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Time to stop making China a bogeyman

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-20 08:07
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Photo taken on May 3, 2018 shows Tiananmen Square in Beijing. [Photo/VCG]

As a foreign correspondent, I have paid close attention to criticism of China by other countries. After all, honest and sincere criticism, whether of China's politics, economy or society, will help make China a better country.

While such criticisms are precious, they are often overwhelmed by the irresponsible and groundless accusations by politicians and so-called opinion leaders.

At the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday, a number of EP members pointed the finger at the Chinese central government and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and justified, even eulogized Hong Kong's violent mobs that stormed the Legislative Council building, blocked the airport departure terminal, vandalized the Mass Transit Railway stations and trains and threw petrol bombs at police.

If the Hong Kong rioters' actions are justified, why have they criticized the Yellow Vest protests that have continued since November? On Sept 14, just two days before the plenary session, Yellow Vest protests were held across French cities, from Paris, Marseille, Rouen and Dijon to Bordeaux, Toulouse and Strasbourg. In Nantes, police used tear gas and water cannons after some protesters threw projectiles. Twenty people were arrested.

One of the most ridiculous accusations against China this past week probably came from Gordon G. Chang, a frequent commentator on Fox News and CNN. In his response to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's remarks on gun control, Chang said on his Twitter:"Hey, @BetoORourke, do you know what happens when citizens don't have guns? You get#China."

Chang is notorious for his 2001 book The Coming Collapse of China, a laughing stock for almost all China watchers. Contrary to his prediction, China has in the past 18 years become the world's second-largest economy, the largest trading nation and the largest retail market, and has built the longest high-speed rail and subway systems.

His criticism of China relating to gun ownership is easy to dismiss because China's neighbors, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore all have much lower gun ownership than China.

I don't know why Chang is so proud of the United States having the highest gun ownership in the world. A Gallup poll released on Sept 10 showed that almost half (48 percent) of US adults say they are "very" or "somewhat" worried about being a victim of mass shooting.

Like most China watchers, I normally don't take Chang seriously. But the fact that he is a frequent commentator on influential US cable news networks, more frequent than those honest scholars from Washington think tanks such as Brookings Institution and Peterson Institute, is deeply disturbing. It literally means that he has been offered a platform to mislead US public by spreading misinformation, even making hate speeches against China.

Therefore, the rising unfavorable opinion of China among the US public in a Pew Center survey in August can be largely attributed to the opinions of US politicians, from the president to lawmakers like Senator Marco Rubio to TV commentators such as Chang, who have been filling the airwave with anti-China rhetoric.

For many years, China has been the favorite bogeyman for US politicians. And as the race for the 2020 US presidential election heats up, China bashing will again become a favorite pastime for both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Talking tough against China, regardless of facts, would sadly make them look both "politically correct" and "apt presidential" candidates in today's US.

We should all call out those lies. Factchecking outlets, which have grown rapidly in recent years, have a big responsibility to call out those politicians and TV commentators so they dare not to repeat the lies in front of the public time and time again.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

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