BY DOMINIC PINO
At a time when our national newspapers are trafficking in melodramatic gloom about “democracy dying in darkness” and running ad campaigns about truth mattering more now than ever, why on earth is The New York Times putting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the spotlight?
The Times has been running a series of articles called “China Rules” and plastering it all over the front page of their website. They depict the People’s Republic as engaged in nothing more than an alternative approach to government with the iconoclastic tagline, “They didn’t like the West’s playbook. So they wrote their own.”
An unassuming reader―after glancing at the huge, high-res photos and the flashy, interactive charts―would finish reading the articles by second-guessing their preconceptions about China as an oppressive, authoritarian state and then consider that the CCP might have some good ideas.
This makes sense, since the paper encourages that line of thinking in an article about the “China Rules” series, asking, “How did the land once commonly—and with some disdain—known in the West as Communist China, come to lead the world in the number of homeowners, internet users, college graduates and, by some counts, billionaires?”
This line of thinking reeks of the argument for Benito Mussolini: For all his flaws, he made the trains run on time. Even if it were true that the trains ran on time (they didn’t), this specious argument misses that the concern with Mussolini was not passenger trains carrying paying customers to their destinations, but rather his ally’s livestock trains carrying persecuted Jews and other minorities to their deaths.
The CCP still plays all the greatest hits of last century’s communism. It disappears dissenters and stifles speech with near-Soviet gusto. It restricts internet access with the “Great Firewall” and, increasingly, punishes people for jumping over it. It is also currently engaged in cultural genocide against the Muslim Uighur minority in northwestern China, where around one million people are in internment camps.
However, The New York Times gives scant coverage to any of those problems and, in effect, says “But the trains!” And, just like the trains in Italy, the supposed positives in China aren’t that positive. The Times points to Chinese income growth far outpacing the United States’ since 1980. This isn’t as amazing when you consider the starting points of Chinese mass poverty and American prosperity.
The Times points to China producing more science and engineering graduates than the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Taiwan combined—which sounds very impressive until you consider China’s population of nearly 1.4 billion compared to the other four countries’ approximately 550 million collectively.
It also highlights the Chinese financing and construction of 41 oil pipelines and 199 power plants. When the United States wants to construct pipelines and power plants, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth about the environmental effects, but when China does it on a gargantuan scale, the Times waffles. “China has a different view when it comes to labor and environmental strictures,” it said. “… Safety standards have been uneven.”
While it is certainly true that China’s economic growth has been astounding, the idea that the CCP’s model is just another way of doing things is dangerous sophistry. If The New York Times believes democracy and freedom are under as much of a threat as its recent ad campaigns suggest, it could do better than sugarcoat the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party.