China: A History of Human Atrocities – What is to be done?

As featured in Edition 38, available here.


BY SIDNEY PYCROFT (MA - Early Modern History - Rendlesham, Suffolk)

China, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has had a meteoric rise in recent decades. One aided and abetted by global institutions and world leaders, not least Bill Clinton in the 1990s. We hear of a Chinese miracle, an Asian century, the ascendancy of China. But many in the West appear to turn a blind eye to the how, their behaviour, and the blood spilt. Over Covid-19 it happened again, with apparently cover-up after cover-up about its origins and the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.


But what is to be done about China? Should the so-called ‘liberal’ world get to dictate China’s affairs when they have lost the right to call themselves ‘liberal’, ‘democratic’, or ‘free’? Will China be the new Afghanistan and Middle East for the spurned security elite? And how can we square a dislike of China and its behaviour with a simultaneous dislike of disastrous Western moralistic crusades?


First, we must chronicle the long history of abuses. The CCP, who now advocate ‘communism with Chinese characteristics’ are no strangers to evil. They find their origin with Chairman Mao Zedong and the atrocities of the twentieth-century, where Mao’s Great Leap Forward, or Second Five Year Plan, of 1958-1962 resulted in deaths so numerous estimates range from 15 to 55 million. The bulk came from the resulting state-induced Great Famine of 1959-1961. In addition, Dutch historian Frank Dikötter estimates that 2.5 million were beaten or tortured to death with 1-3 million committing suicide. The human cost of the CCP is sadly no recent phenomenon.


China then faced the 1966-1976 decade of the infamous Cultural Revolution, one of the worst events and atrocities in human history. Death estimates range from hundreds of thousands to 20 million. It saw massacres, pogroms, cultural and historical destruction, mass cannibalism – often organised by local party officials – purges, public torture, student Red Guard death mobs, the creation of the ‘lost generation’, and abuses against Koreans, Tibetans, and Uyghurs. It only ended with Mao’s death in 1976 and Deng Xiaoping’s ascension in 1978.


Fast-forward and we see the Uyghurs in the CCP’s crosshairs again, targeted for ‘re-education’, into atheism and Marxism, and extermination in Xinjiang’s concentration camps, ongoing since 2014. The sudden Western interest belies past ignorance or political opportunism as Western companies continue to use slave-picked Xinjiang cotton.


Then there’s Hong Kong, where the CCP’s violation of the 1997 Joint Declaration has followed the failure of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, 2017 detention of democracy protestors, and the 2019-20 protests. Hong Kong as the paradise island within China is over. Their autonomy crushed and freedoms stripped. The state-media Global Times mocked the US over Taiwan too, saying they would need ‘much greater determination’ to defend Taiwan ‘once a cross-Straits war breaks out’ than they had for Afghanistan or Vietnam.


The Chinese people have suffered a long history of tyranny, devastation, and indignity under the CCP as the West ignored it. Why would they suddenly genuinely care without an ulterior motive? Boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics has been suggested, but what would this do? Nothing. China’s economic might is a reason raised for their untouchable status. Whilst partially true this hides the real reasons. The US-China relationship is mutually dependent, their economies are entangled. But it is rather one-sided, America is wedded to China. Whatever the West does economically will be like an itch to the CCP. China does not care about Western opinions, moral approbation, or sanctions.


They are powerful, have regional hegemonic ambitions, and have captured numerous global institutions. We mustn’t kid ourselves that anything can be ‘done’ about China. Their One Belt One Road initiative has successfully shifted much of the world from America to a Sino-focus and the resulting capture of the global economy enriches both them and American financial interests.


But we should recognise China’s horrendous treatment of its citizens, slavery, dystopian social credit system, technocratic authoritarianism, and total disregard for the dignity of human life. The American financial and political elite are begging for a new outlet now the Middle East has rejected them, we shouldn’t let this dangerous ploy succeed.


Neo-conservative/neo-liberal talk about confronting China or changing China is nonsense. The West also has no right to speak in its current state with its insistent emulation of Chinese practices whilst decrying their application in, or by, China.

China’s inhumane abuses are bad. American hypocritical moralistic crusading is bad. For different reasons neither side is your friend. The answer is not inciting a new war.


IMAGE: Flickr / Etan Liam