Anna Chen – 13 September 2023
A shorter version of this piece appeared as a Guardian comment in response to the Editorial: The Guardian view on China and spying: we need less heat and more light, 13 September 2023
Despite lurid claims by the Guardian about China and spying, no charges have been brought against the accused parliamentary researcher since his arrest and release in March. All that’s left is smear and innuendo where balanced coverage might have yielded the additional light aspired to in the headline.
The Guardian changes tack and insists, “… whatever the truth of this case, there are reasons to be particularly concerned about Chinese intelligence efforts and Britain’s response. One is simply that China is increasingly powerful, forceful and hostile to the west, and more repressive at home.”
But it’s not so “simply,” is it? America spends as much on its military might as the next nine nations put together, including China. It surrounds China with a noose of hundreds of bases, Obama strangling it further when he started embroiling its mainland neighbours in his Pivot to Asia, having wrecked the Middle East and Libya. Trump bludgeoned China with an unnecessary backfiring trade war and other unpleasantness, doubled down on by Biden’s “not on my watch” objective and a $500m a year propaganda bounty.
Only an idiot would have read THAT room and not taken measures to defend its citizens from the economic and hot warfare being aimed at it. And the Chinese are no idiots.
Self defence is no offence.
You’d have thought the press would have learnt their lesson from the embarrassment of the stray weather balloon, shot down in February last by excitable Don Quixotes tilting at windmills, which it turned out wasn’t collecting intelligence after all (China has perfectly good satellites). Balloons can be sent higher or lower. However, they have no engines to determine horizontal direction so that’s a pretty useless bit of spy equipment. Unlike Pegasus or any of the other surveillance the West is so good at, as attested to by Edward Snowden and the NSA files.
Why would China have wanted to screw things anyhow, just as they were raising 800 million out of absolute poverty, creating a middle-class almost twice the size of America’s entire population and building stunning infrastructure for themselves and around the world? The rising superpower was doing very nicely, catching up with the US without a shot being fired in over 40 years, fattening western corporate profits and providing affordable goods.
Wonderful trade deals with China were promised to Brits once we exited the EU. The UK was riding the wave of China’s rise. They even saved the world economy from America’s greed-fuelled Great Crash of 2008. No-one had any interest in hostilities except for the declining hegemon glowering in the corner.
Cue US pressure to nobble the rival. Trump raged at Boris Johnson in February 2020 for not ceasing trade with Huawei and ripping out billions worth of 5G infrastructure as instructed to by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the previous February, and in May 2019, a US delegation to the UK yelled at GCHQ in a five-hour “hair-dryer” treatment. US Vice President Mike Pence said darkly that the Trump administration had made its disappointment with the UK “very clear to them”. Former British ambassador to the US, now Lord Kim Darroch, says there were no “compelling technical arguments that undermined GCHQ’s case” and that the US case was “political”.
Johnson finally caved in, ripped out the Huawei 5G we’d paid for, and it was all downhill from there, unchallenged by the media. We were left nailed to the USS Titanic, torpedoing our global lifeboat and growth engine.
The poisonous tone of the broadsheet’s editorial hit new depths in a line straight out of the 1930s, pointing out who the targets were. “Those who were born in China, and those of Chinese descent, are often most at risk from espionage.”
Good grief. Pogrom, much? What’s the ratio of light to heat here? Are there no grown-ups in the room who will call this out?
Oh, and that 9-dash line was originally the US-approved 11-dash boundary for its Republic of China/Taiwan ally, based on a 1935 map. Later reduced to nine by the CPC.
My Asia Times column 29 September 2023: Don Quixote in the White House – Hollywood deconstructs the narrative