Is it Racist to Boycott “Made in China”?

Is it Racist to Boycott “Made in China”?

Let’s get one thing out of the way quickly. I’m a second-generation Chinese American. My mom came to the United States from Nanjing, China and my dad came from the northeast of China, near Harbin.

They both escaped China before the 1949 civil war, after which Mao closed the borders and proceeded to institute what is going on seven decades of totalitarian rule by the Chinese Communist Party, the party that brought you such hits as The Great Leap Forward (45 million Chinese citizens dead), The Cultural Revolution (the systematic mass murder, intimidation, and “re-education” of anyone in academia, religion or the arts that did not bow down to the Party), and the Tienanmen Square Massacre (bringing their horror to a new generation of citizens of China). Things like the systemic eradication of their Uighur population, their dumping of opioids in the US, the brutal way they snuffed out freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Hong Kong, and their release (accidental or otherwise) of a virus causing a worldwide pandemic are ensuring that their horrors are continuing well into the 21st century.

I know the first thing people are going to say when they see this site is “why are you so racist against the Chinese?” And my response to them? Why are you?

Who are the real racists?

What is more racist, someone who speaks up against an oppressive government that has been terrorizing his own people for seven decades, or someone who assumes that everyone of a certain skin color or race must all think alike and cannot think for themselves?

I’ve known racism in my life. Sure, there are literal racists like some kids I grew up with in New Jersey in the 1970s, the ones would would slant their eyes at me or say the “Me Chinese” chant to me. How did I deal with those? Thanks to growing up in a loving family and a church that taught me to turn the other cheek, I laughed them off. And then I went to college, got my MBA, and ended up having a great life while as far as I know, they didn’t. And strangely, I don’t take any satisfaction in that, I really just pity them that their parents taught them that the only way to boost their own flagging self-esteem was to put others down.

But the more insidious racists are the ones that don’t know they’re racist. I’ll be blunt. They’re the executives who tell their PR companies to talk all about #stopasianhate but ignore their own Asian employees because they’re different”–some don’t drink with everyone else, some are too quiet, some don’t have strong handshakes or don’t make eye contact. They’re the politicians who tell Asians to feel like victims, as if we’re so fragile that we need to be “protected” like animals in a zoo (and of course if we continue to vote for them they’ll be our zookeepers). They’re the Harvard administrators who turn down qualified applications based not on their qualifications or their character but on the color of their skin.

So when you want to talk about whether “systemic racism” exists, the answer is yes. But don’t look at skinheads and white supremacists. Look at who is in charge of the “systems” of business, government, and education.

So no, this site isn’t racist. I admire China. It’s a beautiful country with natural landscapes and scenery that is among the top in the world. It’s a country of innovation that invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing. And Chinese food. And pandas.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Inglorious Past

But I don’t admire the Chinese Communist Party (also known as the CCP or CPC). The Republic of China was formed in 1912 after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. But thanks to the Soviet Union’s visions of expansion in the 1920s, the CCP was formed during the 1920s.

From 1937 the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan fought a brutal war where the Japanese war machine decimated China’s fighting force and committed unspeakable atrocities against China’s people. In 1945, the United States ended that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But instead of returning to peace, the CCP turned its guns on its brothers. In 1949, the government of the Republic of China was exiled to nearby Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China was formed.

In 1958, the CCP instituted The Great Leap Forward, aimed at turning China from an agrarian society to a full-fledged communist society using Marxist principles. Through a series of incompetence, corruption, and utter foolishness from the central government, the result was the starvation deaths of between 30 million and 55 million Chinese citizens.

In 1966, the CCP launched the Cultural Revolution. They blamed the continued failure of their Marxist policies on those “capitalist and traditional elements” that remained in their society, and had to be purged. Citizens were encouraged to turn in any of their neighbors, friends and family who even hinted at anything disapproving of the Party. The result? Up to 20 million people massacred who posed a political threat to the CCP, and more who were jailed or sent to “re-education camps”. Anyone who was a leader in academia, religion, or art and literature that did not put Mao at the center of their teachings and worship were rounded up and executed or tortured.

By 1989, General secretary of the CCP Hu Yaobang had been a proponent of reforms to the Communist party. But that year, he died. A week after his death, 100,000 students marched on Tienanmen Square to push for reforms such as more accountability and less corruption in the Communist party, allowing for democratic input on economic reforms, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Within days, over 1,000,000 people occupied the Square. But instead of using this as an opportunity to reform, the military was brought in to wipe out the protests. Thousands of people died, but most importantly the CCP sent a clear message to all of its citizens. Stand up against our power, and be silenced for good.

The funny thing is, my parents, my sister, and I were scheduled to visit China in 1989 around that time. Our trip was canceled, of course. And sadly, my parents both passed away during the next ten years, so my sister and I made the trip in 1999.

I saw a few things that made me realize that even though China was more open, it was far from “free”. My sister and I were in Tienanmen Square just enjoying ourselves as tourists. Suddenly, we saw a group of people pull out a big banner and start to unfurl it. Literally within seconds, even before I had a chance to read the banner, a bus drove right into the center of the Square, some soldiers got out, they waved all the people into their bus, and the bus drove away. What shocked me the most wasn’t seeing what happened to the bus; it was observing the hundreds of Chinese citizens in the Square who didn’t even blink an eye or even seem to notice what happened. It was just an everyday event for them, as if they were witnessing someone feeding the pigeons or sitting on a bench reading a book.

Another incident happened with one of my tour guides (all of whom worked for the government, of course) as he was driving us around. In my broken Chinese, I started asking about the war. I soon learned that his family had been on the Nationalist side. We talked for a few minutes, and as if he sensed that someone was in the car with us, he sat up straight in his chair, yelled loudly “Praise Mao Zedong”. Then, he continued to drive in silence. It was creepy. But later, I understood why he did that. Government monitors are all over the place and if he did not say “2+2=5” AND believe it, he would probably lose his job and be sent to be re-educated.

These are things that Westerners, and especially those who grew up their whole lives taking things like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, don’t understand at all. Most in the West take their freedoms for granted, and assume that everyone in the world shares the same freedoms. But almost nobody really does.

You’ve no doubt heard of the old fable where a young lady finds a dying snake on the ground who begs for her to pick him up. She refuses, but eventually the snake convinces her. The moment she does, the snake bites her. As the venom starts to overtake her, she asks why the snake did this and the snake shrugs and says, “you knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

The Chinese Communist Party Today

Today, let’s take a look at what China is bringing to the world:

  • A global pandemic that resulted in the death of 4 million souls worldwide, from a virus that all scientific evidence (at least evidence that is not censored by Facebook and Twitter, who also want to protect their business interests in China) shows was engineered in a lab in Wuhan. It’s a virus that could easily have been contained within the borders of China only in November 2019, but the CCP determined that while it would close its domestic borders to travel, it would keep international travel open basically guaranteeing global spread.
  • The systematic wiping of an entire race of its citizens, the Uighur Muslims. China has managed to control its citizenry through old messages like the one in Tienanmen Square in 1989 and new high-tech systems like the Social Credit System. But the Uighur up in Xinjiang didn’t get the memo. So it’s back to 1951 methods like re-education camps and even atrocities like organ harvesting that don’t get covered by the media.
  • Flooding the US market with fentanyl, resulting in the opioid boom that kills over 36,000 people a year and incapacitates many others. It’s a perverse twist on the Opium Wars of the 1800s.
  • Broken promises in Hong Kong. Yes, when Great Britain took over Hong Kong when the British Empire was at its pinnacle, the British were a bunch of jerks. The Treaty of Nanking was a lopsided one where China faced the insult of Britain seizing their land and turning it into a free trade port. So yes, China as a nation has a right to take pride in reclaiming its territory. But the CCP is taking it to a whole new level of making sure that Hong Kong is as suppressed as the rest of China in its freedoms. Their shuttering of newspapers like Apple Daily and the subsequent persecution of its journalists should send shivers down the spines of everyone who cares about democracy and human rights.
  • Terrible craftsmanship. If you’ve owned anything made in China, from socks to toys to laptops, chances are it hasn’t lasted. Anyone who lived prior to 1990 knows that it wasn’t always this way. Things used to be built to last.
  • Dangerous quality. Since 2007, thousands of dogs were sickened or died by jerky treats with Chinese ingredients or by dog food that contained melamine. Knockoff flea collars have sickened or killed pets. And in the human realm, toothpaste has been found with anti-freeze in it, drywall with sulfur, and toys with lead. The soil in China is heavily contaminated, and yet Americans are falling over themselves more and more to purchase produce grown there. A farmer in Iowa who found that his entire crop was contaminated would surely destroy his crop rather than sell it. But would you expect the same behavior from a farmer in China? Would you bet your life on it?

So despite China’s growing sophistication with public relations and their growing coziness with politicians on all sides of the political spectrum–who increasingly conveniently turn the other way if they see China gaining an advantage at the expense of their own constituents–the snake is still the snake. Stop picking up the snake.

tl;dr – No, I’m not a racist. Are you?

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