than 100 years. We are unafraid of such lowbrow fake news campaign.
But that doesn’t mean we will just lie flat and do nothing. It was not until the year 2013 that China formally put “telling the China story” on the national agenda, a move that came after swallowing for more than 100 years all the unjust smears against us.
But just as China’s speed in the advances we are making in the economy, science, innovation, and poverty elimination, in just a few years we are making impressive progress in telling the China story. Many platforms such as CGTN and the China Daily have been running inspiring true stories about the struggle of a peace-loving country whose only ambition is to improve livelihood of its people and to work for the common good of all human beings who share a common destiny.
We are a civilisation with 5000 years of rich culture. We benefit immensely from trade and cultural exchanges with friendly nations across the world. We will continue to do so.
But for the few countries that choose to wilfully misunderstand us in order to smear us, we will not go for “little lamb diplomacy”. We hit back. Every word from our diplomats counts, and should be taken seriously. Call us wolf diplomacy of tiger diplomacy or whatever. Ours is righteous diplomacy against those who use smear diplomacy, and win-win friendship diplomacy for all other nations who believe in cooperation instead of hostilities.
CK Yeung is a former Associate Vice President of Hong Kong Baptist University and currently Vice President of a think tank.