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Living a Lie or Living the Truth in China
They overlook the simple fact that Beijing has never honored its promises in the past.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken a page from “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (544 B.C.–496 B.C.), arguably the most celebrated military strategist in China’s history: “There can never be too much deception in war.” If anything, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has overplayed this trick since the very beginning of its creation.
A Habitual Liar
On July 4, 1943, the CCP published the editorial “Long Live America’s Democracy!” in its official mouthpiece the Xinhua Daily, thanking the United States for giving aid to China and touting America’s democratic values.
It stated: “Since childhood, we felt America is a particularly beloved country. We hold that this is not simply because she has never occupied Chinese territory by force, nor waged any aggressive war on China more fundamentally, the Chinese people’s good feelings toward America derive from American people’s democratic demeanor and great compassion.”
It further added, “America is a pioneer model for the backward China in terms of democratic politics—it teaches the Chinese people to learn from Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, and enables us to realize that we need courage, fairness, and honesty in order to establish a democratic and free China.”
However, the CCP’s apparent humility and openness couldn’t be further from the truth. Disguised as the champion of a democratic China, the CCP would resort to lies and deception—whatever means it needed—to garner support from people from all walks of life in China and abroad to defeat the nationalist government headed by Chiang Kai-shek, and it succeeded in 1949 after the four-year civil war, the bloodiest war in modern Chinese history.
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out. On Dec. 10, 1950, the People’s Liberation Army quietly crossed the Yalu River into North Korea for the so-called “War to Resist America and Aid Korea,” though Beijing claims that this war against U.S.-led U.N. forces officially started on Dec. 25, 1950.
The Chinese Red Army had its first official face-off with U.S. troops on the battlefield. By then, the CCP’s adoration of America as described in its 1943 editorial in the Xinhua Daily had long been forgotten.
Between 1958 and 1962, Mao Zedong ordered the “Great Leap Forward” campaign, which led to famine, mass starvation, and the deaths of some 20 million to 30 million lives. The most disastrous agrarian policy was the establishment of the so-called people’s communes or socialist collectives.
Inflated grain output figures were widely promoted in the state-run media outlets, creating a deceitful socialist prosperity. The wildest claim was perhaps the People’s Daily’s report on Sept. 18, 1958, that stated a farmland of 667 square meters in Huanjiang County of Guangxi Province was able to produce 65,217 kilograms of rice, or 363 times more than the previous year’s yield.
The CCP routinely revises history to influence public opinion at home and abroad. Instead of truthfully telling the masses that it was the nationalist government that led the resistance against the Japanese invasion in the 1940s, the CCP credits itself in textbooks for defeating the Japanese.
Today, through manipulating and filtering information on the internet and state-run media, the CCP still presents a different reality to the Chinese people, particularly regarding so-called “sensitive topics” such as the Cultural Revolution, the massacre of students on Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the ongoing campaigns of persecution against the Falun Gong spiritual movement, underground Christians, Tibetans, and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province.
According to a 36-page report released by the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy on June 20, 2018, China has engaged in unrestricted warfare over the years against the United States with activities such as “physical and cyber theft, forced technology transfers, evading United States export controls, export restraints on raw materials, and investments in more than 600 high-technology assets in the United States worth close to $20 billion.”
Beijing’s repeated failure to honor its commitment to international covenants since its World Trade Organization membership in 2001 has deepened widespread concern and uncertainty about this rising communist superpower.
Even Fareed Zakaria, a critic of President Donald Trump at CNN, confessed, “Let’s be honest on one fundamental point: Donald Trump is right—China is a trade cheat.” Zakaria expressed his support for Trump’s China policy, as nothing else has worked.
Confucius (551 B.C.–470 B.C.) preached five fundamental tenets: benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, wisdom, and trustworthiness. They have been part of the Chinese (and arguably of Korean and Japanese) cultural heritage for over two thousand years.
Zigong, one of Confucius’s most loyal and important disciples, once sought advice about how to govern a country properly. Confucius said: “One, let the masses have an ample supply of food and clothes. Two, the country should have a strong army. Three, the ruler should have trust from his subordinates and the masses.”
Zigong asked, “If one of the three has to be removed, which one?” Confucius replied, “Take out the army one.” Zigong asked again, “If another has to be removed, which one?” Confucius said: “Take out food and clothes. One would rather sacrifice food and clothes to retain trust. If the ruler doesn’t have the trust from his subordinates and the masses, the country will end.”
Dishonest individuals may exist in all countries, yet when a society is governed by a deceptive communist regime, the society’s culture will inevitably be corrupted over time. The campaign against the “Four Olds” (old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits) during the Great Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) wiped out the moral foundations of the Chinese culture.
It is about time for the people of China and elsewhere to live in the truth and confront the Orwellian regime in Beijing.
According to the recent Guardian report “Inside China’s Audacious Global Propaganda Campaign,” the CCP’s propaganda machinery has already reached overseas, hiring foreign journalists to “tell China’s story well”—this in itself is perhaps the best evidence that the party-state is actually not doing well.
In Part III of “Henry VI,” Shakespeare writes, “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.” As a habitual liar, the CCP thrives only if the world looks aside, allowing its deception to prevail.
Throughout modern history, there has never been a communist regime that honored any international agreement, in trade or otherwise. Over the years, China has thrived through its diplomatic deception and theft of technology from the West.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said: “If you ask me when was the first time we had an official government-to-government intellectual property crisis with China, it was during George Herbert Walker Bush’s administration in 1991. That’s how long it is. Since then, we’ve probably seen China agree to correct this problem or some aspect of it maybe 20 times. And they have done none of that till now.”
One should never, after all, believe a wolf in a sheep’s clothing under any circumstance.
***Peter Zhang focuses his research on political economy in China and East Asia. He is a graduate of Beijing International Studies University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and of Harvard Kennedy School as a Mason Fellow.
Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, wrote in “The Power of the Powerless,” “If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth.”
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