I want to talk about the role of the media in driving this new cold war that we find ourselves in. In particular, I want to focus on US corporate media and the role of the US national security state in shaping its narrative.
It was especially ironic to see the Chinese consulate in Houston forcibly closed by the US government, without any apparent provocation, or any incident at least to provoke it. Senator Marco Rubio, a neoconservative with a pet project who heads the de facto anti-China coalition within the US Congress, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, justified closing the consulate on the grounds that it was a base of spying.
This has also been the US government’s justification for taking action against Chinese companies like Huawei and TikTok. I found it ironic considering not only the dearth of evidence for this claim, but what had recently been revealed about the protests in Hong Kong since the passage of the national security law.
It’s been revealed that the US Agency for Global Media, which oversees Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America, the main US government broadcasting agencies abroad, had contributed $2 million to the protests in Hong Kong – including supplying logistics and secure communications equipment, through its Open Source Initiative, to protesters. As we know these were not exactly peaceful protests, in many cases, they made what’s happening in Portland look like a pacifist love-in.
Two million dollars from the US media organization to destabilize Chinese territory! Can we imagine the US response if Chinese state media agencies like Xinhua or CGTN were supplying communications equipment, and direct money for rapid pay-outs to US protestors in Portland? It would provoke the biggest escalation we’ve seen in US-China relations in decades. But this is exactly what the US did in Hong Kong.
We’ve recently seen protest leaders of these supposedly organic grass-roots protests, figures like Nathan Law and Joshua Wong, hanging out with Mike Pompeo as they go into exile and begin to forge careers within the growing anti-China lobby in London and Washington.
What we did at the Grayzone, as soon as these protests broke out, was to expose these relationships of the US government and the protest leaders. This is consistent with our work throughout the years to really probe the micro sociopolitical relationships between US and opposition groups in countries where the US seeks regime change.
Someone who has been really helpful in this effort with regard to the new cold war on China is Ajit Singh, who helped organize this discussion. Ajit has produced so many important reports for us on the institutions inside the US driving the new cold war and the corporate media’s narrative of hostility toward China.
My own experience as a journalist investigating the role of the US government in driving the media’s narrative on China began in earnest during a trip I took to Capitol Hill in 2018. It was there that congressional leaders of both parties, including the current House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, participated honoring North Korean dissidents – many of the people who are quoted about Korea in the US media, and who are paid large sums by South Korean intelligence for their lurid testimonies about the so-called DPRK evildoing.
The event was hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, a US government-funded regime change organization that was created out of William Casey’s CIA during the Reagan administration.
And it was there that I met someone called Omer Kanat, who is the head of the World Uyghur Congress. As the ceremony ended, I noticed the media surrounding this character and I wanted to know who he was.
I realized that he was the head of a right-wing, anti-communist lobbying group funded entirely by the US government – very similar to the Cuban American National Foundation, or the Venezuelan groups created to give Juan Guaido and his allies a voice in Washington. They are dedicated to maintaining political pressure for a US policy of regime change, and to provide quotes to US media, which scarcely ever mentions their US government funding.
I approached Omer Kanat and asked him about a narrative that was forming at that time, that I had heard repeated without a shred of skepticism in mainstream media about millions of Uygurs in the so-called concentration camps in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. I asked Kanat what the sources were for these staggering numbers? And he told me that one source was the World Uyghur Congress, which is, of course, funded by the US government, and which supplied many of these testimonies and the so-called “sources” to US media.
I pressed him on his sources, asking how reliable they were. Kanat said, “Well, our sources are Western media and some testimonies.” He was describing a feedback loop between US media and his own network of US government-funded dissidents that portrayed China as the reincarnation of Nazi Germany.
This extremely dubious narrative has provided the basis for the US Congress to pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and several attendant sanctions listings relating to Chinese policy in Xinjiang.
Ajit Singh probed deeper and found two primary sources for the data relating to the claim of millions of Uygurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang. The first was someone called Adrian Zenz. Someone who thinks a lot like Mike Pompeo and has about as much expertise in the Chinese language, Chinese politics and society as Pompeo, a longtime stooge of the Koch brothers and evangelical Christian from Kansas.
Adrian Zenz set out his world view in a 2010 book called Worthy to Escape: Why All Believers Will Not Be Raptured Before the Tribulation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Zenz is not some dispassionate China expert, but an evangelical right-wing fanatic who has declared he has been “led by God” against the Communist Party of China, which he apparently sees as a satanic entity. In his book, Zenz called for “scriptural spanking” or corporal punishment or unruly children and portrayed diversity and homosexuality as a demonic plot. He is currently a research fellow at an organization called the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Yet Zenz is called upon as a leading “scholar” in US media on all things Xinjiang related. As Ajit revealed in our report at The Grayzone, Zenz’s material relies on scattered testimonies, his own partisan interpretation of selective data, and an extremely shoddy methodology.
The other source for the incendiary claim of “millions of Uygurs in camps” is an NGO called Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Yet again, this group is funded by the US government. In fact, it is based in Washington DC in the same office as Human Rights Watch, which relied on its study for its own reports on China’s policy in Xinjiang. As Ajit revealed, Chinese Human Rights Defenders relied on testimonies from a grand total of eight Uygurs from Xinjiang and extrapolated the population of the villages that these eight people inhabited into the total of anywhere between 250,000 and 1 million Uygurs in concentration camps.
The point here is that when you look at these numbers, and you go to the source, you need to have more evidence to make such explosive claims. And when you look at how these sources are cited in US media, whether it’s figures from the World Uyghur Congress, or Adrian Zenz, or Chinese Human Rights Defenders, there is no background or context given on what their political agenda is, or the fact that the US government has incubated these organizations and is funding them to the hilt.
It’s the same with the raft of reports that emerged this year about forced labor in Xinjiang, which were published in coordination with congressional action against the Chinese government. As Ajit reported for The Grayzone, sources for this explosive narrative boiled down once again to two sources with close ties to the US national security state. First, there was the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which is funded by the US State Department, the British Foreign Office, and the arms industry. The other source spinning out reports on forced labor in Xinjiang was the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, which is funded by the same exact elements – the arms industry, US State Department, and other foreign governments.
While the hostile narrative propelling the new cold war will benefit only the most militaristic, right-wing elements in US society, it has been successfully marketed to the middle-class liberal intelligentsia through the language of humanitarian concern. Thus we see putatively left-wing media outfits like Jacobin, Democracy Now, and The Nation rely on the US government cut-outs I discussed earlier without any critical detachment, inculcating anti-China sentiment and anti-communist hysteria in their readers. These stories about Xinjiang are absolutely unquestioned in respectable liberal left media, and to question them means crossing an invisible red line where you put your career as a journalist in the US at risk in the name of “trivialities” such as the truth and global cooperation.
We are witnessing the US wage a hybrid war on China. Part of this strategy entails information war, where reporters are transformed into frontline propaganda soldiers. Hovering over their laptop keyboards is the hidden hand of the US national security state.
This November, while the political winds may sweep the Democrats into the White House, the hostile narrative of the new cold war will remain with us. So, it is our job to provide the public with the context and facts they are missing, and to provide an alternative to a media fundamentally corrupted by its relationship to imperial power.
The article is an excerpt of Max Blumenthal’s lecture from the webinar on July 25 themed “A new cold war against China is against the interests of humanity.” The webinar was organized by scholars and activists from 48 countries. Max Blumenthal is editor and founder of the Grayzone, a US-based independent news outlet.