People have been asking me about the @MadEmpanada video that purports to be a ‘balanced’ view of is there oppression against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, so here’s a thread. (tldr: the video is really not very good at getting the proper context on XJ) 1/x
So the video begins with BE defining the two extremes: (1) a group that is so fanatically loyal to China that literally no injustice would sway them and (2) State Dept propaganda that claims there is a genocide based on dubious sources like Adrian Zenz
My first thought is, where is this group of fanatical China defenders? I have not seen them.
As the video unfolds over the first 40 min, I’m starting to notice that for something that is trying to strike a balance of some sort between two camps, all this video has been about
so far has been how ‘suspicious’ China is, and does a kind of frame-by-frame analysis of witness testimony, searching for differences in mood and expression to get at the deeper meaning. BE is good at this, and tells a compelling story
However, I’m wondering when we get to the part where there is an incredible US-led propaganda campaign alleging a genocide going on rn, and I’m not sure the dimensions of it are clarified by what is essentially literary analysis of video, even by someone good at such things
Nowhere is there a discussion of the broader context of massive, rapid economic and social dvlpmt in XJ. Nowhere is there a discussion of how on earth a genocide could be occurring in a region that has rapid pop growth, rising life expectancy, very rapid GDP growth of 8% /yr,
and hundreds of millions of tourist visits per year. No, it’s all about how China didn’t give the press universal access to its facilities, and how sus that is
What comes through most clearly is BE sneering at China’s badly staged patriotic displays, suggesting that ethnic cleansing must be happening, because China’s whole mood is just so suspicious, y’know?
Like anytime a govt clumsily tries to control a narrative in the press, it’s obviously to conceal their genocidal intent, as though genocide were a secret desire that all countries cannot wait to get into
Then he spends nearly 20 minutes getting into a personal story of a passport denial and a family that is separated. No doubt it is a sad story, but to not even get into the larger issues and spend this amount of time on it?
Where is the bearing on the charges of genocide; BE doesn’t seem clear on what these charges are, but on something much hazier -- is a govt sus or not?
Of course, BE also makes it clear where he stands on that, saying that (paraphrasing here) "no govt has ever cared for its minorities, nor even the average person in the majority group". It almost sounds as if he does not believe in govt at all.
Could a govt, hypothetically, care about its minorities or its working class majority? What concrete policies would they pursue? What if such a country has powerful enemies, who have tried to parcel it up, colonize it, and otherwise control it in the recent past?
What if the country must have certain controls in place to prevent such things from occurring? What if this results in the restriction of free speech, for example?
BE seems to me to be the kind of leftist that the authorities most like. Naively assuming that all govts are bad, by hating everything, he becomes exactly the kind of naive rube that he continually ridicules others for being when they believe a govt might do something good
This kind of critic is easily controllable, for they will always point out ‘authoritarianism on both sides’. That is the perfect person to manipulate. All we have to do is convince this kind of person that the other side is just a little bit worse -- 1% worse is enough
and they’ll spend most of their time criticizing a country that is our enemy, and not opposing actions we take against that country. Sure, maybe there will be some finger wagging, for say, the concentration camps on the US border, but not real opposition
At the very end of the video, he makes a bizarre comparison between vocational centers and Guantanamo bay prison, providing a confusing comparison that is somehow based on the idea that Gitmo represents the only place terrorists were imprisoned, and it was only a few hundred,
as a way of implicating China’s higher detention numbers; no context is given for what the War on Terror did to the Islamic world, the millions killed and displaced, so I truly don’t get the comparison
The whole emphasis is on China controlling the narrative, somehow proving how sus the CPC is, how authoritarian, how unsophisticated are their propaganda. For BE to present China as the major player of propaganda in the western press is naive at best.
China has almost no influence over the western media; the claims of genocide have been orchestrated by the State Dept. Witness the number of key US political players at a recent conference of the WUC; does Nancy Pelosi and Marco Rubio attend just anyone’s party, do you think?
The star-studded guest list begins on p 4, and we can see the bipartisan interest in funding separatism, for all the DC attendees refer to the region as ‘East Turkestan’…
One of the worst aspects of this video was BE’s uncritical acceptance of the XJ victim database. This database is quite frankly a fraud. BE gushes over the ‘sheer, overwhelming volume of testimonies’, missing that all but 46 of the >13k testimonies are secondhand, that is
they are hearsay. He does mention that ~3k come directly from Zenz, but only describes why that is problematic much later. There simply are not mountains of testimonies, there are a few dozen
BE provides almost no discussion whatsoever of terrorism in the region, apart from a single mention that there were a few ‘dozen’ terrorist attacks. I’m afraid that is a severe misreading of the history there,
which BE seems not to care about, because his causality is: Govt exists and naturally causes oppression → terrorism → repression → more govt oppression. What a naive and simplistic view, which is utterly at odds with the history of the region.
There is no discussion of the absolutely massive funding of violently fundamentalist Islamic groups in Central Asia by the US, in addition to chaos from the poorly-chosen Soviet involvement in Afghanistan
There is no discussion of how nearly two decades of US occupation of Afghanistan has strengthened Islamic radicalism in the region.
No discussion of how thousands of XJ separatists trained with al Qaeda and ISIS, as the US took the main separatist group (ETIM), off the terrorist watchlist, despite the well-known connection with terrorist groups.
For a fan of video, BE doesn’t seem to have watched this one:
Given that BE doesn’t understand the scale or magnitude of the terrorism, nor its roots, how does he think a govt should deal with it? It’s easy to criticize, especially when western govts provide so many examples of evil govt action, but its hard to say what you’d do.
Is China supposed to let XJ secede? Where is the evidence that is what most Uyghurs would want?
BE consistently gives China's efforts at assimilation and teaching another language a sinister spin. The school pop going from 400k to 900k is reported without context, without providing the info on how many schoolchildren there are among the Uyghurs
While this doesn’t give us the exact number of Uyghur school children, if we assume its about 4 million, a move from 400k to 900k is a shift of only a small fraction, and not necessarily some kind of sinister plot
At 1:03, so over an hour in, he says that the most bombastic claims are mostly bullshit -- that’s great, but the first hour has been, ‘why China is sus’
Finally we get to the takeaway: “Is it a cultural genocide? That seems very possible, yes. Does it meet the UN definition? That seems far less likely”
Wow, saying there is ‘probably’ a cultural genocide is actually exactly what Zenz says, so despite BE’s valid criticisms of Zenz made pretty late in the video, it sounds like BE actually agrees with Zenz on the larger point
Perhaps this is why the criticism of Zenz is mostly on his background and Christian fundamentalist beliefs, not so much on his argument, which it seems BE largely agrees with
The smoking gun is a Chinese govt document about the policies of “strengthening political education, nationally common language education, and skill training”.
It is fascinating to me how this becomes the proof. That China’s explicit, stated desire for a unified nation in which people share a language -- despite massive affirmative action toward ethnic minorities, despite massive improvements in the lives of these minorities, and
all working people -- no, this stated desire is far more important. In Marxism, this is called “idealism”, the belief that it is the ideas that matter, and clearly, anything that sounds like ‘assimilation’ or ‘nation-building’ sounds sinister to the western ear.
To western eyes, the old is swept away before the new and more powerful, this has always been the way, so why would it be different with the rise of China?
It is eminently believable that China would sweep away its ethnic minorities, that of course they want to do genocide, that sounds exactly like we did to the Native Americans.
What BE cannot conceive of is a govt that actually tries, with great earnestness, and mostly with success, to achieve a great national project in a way that helps the average person as much as possible.
So there are no statistics here about the elimination of poverty, about the movement from a largely illiterate population, particularly among the traditional culture of the Uyghurs, about the massive reduction in infant mortality that has come along with this,
and the prosperity enjoyed by millions more people as the pop has grown. These are in fact the effects of China’s policies in XJ.
No, we are supposed to always have the utmost respect for ‘traditional’ Uyghur culture instead; never is it mentioned that life was quite a bit worse in XJ just a few decades ago, that women had a very low rate of literacy and were trapped in childrearing & household labor roles,
having few other options, that all had fewer opportunities when the economy of XJ was just a small fraction of its current size. Is that the traditional Uyghur culture that must be respected at all costs? Yes, massive economic development combined with
massive investment in social spending at all levels, has changed traditional life, as it has in every single country that has industrialized
BE is basically like, “maybe the separatists have a point, if your govt was oppressing you, you’d hate that govt too”. But he starts from the wrong place, his causality is:
Govt -- does oppression, because all govts do -- causes people to dislike govt -- does more repression -- gets terrorism -- does more repression
We so hate govt, for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie has done some evil, depraved things, that we cannot see what
humane economic development looks like. While it is unquestionable that China is pursuing nation-building and seeks to protect its territorial integrity and its sovereignty from the many kinds of attacks from the US and its allies, and indeed that in such an environment,
authority must be exercised. Every nation uses authority. The question is, to what end? BE does not evaluate the results of China’s policies in XJ, instead choosing to focus on his expertise, which is clearly analyzing video.
I respect the skill, but it does not provide evidence of any sort of cultural genocide to say that China has cracked down in XJ, or even to say that China seeks to control the PR narrative around this issue, or to say that China doesn’t provide unfettered access to its camps.
All this says, in a long, roundabout way, is “China is sus”. That rather conveniently overlooks the true magnitude of the propaganda war here, which is mostly an all-out assault by the US, but you’d never know it from BE’s presentation which is overwhelmingly focused
on ‘Chinese propaganda’. Overlooking and ignoring US propaganda isn’t being ‘principled’, it’s being naive
And saying China is being ‘repressive’ and ignoring the massive human-centered development of the region means you care only about peoples’ thinking, not the actual quality of their lives
P.S. I do see that BE has a pinned tweet that looks like this. So that’s good and I agree, but if that’s your view, why spend like 66 out of 75 min criticizing China while furthering US aims for separatism in the region?
Why aid the US by weakening resistance to the charge of genocide among at least some segment of the left?
Hey, if you’ve gotten this far, you might want to check out some of my other threads on XJ

I'm writing a book on this topic if you'd like to contribute 🙏

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7 Apr
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