Chinese Communist Party-backed (CCP) publications and commentators are gloating and grave-dancing over the U.S. presidential election turmoil, claiming that the ongoing election exposes the flaws of our republic. The Washington Post amplified this CCP propaganda last week, reporting that columnists from various Chinese state-controlled publications are referring to America as “[h]opeless,” claiming that “U.S. democracy [is] now a joke,” that we are “like a developing country,” and that the “vast majority of Chinese can see through the reality of U.S. political division, economic stagnation and social turmoil.”
That these comments are coming from a Marxist-Leninist American adversary are not surprising. But what ought to be surprising is that the Post prints such quotes with so little criticism, offering little context about the tyrannical regime doing the criticizing, and in effect legitimizing and amplifying the anti-American party’s line. The Post gives the distinct impression that the CCP’s claims, some of which reinforce the progressive predilections of the Post and its readers, are legitimate.
After chronicling the above messages from state media, evincing a clear desire to capitalize on the unfolding legal and political drama that is the battle over the U.S. presidency, implying that China’s authoritarian rule is superior, the Post’s interim Beijing bureau chief presents the CCP’s views as of equal merit to those of our friends around the world. He writes:
The Chinese criticisms, while pointed, mirrored broad concerns among both U.S. allies and rivals as the United States wrestled with unfounded allegations of electoral fraud from President Trump on Wednesday, an emerging legal showdown and the prospect of internal divisions that could endure well beyond Inauguration Day. [emphasis added]
Note that he is in effect more dubious of President Trump than he is of the CCP. By implication, he also puts Communist China’s views as on an equal footing with those of our Western allies and partners—equal footing the CCP objectively does not deserve.
Second, the reporter presents only one source skeptical of the CCP’s messaging. That source is Freedom House, which has exhibited a bias against the United States, at least under President Trump. By the reporter’s own admission, Freedom House “released a report this year that included the United States among countries where democratic institutions have weakened.”
Still, at least the China researcher from Freedom House rightly asserted that Beijing’s broader “criticisms of democracies were ‘ironic’ and a ‘typical part of the playbook’ from its state media. Cartoons and memes mocking Trump and U.S. politicians have been widespread in China, but ‘any user posting anything even remotely irreverent of Xi Jinping faces severe punishment, including possible imprisonment,’ she [the Freedom House researcher] said…”
This “balance” could and should have been presented upfront. When Reuters reported on CCP reactions to the election, it noted early in the article that “Communist Party-ruled China’s own leadership is chosen through an opaque, closed-door process.” Even that narrow, euphemistic, politically correct description of a system completely antithetical to America’s still reads as more fair than the Post’s.
In the Post, one has to scroll down ten paragraphs to find out that comments about U.S. democracy being a “joke,” and that we are “racked by racial tensions, economic inequality and unchecked coronavirus cases,” represent “criticisms” that “are nothing new from Beijing, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) holds power with an iron grip.”
The reality is that the CCP has done nothing to deserve such legitimizing “balance.” There is no moral equivalence between Communist China and the United States, although the Washington Post has run editorials directly to that effect, and even published CCP mouthpieces on those same pages.
And we should be very clear about how China’s political “process” works in contrast to ours. For one example, we have the Tiananmen Square massacre. For another, we have the concentration camps in Xinjiang. For another, we have the tyrannical takeover of Hong Kong.
In America, all dissenters from the prevailing political orthodoxy get a vote. In Communist China, as in most places in most times, dissenters get put up against the wall.
Indeed, we must ensure that the American political system remains the envy of the world by ensuring that there is election integrity against those who would prefer a soft version of the kind of one-party rule that the CCP so relishes. But it is an insult to the country to dignify and legitimize CCP tyranny by allowing its criticism of the United States to be printed largely unchallenged.
The Post is not writing an editorial here, but in effect it editorializes favorably to the CCP by failing to subject its claims to the same rigors it would hold America. That it does so even though the article’s author has been a victim of CCP tyranny, having been expelled from China earlier this year, is all the more astounding.
While it is imperative to understand what our adversaries are thinking, saying, and doing, the lack of context in publications that routinely inject their clear leftist political posture under the guise of “context” into such reporting represents a betrayal of readers, to the detriment of America.
That foreign adversaries would try to exploit uncertainty in the American political system to serve their ends is a given. But American media should never become an accomplice in amplifying such propaganda.
Ben Weingarten is a Federalist senior contributor, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and fellow at the Claremont Institute. He was selected as a 2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow of the Fund for American Studies, under which he is currently working on a book on U.S.-China policy. You can find his work at benweingarten.com, and follow him on Twitter @bhweingarten.
Photo David / Flickr
Author: Ben Weingarten