2018 Reporters' look back: China fear-mongering has reached new heights
Updated 17:19, 04-Jan-2019
By Wang Guan
In my seven years covering Washington policies towards China, I've never seen anything quite like it: the sheer animosity and suspicion, the convergence of hawkish strategists, and members of Congress and the establishment media painting China as an ideological, military and economic threat. 
They are, as many observers have pointed out, perpetrating nothing short of 21st Century McCarthyism. 
I don't throw around the word “McCarthyism” lightly. That was the very subject of my master's thesis. 
Why do many perceive Washington's policies vis-à-vis China as McCarthyism? Well, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. 
Yes, China has changed, both at home and abroad. And many of these changes were not without their controversies, especially from the West's point of view. But Washington has also changed. 
Spearheading this China fear-mongering in 2018 was FBI director Christopher Wray. At a Senate hearing, he described China as “the most significant” and “whole-of-society” threat, pinpointing Chinese students and researchers in all 50 U.S. states as potential “nontraditional collectors” of intelligence. Wray called for a whole-of society response in the U.S. to counter the China threat. 
U.S. President Donald Trump later echoed that assessment, saying “almost every (Chinese) student that comes over to this country is a spy.”
With rhetoric, action soon followed.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Ted Cruz quoted an article written by Foreign Policy, a bastion of disgruntled former China reporters and veteran Beijing bashers, as saying that a Hong Kong-based education foundation is colluding with the Communist Party of China to “infiltrate” U.S. campuses. 
The logic went like this: the foundation wanted to help finance a Chinese culture and language center at the University of Texas. But the foundation's chairman also happens to be Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, or CPPCC. And the CPPCC is a “cover” for the Communist Party's global activities. Therefore, the Party wants to “penetrate” U.S. universities. 
The logic was tenuous at best. But it worked. 
Wang Guan faces the camera, covering the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 2018. /CGTN Photo

Wang Guan faces the camera, covering the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 2018. /CGTN Photo

The university bowed to pressure and suspended the program. This created a domino effect. Many subsequent U.S.-China educational exchanges were halted, including the Confucius Institutes and the Cornell-Renmin University exchange program. Visas for prospective Chinese students in advanced technology concentrations were reportedly placed under greater scrutiny or even restricted outright. 
Also on the Capitol, Senator Marco Rubio quoted another article from Foreign Policy and a news report by Voice of America, the U.S. government mouthpiece, as saying that Chinese media outlets in the U.S. have not registered as “foreign agents,” and demanded that they do so. 
The demand was based on the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, that was passed in 1938. But some experts raised questions about FARA's selective enforcement through history. For example, why was the Kashmiri American Council required to register under FARA but not the American Zionist Council? Why was the Palestinian Liberation Organization required to register but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC? 
In a year where the highest foreign lobbying spenders were the governments of South Korea, Japan, Marshall Islands, Ireland, UAE and Israel, China was nevertheless singled out. After all, U.S. allies and partners are in this country to promote exchanges and to further mutual understanding, while China came here to spread “propaganda” and to use influence campaigns to “penetrate” American society. 
And we have not even mentioned the trade war and the Huawei CFO case. 
In both instances, there were genuine concerns from the U.S. government and businesses about fair play and security. But many believe there were also double standards and selective enforcement to target a rising adversary. 
When all is said and done, one side of me still hates seeing realism, or “the rule of the jungle,” prevail in U.S.-China relations. Not least because I was a liberal (not exactly sure what I am now), and I still appreciate many aspects of Western culture. 
I grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s in China where it was a daily struggle for my parents to make ends meet and for me to persevere through cut-throat competition in school to get ahead. Despite very limited resources, in after-school hours, I worked very hard in studying English and Western culture – buying up English literature from bookstores and riding a bicycle for 30 minutes to a riverside gathering on Sunday mornings just to practice English with native speakers. 
A decade of efforts came to fruition in 2006 when I won the First Prize in China's prestigious 21st Century National English Speaking Competition. Throughout my teenage years, I was eager to learn more about the West, about America, and dreamt about going there.
My seven years in Washington, D.C., taught me a lot about American society. I've come to admire much about it – the rule of law, diversity, creativity and the fitness culture. Scapegoating China and China bashing, however, are not among them.
The author is a CGTN correspondent and news anchor based in Washington, D.C.