Western propaganda on Xinjiang often sounds like white supremacists
Maitreya Bhakal
Uygur girls dance in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, June 26, 2017. /Getty

Uygur girls dance in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, June 26, 2017. /Getty

Editor's note: Maitreya Bhakal is an Indian commentator who writes about China, India, U.S. and global issues. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

"It's the birth rates."

So begins the manifesto of the New Zealand mosque shooter, a white supremacist who killed 51 people and injured 40 in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. While such incidents are usually associated with the U.S., it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.

The shooter's manifesto contained references to the 'Great Replacement,' a far-right conspiracy theory propounded by white supremacists. The hypothesis goes that non-white immigrants are gradually replacing the "native" white populations in white-majority nations – a trend encouraged by "liberal" support for immigration.   

U.S. white supremacists are concerned that white people will become a "minority in their own land" (the inconvenient fact that this "nativity" is itself based on perhaps the largest genocide of indigenous people in world history is soundly ignored). This view is constructed on a racist outlook in which one race is superior to others as well as an exaggerated misreading of U.S. birth-rate statistics.

Yet, rather curiously, Western media and 'China watchers' have been repeating exactly the same discourse about Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region for years – right down to the very words.

They keep saying that Uygurs and Tibetans "risk being a minority in their own region" due to China's policy of "encouraging" Han migration. Combined with their habit of statistically manipulating birth statistics, such rhetoric would fail a blind test with white supremacist talking points.

Immigration for me, but not for thee

This has now almost become an instinctive, Pavlovian response. Yet, what exactly is wrong with immigration is never explained. The same people who tout the virtues of immigration to the West will criticize immigration to Xinjiang and Tibet.

After all, America offers incentives to attract the best talent from across the world. Why can't Xinjiang and Tibet do the same for talent from other parts of China?

In truth, immigration is essential for progress in society. Especially in large countries like China and India, with their huge distributed populations and geographically uneven growth. Immigration helps economically backward regions develop. It helps bring in talent and resources that are difficult to source locally. This does not mean it is perfect, but that its benefits far outweigh the costs.

China's eastern regions have benefited from China's growth story for decades. Western media seek to delegitimize the rights of western regions to now develop by attracting talent from across the nation.

Children have fun in "Dove Lane" in the old town Tuancheng of Hotan City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, May 27, 2020. /Xinhua

Children have fun in "Dove Lane" in the old town Tuancheng of Hotan City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, May 27, 2020. /Xinhua

But perhaps most importantly, such immigration fosters a sense of belonging and togetherness between people of different religions and ethnicities. Western pundits often recognize this for their own countries, but will hypocritically reject it for Xinjiang and Tibet.

For example, inter-racial couples are welcomed in the West as a sign as unity and success of its "melting pot" story. Yet, the same people will hypocritically deride inter-marriages between Hans and Uygurs as coercion and "ethnic cleansing."

And in doing so, they will often deploy propaganda tropes that sound dangerously close to white supremacist sermons. They will say that China is "encouraging" inter-marriages as part of some nefarious plot to "dilute" the Uygur population. This is again exactly how white supremacists deride inter-marriages in the U.S. as part of a conspiracy to dilute the white population.

Colorless propaganda

China "experts" in the West also often argue that "Han people are the white people of China." This despicable comparison is not the result of mere naivete, but rather the output of a mind infested with race-based discourse. It is the consequence of looking at everything through a tainted Western, one-size-fits-all lens – without recognizing the unique nature of each society.

Not to mention that the comparison is objectively fallacious; Han Chinese history is not even close to white American history of the last 500 years, with its unspeakable atrocities. Such a comparison is merely a pathetic attempt at psychological projection.

Another common target is employment. Western propagandists argue that Han immigration is taking away jobs from locals. But then they contradict themselves and also argue that China is "forcing" Uygurs to work in cotton fields and factories.

This is understandable. Western propaganda is largely based on throwing enough mud to the wall and seeing what sticks. It is often easy to lose track of every single propaganda angle one has deployed.

Colorful coping

Yet, no matter what the West says, Chinese people – of all ethnic groups – will continue seeing their lives improve. By contrast, real wages in America have remained stagnant for decades.

And herein lies the real problem. While living standards in the West – both economic and moral – are largely either declining or have stagnated, life in China is improving day by day. But Chinese people are supposed to be oppressed and poor. Seeing them grow rich irritates the propagandists to no end. Perhaps they can shout "It's the birth rates" into the void to alleviate the pain.

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