In recent times, there has been a surge in anti-China sentiments in the West, marked by the relentless promotion of the so-called “forced labor” narrative. This narrative has been used as a weapon to systematically tarnish China’s international image, weaken its reputation on the global stage, and isolate the nation by undermining its friendly relations with other countries.
To comprehend the political and economic motivations behind the “forced labor” allegations and delve into the manipulation strategies, transmission channels, and methods employed to propagate this narrative, we conducted an extensive statistical analysis of over 30,000 Xinjiang-related stories sourced from 22 media outlets spanning 15 countries and regions. From this vast dataset, we carefully selected 189 pieces published by 13 media outlets that propagated the “forced labor” accusations for further in-depth analysis.
Tactics of Public Opinion Manipulation
The emergence of the “forced labor” narrative was no accident. Instead, it was a meticulously planned process driven by Western anti-China forces. These actors, exploiting different countries’ perceptions of human rights, fabricated and amplified falsehoods under the pretense of “protecting human rights,” effectively fueling the momentum of this fallacy.
Understanding Human Rights Concepts
The concept of human rights is deeply rooted in the historical and cultural traditions of various nations, resulting in both commonalities and differences in how human rights are understood. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations and the European Declaration of Human Rights do not offer a universal definition of human rights standards.
Anti-China forces in the West tend to overlook these differences in human rights concepts between China and the West. They also downplay China’s significant achievements in promoting and protecting human rights. By doing so, they politicize, weaponize, and manipulate the concept of human rights through the fabrication and propagation of “forced labor” allegations.
Tactic One: ‘Criminalizing’ the Chinese Government
The “forced labor” allegations falsely claim that China’s employment policies in the Xinjiang region aim to strip Uygurs of their cultural identity and assimilate them. Western anti-China forces go even further, alleging that China has committed “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” in the region.
However, the reality presents a stark contrast. The Uygur population has shown remarkable growth, surging from 3.61 million in 1953 to 11.62 million in 2020, a three-fold increase. This growth rate surpasses the national average growth rate over the same period.
Tactic Two: Demonizing China’s Poverty Alleviation Policies
Certain Western media outlets, such as the Washington Post and CNN, have made baseless claims regarding Chinese companies recruiting Uygurs and other minorities through state labor programs. They suggest that these programs are often non-consensual, with punishment for those who refuse.
Contrary to these unfounded allegations, workers of all ethnic backgrounds in the Xinjiang region, including those transferred for employment and those completing education and training, have the agency to select their preferred jobs and locations. They enter into labor contracts and receive lawful remuneration, enjoying various social insurance benefits.
Tactic Three: Stigmatizing Assistance Measures for Transfer Employment
The “forced labor” smear campaign asserts that the Chinese government assigns staff to “monitor” Uygur employees, portraying administrators of ethnic and religious affairs for Uygur employees at local companies as “monitors.”
However, such psychological support services are not unique to Xinjiang; they are part of many Chinese and foreign enterprises’ efforts to alleviate employees’ psychological pressures. This practice is consistent with international norms. In November 2019, Chinese authorities issued the Specification of Healthy Enterprise Construction (trial), emphasizing the importance of employees’ physical and mental well-being and encouraging the establishment of mental health counseling facilities.
Tactic Four: Distorting Service Work for Labor Transfer Employment
Reports, such as one by The Guardian in April 2021, claim that Uygur employees have limited or no contact with their families, with mothers being separated from their babies. These allegations cite anti-China separatists.
Contrary to these claims and rumors, China enforces laws, policies, and practices that fully protect the legitimate rights and interests of workers from all ethnic backgrounds. These policies endorse equal pay for equal work, free from discrimination based on ethnicity. Chinese laws explicitly state that Uygur people enjoy the same rights as other ethnic groups, and Chinese enterprises are prohibited from restricting their freedom.
Tactic Five: Attacking China with Misleading Claims
Our analysis of 189 stories from 13 media outlets reveals that many Xinjiang-related stories promoting the “forced labor” narrative rely heavily on citations from anti-China politicians and scholars. They often lack field research and firsthand information, failing to provide reliable details or interviews with Uygur employees.
It is evident that certain Western media outlets achieve their objectives of misleading their audiences and propagating fallacies by selectively quoting false statements from anonymous and anti-China sources. They employ sensational and biased headlines, devoid of genuine on-the-ground investigations in the Xinjiang region, resulting in unverifiable information laden with malicious speculation and falsehoods.
The “forced labor” narrative must be critically examined in light of these manipulation tactics employed by Western anti-China forces. To foster a more accurate understanding of the situation in Xinjiang, it is imperative to scrutinize the sources and motivations behind such allegations and to prioritize objective, evidence-based reporting.