Do as we say, not as we do

International relations are full of hypocrisy, but rarely so obvious as in this case:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly called on Paraguay’s government not to switch relations from Taipei to Beijing. 

Decades ago, the US government “switched relations” from Taipei to Beijing. Did we switch back?

Meanwhile, China’s most influential newspaper says Covid-19 may have come from a Chinese lab. I never bought this conspiracy theory, but if a major Chinese newspaper says so . . . well, what should I believe?

And China is making a big deal out of the fact that a retired US military officer suggested that the CIA may want to use Uyghurs to destabilize China:

In a 2018 speech retired US army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said: “If the CIA has to mount an operation using those Uygurs … Well, the CIA would want to destabilise China, and that would be the best way to do it.”

China’s treatment of the Falun Gong is comparable to its treatment of the Uyghurs. Serious question: Why is the West (rightly) outraged by the treatment of the Uyghurs, but silent on the treatment of the Falun Gong?

Here’s The Economist:

Today it is black radicals in the Bay Area who are most nostalgic for what China once represented. Tyson Amir grew up in East Oakland, the son of Black Panther affiliates. He travelled to China in 2018 to follow in the footsteps of his “elders”, who raced to “beat Nixon” to China in 1971. Sanyika Bryant, another Oakland-based activist, used to keep a photo of Mao and Robert Williams, a black-defence leader, as his screensaver. . . .But “there’s a lot of people, especially younger organisers, who have no clue about this history,” he sighs. . . .

This is partly because China has changed. As authoritarian as it was under Mao, it is now capitalist (albeit with Chinese characteristics), and no longer a wellspring for revolutionary ideas. 

I don’t believe the writers for The Economist have any idea how authoritarian China was under Mao.

PS. This Noah Smith post on China is very good.



16 Responses to “Do as we say, not as we do”

  1. Gravatar of Mira Mira
    30. March 2021 at 08:50

    Worth noting that the SCMP is very different in mainland China vs online/international. I read it online not irregularly and picked it up in a hotel the last time I was in Beijing.

    The Beijing english version is way more propaganda-y than the international version.

  2. Gravatar of David R Henderson David R Henderson
    30. March 2021 at 09:07

    Excellent post.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. March 2021 at 11:36

    Mira, Right, but it’s still a Chinese newspaper and only prints what the CCP allows it to print. So why does the CCP allow it to spread this conspiracy theory to international audiences?

  4. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    30. March 2021 at 11:56

    Regarding the SCMP article: It is disgraceful that Petrovsky and others are being pressured to shut up. That said, the article’s claim that the virus has an “inexplicable” feature–a furin cleavage site in the spike protein–is disputed by at least a couple of experts who looked closely at the virus last year(See p.45 of

  5. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    30. March 2021 at 12:00

    Falun Gong has decided to take a side in US politics in a very vocal and divisive way so that naturally reduces the sympathy that people on the other side have for it. Lots of Amnesty International types I know now have the attitude “the Chinese government should oppress Falun Gong, but they are kind of a dangerous and untrustworthy cult, which you can see from reading their Epoch Times newspaper.” The Uyghurs are a more sympathetic group because they haven’t done anything like that. Polarization rules US politics now. Even China is an issue that very few people actually care about but is only a prop for attack the other party. The arguments about China I see tend to be “we have to adopt my side’s policies because they will help us beat China.” You rarely see people say “actually I now support the other party because their China policy is better.” The worst strategy for either the Chinese government or any dissident group to take would be to lean into one side of our political divide like the Falun Gong has done.

    On revolutionary ideals, I think there’s a very obvious story that China is more revolutionary than it’s ever been. Say the essence of Marxism is to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Furthermore, Marxism is fundamentally internationalist, so a good Marxist should care about the *international* gap between rich and poor. Dengist China has reduced the international gap between rich and poor more than any other regime in history. Therefore, Dengist China ought to be seen as the regime that most closely advanced Marxist ideals, even compared to Maoist China (which is actually anti-Marxist because it caused China to become poorer economically and thus increased the global gap between rich and poor). It seems to me that Marxists who see China as anti-Marxist are unfortunately corrupted by nationalism and fail to grasp that China has vastly reduced international wealth disparities even as its domestic disparities are now greater.

  6. Gravatar of Anonymous Anonymous
    30. March 2021 at 13:08

    Offtopic, but..

    > Meanwhile, China’s most influential newspaper says Covid-19 may have come from a Chinese lab. I never bought this conspiracy theory, but if a major Chinese newspaper says so . . . well, what should I believe?

    It always bothers me when ‘conspiracy theory’ is used as a pejorative/mental stop light, and this particular theory makes for a clear case why. There’s already an obvious group of people with known means and motivations to cooperate with each other and punish dissenters, there’s even a track record of coverups. This is a case where a ‘conspiracy’ is neither unlikely nor necessary (unless ‘government’ is a subcategory of ‘conspiracy’).

  7. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    30. March 2021 at 14:24

    ” As authoritarian as it was under Mao, it is now capitalist (albeit with Chinese characteristics), and no longer a wellspring for revolutionary ideas.”
    This is funny; it reminds me of something Norman Finkelstein once said about Abe Foxman being worse than Hitler, because “at least he didn’t do it for money.” It betrayed a pretty screwed up sense of moral priorities.

    Mark, “Say the essence of Marxism is to reduce the gap between rich and poor.” This isn’t within a million miles of the essence of Marxism. Try actually reading Marx. The mental gymnastics you’re going through to rehabilitate Marxism are painful to watch.

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. March 2021 at 14:59

    Mark, Falun Gong has been ignored by the West for a long time, well before they started supporting Trump. Million of Chinese people don’t deserve to be oppressed because of some silly articles in the Epoch Times.

    Anonymous, You said:

    “It always bothers me when ‘conspiracy theory’ is used as a pejorative/mental stop light”

    Me too. I’m not using it as a pejorative. What I find ironic is that a Chinese newspaper is promoting this “conspiracy theory” (which may or may not be true).

    Mark Z. Yes, I agree. I actually know people who suffered under Mao, and what their lives are like today. I don’t think most people in the West have ANY IDEA what life was like under Mao. The current government is much too authoritarian, but nothing like Mao’s regime.

    The UK (wisely) offered to take refugees from HK, but very few are taking Britain up on the offer. There are degrees of repression.

  9. Gravatar of Greg Greg
    30. March 2021 at 15:27

    Calling SCMP one of the China’s most influential newspaper is …

    SCMP is the oldest English newspaper in Hong Kong. It mainly targets Western readers; it’s not really distributed in mainland China outside international hotels and places like that, which cater to foreign visitors. A lot of times, it tries to please both sides, with a lot of anti-China pieces which the western readers feel more comfortable and familiar with. Not many Chinese consider it a real Chinese newspaper.

  10. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    30. March 2021 at 16:33

    Mark Z, I’m not trying to rehabilitate Marxism so much as pointing out where one should logically go IF one were a Marxist, as I am responding to this point about young Marxists feeling alienated from modern China. I’m not saying people should be Marxists.

    The basic idea of Marxism is expressed in the first paragraph of the Communist Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” According to Marxism, there is a class of bourgeois who oppress the class of proletariat through their control of the means of production such that the proletariat must work for the bourgeois and increase the bourgeois’ wealth in order to survive, but that this proletariat will one day rise up and seize the means of production for themselves.

    Now IF you accept this as true, where should that lead you logically? In today’s world, the most significant class struggle is between first- and third- world countries. The modern equivalent of the oppressed proletarian laborers of Marx’s writings would be third-world peasants and workers (poor people in rich countries are not really proletarians in the Marxist sense because they do not have to work for others’ profit or die because we are rich enough to have social welfare systems), while the modern bourgeois by and large are the first-world investors who own the factories and the global infrastructure needed to get the products to market. While third-world countries have some indigenous bourgeois, their overall wealth is a drop in the bucket of global wealth. The division between first and third world citizens is in many ways an even better fit to the idea of class than bourgeois and proletariat because they actually have different legal rights and you are born into one class and only 1-2% of people change their class.

    So IF you accept the Marxist lens, which of course you don’t have to do, it seems that you would want to support a regime that resulted in third-world countries gaining more of the means of production. And the regime that has brought the most means of production to the third world is clearly Dengist China.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. March 2021 at 09:41

    Greg, The fact that it targets foreigners makes the article even more inexplicable. China is very defensive about what foreigners say and believe. (Recall the NBA debacle.)

    And it’s certainly a Chinese newspaper unless you want to argue that Hong Kong is not a part of China. Good luck with making that argument on the Mainland!

  12. Gravatar of Greg Greg
    31. March 2021 at 12:45


    You’re trying to get me into this semantic trap, which is pretty meaningless. SCMP was founded in 1903, long before Hong Kong was returned to China. It was mainly targeted for western readers and their taste. Hong Kong has plenty of press freedom, anti-China articles abound. So your suggestion that SCMP is a “Chinese newspaper” exposing suspicion about the origin of COVID-19 somehow carries some special weight is unfounded – that’s what I was trying to point out.

    As for the NBA debacle, which was a debacle for NBA, I have thoroughly debunked the false narrative and double standards of the US media in treating this incident. You appear to have still carried this memory. Good for you.

  13. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    31. March 2021 at 17:45

    SCMP is owned by Alibaba, and even though he is in hot water right now, I believe that Jack Ma is still a member of the Party.

    I am curious what Sumner thinks of the quality of Chinese housing. I thought Smith was a little too harsh, as the urban housing in China that I have seen seems adequate, though quite utilitarian. I would think that it compares favorably to the housing stock in urban areas of the US like NYC, DC, etc.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. April 2021 at 10:58

    Greg, You said:

    “So your suggestion that SCMP is a “Chinese newspaper” exposing suspicion about the origin of COVID-19 somehow carries some special weight is unfounded”

    I disagree. It is a Chinese newspaper. The fact that it is given more leeway than other Chinese newspapers doesn’t magically make it a non-Chinese newspaper. It is interesting that China allows these stories.

    Lizard, Most Chinese housing is quite mediocre, but it’s gradually getting better. The new stuff is much better than the stuff built during the 1990s, and even the 2000s.

    In my view, East Asian housing in general is worse than Western housing. But to some extent it’s a question of taste.

  15. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    2. April 2021 at 05:10

    I guess when I think of housing in the US, especially in old urban areas, I think of all of the old, dilapidated houses with lead paint. So while the average house is better in the US, I don’t think that China has the same problem with housing in urban areas that is literally toxic, though of course I have read about some horror stories from places near non-compliant factories.

  16. Gravatar of ankh ankh
    7. April 2021 at 12:22

    I remember when you said that RU was a bigger threat, yet you are worried about China attacking Taiwan? 🙂

    Taiwan, of course, will eventually be reunited with the mainland by force: that is, when the U.S. is further weakened.

    It’s interesting you mention using cultural differences to “weaken” a nation, since that is precisely what the communist democrats seek to do with open border policy. Although, in this case it is weakening the United States for the totalitarian special interest groups: namely, the CCP.

    And just more proof that Putin is not a evil megalomaniac, hell bent on destroying humanity (you have to love U.S. propaganda, especially from the old farts).

    Your enemy is the CCP. Not Russia.

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