Playing the Race Card for China

June 29, 2021 Updated: June 30, 2021


The concept of racism is being Shanghaied as soft-on-China individuals, from Canada’s Prime Minister to a young influencer on TikTok, deploy the idea against critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). These politicians, a professor, and an influencer, all acting in an ideological capacity, tend not to use actual examples of real individuals who they claim are racist. Rather, they discredit classes of criticism, for example of “China” by young people who use the term as shorthand for China’s government, or of China’s political influence in democratic politics in the West.

In May, Prime Minister Trudeau effectively linked criticism of China’s technology theft, with racism. “During a debate … about the dismissal of two Chinese scientists from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, Trudeau appeared to suggest that Conservative MPs [members of parliament] were feeding anti-Asian sentiments by asking questions,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “‘I hope that my Conservative Party colleagues are not raising fears about Asian Canadians,’ Trudeau told the Commons.” The MPs had in no way done so. It was Trudeau who first utilized such broadly racialized language in a negative sense within that debate.

In response, Uyghur and Tibetan activists in Canada who have been targeted with harassment by the CCP, soundly criticized the prime minister. “Folks who claim to be standing up against anti-Asian hatred and racism, please, listen to your constituents and Asian voices,” Tibetan activist Chemi Lhamo said. Her campaign for University of Toronto (Scarborough Campus) student union president had previously provoked threats from Chinese nationalists.

“As an Asian woman, there is a bigger target on my back, and conflating the idea of anti-CCP with anti-Asian is actually a much bigger disrespect,” Lhamo said at a Commons special committee this summer.

Chemi Lhamo
Chemi Lhamo, a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, in this undated photo. (Courtesy of Chemi Lhamo)

“I think our prime minister is really confused,” Uyghur activist Rukiye Turdush told the committee. “If we’re against the CCP, it doesn’t mean we’re against the Chinese people. It has nothing to do with anti-Asian racism. I really didn’t get why he said that.”

The most prominent recent example are two Canadians, themselves linked to China’s political and business networks, claiming that “anti-China” sentiment is somehow linked to “anti-Asian hate” and that opposition to China’s influence operations in Canada “crosses a threshold” into racism.

“Two facts stand out: Anti-China sentiment is rising across the country, and so is anti-Asian hate. How are the two connected?” write Professor Paul Evans and Senator Yuen Pau Woo said in one of Canada’s leading newspapers, The Globe and Mail. The two Canadians, one of whom is a political science professor, do not mention that the correlation of two data points do not even imply, much less prove, causation. Yet the two hype the public discussion on China as toxic, racist, and McCarthyist in tone.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) in Canada, which partners with Concordia University, identified Evans and Woo’s Globe article as “disinformation” lacking in evidence to substantiate its claim that “exaggerated portrayals in the media of the reach and influence of Chinese organizations such as the United Front, Confucius Institutes and the Thousand Talents programs have contributed to racial profiling and stigmatization of people of Chinese descent.”

Professor Evans and Senator Woo both declined requests for comment.

Few who are knowledgeable and honest about China and racism will take seriously the authors’ claims of a link between racism and “anti-China” sentiment (which is almost always anti-Chinese Communist Party sentiment). Those who are toughest on China, such as the folks (full disclosure) who run this newspaper, are often Chinese themselves. My own editor at The Epoch Times was born in, grew up in, and worked in mainland China for years.

Effect on Young People of Racism Claims

But “toxic” claims of racism might just scare the naive from talking with each other about China’s growing influence among elites in Canada, the United States, India, Japan, and other countries globally. Using scare words like “racism” has a chilling effect on efforts to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its genocide and other human rights abuse, including against minority groups in China such as Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong, Christians, and Hongkongers (yes, Hong Kong is now a de facto part of China).

Epoch Times Photo
An Uyghur woman (C) goes through an entrance to a bazaar in Hotan, in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, on May 31, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

An American high school teacher and activist in Japan recently wrote to me that two young people he knows were concerned about the conflation of criticism of China and racism.

“When the Stop Asian Hate movement took off … a college student at Temple University in Japan, told me to stop pushing my petition [to let Taiwan be Taiwan, instead of Chinese Taipei, at the Tokyo Olympics] for awhile and forget trying to get any media attention,” wrote Lindell Lucy on June 25. “He thought I would get tarred as racist. He had a bad experience at Temple, himself getting unjustly accused of racism. He is half white [and] half Japanese.”

The same teacher sent me a TikTok video that upset one of his students of Indian descent. The video shows a young TikTok influencer, “midwestern Marxist” Eddie Liger Smith, with 16.7 million likes, criticizing anti-“China” views as racist, and encouraging people to read Xi Jinping’s book, which he holds up for all to see. In another video, he holds up Marx’s “Capital.”

The Smith video opens with a banner stating, “Stop the Sinophobia.” Smith then says, “The US Empire always weaponizes xenophobia and racism, fear of the other. This was the war on terror. ‘Ahh, Americans, you need to be terrified of Muslim people, they’re terrorists.’” Here Smith uses superlatives and false statements that create a sense of anger among his listeners. In fact the war on terror included extensive participation by Muslim countries and supporters, and the United States is in no way an “empire.”

Smith’s target audience is the young left. Prominent in the video background is a banner reading “Bernie.” The Marxist influencer states, “And now [Americans are] doing the same thing [weaponizing racism] with China, and I feel like a lot of people on the left don’t even realize it. If you look at any of the corporate media’s coverage of China, there’s nothing besides portraying this country as evil supervillains.” Again, Smith uses falsehoods and superlatives when in fact mainstream media frequently lauded the supposed efficiency of China’s measures to contain COVID-19, for example.

Smith then conflates criticism of the CCP with “hate” of the Chinese people. He says, “And now it’s become really trendy on the left to hate China. ‘Yeah I’m a socialist but F*** China, bro. Really? F*** an entire country of 1.4 billion people?”

He then draws a connection between criticism of “China” with hate crimes against Asian-Americans, but does not clarify what the connection might be. “You’re really comfortable saying [F*** China] as hate crimes against Asian-Americans happen all over?” Smith tells his 280,000 followers.

“I’ve seen people accusing me of worshipping China. I don’t worship China. I have critiques of them, mostly surrounding corruption and their giant private market which exploits workers.” Here Smith attempts to buttress his own credibility as an independent analyst by critiquing China. But he does so from a CCP perspective, as the criticisms he has are those already made by Xi Jinping himself.

“I don’t hate a country of 1.4 billion people. And [holding up Xi Jinping’s book] I choose to read about their country from people who actually live in their country. Because I know western media is lying to me,” he says.

Supposed lies by the western media is another CCP talking point. Nowhere does Smith acknowledge that there is little freedom of speech in China, so only reading authors who live there is likely to yield an analysis that is biased towards the CCP perspective. Reading Xi Jinping is “not worshiping China, that’s taking the time to research China so I don’t spread sinophobic nonsense,” he ends.

Xi jinping
Chinese leader Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on March 4, 2021. (Leo Ramirez/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian and Chinese Disinformation Against the Elite Capture Thesis

Many of the same themes are found in the Evans and Woo article, and proliferate through the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) groups that operate globally.

MLI frequently covers Russian disinformation, and draws a parallel with the Globe opinion article. “Accusing the critics of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes of racism was pioneered during the Soviet era and is a tactic that has been deployed with prolific zeal by the government of Vladimir Putin,” the MLI authors write. “The accusation of prejudice against Russians—or ‘Russophobia’—is leveled at those who criticize the Kremlin’s repression of human rights activists …. The goal of this tactic is to discredit dissidents and critics, and to deflect attention away from Russian government abuses.”

MLI notes that the authors’ derogatory use of a “1950s McCarthy era” reference follows Kremlin and Beijing talking points. “This is a tactic frequently employed by authoritarian regimes who seek to discredit critics of their policies by accusing them of irrationality,” according to the MLI analysis. “The Kremlin started using the label in earnest when Russian interference in the US 2016 presidential election became a concern.”

The Globe authors single-out the “elite capture” thesis for criticism. They call questioning the loyalty of people with pro-Beijing views “extreme.” But Charles Burton, a Senior Fellow at MLI, explains that “‘elite capture’ by the PRC’s integrated party-state-military-security-industrial complex is a disturbing reality in Canada. There is a cohort of influential Canadians who directly or indirectly receive benefits from the PRC because they receive income from the Chinese régime by board memberships or other paid associations such as consultancies, or they receive income from Canadian companies who do business with the Chinese régime, or they are associated with law firms who represent Chinese firms or Canadian firms who do business with the Chinese régime, or they receive income from policy think tanks in Canada who receive funding from China-associated sources such as Canadian companies who do business with the Chinese régime.”

Dr. Burton wrote that, “A correlation can be established showing that such persons have exerted influence over Canada’s China policy formulation in ways that support the PRC’s geopolitical interests.”

Putin and Xi Jinping
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (R) attend the Tsinghua University’s ceremony at Friendship Palace in Beijing, China, on April 26, 2019. (Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool/Getty Images)

There are dozens of examples of western academics and politicians (or former politicians) with financial ties to China, who go on to promote China’s talking points around the world. Three of the most influential recent books on the CCP’s influence globally, which include these examples, are Clive Hamilton’s “Silent Invasion,” which addresses the issue in Australia, Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg’s “Hidden Hand,” which explores China’s global influence, followed most recently by Sam Cooper’s “Wilful Blindness,” about China’s influence in Canada. (Full disclosure: the latter two are published in North America by my publisher, Optimum Publishing International in Toronto).

Context for Claims of Racism

Professor Evans, who is the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC), appears in the final book. Given what we know about Professor Evans and Senator Woo, the two at times appear to be arguing in self-defense. So, it is odd that the Globe published their article without providing editorial context to the reader.

As Mark Stencel, co-director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab, and Eric MacDicken, a consultant whose work has been used by the National Press Club write in the Columbia Journalism Review, what information viewers want is not only commentator’s views but also “more recent political activities and sources of income.” The CJR authors advise provision of “nutrition labels for the discerning media consumer.”

Some of that necessary context is supplied here.

Professor Evans’s UBC profile lists his involvement in a project with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and funding from the Chinese government. From 1990 to 2002, according to UBC, “he organized two dozen meetings involving participants from North Korea.” Professor Evans reportedly has links to Huawei, including 2019 travel to its headquarters in Shenzhen, China for a meeting with the company founder.

The other Globe author, Senator Woo, was appointed to his position by Prime Minister Trudeau, who himself has links to China. According to Cooper’s book, Trudeau met with individuals linked to China’s government at “cash-for-access” events, and his family foundation received $1 million from a Chinese official in 2016. In connection to the donation, Trudeau met twice with a real estate tycoon who runs Canada’s largest ever illegal casino.

Professors Evans’ named professorship is for HSBC, a bank that donated millions of dollars to UBC, and is making money hand-over-fist in China (including Hong Kong and Macau). HSBC’s chief executive in Asia for a decade was a member of a political advisory body to the Chinese Communist Party. He oversaw a 2020 strategy to redeploy over $100 billion to Asia, and cut 35,000 jobs by selling its retail branches in France and the United States.

Evans’ roles for UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) and the Institute of Asian Research (IAR) sound like an ideal vehicle for UBC and China influence operations. “This two-year appointment is designed to enhance the policy engagement work of the IAR and SPPGA on Asia policy; promote better collaboration with suitable Asian institutions and counterparts; and extend and deepen the School’s connections with Canadian policy communities, particularly the federal government and the B.C. provincial government.”

Epoch Times Photo
Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on May 24, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Dr. Burton, the phrasing of Evans’ role “suggests a lobbying function.” Shouldn’t students, parents, and newspaper readers insist that their professors and opinion article writers, especially those with links to a totalitarian state, be unbiased teachers and researchers, rather than have any appearance of impropriety or bias as lobbyists?

Despite HSBC’s substantial financial ties to China, and an accusation that the bank was “aiding and abetting one of the biggest crackdowns on democracy in the world” in Hong Kong, the Globe and Mail opinion article by an HSBC professor with at least one financial link to the Chinese regime, has no conflict of interest acknowledgement, as is standard for reputable papers.

Some newspapers have since 2016 made over $4 million from China Daily inserts designed to look like legitimate news articles. The Globe has also produced pay-for-play China Daily articles that were inadequately labeled as advertising for readers, according to the Globe’s own publisher and CEO, Phillip Crawley.

The Globe is owned by the Thomson family, with a reported net worth of $45.6 billion in 2021. David Thomson serves as chairman of Thomson Reuters, a major global news provider. He shouldn’t cheapen the name of Canada’s newspaper of record, or Reuters news, by allowing one of his papers to shill for a totalitarian communist regime, when he can afford to run the paper without those particularly tainted revenues. Sometimes a billionaire should step up and pay a penny to do the right thing for his country. When he doesn’t do so voluntarily, his country should legislate against the totalitarian propaganda that his newspaper publishes as advertisements.

Before being made a senator, Mr. Woo was president of HQ Vancouver, established as a jointly-funded government-business venture in 2015 to spend millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars bringing “Asian” business to British Columbia (B.C.). The project mostly brought PRC companies, and was criticized by a Carleton University professor for bringing those with “murky” ownership structures that might not be bringing anything “real” to B.C.

HQ Vancouver touted Canada’s federal and provincial tax credits to which Chinese companies could apply. However, Canadian taxpayers were not made privy to which companies, if any, won such credits. Some of the companies that HQ Vancouver brought had technical or military links, making them perfect vehicles for the transfer of sensitive military technologies to China. China Poly, a massive state-owned defense contractor, opened an office of the linked Poly Culture Group in Vancouver. China Poly’s governance and ownership are shadowy. China Poly Group was sanctioned from 2013 to 2015 by the United States for alleged violations of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. The Poly Culture Group planned to use Vancouver for “two-way cultural exchanges.”

HQ Vancouver also touted Zhiye Photoelectric Precision Technology of Nanjing, which manufactures optical components for telescopes and gun sights, as one of its “success” stories. China Fiber Optic Network System Group, probed by officials for its financial statements, operated an R&D facility in B.C. through a subsidiary, and was highlighted by HQ Vancouver. HQ Vancouver never mentioned that China’s small arms sales globally are some of the least transparent, and therefore likely a cause of international conflicts and terrorism that lead to millions of deaths annually.

From a document that Senator Woo’s office allegedly repeatedly removed from its website, but that was publicly archived in 2019, it appears that the Senator led a forum discussion in a manner biased against proposed foreign agent registration laws in Canada. A panel discussion in 2018 that Senator Woo moderated, appears from the outset to have been geared to minimize the problem of foreign influence, tar concerns about it with racism, and problematize proposals for foreign agent registration laws in Canada.

According to the document, the panel discussion was “Co-sponsored by Liberal MP Joyce Murray, NDP MP Don Davies, Conservative Senator Victor Oh, and Independent Senator Yuen Pau Woo.” The event appeared to be biased in Beijing’s favor from the start as it was described as being “designed to advance parliamentarians’ understanding of the issues in order to minimize the risk of politicization and public over-reaction to concerns about Chinese influence and interference. By learning from the US and Australian experience, Canada can avoid missteps taken in those countries and instead chart a response that is appropriate to our circumstances, needs, and priorities.” Emphases are my own.

The event appears to have been geared towards influencing influential parliamentarians and staffers in Canada under secretive Chatham House rules that allow the conveyance of information anonymously. “Following presentations by the four panelists, Senator Yuen Pau Woo moderated a discussion with members of the audience, which consisted of parliamentarians and Hill staffers, as well as Ottawa-based China policy and intelligence/security analysts,” according to the summary. “The meeting was conducted under Chatham House rules.” By conducting the event secretively, and only releasing the summary of the event, rather than a recording, Senator Woo’s office controlled the narrative.

The document “was on the Senator’s site for some time with a brief hiatus but came back after a journalist asked why it was not there,” according to Dr. Burton. “When it was finally removed again is unclear.”

Ironically, the summary on Senator Woo’s site itself falls prey to a mix of anti-racism and racism when it states, “Fears about United Front infiltration of the Canadian Chinese community tend to overestimate the power of the United Front while underestimating the strength of antibodies in the community that can resist propaganda and manipulation. If anything, a climate of suspicion around the loyalty of Canadian citizens of Chinese ancestry will only make it [sic] the community more susceptible to foreign influence.”

Xi jinping trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese leader Xi Jinping greet each other during the official welcome at the G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 4, 2016. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

No examples are given for fears of UFWD infiltration of the “Canadian Chinese community.” No other western commentators on China’s political and economic influence abroad, that I know of, single out Canadian citizens of Chinese ancestry as “susceptible to foreign influence.” But here Senator Woo’s document appears to make not only this incorrect case, but the incorrect case that suspicion of this community would “only make it … more susceptible to foreign influence.” The author of this document found on Senator Woo’s website is apparently inventing the very racism of which the Senator accuses others.

The only other entity I know of that does appear to believe that the Chinese diaspora is possibly more susceptible to China’s influence is the CCP or its intelligence agencies, which reportedly targets those of Chinese ancestry for compromise. However, there is no evidence that those of Chinese ancestry are in fact any more susceptible to compromise than those of any other ancestry. It is not ethnicity that determines affinity with the CCP, according to my intelligence sources, but ideology, money, and other human weaknesses.

Professor Evans was also on the 2018 panel that by Senator Woo’s own document, was designed to counter opinion in favor of U.S. and Australian-style foreign agent registration laws. Evans mentored the infamous Cameron Ortis on his China-related doctoral thesis in approximately 2006, according to Cooper’s book and other reporting. The thesis addressed “compromised nodes” and the “digital black market” of transnational organized crime in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. It propelled Ortis’s career, which ended abruptly as a high-level Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) intelligence official who allegedly shared RCMP plans with Hong Kong and Iran-linked criminal entities starting in 2015.

Ortis was arrested in 2019 and incarcerated on suspicion of having violated Canada’s Security of Information Act. According to Cooper’s book, Ortis “was introduced to state sources in Mainland China through his academic research at UBC.” Ortis’ “academic network at the university frequently displays a pro-Beijing message,” according to Cooper. “For example, in 2020, the Globe and Mail reported that UBC prof Paul Evans [was] seen by Huawei Canada as one of the ‘key opinion leaders’ that could help prevent the Chinese telecom giant from being banned from Canada 5G networks.”

According to CTV News, “Evans says he worked with Ortis at UBC over the course of several years, and they later met socially from time to time.” The UBC work reportedly included several projects, including Ortis’ doctoral thesis.

The lack of a Foreign Agents Registration Act in Canada, as is found in the United States and Australia in order to make foreign attempts to influence policy debates public, makes it relatively easy for China and other malign foreign interests to compromise elite influencers in Canada. The lack of such an act and other transparency measures raises questions about what could well be innocent academic research.

The British flag and a smartphone
The British flag and a smartphone with a Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken Jan. 29, 2020. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The Evans and Woo Claims of Racism

The two Globe authors protest that those who do not support a “harder stance against Beijing … are often seen as not just naïve and wrong in their support for engagement, but also as lacking integrity because of ties to China that generate financial or other rewards. In its extreme form, academics, community leaders, businesspeople, and politicians with so-called ‘pro-Beijing’ views are insinuated to be disloyal to Canada and agents of the Chinese Communist Party—an eerie throwback to the 1950s McCarthy era in the U.S.”

Insinuation is exactly what Evans and Woo do when they associate racism with anti-CCP views. And, the authors all-but-admit that some pro-Beijing writers have financial links to China. Registered foreign agents in the United States, for example, can easily make $300,000 per year promoting their foreign patrons, with some foreign agents getting much more.

Academics and politicians, even in the United States where there are long-established foreign agent registration laws, typically don’t disclose their foreign income as they take advantage of legal exemptions for academia, or, in the case of politicians, hope to get away with it given admitting it publicly would be a blow to their careers. In the United States, the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 is rarely enforced, except against alleged spies that law enforcement cannot prosecute in any other way.

Being critical of Bill Clinton’s illegal campaign contributions from an Indonesian source, or Michael Flynn’s $200,000 per month meant to benefit Turkey, is not racism against Indonesians and Turks. It is an attempt to maintain the integrity of American democratic deliberation, free from the influence of foreign money. The same goes for concern about President Trump and President Biden’s alleged links to Russia and China. The links are not always substantiated, but the higher the official, the more concern is warranted in order to mitigate the higher risk.

Links to democratic countries, which are less risky, elicit less public concern. Similar foreign influence from Japan and Taiwan for example, raises little to no public debate or law enforcement attention. There is little to no anti-Asian racism in these examples, or in concern about China’s political influence. Public concern is a rightly heightened mitigation of the risk of authoritarian foreign influence at the head of state and other elite levels from powerful adversary states.

The bridges built with the Chinese state over the years have not been limited to Canadians of Chinese descent. Prime Minister Trudeau is not Chinese. Hunter Biden is not Chinese. Billionaires like Mike Bloomberg and Stephen Schwarzman, who have extensive and lucrative “bridges” with China, are not Chinese. The concern about elite capture gets more concerning, the closer it gets to real power. Most billionaires and politicians in the United States and Canada who are suspected of being overly influenced by the CCP are not Chinese.

Evans and Woo complain about legitimate concerns of Beijing’s capture of elites through financial incentives, defeating their own argument by implying that this scrutiny could put an end to the gravy train. “University connections to China are under increasing scrutiny,” they worry. “Safeguarding research integrity and maintaining our principles of academic freedom are essential if we aim to keep the doors open to large-scale student recruitment from China, as well as to research partnerships and other forms of collaboration.” The emphasis is mine, and the conflation of academic freedom with attracting Chinese money is theirs. Actually, the attempt to attract Chinese money contradicts academic freedom, because it distracts academics from following their own research priorities.

Academia is big business, with students at Professor Evans’ UBC paying over C$757 million in the 2019/2020 academic year as tuition. The authors apparently want the “freedom” to side with a regime that specializes in taking other people’s freedom away, in order to maintain university revenues from China’s students and research grants. They call Alberta’s order to freeze new university partnerships with Chinese government-linked institutions “precipitous” and fraught with “unintended consequences” that are by implication in the context of their article, racism against Canadians of Chinese descent.

“Since the early 1980s, Canadian universities have been building bridges with China,” they write. “Many of these bridges have been built by Canadians of Chinese descent. The chill and fear they are now feeling is palpable. The fear is magnified when the definition of an inappropriate partner includes all those with links to the Chinese state.” But Canadians of Chinese descent are not the only ones with links to the Chinese state. As noted above, Paul Evans has his own. Again, this is not about race, but about avenues of influence, and conduits of cash.

The two Globe authors do not discuss how the Chinese state targets Canadians of Chinese descent who are publicly critical of the CCP, nor how the Canadian state fails to fully protect them. If the Chinese state is indeed committing a genocide, shouldn’t we limit links to the Chinese state, including through the mildest of measures: public exposure and social pressure against its advocates? The same measures were used against slaveholders in the 19th century to excellent effect. Today, the CCP are the world’s biggest slaveholders given their utilization of forced Uyghur labor.

In the same breath that the authors decry “exaggerated portrayals in the media” of China’s influence operations and espionage, the authors cherry-pick an example of MIT professor Gang Chen to fit their story, while omitting the arrest of Harvard chemistry and biology professor Charles Lieber. Professor Lieber allegedly lied in communications with the U.S. federal government, from which his group took a $15 million grant for research. The alleged lie was about his work for the Wuhan University of Technology, from which he took over $50,000 per month, plus $1.5 million to establish a lab, according to an FBI press release.

Epoch Times Photo
A person holds a sign with photographs of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China since December 2018, as people gather for a rally in support of Hong Kong democracy, in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 16, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Concern about espionage, lying, illicit technology transfer, and failure to report income from China is not limited to any one race. Technology transfer is technology transfer regardless of who makes the transfer, and takes the cash. Any trusted professional, from professors to politicians, who fail to report their financial ties to a genocidal and totalitarian state whose power is challenging democracy globally deserves the same opprobrium regardless of ethnicity.

Racism and CCP Influence

The Globe authors imply that sensationalizing China’s actions and stigmatizing individuals or groups with China links “crosses a threshold” of racism. Here they trivialize, politicize, misuse, and expand the notion of racism well beyond prejudice, antagonism, differential treatment, or discrimination against a race or ethnicity, which is a universally valued definition of the term broadly accepted to address a universally denounced societal problem found across cultures and nations. By diluting the idea of racism to fit their political purposes, authors such as Evans and Woo do a real injustice to all those suffering the worst forms of racism, including that which leads to genocide.

The authors themselves slip into racism when they advocate differential treatment of people of Chinese descent by saying that criticism “crosses the threshold when it demands loyalty statements, especially from people of Chinese descent [my emphasis], or imposes litmus tests based on the groups they associate with, the electronic devices they use and the social media apps on their devices.”

According to that definition of racism, it is apparently racist to ask citizens, regardless of race, to pledge allegiance to the flag (which Americans did in public grade school when I was a kid). It is racist to disallow citizens, regardless of race, from joining terrorist and criminal groups, of which the CCP is arguably one. It is racist to forbid criminals, regardless of race, from using illegal communications devices such as Phantom Secure that are meant to evade police surveillance. The authors never acknowledge that by their own definition, and by standard definitions of racism, the Chinese state is far more racist than anything found in Canada or the United States.

In what appears to in part be an implied swipe at Sam Cooper’s reporting from Vancouver, the authors write that criticism “crosses the threshold when it assigns broad responsibility for the problems of housing unaffordability, money laundering, and fentanyl deaths—in British Columbia, for example—to Canadians of Chinese descent.” However, the authors offer no actual examples of an individual engaged in this ostensible racism. If one reads Cooper’s book, it is evident that he applies an even hand against all who engage in illegal gambling, money laundering, and fentanyl deaths, including the many non-Chinese (such as Prime Minister Trudeau) who he covers in a critical manner. Racism is nowhere to be found in his writing, and having corresponded with him privately, I can attest that he is the opposite of racist. Indeed, he lauds those who uphold Canadian values, including specifically Chinese-Canadians, as heros and models for us all.

Andy Yan, the Vancouver housing researcher, is an example. Cooper described Yan’s city studies and hope for an affordable Vancouver, versus a location for global wealth deposits, as brilliant. Unlike Cooper, the Globe authors’ language is so overbroad as to potentially target Yan and his research on housing unaffordability in Vancouver, which Yan ascribes to investment flows from mainland China. Yan is in no way racist, and does not target Canadians of Chinese descent. If Evans and Woo are talking about Yan in their Globe article, they would be implying that a Chinese-Canadian researcher is racist, a researcher whose research puts Evans’ HSBC and other banks in a negative light because they are making big bucks on China-Vancouver real estate purchases and possible money laundering.

Is Professor Evans here acting, in an insinuating and underhanded manner, as HSBC’s hatchet man against a Canadian journalist, and Chinese Canadian, who are threatening one of HSBC’s revenue streams? How could the Globe have been so negligent as not to have printed a conflict-of-interest statement along with Evans’ opinion article?

“From my experience, people should be asking questions regarding those attempting to downplay the threat from China,” wrote Calvin Chrustie, a Senior Associate with the Critical Risk Team, which specializes in Canadian security issues. “For instance have they or do they play significant roles for ‘business development for Canadian-Chinese connected corporations?”

When asked about Evans and Woo, Chrustie wrote to me,

“The concern one should always look for in the 21st Century, is someone masking business development, political or financial gain using ethnic or social issues, and racism, as a weapon versus a shield? When talking about racism, one would hope the spirit would be to protect persons, versus potentially as we see it being used by state actors and their proxies as a weapon for influence. A famous Canadian judge once said the law is designed to be a shield, not a sword.”

Chrustie pointed out that “the same could be said when states and their proxies use racism as [a] weapon, it’s one of the new ways states de-stabilize other states and Canadians need to be wary of these tactics and not fall prey to them.”

Chrustie made the additional point that academics and business leaders often lack all the information about China’s influence operations because they don’t have access to classified information. This is arguably why former intelligence professionals are often the first and strongest proponents of stronger laws against China’s malign influence in our democracies. They aren’t being racist. They simply have access to more data about China and its institutionalized influence operations, including most powerfully through non-Chinese individuals, than does the average citizen.

Chrustie is “concerned about academics, political and business leaders countering the narrative that specialists such as CSIS [Canada’s intelligence agency] have relative to the significant threat that has been identified from China.” He continued, “The question to be asked, [is] why are they countering the narrative?” Why do they feel that their narratives are “more credible than those articulated by CSIS and our international allies affiliated with democracies.”

Data Omission and Disinformation Tactics

The MLI report notes that the Globe “authors make no mention of the Chinese government’s well documented transnational repression against its own people and human rights activists living in Canada. Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians has clearly outlined the threat of Chinese government influence and intimidation operations in Canada. Activists have received threats of violence, murder and even rape.”

Epoch Times Photo
Paramilitary police officers march next to the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing on May 22, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)

Evans and Woo also conflate the hostage-taking of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, with Meng Wanzhou’s lawful arrest and trial, according to “By failing to provide the necessary context to the situation facing both Meng and the Two Michaels, the authors obfuscate an important distinction that serves the interests of the Chinese government and bears similarities to regime narratives about them,” according to the MLI. “It also coincides with the authors’ apparent unwillingness to place any blame on China’s actions for this ‘toxic’ public discussion. It can even be seen in how they seem to blame FBI and US Department of Justice prosecutions of academics on the grounds of espionage for the ‘toxic atmosphere,’ as opposed to the actions of the people who committed the espionage in the first place.”

The same is true of the Globe authors’ claim that “criticism crosses a threshold [into racism, by implication] when it sensationalizes Chinese action.”

According to the MLI authors, “our analysis demonstrates that the accusation of ‘sensationalism’ is regularly levelled against activists, governments and media that are critical of the Chinese government.” They note that a search of China’s hyper-nationalist Global Times state media site returns “over 20 pages of results where western governments, media, elected officials and critics are directly accused of ‘sensationalizing’ issues related to China.”

“What Evans and Woo seemingly fail to appreciate or acknowledge is that the very same Chinese diaspora community targeted by anti-Asian hate is not a monolithic group,” according to the MLI authors. “Many of the Chinese government’s actions, of which Evans and Woo have tried to characterize criticism of as being ‘sensational,’ have the most profound impact on the Chinese diaspora and dissidents.”

According to MLI, Chinese “dissidents face online harassment, death and sexual violence threats, doxxing and even physical assaults. Evans and Woo, though ostensibly concerned about racism, have neglected to mention these real challenges facing the Chinese diaspora and dissidents.”

DisinfoWatch.Org continues, “When elected and appointed officials repeat these narratives, they legitimize them and the state media propagandists and media that promote them. In so doing, they themselves become active—if naive or unwitting—participants in their transnational repression of foreign critics.”

Effect of Accusations of Racism on Discourse Regarding CCP

Noting that “The chilling nature of accusations of ‘racism’ in the context of legitimate criticism of totalitarian and autocratic regimes is a serious threat to civil discourse in all liberal western democracies,” the MLI authors advocate foreign interference and disinformation training for government officials in Canada. The same should be provided to government officials globally, at least for states that value their independence and sovereignty. Academics at universities dependent on Chinese student tuition and research funding, and those that allow professors to take lucrative foreign and corporate consulting contracts, should also be offered counter-disinformation training.

The global professoriate, especially at elite universities, has sometimes lost touch with its role of unbiased research and teaching. Some are instead following money rather than lack of bias, and ought to be steered back by legislation and academic administrations, towards their primary functions.

The claim of racism against those concerned with the CCP’s growing global influence operations is a dog whistle that has the effect of stigmatizing those who, at great risk to their own professional careers, are bringing light to a very inconvenient set of facts: over a trillion dollars worth of trade between China on one side, and North America, Europe, and Japan on the other (not to mention the even greater effect on other smaller economies), is influencing political and academic elites in these regions to look the other way on the issue of the CCP’s unacceptable levels of human rights abuse, to the point of genocide. By targeting necessary criticism of the CCP with spurious claims of racism, the authors chill debate on the CCP’s political influence, enable the genocide, and therefore further the worst form of racism.

Need for Stronger Foreign Agent Registration Laws

Unless we act with greater alacrity and decision against the CCP and its influential beneficiaries today, that kind of racism could in time come to Canada, the United States, or any other allied country. Our failure to act for what is right because of disinformational narratives and fake political correctness that serves authoritarian interests, and our own greed for cheap foreign goods despite evidence of forced labor and genocide, is a strategic and ethical lapse that must soon be fixed for the protection of our future freedoms.

Conservative Minister of parliament Michael Chong told iPolitics on June 23 that it’s “long past due” for the Canadian government to address the China threat to Canadian research. MP Chong said that Canada should ban funding for sensitive research partnerships with China in areas such as biotechnology, telecommunications, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and nanotechnologies. Perhaps that ban should be extended to professors who act in a manner consistent with political lobbying as well. What is more sensitive to Beijing’s money, than our own democratic political processes?

Canada’s digital spy agency, the CSE, recently found that China targets academia to transfer intellectual property and improve its military, commercial, and diplomatic edge. Thus the ban on China’s financial involvement with academics needs to extend beyond those involved in military or dual-use technology, to those who lobby on commercial or diplomatic matters.

Concern and transparency about allegations of Beijing’s influence is not racism, but an attempt to maintain the independence, transparency, integrity, and ultimately the sovereignty, of Canadian, and other democratic, governments. There’s a big difference between racism, which is antipathy towards an entire ethnicity, and concern about possible elite corruption, which affects every ethnicity. The folks who dislike the Chinese Communist Party and the gangs with which it associates, typically love Hong Kong democracy protesters and spunky Taiwan independence advocates. They are very often Chinese-Americans or Chinese-Canadians themselves. The split is ideological, not racial.

Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”