The op-ed mills have been buzzing in response to a Xinhua article published on October 13th advocating for a ‘de-Americanized’ world, ostensibly in response to America’s current financial-political
shit-show crisis. Many articles written in response to Xinhua’s piece have elected to read ‘de-Americanization’ as ‘de-dollarization,’ but the Xinhua text only occasionally focuses on economics; instead, it reads like an open-letter to Americans, saying that democracy is sooo overrated and that China will be just fine.
The piece reads like a left-wing critique of US policy, covering the Iraq War (and Abu Ghraib torturings), drone attacks on civilians, “voracious Wall Street elites,” and international wire-tappings. The piece strongly criticizes the United States for not recognizing “the authority of the United Nations” and for recklessly intervening abroad, both militarily and economically. Speaking as an American, all I can say is, “touché.”
The article seems almost like a call to universal human rights and internationalism, as one paragraph spells out:
[A] new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.
The piece has a pleasantly lefty-internationalist feel, but this is just a thin layer atop a deep sentiment of isolationism and a direct affront to notions of international (let alone universal) laws and rights. The article really gets into its swing with this line:
For starters, all nations need to hew to the basic principles of the international law, including respect for sovereignty, and keeping hands off domestic affairs of others.
In other words, stay the hell away from Taiwan. In a few more words, the “basic principles of the international law” would presumably skip the entirety of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which China is a signatory) which includes lovely nuggets like Article 19’s Freedom of Expression clause or Article 17’s Rights to Privacy, just to name two.
The article, at its core, seeks to portray a dysfunctional, mean-spirited, internationally-catastrophic United States as compared to an all-loving, international-law abiding, stable China; in reality, the former is an exaggeration and the latter a fiction. Furthermore, it hopes to undermine the reader’s confidence in liberal political institutions themselves: the article superficially complains about American political gridlock while really criticizing political pluralism, it laments the Iraq War while really denying the possibilities of non-Western democracy, and it criticizes America’s global reach while really arguing against international laws and universal rights.
China’s party organs have certainly gotten more sophisticated over the past several decades, but this Xinhua piece is still propaganda in the most conventional sense. As Bloomberg noted:
The message of the editorial […] is that the [American] debt stalemate should rally the global community to build a post-Pax Americana world order. The piece reads like the primal scream of a fed-up hegemonist-to-be.
That said, if ‘China as No. 1’ is suddenly an orgy of international laws and UN-backed liberalism, my sincerest apologies in advance.
[Image via Flickr]