Friday, November 09, 2012

Sinophobia, The Old Regime, And The Revolution.

As the larva inside the gut of the Chinese Communist Party is putating again and Canada's business elite scutters onward in its enthusiasm to play concubine in the Politburo's billionaire clubhouse, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is hurriedly papering over a scandal. It involves a consortium of hastily-arranged Chinese joint ventures that somehow got permission from Ottawa to re-introduce coolie labour to the coalmines of British Columbia after an interregnum of a century and a half. 
Watch your step, mind, or you'll be accused of committing an act of Sinophobia for merely mentioning these things out loud. Why do Canadians find it so difficult to have a grown-up conversation about what's actually happening here?
. . . The emergence of Chinese state-owned enterprises as the critical source of capital in Alberta’s oilsands has induced a vomiting up of hysterical slogans from the days of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement debates, but that’s not the half of it. 
The Conservative party’s dwindling pro-Beijing fringe still speaks the language of neo-liberalism in the excuses it concocts for our prime minister’s obsequies in courting Beijing’s dirty-money capitalists. Elsewhere, the fashionably neo-Marxist counterculture conflation of race with class had rendered pretty well everyone on “the left” incapable of even noticing the necessary distinctions at hand. 

 The main thing is that Canada’s cultural establishment has largely succumbed to the irrational fear of Sinophobia, which is itself an irrational fear of all things Chinese, and if you think that’s ironic, that’s just where it begins. 
That's from my extended-play Ottawa Citizen column today. For more on the Phobia of Sinophobia my old friend and colleague Stephen Hume has offered a useful primer in The Vancouver Sun. Long story short: it's the means by which we are made to hold our tongues. 

You will want to mind what you say if you are a citizen of China, certainly.
Only two days ago, the women's rights activist Mao Hengfeng was sentenced in Shanghai to 18 months in a re-education camp (formally called a "re-education through labour" detainment facility) for “disturbing social order,” by which China's state security apparatus means she was just a bit too sharp-tongued in her opposition to forced evictions.
Meanwhile, the heroic 65-year-old microblogger Liu Futang is still under arrest. He was hauled out of his hospital bed in August, reappearing only in a Haikou courtroom on October 11, frail and limping, on charges of “illegal expression.” Liu’s crime was to self-publish a small book he’d written about the efforts of Hainan Islanders to protect their remnant forests against Beijing-backed developers. Liu was denied bail. He remains in custody, in hospital.
Present a timid petition to the Communist Party and the police will come to your house and take you away on charges of "disrupting public order". Circumstances for the Tibetans have become so savagely oppressive and hopeless that 69 of them have set themselves on fire in protests over the past three years. Five more self-immolations were reported just this week. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old woman set herself on fire and died in the village of Drorong Po. Her name was Tamdrin Tso.
What's Canada's excuse? 
Prime Minster Harper will go all John A. Macdonald on us when he talks about his intentions to turn Canada into an “energy superpower” and the comparison is both valid and unflattering. Just as Prime Minister Harper didn't tell us where he was going to find the money to do this, Sir John similarly failed to mention that the railroad with which he lured British Columbia into Confederation was to be built by Chinese slaves. Macdonald famously excused himself this way: “Either you must have this labour or you can’t have the railway.” What Prime Minister Harper is saying is much the same: Either you must have Beijing’s dirty capital or you can’t triple oil sands production over the next ten years.
In his essay "China's Troubled Bourbons" Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, astutely notices the sudden ubiquity of Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the Revolution on the bedside tables of China's Communist Party bosses. He concludes: "As the country’s silent political revolution continues to unfold, the question is whether they will heed its signs, or attempt to maintain an order that — like the French monarchy — cannot be saved."
Prime Minister Harper himself has been wondering what China's Bourbons will do and all he can say is: "The honest truth is, we don't know." Good to have that on record. We don't know, and that's just one thing not to like about the proceeds-of-crime arrangement to which Ottawa is applying lipstick and eye shadow by means of a tawdry Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Beijing.
When the day comes that Canadian citizens and Chinese citizens are finally able to speak freely and openly with one another, heaven help the mandarins in Ottawa and Beijing. What the risen masses in China will do, "the honest truth is, we don't know."


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