A farmer harvests cotton in October in Manasi county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (DING LEI / XINHUA)
China's pushback over attacks on human rights in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region by the United States and its Western allies targets not only plans to coerce China, but also champions international justice and defends the interests of developing countries, according to officials and scholars familiar with the issues.
Behind the Xinjiang-related anti-China narratives is an attempt to contain China's growth by stoking ideological confrontation, a trap that China should not fall prey to, they warned.
The US and some of its Western allies disagree with the path, development mode and sociopolitical system adopted by China. They believe that only theirs works and they even dream of China copying them.
Huang Ping, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee member
Accusations linking cotton made in Xinjiang to claims of "forced labor" mark the latest episode in a long-standing defamation campaign by Western countries in recent years, the experts said.
However, an increasing number of countries are publicly responding to allegations being made to tarnish China's image, meddle in its internal affairs and affect its economic and social stability.
In one of the latest developments, 64 countries supported China on Xinjiang-related issues at the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
The countries included Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Pakistan.
Li Shaoxian, director of Ningxia University's China-Arab Research Institute, said China is not the only victim of attacks made by the US and its allies under the pretext of human rights. These countries have "imposed double standards on other nations as well" in embarking on so-called anti-terror campaigns in the name of protecting human rights, Li said.
While Washington continued its fight against global terror, it criticized China's crackdown on terrorist, separatist and extremist forces, and Mike Pompeo, then-US secretary of state, announced in November that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement had been removed from a list of terrorist groups, Li said.
As China has stepped up deradicalization measures in Xinjiang in recent years, the US has again denounced the country for "genocide" and "forced labor" in order to tarnish China's image, Li added.
The Islamic world has faced similar attacks involving double standards, Li said. While many Middle Eastern countries have fought terrorism and advanced deradicalization efforts, the US suppressed Turkey and denounced its anti-terror effort, he said, adding that Washington also alleged the fight against terror in Egypt was a violation of human rights.
"There is growing resentment among Middle Eastern nations against Western countries exercising double standards and linking terrorism to specific religions", he added.
In 2019, a letter hailing China's "remarkable achievements in the field of human rights" and calling for work to be carried out "in an objective and impartial manner" based on "true and genuinely credible information" was signed by ambassadors from 37 countries to the UN in Geneva.
The envoys came from Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as well as Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Algeria, Tajikistan and the Philippines.
The letter was sent to the president of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the letter, the ambassadors said they "appreciate China's commitment to openness and transparency". They added,"China has undertaken a series of counterterrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers."
In March, during a six-nation trip to the Middle East, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi witnessed countries in the region voicing clear objections to interference in nations' internal affairs.
China and countries in the region continue to speak out against ill-founded allegations, Li said.
Farmers sow cotton seeds in Yuli county, Xinjiang. Experts say accusations linking Xinjiang cotton to claims of forced labor are part of an anti-China campaign by Western countries. (QUE HURE / FOR CHINA DAILY)
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and global economic downturn, Western countries have stepped up Xinjiang-related attacks as they sense losing control of the international order and the rules they set, experts said, adding that these nations also face domestic political and economic pressure.
Huang Ping, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member, said that as Washington considers Beijing to be its top competitor and strategic rival, its efforts to shift blame on China have grown at a time when the pandemic has been contained in the country.
"Xinjiang is just one of the excuses for creating trouble, making hot topics and introducing obstruction for China," said Huang, a former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies and Institute of American Studies.
"The US and some of its Western allies disagree with the path, development mode and sociopolitical system adopted by China. They believe that only theirs works and they even dream of China copying them," Huang said.
His viewpoint is backed by video footage that recently went viral on social media networks.
Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former US secretary of state Colin Powell, told the Ron Paul Institute in August 2018 that one of the reasons for the US presence in Afghanistan was to destabilize China.
"The CIA would want to destabilize China and that would be the best way to do it, to foment unrest and to join with those Uygurs (in Xinjiang) in pushing the Han Chinese in Beijing from internal places rather than external," Wilkerson said.
Huang said such Western countries constantly turn to whatever topics fit their agenda－Xinjiang and even the "Wuhan virus", and their experienced defamation teamwork includes participants from a wide spectrum－political parties, parliamentary figures, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks and media outlets.
A loader moves seed cotton at a cotton ginning mill in Bachu county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, this month. (CAI ZENGLE / FOR CHINA DAILY)
The hegemonic thinking of the US, as shown in recent Xinjiang-related accusations, centers on the fact that it will not tolerate any other country's development that challenges its own, Huang said.
Although the US and its allies are mostly consistent in ideology-related positions, they have their contradictions when it comes to their own interests.
Niu Xinchun, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations
The US and Japan, in an attempt to step up pressure on China, said they "share serious concerns" regarding the human rights situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The two countries made the comment in a joint statement issued on April 16 following US President Joe Biden's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington.
Niu Xinchun, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, or CICIR, said the attacks by Western countries led by the US "victimize not only China, but also some other developing countries, nations in the Third World, and particularly some Middle East countries".
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The path taken by Washington and some of its allies in hyping the Xinjiang human rights issue has become clearer since Biden took office as US president. The aim is "to depict China as a villain, stoke confrontation between two different political systems, seize the moral high ground, put China on trial and lobby more countries to join them", Niu said.
Such countries do not rely solely on one specific issue that is part of China's internal affairs－be it Xinjiang, Taiwan or Tibet autonomous region－but on a group of miscellaneous, ideological approaches and international and regional policies to trigger competition with China and achieve coercion, Niu said.
While the US is working hard in an attempt to engage in competition with China regarding their different political systems,"China should not fall into this trap of an ideological confrontation, as it has been pursuing peaceful coexistence among countries with different systems," Niu said.
"Although the US and its allies are mostly consistent in ideology-related positions, they have their contradictions when it comes to their own interests," Niu said.
A cotton harvesting machine works in a field in Manas county, Hui autonomous prefecture of Changji, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Oct 17, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Tricks behind attacks
Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department for American Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, or CIIS, said, "Although Washington and London appear to be well coordinated in terms of hyping the Xinjiang human rights issue, different goals lie behind such coordination.
"The US is aiming for an ideological conflict with China to bring its allies closer to it and advance their shared values, while Britain, in contrast, has been driven by growing anxiety since Brexit and its need for a tighter alignment with the US," she said.
The focus of ideological attacks is changing, Su said. She noted that Hong Kong was at the heart of Washington's plan to contain China during the administration of Donald Trump, but now the US has moved on to Xinjiang, as Hong Kong has shifted from chaos to order.
Since the US and its allies realized that it is hard to destabilize China overnight," their focus on Xinjiang has been closely linked to their work in other areas to stir up tension on several fronts simultaneously and multiply the impact", she said.
Referring to terms used by the West to play up the Xinjiang issue, such as "labor camp", "forced labor" in cotton production and "genocide", Su said these are all "part of the West's old tricks used for manipulating human rights issues".
The West prefers to manipulate issues such as human rights that are likely to resonate in Western communities and among the public."This lack of innovation in campaigns shows the huge frustration the West has faced" since efforts were stepped up in Xinjiang to root out separatist and terrorist hotbeds, Su said.
Yang Shu, director of Institute for Central Asian Studies of Lanzhou University, said Washington clearly knows that publicly supporting separatism in Xinjiang will lose it the moral high ground, while attacking China on human rights issues "best serves its purpose of making trouble for China with the lowest cost".
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For countries such as the US, "tapping into human rights issues is always the most cost-effective way to challenge the legitimacy of another government or ruling party", Yang said.
In essence, verbal attacks in the name of democracy or human rights help trigger ideological confrontation, and such attacks make it easier for Washington to lobby allies and win their support, Yang added.
Social media platforms are now playing a prominent role in the defamation campaign on the Xinjiang issue, Yang said.
"The individuals involved first spread rumors and unfounded allegations with eye-catching text, images and short videos issued via social media at low cost. In doing so, they quickly offer material to or are quoted easily by various news outlets, politicians and scholars for faking news and raising further allegations," he said.
A farmer picks cotton in a field in Hami, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in the fall of 2020. (PILATES / FOR CHINA DAILY)
How to say no
Experts said it is unlikely that the US and its allies will abandon their efforts to discredit countries, including China, by launching attacks aimed at interfering in their internal affairs.
In response, China and other developing non-Western countries should further raise the alert and push back against such attacks. They should also improve their ability to get their message across to the global community and make it clearer that international justice and their justifiable interests must be championed, analysts said.
Su, the CIIS scholar, said the US and its allies will probably continue attacks on the Xinjiang issue, but they are unlikely to drift away from ideological issues such as human rights.
Niu, the CICIR scholar, said "a faceoff against countries that seek to retain hegemony and advance power politics against the rest of the world" lies behind China's fight against defamation campaigns.
"In future, Washington and its allies may continue attacks from their position of strength, and they believe that they boast advantages in areas such as values, high technology and their alignment," he said.
Yang, from Lanzhou University, said: "Real justice and fairness can never be judged or defined by differences in ideologies. China will not get involved in the expected ideological confrontation sought by Western countries, but will continue to champion global justice."
Western countries may step up attacks on China and could seek to further hype other issues such as Tibet to fuel tension, Yang said.
China should better use social media, including short videos, to make its position known to people in the West and in other developing countries, he said.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia in March, Wang Yi, the foreign minister, said China supports the tenets and principles of the UN Charter and international fairness and justice.
Li, from Ningxia University, said backing for China from Arab countries supports their fight against terror, their efforts to advance deradicalization, international justice and their own interests.
"Countries like China, when targeted by attacks against their internal affairs, could find more opportunities to fight back by attacking the double standards adopted by the US and its Western allies in specific cases," Li said.
"When Washington embarks on a terror fight, it boasts of its legitimacy in cracking down on what it calls 'terrorism' and 'anti-terror'. Yet this may not necessarily be the case when other countries tackle terror," Li added.
Huang, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar, said that in resolutely hitting back against the US and its allies' attacks on the Xinjiang human rights issue, China "champions national sovereignty and security and frustrates foreign countries' intervention. It is also securing the international order based on the UN Charter, instead of the so-called order and rules set by Western countries.
"A growing number of developing nations, and even some Western countries, have realized that their efforts to safeguard the international order based on the UN Charter－not the rules set by the US and some Western countries－are actually securing their own peace, development and security," Huang said.
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Behind the catchy words used to represent the rules set by the US and some of its allies lie their own interests, including maintaining global hegemony－not peace and common development based on treating all countries on an equal footing, Huang said.
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