How could the Chinese delegation at the US-China summit in Anchorage, Alaska, last month possibly say that “the United States does not have the qualification to say that…”?
As it turns out, one factor that accounts for this statement is overconfidence, and the other is an impression of the administration of US President Joe Biden as soft.
However, there is yet another motivation, a subconscious one, for this statement: a criminal psyche.
The Chinese delegates at the Alaska summit knew that at that very moment, there were more than 3 million Uighurs imprisoned in concentration camps and that hundreds of thousands have over the past four years likely died of torture or starvation in those camps.
They knew that most of these 3 million people have had their property confiscated. They also knew that more than 500,000 children from families that have been intentionally splintered are crying in the orphanages to which they have been removed to be raised by adults other than their parents.
The Chinese representatives not only witnessed thousands of similar crimes committed by the Chinese government inside and outside the country, but have been directly involved in some of them.
Naturally, they sincerely hoped that the most heinous of these crimes, the Uighur genocide, would not come up in the talks.
However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Xinjiang as one of his nation’s issues with China.
That touched a guilty nerve with the Chinese delegates. They set aside diplomatic delicacy and openly declared: “You have no right to question us on ethnic issues.”
It was not even a planned response, but a natural function of their psychological defenses.
Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) did not deny the existence of the issue; instead, he expressed outrage that it was raised face-to-face and questioned the right of the US to do so.
He also invoked the civil rights of black people in the US.
The Chinese delegates were well aware that this is an issue of inequality, whereas the Uighur “issue” is one of genocide and that the two cannot be equated. Yet they did not abandon this false equivalence, because at that point, their psychological defense had gone on the offense, defaming and degrading their counterparts in an attempt to retaliate for the blow to China’s pride, and shifted the focus from China’s actions to those of the US.
The Chinese delegation extended its two-minute opening speech to 16 minutes, breaking the protocol for the meeting, but there is no shame in that for a mindset that sees genocide as its right.
“China has no genocide; China has no genocide; China has no genocide, period,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said in a previous statement, which also contained a reference to the US and its history regarding Native Americans.
China sometimes makes the excuse that some dilemmas cannot be avoided because it is such a big country, but that these problems are trivial. In essence, China says to the US-led Western nations: We are doing what you did in the past on ethnic issues, and it is our right to destroy millions of people to feed a population of 1.5 billion.
That is exactly how China’s demands for “win-win interest” and “no interference” should be interpreted. It is also the logic of diplomacy used by perpetrators.
If China’s reaction in Alaska can be said to have had a purpose, it was perhaps to prevent its crimes against humanity from being summoned to the table by the utterance of “Xinjiang,” which has become the shorthand for “Uighur genocide.”
It might have partially succeeded on that point, but all through the summit’s opening session, the Chinese delegation was defensive, fatigued from hiding its anxiety, and striving to strengthen its position and prove its lack of guilt.
This psychological drama was not recognized by everyone, but it was crystal clear to victims of the Uighur genocide, like me, and to its perpetrators, like the Chinese delegates at the Alaska summit.
Shohret Hoshur is a Uighur- American journalist.
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