How the Uighur issue is affecting the geopolitical West
Hint: Not the way you think.
I recently had a most interesting conversation with an academic who is of European origin and studies controversial issues to do with China. They said it was odd how careless, even contemptuous, the academic tribe had become with respect to people from China. A basic and deep racism towards the Chinese is apparent, the academic said, and no one cared to hide it. “It’s expressed in terms and ways we wouldn’t dare to use if we were speaking about Black people or South Asian people,” they added.
The academic meant that academic circles in the geopolitical West are increasingly taking a hard line on China. “They feel they can,” my interlocutor explained, because they are bolstered by the political din being drummed up about the “Uighur genocide”. This inflexible line is also to be seen in the media coverage that emerges from the geopolitical West, the academic said. There is a complete and utter refusal to provide more than notional nuance or to couch the whole China story as anything other than a battle between good and evil.
This limits academic independence, as well as the scope of knowledge. So too the media’s ability to tell the story or indeed to inform its audience about world affairs. And finally, it makes a mockery of the agenda that is meant to be firmly grounded in values that speak to transparency, democracy and fairness. As I’ve previously written, this blinkered view – one of grand moral declarations towards China and anyone else inconvenient – is increasingly making it difficult for the US and other Western nations to do any real diplomacy. Instead, China, which rightly or wrongly, doesn’t do too much in the way of condemning other countries is able to make moves on the world chessboard, brokering, for instance, a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Next, we’ll look at the very different way in which the Biden administration is behaving towards two South Asian neighbours, India and Bangladesh, and how this illustrates the geopolitical West’s growing inability to appear fair.