Eileen Gu, the American-born Chinese freestyle skier and athlete, defected to the People’s Republic of China. Competing for the Chinese team in the Winter Olympics, she has been subjected to a vitriolic barrage of denunciation in the US corporate media for her decision to defect.
Her story, and the reaction of the American media, is instructive in revealing how defector stories are politicised, both during the Cold War, and in the current neo-McCarthyite offensive against China. The boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics by the US and its allies – largely symbolic – was motivated not by concerns about human rights, but by geopolitical designs of imperialist gangsterism.
Gu has quite correctly spoken out against the epidemic of anti-Asian racism in the US that has accompanied the current pandemic. She has advocated for gender equality in sport, and her sporting talents were encouraging by her parents. Speaking fluent Mandarin, Gu made annual trips to China prior to her defection. The way the US corporate media reacted to Gu’s defection is akin to that of a serial abuser whose victim leaves.
Instead of examining their own history of abusive behaviour – in this case, a longstanding practice of anti-Asian hate crimes and racism – the serial abuser launches a vitriolic attack against the abused. Eileen Gu is condemned as a traitor, ‘dual loyalty’, an ingrate and spoilt brat. That hysterical denunciation is a disgusting spectacle, but it is also interesting. It contrasts with the strongly supportive expressions towards those defectors emerging from the (former) Eastern bloc.
Dissidents welcomed – and those turned away
Being old enough to remember the 1980s has its advantages. Defectors from the former USSR (and politically associated Eastern bloc nations) were hailed as courageous heroes, lionised in the US corporate media, and rewarded handsomely for their defection. Repurposed into heroic dissidents, refugees from the Eastern bloc were weaponised into serving as propaganda tools for the US oligarchic empire.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about the gulag archipelago, for which he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Lauded as an ethical force in Russian literature, his ultranationalist and racist views were largely excused, even ignored. Channeling Nazi sympathies, he expressed the view that Russia should once again become a Greater Russian Pan-Slavic empire, swallowing up all the non-Russian ethnic minorities – a position similar to that of Alexei Navalny today. Solzhenitsyn was an unswerving advocate of all the unethical foreign interventions of the US state.
There were scores of refugees who were turned away by the US authorities. Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Haitians – people whose lives were afflicted by the US-supported dictatorial regimes were denied sanctuary in the US. These nations were turned into uninhabitable cauldrons of violence by US foreign policies. These dissidents never got access to the corporate media, were never welcomed as heroes, never received the lavish attention given to celebrity-dissidents from Eastern European nations.
Uyghurs in the diaspora – foot soldiers for the US empire
The Uyghur issue – and the region of Xinjiang – have received inordinate amounts of media attention. A huge subject, we cannot address all its complexities in one article. However, we can make a number of relevant observations. Accusations of genocide, regularly hurled at Beijing in relation to the Uyghur people, are unsound and reckless. Genocide is a historically specific crime, and the charge should be used with caution.
Using the term ‘genocide’ as a politically motivated propaganda tactic should be avoided, but that is precisely what Washington is doing. The mass, industrialised extermination of defenceless ethnic groups has been the usual practice of European colonial powers, motivated by intense racism. To place China in the same category as European colonial nations is not only historically inaccurate, but morally perverse.
Uyghur separatism, as a political ideology, has its origins in ultrarightist Pan-Turkism. The Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim minority in China. Extremist groups, such as those cultivated by Washington and the CIA, encourage religious separatism as a direct challenger to the authority of Beijing. The Chinese authorities certainly respond with harsh repression – but please do not throw around the word ‘genocide.’
Making a false accusation of genocide is itself a crime under international law. Using such a charge as part of a propaganda campaign against China is not only reckless, but obnoxious and disrespectful to those nations that have survived actual cases of genocide. The World Uyghur Congress, a collection of exiles and Pan-Turkish activists, wish to derive political capital from the powers-that-be in Washington.
Becoming Sinophobic mercenaries for the US empire, the push by Uyghur exiles for a confrontation with China – and their financial support from the CIA – is highly reminiscent of earlier campaigns by US intelligence agencies to cultivate secret armies to wage warfare against official ‘enemy’ states. Currently, the Uyghur diaspora is being converted into US empire loyalists, linking up with Pan-Turkic far right groups in Central Asia.
Refugees and asylum seekers should be welcomed, whether in the US or other nations. The Anglosphere, united in its goal of confronting purportedly ‘enemy’ nations, weaponises refugee stories for the purpose of encouraging imperial wars.