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Issue #1906      March 9, 2020


Used as a tool for Anti-China rhetoric

“What would be different about this epidemic if China was a democracy?” This was the first question directed at Stan Grant on ABC’s Q & A panel show two weeks ago. However, the person sitting on the panel with unquestionably the most qualifications in this subject, the Deputy Ambassador for the Chinese Embassy, Wang Xining was not initially welcomed into the conversation. Instead, on top of the already naive and assuming question, it was directed towards a correspondent who had already written several articles condemning the Chinese government over the Hong Kong riots, a co-opted farce full of pro-imperialist and fascistic elements.

ABC Q&A – Deputy Ambassador for the Chinese Embassy, Wang Xining.

It seems the starting point for most news coming out of Australia about China needs to be wrapped up in yellow-peril, red-scare journalism about how China functions or the people live. Stan Grant, a First Nations elder, who has written several books deeply examining racism in Australia and our shameful history towards Indigenous peoples, was very quick to praise Australia’s “democracy,” as having “checks and balances,” with a “free media,” meaning our nation would somehow respond more thoughtfully to the Coronavirus crisis than China would. He made misleading claims about China, calling it a “fragile superpower” with little ability to control the information flow coming from the crisis due to it being an “autocratic regime.” It is questionable that this high-profile Indigenous Australian would so comfortably merit Australia’s system, while throwing China’s system, a country who had Hong Kong literally stolen from them and also suffered under colonisation, under the bus.

Minister Wang entered the conversation only after being asked if China mishandled the crisis, and steered it back to explain the reasons China is a democracy but was interrupted several times by the host, who seemed adamant to steer the conversation away from the underlying problem with the original question. The minister diligently explained how China has a workers’ democracy, based on developing the nation more efficiently. That the people vote, but in a way that doesn’t waste time in the contention of ideas. He explained that eight parties participate in legislation and involve a lot of people in policy debate. After he explained, there were no further questions to clarify what he meant, even though the host and some panellists clearly didn’t understand.

Are Australians not open to exploring how an actual Chinese ambassador understands the Chinese system? Are there not more determining factors for understanding how a democracy works than voting every three to four years? To illustrate, since when do Australians really believe we live in this superior democracy, when our country is controlled by right-wing Liberal Party politicians who inadequately respond to crises of our own, such as the recent bushfires?

It seems the second the China question is on the table that everyone becomes an Australian patriot to our “superior” political and economic system, which contradicts the reasonable criticisms of it when actually analysing Australia’s existing policies and decision making. Why are Australian social commentators so proud of their democracy, when the flaws are so obvious?

No longer do we have the advantage of publicly-owned banking, energy or telecommunications. Unions are weak, and the casualisation of work continues to negatively affect the Australian working class. Millennials complain of not being able ever to own a home, creating a divide between the working class of different generations. Access to public health services is becoming harder, and the failing welfare system ensures large numbers of Australians remain in poverty each year. Indigenous Australians still have no treaty, and continue to fight for land rights as mining companies and developers continue to strip it from them. Domestic violence continues to be a major issue around the country.

In making comparisons with China’s development, it’s important to look where the country started. China has a rich 5,000-year history, existing as the largest economy in the world throughout most of this time – as much as one third in the 1830s, greater than all of the European powers combined. But China was not exempt from European colonisation, and between 1840 until the end of World War II (known within China as the Century of Humiliation), the British, along with other European powers, as well as the United States and Japan, forced their control over a third of Chinese sovereign land, with tens of millions dying in the process. As many as twenty-seven per cent of the adult male population became addicted to opium, forced on to them by the British during the Opium Wars. Their share of global wealth dropped to five per cent and life expectancy dropped to an appalling thirty-five years. The Chinese people, along with Indigenous people the world over, have a shared history of immense suffering through colonisation from the West.

As Minister Wang pointed out, China is a developing nation. And “develop” it has. In the past fifty years, China has brought eighty per cent of the world’s impoverished population out of poverty. Homelessness is almost non-existent with a home ownership rate of over ninety per cent. Education continues to be prioritised, with a literacy rate now at almost 100 per cent. Energy, education, telecommunications, transport, and banking industries are largely publicly owned. Wages rise faster than in any other major country in the world.

Yet the Australian media still focuses on China’s “human rights violations.” While Australia’s military participated in the murder of over a million Iraqis over the past twenty years under a media-fuelled climate of racism and hatred towards Muslims, it now magically claims moral superiority of tolerance and peace and condemns China for battling actual terrorism in Xinjiang. While this article does not have space to go into how this terrorism emerged out of US-backed extremist groups, China’s response was to create vocational training centres to peacefully resolve the many dangers affecting most people in the region.

Additionally, how quickly was the panel on Q & A to condemn China for blocking information? Mere moments after Minister Wang had almost hopelessly encouraged empathy from the audience for the brave and hardworking Chinese doctors and nurses fighting the Coronavirus, was the next almost completely unrelated attack on China thrown at him. Rather than looking at Australia’s seventy per cent owned Murdoch media, they hurled accusations at China for blocking out information. It seems that Australia would prefer Chinese citizens not to be protected from fascistic, pro-terrorist ideas. As the minister explained, the case in which Stan Grant used, was related to Washington’s involvement with the judicial processes of China, which could interrupt social stability. Australia prefers to give platforms to racist and bigoted characters like Pauline Hanson, Peter Dutton, and Andrew Bolt – and the assumption that this does not affect people’s constitutions is foolish.

It doesn’t seem to be doing the working class of Australia any favours to be constantly placated with anti-China rhetoric. As Minister Wang Xining expressed, “each year there are two million more [members] joining the [Chinese Communist] Party, many of them under the age of 35. If you think they are idiots, that’s an insult to a large – ” at this point, he was interrupted again. He may have concluded – it’s an insult to a significant proportion of Chinese working-class people; an insult to their intelligence, their innovation, and their passion for seeing their country continue to develop and improve living conditions.

As Australians, it’s time to let go of our moral superiority, and take a good hard look at the way our society has developed and the system which we support, and a more open and rational look towards our biggest trading partner. The global capitalist class do not have the interests of the Australian working class in mind and want to continue a pro-imperialist anti-China line, which is only going to threaten our industries and relationship with China further. China is a prime example of a country building socialism for the people, unlike Australia which platforms the political elite and capitalist media, ABC included. It’s time to change this narrative and support the building of socialism here, for a better future for the working class and all oppressed people across the nation.

Next article – Australian Communist Thought and History – This week …

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