Discourse Power | September 24, 2022
"This is a 'war' China cannot afford to lose"
Greetings from Jerusalem,
Apologies for running late with the publication. It is difficult to keep up with everything that is going on in the world right now. As I write these lines, it appears that we’ve reached the apogee of rumors’ silly season.
Back to the newsletter, every now and then, I stumble upon a Chinese article or video from the past that is so bizarre or significant that I immediately ask myself, "what in the name of Xenu did I just read?" immediately followed by, "I should really translate this thing."
So, today I'd like to introduce a brand-new section to the newsletter titled From the Archives where I will occasionally highlight older articles that are pertinent to our subject matter.
On a personal note, if you find any of the translations insightful or helpful for your work, please let me know by responding to this email or tweeting your favorite sections.
Sunday evening is Jewish New Year's Eve, so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a shana tova in peace and good health, and, as always, thank you for reading.
“The logic behind America’s hegemonic realism has evolved over time into an unquestionable form of political correctness, so long as it serves the country's interests and the conceptual discourse system”
Mr. Cui Liru, a top political advisor and senior researcher at the Taihe Institute think tank, believes that the current risk management "guardrails" to prevent a showdown between China and the US in the Taiwan Strait are insufficient and that this dialogue needs to be taken to the strategic level.
Cui is the former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a leading think-tank affiliated with China's Ministry of State Security (MSS), and overseen by the Party’s Central Committee.
He was speaking at the 6th Taihe Civilization Forum, an international gathering of eminent academics and politicians that took place earlier this month.
A self-described independent think tank with offices in Beijing and research facilities in the US and Germany, the Taihe Institute serves as a revolving door for employees of the United Front Work Department, the MSS, party-state media, and related prominent personnel - all pledge (in Chinese) to continue to “tell the China story well” under the institute’s global brand.
Following are excerpts from Cui’s speech:
“After the US defeated the Soviet Union, [the pursuit of] American hegemony has evolved into the main pillar of authority for upholding the post-Cold War international order.
“In the minds of the elite of both [the Democratic and Republican] parties, as it is with the majority of Americans, the logic behind the US’ hegemonic realism has also evolved over time into an indubitable form of political correctness - so long as it serves the country's interests and the conceptual discourse system 观念话语体系 that the country has been actively trying to create.
“Any nation that, for any reason, is seen as posing a threat to this hegemonic position will not be tolerated. The perception in Washington that China's development poses a threat to said hegemony has resulted in the abrupt transfiguration of Sino-US relations into a strategic rivalry.
“China holds that this is a misunderstanding and an error in judgment 误解误判 [on part of the US]; Beijing is only concerned with its own development and has no desire to take America’s place.
“But given the strong penchant for hegemonic realism of their policy, we must accept the fact that strategic competition will continue to be a prominent part of Sino-US relations going forward.
“The way the competition plays out and the impact it has heavily depend on how much mutual political trust there is between the two sides when at present, political mutual trust between China and the US has reached its lowest point since diplomatic relations were established.
“The prospects for the development of bilateral relations are becoming increasingly uncertain, with the Taiwan question becoming the most dangerous flashpoint. Risk management must therefore be given the highest priority possible.
“It was for this reason that the US introduced the concept of "guardrails" in our interaction. But concentrating on the operational level rather than managing the policy level where the risk is created will, at best, have little impact on reducing the likelihood of a crisis at the micro level.
“The current state of affairs indicates that if we continue to see political posturing and risky policy decisions, like Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, which impinge on China's bottom line [i.e., core interests], political mutual trust between China and the US will be lost, and relations between the two nations will deteriorate into a disastrous situation that neither side wants to see.
“Therefore, risk management must be elevated to the strategic level. Due to the significant risks that America's own political imbalance poses to the Taiwan Strait situation, the primary goal now is to implement the requisite risk management process.” (Taihe Institute)
From the Archives
“This is a ‘war’ that China cannot afford to lose…telling the China story well is the most powerful weapon we have to defend ourselves against Western color revolutions”
Since we're talking about the Taihe Institute (see previous entry), I thought we'd dig through the Discourse Power archives to feature a January 2018 talk by another senior fellow, Mr. Zheng Ruolin, on "How to Tell the 'China Story' Well and East-West Relations in the Next Five Years."
Zheng (front row and center) is a francophone journalist-turned-public intellectual who has been a correspondent for the Chinese state-run Wenhui Bao in Paris since the early 1990s. He is a popular guest on both countries' talk shows and news segments, and his views on EU affairs, French politics, and Chinese foreign policy, as well as his interviews with top officials from home and abroad, are regularly featured on top party-state media outlets.
He made the presentation to his colleagues on January 27, 2018. “As China gradually moves to the center of the world stage, the importance and urgency of effectively telling the China story have grown,” summarized the think-tank, and adding that “China's growing economic strength and its close financial and trade ties with the West present a good opportunity for China to bolster its foreign propaganda.”
“In the new era,” Zheng reportely said, “China's foreign propaganda needs to adapt, learn to use Western logic and discourse, utilize Western media and platforms, truly win the hearts of Westerners, and tell a "China story" that has the power to resonate with and persuade them.”
“Regarding the relationship between China and the West in the next five years,” Zheng believes that “based on his years of dealing with Westerners and understanding of their philosophy and thinking, the West, particularly the US, will not accept China's continued development and rise.”
“They will undoubtedly try to disrupt China's development and rise in any way they can,” he cautioned. “This is a ‘war’ 战争 that China cannot afford to lose, and if it does, it will be extremely difficult to turn the tide.”
According to Zheng, strengthening foreign propaganda necessitates learning how to deal with Western governments, media, and financial (capital) groups 财团, the latter being the most important - the “invisible force” pulling the strings of government behind the scenes.
And what or who are those shadowy forces at work? Although he doesn't name them here, he has been talking about them in other writings and public speeches. Yes, your guess is correct, but that's a topic for another newsletter.
Excerpts from Zheng’s article, titled "Pride and Prejudice," which was published as a follow-up to his talk on February 22, 2018:
“Part I: To Tell the China Story Well, We Must First Understand the Western Rules of the Game”
“Western media frequently engages in "manipulation" 操作 tactics. The outcome has an immediate impact on the societal political direction and public opinion.
“Indeed, there are two "Wests" in the world: one theoretical and one real. The two "Wests" frequently manifest in ways that are completely at odds with one another: In the theoretical "West," the political system, institutional structure, and social management are fair, just, free, and transparent; in the real "West," however, there is a staggering amount of manipulation taking place behind the scenes 幕后操作盛行，超出想象.
“Ideas such as "fairness and justice" are often used by [Western] politicians as mere playthings. In the French presidential election of 2012, there was an officially confirmed presidential candidate named Jacques Cheminade, who had previously run for president in 1995. I was shocked that I hadn't heard of him at the time because I'd attended all of the presidential candidates' campaign rallies.
“How could I have missed Cheminade when, according to French electoral law, every presidential candidate in France must receive an equal amount of airtime? Only through my thorough examination was I able to discover the means and methods of their manipulation.
“Their "freedom of speech," which Western political ideologists extol ad nauseam 耳熟能详, is, in reality, an empty shell 空壳. In Western societies, both the tangible legal system and the intangible yoke of "political correctness" severely restrict what is referred to as "free speech," with boundaries that, once established, can never be crossed.
“Then, don't be scared 唬住 by the Westerners' bluffs of "freedom, objectivity, fairness, and impartiality." Bian Qin, a long-term expat in France and author of Who Is Controlling the World" 谁在导演世界 and A Civilization Turned Sideways: How Did We Get Here, observed that there is no such thing as random news, only random events. Her words are the gospel truth 至理, and ought to be incorporated in all of our journalism studies curricula.
“Every piece of news is a tool of sorts that conveys a certain message. Because it is a tool, it’s only natural that it would be something that is manufactured and exploited. Having lived in the West for over 20 years and closely observed the Western media and public opinion, I have a thorough understanding of what the West refers to as ‘freedom of the press.’
“The true "separation of powers" in the West is not between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, but rather is between the financial (capital) groups 财团, the executive branch, and the media”
“The separation of powers between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches is not at all important in France, Europe, or the West as a whole. It took Germany more than four months of wrangling to finally reach an agreement on coalition formation, though the new German government may not be up and running until the end of March this year . Nearly a year went by while Belgium was without a government, and society carried on without any issues.
“This goes to show that in Western countries, the center of power is not the government, but an invisible group 隐形集团 with more power than the government.
“Based on over a decade of observations and research I’ve done as a journalist in France, the real separation of powers in France is between the financial capital groups, the government, and the media, with the financial capital groups having the most significant and dominant power. Even with a strong government, Western society cannot function if there is a problem with the financial capital groups.
“Western media, which is controlled by the financial capital groups, is acutely aware of the importance of portraying the Western system as the best in the world.
“This is because Western civilization is essentially characterized by the desire to conquer 西方文明本身就是一个具有征服性特征的文明. Only by presenting the Western system as the best in the world can a foundation for subjugating others be established.
“The West has some public opinion “weather-vanes,” such as Le Monde and Libération in France and the New York Times in the US, and their reports serve as political tone-setters.
“The Western public reads about what is happening in China through the Western mainstream media instead of the People's Daily [the Party’s mouthpiece] because they believe that their reports are unbiased [you can fix that by subscribing to Manoj Kewalramani’s Tracking People’s Daily].
“Movies are a powerful tool for Western ideological indoctrination. State-sponsored movies in the West inherently have a hidden agenda, despite the fact that they are frequently marketed as fine cinema.
“For instance, the French Ministry of Culture consistently funds Chinese films that portray China negatively through the Cannes Film Festival and its foundation. With this in mind, we should recognize that Western stories are being told with specific political vested interests.
“Accordingly, the responsibility of effectively telling the China story falls on each and every one of us. Telling the China story well is not a shouting match in which the loudest person wins 嗓门大、喇叭多. People who don’t want to hear you will shut their ears even if you scream your heart out.
“Don't expect to seize the discourse power by [owning and] operating a few foreign language TV stations, or even by working abroad; this is merely a glorified shouting contest and a misunderstanding of what discourse power is all about. The first step in effectively telling the China story is to use Western media, as this is what the Western public trusts.
“To summarize, in order to tell the China story well in the West, it is necessary to work effectively not only with the government but also with financial capital groups and the media.”
“Part II: It Takes a Mastery of Skills and Methods to Tell the China Story Well”
1. “Play the "Underdog" 弱者 Position to Your Advantage”
“I once went to a French televised debate about the Tibetan issue against [Rama Yade,] the Green's presidential candidate and the French Secretary of Human Rights. At the time, public opinion in France was unanimous in believing that the Chinese army had suppressed the Tibetans, and it was clear that I'd already been at a disadvantage even before I arrived. My status as the "underdog" was undeniable; it was not simple to turn this situation around, especially when the adversary is a silver-tongued politician.
“And so, I pitched to the television network that since I am a foreigner and French is not my first language, I need to be given an allotted amount of time for my speech and they should ensure that both sides of the debate refrain from interrupting each other. I had also prepared a response in case I would be interrupted by the other side when it was my turn to speak.
“As expected, she cut me off frequently throughout the debate, so, in due course, I retorted with my pre-planned response: "Did you invite me here as a defendant to read his verdict? If not, please do not interrupt me."
“It was a very effective comment that shook the audience, making them feel that you can't just cut your opponent off even if you don't agree with their point of view, let alone forbid them from speaking.
“Even if the French audience did not always agree with me, they were resentful of the "underdog's" unfair treatment. As such, I played this position to my advantage. A week later, the station asked me to return.
“It struck me as odd because normally, French TV stations do not invite the same guest for recurring appearances. The celebrity host, Paul Amar, told me that after the last program aired, the station had received a lot of complaints from viewers asking why they invited a Chinese person but did not allow him to express his opinion, so they had to ask me to return.”
2. ”Use Their Own Weapons Against Them” [lit., “make them use Western "stones" to smash their own "feet" with 用西方的’石头’砸他们自己的’脚’”]
“The same was true when I went to a debate hosted by France Télévisions to discuss Tibetan sovereignty with the local audience. I brought a book with me I'd found in an antique bookstore, the Atlas of the World 世界地图册, written by a famous French geographer in 1826. One of the maps clearly indicated that Tibet was part of China. They were stunned when I revealed it, and their argument that "Tibet is not a Chinese territory" imploded on itself 不攻自破.
“A single image of a map can be more persuasive than a ten-minute speech because, on television, visuals can explain anything, not to mention the fact that I used their own "weapons" against them.”
3. “Give Them a Taste of Their Own Medicine” 以其人之道还治其人之身
“Westerners will not be persuaded if you try to prove that Tibet is a part of China using Princess Wencheng's 文成公主 མུན་ཆང་ཀུང་ཅོ historical account [Wiki: Princess Wencheng (Gyasa) was a member of a minor branch of the Tang Dynasty royal clan who married King Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire in 641].
“Since it was a common practice in Europe for royal families to intermarry with other royalty from different nations, you cannot just go around arguing that if a French duchess had married into Spanish aristocracy, Spain would’ve become a part of France.
“However, I was still able to draw a correlation from the French historical records: historically, Brittany was not a part of France, but it was annexed when [the Kingdom of] France married off its princess to the Bretons [sic. It was the other way around: Duchess Anne of Brittany was married off to two successive French kings]. I’d heard this from a proponent of Breton independence, and when I used his example, it hit the French right where it hurts, and suddenly they all fell silent as a dud 哑火.”
4. “Concealment 隐真 and Misrepresentation 示假”
“Prior to the interview, Chinese hosts will frequently call their guests and send them a list of questions. However, in France, the media will rather call you and ask you a series of questions to feel you out 摸你的底.
“When I first started, I hadn’t been aware of this, so when a call would come, I'd tell them my views on this and that. Only later had I realized that once you get to the station, the questions you are asked have nothing to do with the ones you were asked over the phone, but rather are a targeted set of questions designed to embarrass you.
“The French media does not want you to say what you want to say; they want conflicts, scandals, and for you to embarrass yourself. Later, as I gained more experience, whenever they would call I’d just tell them some nonsense.
“When I’d take the actual interview, I would never let them get to me, and I would simply present my point of view calmly. That is why, when dealing with the Western media, concealment, and misrepresentation are crucial.”
5. “Find the "Achilles' Heel" 阿喀琉斯之踵 of Your Opponent”
“A French journalist based in Thailand who was granted a tourist visa to enter Tibet, made a film that parrots the Dalai’s assertions that "Tibet is undergoing cultural genocide."
“I have agreed to participate in a televised discussion with this reporter, who was joined by the Dalai clique's representative in France, who is the head of the French National Assembly, and the virulently anti-China Tibet Support Group.
“The host was also clearly biased in favor of the Dalai Lama, turning it into a four-on-one situation (which is also standard practice when it comes to my participation in French debates).
“I was well aware that the so-called "experts on Tibet" in France are in fact people who know nothing about it. Accordingly, the journalist brought up China's "genocide" policy in Tibet (the term "genocide" is very sensitive in the West because it recalls the fate of the Jews during WWII. The Dalai clique was shrewd enough to exploit this "magic word" 好词 to attack China, despite the fact that it is entirely baseless).
"Do you know what a sky burial 天葬 བྱ་གཏོར is?" I responded. "Yes, I do," the journalist replied. I could tell he didn't know because of his hesitation. "Do you really know?" I asked again, raising my voice slightly. He paused for a moment before responding softly, "Yes." At this point, I was certain he knew nothing about sky burials. "Please look me in the eyes and answer me, do you know what a sky burial is or not?" I pressed on. He just stared at me blankly before conceding, embarrassedly, that he did not know.
“Right there and then, I proceeded to explain what a sky burial is...[following which] they lost their pretense of politeness and civility. I insisted on finishing my speech despite their interruptions and eventually concluded that, as we all know, sky burial is a practice that no Westerner would ever accept. And yet, China allows Tibetans to practice this custom, so to claim that China is committing "cultural genocide" against Tibet is a blatant lie, isn't it?
“The moderator and the Dalai’s representative tried everything they could to stop me from speaking. However, the more they did, the more intrigued the audience became. Finally, the word "sky burial," which the French had never heard before, pulled the rug out from under their China-bashing attempts.”
“Part III: Planning and Consistency are Necessary for Telling the China Story Well”
“It will take more than a debate, a movie, an advertisement, or a book to alter the long-standing stereotypes about Us in the West.
1. “Western Media Should Feature More Chinese Faces”
“In order to tell the China story well, we need to give more Chinese people the chance to express themselves on Western media platforms. Even if what I say will not alter their opinions, just by making an appearance and speaking up for China, I was able to steal the spotlight from at least one anti-China voice. That alone constitutes a success.
“We must identify and nurture Chinese students with potential in this field; we must encourage and facilitate their entry into the ranks of Western media. In addition, we should help prominent Chinese scholars to have their books published abroad, so they can expand their influence in the West.
“Currently, China is not making enough progress in this area. In the future, and for each Western country, we must train at least a few dozen such individuals to serve as the backbone for disseminating and telling the China story.”
3. “Focus on Print Media and Make Good Use of It”
“A live event is over once it airs, and it is challenging enough to sum up China's issues in a few words due to their complexity. To tell the China story well, it is also necessary to use print media, including books and newspapers.
“For instance, it is a common misconception in the West that China does not have freedom of religion. In a piece I wrote on the subject that was published in French, I mentioned how there are now 100 million believers in China - more than there are members of the Communist Party of China. When Le Monde saw this and sent someone to run a fact-check, they discovered it to be true and wrote a follow-up article that further elaborates on freedom of religion in China.”
4. “Use Other Countries' Experience in Running Good TV and Radio Media”
“We have spent a lot of money on TV and radio programs abroad over the last few decades, and while the reported statistics are very good, in reality, they have barely reached the target audience and have been largely lackluster.
“[By contrast,] Russia Today (RT) and Al Jazeera are two non-Western media outlets that have achieved significant global influence. Putin started RT by appointing one of his trusted aides 亲信 and delegating significant authority to him; then, they hired a large cohort of British, American, and French journalists who think and work as Westerners do. The same is true of Al Jazeera, which hired numerous ex-BBC employees.
“Furthermore, the two networks are run by people who truly understand the logic of the Western psyche because Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholic Christianity are monotheistic religions. So, the secret to effectively reporting on China is to develop an understanding of the Western psyche, and then develop and operate the media in a sensible and appropriate manner.”
4. “Take Full Advantage of Our Foreign Friends”
“Edgar Snow, a well-known American journalist, traveled great distances to report about China. He visited the [Communist Party’s stronghold, the] Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region, and published a large number of essays based on his experiences.
“Snow told the American government and people about Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist leaders, the heroic and courageous story of the Eighth Route Army, stories of the honest and kind-hearted Chinese people, and the Chinese people's struggle for a better life. His account has reverberated throughout America, and from there, to the rest of the world.
“These historical examples teach us that our external-facing propaganda 对外宣传 should not only highlight our virtues but must also allow others to talk candidly about our qualities.”
“Part IV: The New Era Offers a Rare Historical Opportunity with Extraordinary Strategic Significance for Telling the China Story Well”
“China has become the world's second-largest economy. The close economic and trade relations we maintain with the US, Europe, and other Western countries, provide us with a once-in-a-lifetime strategic opportunity to tell the China story well.
“Western countries have increasingly needed to ride the wave of China's rapid development in order to deal with the effects of the financial crisis and pursue economic development.
“That’s why Western financial capital groups don’t seek to be completely at odds with China; they will certainly not allow the governments and media under their control to smear China beyond a certain threshold.
“That's why you never see Russians or Iranians on TV defending their countries. The reason is simple: their economic and trade interests with these countries are insignificant, whereas they must strike a balance with China. According to statistics, news stories about China now outnumber those about the US and the Middle East in the French media.
“In the past, we used to believe that the West did not understand us. To avoid misunderstandings, the main thrust of our outreach was to tell them that "we have not yet reached your stage of development, so we cannot do the things you are doing now."
“But gradually we realized that the West actually knows us very well; they are aware of our country's strengths and weaknesses, and yet all they want is for us to become like them so that they can control us.
“For the West, the most effective way to control a country is to transform it into a "democratically elected" state so that they can infiltrate and manipulate its society and politics through the global media they control.
“In the New Era, the most powerful weapon we have to defend ourselves against Western color revolutions is to tell the China story well. The aim of telling the China story well has gone through a fundamental shift as a result of China's rapid rise.
“Simply put, its goal is to inform the West, as well as the rest of the world, that China has a Chinese model 中国的模式, one that is unique to China and irreplaceable; at the same time, this model can serve as an alternative path for the development of mankind 人类社会.
“And what exactly is this model? This model denotes competition, the highest form of which is ideological competition. China does not "export" the Chinese model to the West, and the West should not count on [successfully] "exporting" the Western model to China.
“While it is unclear who will win or lose the raging duel between the Chinese and the Western models, the West's decline is unmistakable 显而易见. Meanwhile, the Chinese model is influencing a growing number of developing countries, including numerous African countries, which have stated unequivocally: "What we want is the Chinese model."
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia