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A Clash of Values, Part IV

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Propaganda vs. Reality

In Part II of this series, we discussed the CCP’s quest for control, “How could it maintain strict control if anything other than the Party – human rights, the right to vote, universal values, a sense of morality, the rule of law, China’s Constitution, or even God – took precedence over the Party’s dictates?”

Over the years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used propaganda to create a fiction to present to its own people and to the rest of the world that the Party is Great, Glorious, and Correct and that the China Model will displace Western universal values, while “China will fundamentally be established as the legitimate world leader.”  This CCP viewpoint faces a serious problem. Just as the CCP distorts reality to support its own self-interest, man likewise values truth, seeks truth, and has the capacity to recognize what is not true. In Part IV, we will explore the CCP’s quest to control perception and the dichotomy between the CCP’s view of reality and the Western view.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave:

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes a scenario in which what people take to be the real world is actually an illusion. Prisoners are forced to live in a cave where they are immobile and can only look at the wall in front of them. Behind them is an enormous fire. When people walk between the fire and the prisoners or carry things, the fire causes a shadow to be cast on the wall for the prisoners to see. That is the only reality they know. In the allegory, Socrates supposes that a man was freed, spent some time outside of the cave, and got acclimated to that reality. Then if he were to return to the cave, what would be the reaction of the prisoners if he described his new understanding of reality to them?  Would it be denial or incredulity? Might they find him stupid or ridiculous?

The Matrix:

A more modern allegory is presented in the movie The Matrix: In this science fiction trilogy, the reality that humans in the future perceive is “actually a simulated reality or cyberspace called ‘the Matrix,’ created by sentient machines to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source.” [1]

The Illusion of Greatness

Sun Liping, a Professor of Sociology at Tsingha University, had this to say about the effect on China of hosting the 2008 Olympics:

“I’ve long thought that the impact of the Beijing Olympics on China was very deep, much more than a matter of dollars and cents. The highly cautious attitude [of the leadership] in facing such a grand event of this kind profoundly impacted China’s historical path even afterward. The Olympics marked the beginning, it can be said, of the ascendance of the stability preservation regime in China. Looking back now, it might be that the Olympics were something we did that we ought not to have done.

“In the 21st century, China’s two most obvious characteristics have been the inflation of power (权力膨胀) and the failure of power (权力溃败), and the way the two of these have woven together. The process of the strengthening of the government’s capacity to extract resources, which had already begun before, concentrated more and more money in the hands of the government [during this decade]. And he who has wealth speaks loudest.

Meanwhile, with the successful hosting of the [Beijing] Olympic Games, the psychology of caution [that had emerged in the years ahead of the Games] transmuted into a fantasy of a national system concentrating forces to do great things. It was against this backdrop that the failure of power became more and more severe. As big money meant bigger influence an attitude of wantonness prevailed, and the national system fostered and encouraged the arbitrary and capricious use of power. [2]

Reformatting Memories

The Olympics contributed greatly to the regime’s image of itself and the image it presented to the world, but it was the image rather than reality that was all-important. On April 1, 2013, Yan Lianke, an Op-ed contributor to the New York Times discussed how the regime dealt with historical facts that impinged on that image. The following are some excerpts from her article. [3]

In 2012, a teacher in Hong Kong asked her students from the mainland “if they had heard about the death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people during the so-called ‘three years of natural disasters’ in the early 1960s. Her students responded with stunned silence, as if she, a teacher in Hong Kong, was brazenly fabricating history to attack their mother country.”  The author observed how, in “today’s China, amnesia trumps memory. Lies are surpassing the truth.”

“Historical details are selectively excised from the records and from textbooks.”  The tragic experiences associated with the movements following the civil war that ended in 1949 have been permanently concealed. “While the whole world still vividly remembers the tragic end of the June 4 student movement in 1989, the painful memory is lost in the country where the bloodshed took place…” “What else is lost to memory? … the list goes on and on.”

“The state prefers the intelligence of its people to remain at the level of children in a kindergarten. … When they are asked to perform, these innocent children enthusiastically recite the script prepared by the adults.”

“To achieve this, the brains of people who have memories must be reformatted, voices of people who are good with words must be silenced, so that the memory of younger generations won’t be contaminated.”  “It can also force literary imagination to fly in the opposite direction of truth and conscience.” You will be awarded … as long as you are willing to see what is allowed to be seen, and look away from what is not allowed to be looked at; as long as you are willing to sing the praises of what needs to be praised and ignore what needs to be blanked out.

Praise the Party and be rewarded; criticize the Party and you will be punished.

“Consequently, truth is buried, conscience is castrated and our language is raped by money and power. Lies, meaningless words and pretentious-sounding blather become the official language used by the government, taught by our teachers and adopted by the world of art and literature.”

“The mind of the state is keeping a watchful eye on the windows and what people are writing, but no one is allowed to keep a watchful eye on the mind of the state.”

Someone who has spent years in a dark cell is bound to be grateful if a window in his cell is unshuttered and some light is allowed in. Would he dare to ask for the prison gate to be opened for him?

The CCP’s Reality is Correct

Dr. Christopher Ford, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. made some excellent observations on how the regime’s misperception of realty impacts its interactions with those not subject to the regime’s viewpoint and how that misperception affects Communist Cadre’s attempts to control others views.

Dr. Ford attended the 4th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, which was held on November 15-18, 2012, sponsored by a branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The topic was Asia-Pacific mutual trust. He found that the participants were divided into two “radically different” camps. One focused on the challenges to creating understanding and trust. The second, consisting predominantly of PLA participants, focused on obtaining agreement on how to characterize past behavior, including “(e.g., about what did or did not happen in the South China Sea in 2012, who started the Korean War, or whether or not Japanese history textbooks acknowledge that country’s invasion of China in the 1930s).”  The two groups “seemed to inhabit parallel universes of competing facts and historical claims,”

Dr. Ford observed that the facts, “were objectively ‘knowable,’ yet our hosts were not interested in empirical evaluation. Instead, our Roundtable discussions bogged down, for it was apparently central to the agenda of most PLA participants that their version of these facts – and their accompanying characterizations about fault and blame – be accepted by all others as a starting point for future-oriented discussions of ‘mutual trust.’”

“The PLA participants, however, were quite comfortable telling non-Chinese what their various governments’ intentions are.  We were told, for instance, that Japan wishes to return to imperialist adventurism of the sort that it displayed during the Second World War. The United States, we were further told, wishes to “contain” China and obstruct its rise. These Chinese assumptions were not depicted as mere perceptions, but instead as matters of inarguable fact that we non-Chinese must accept – and thereafter atone for – in order to make future trust possible.”

“The various presumptive malefactors who were declared to wish to harm China needed, in effect, to confess their sins and denounce themselves with sufficient intensity, consistency, and sincerity that Chinese would be willing to conclude that we had forever put aside all such deviations from proper behavior.  For this group, apparently, having trust required eliciting the other side’s acceptance of one’s own characterizations of history and endorsement of key elements of one’s own world view.”

“…they insisted that we accept the PRC’s historical and moral characterizations of itself and its role in the world as a prerequisite for mutual ‘trust’ and cooperation in the future.  One thus glimpses here a sort of conceptual imperialism, at least in aspiration, suggesting that it is a Chinese strategic objective to control the world’s discourse about China.

It does seem to be the case that China’s modern ruling elite views politico-moral discourse control as a crucial determinant of “comprehensive national power.”

“It seems to be felt, for instance, that if the world understands China ‘properly,’ it will tend to behave toward China as China’s rulers desire; controlling others’ conceptual frameworks may be felt at least as important as more traditionally tangible aspects of international dominion.”

“Through this lens, my PLA counterparts’ emphasis upon demanding concurrence with Beijing’s characterization of the region’s politico-moral backstory, as it were, was not a self-indulgent distraction from the task at hand, but in fact the game itself.” [4]

Using the Confucius Institutes to Change Perception

In this series, we saw how, in 2009, the Confucius Institute at North Carolina State University pressured the provost into cancelling an event to which it had invited the Dalai Lama and how it offered Stanford University $4 million to host a Confucius Institute and endow a professorship if it just did not discuss such sensitive issues as the Dalai Lama.  We have also seen how the CCP pressured Stanford University to deny a doctoral degree to Steve Mosher, who wrote an exposé on human rights abuses relating to China’s one child policy. They also threatened “to abrogate China’s scholarly exchange program with the U.S. unless Mosher was, in its words, ‘severely punished’ for speaking out.” [5]

More recently, McMaster University, near Toronto, decided to close its Confucius Institute citing the institute’s requirement that its instructors have no affiliation to organizations that the Chinese government has banned, including the spiritual movement Falun Gong, and that it spreads propaganda about such issues as Taiwan and the origins of the Korean War.

Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – when interviewed on CBC television in 2010, said that China’s lobbyists were “funding Confucius Institutes in most of the campuses across Canada,” that the institutes were “managed by people operating out of the embassy or consulates – nobody knows that the Chinese authorities are involved” and that they had “organised demonstrations to deal with what are called the five poisons: Taiwan, Falun Gong and others.”

June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami said that Confucius Institutes have distorted history, by, for example, inviting speakers “to shill for the government and talk about how happy all the Tibetans were.” Meanwhile, she says, there were “all these self-immolations happening” by Tibetans protesting Chinese control of the country. She found that the Confucius Institute films were “outrageous distortions of what actually happened.”  The Epoch Times and an organization called We Are Politics both managed to capture a video, that has since been removed from the Internet, which portrayed some of these distortions. [6] Confucius Institute instructional material even included suggestions that the US drew China into the Korean conflict by bombing Chinese villages near the border with Korea.

“They have no particular interest in what we would consider critical enquiry or academic freedom.”

Why do Canadians invite the Confucius Institutes? China, he argues, is seen “as a kind of sugar daddy.” “As much as Canadians are concerned about Chinese problems with human rights and political agendas,” according to Terry Russell, acting director of Asian studies at the University of Manitoba, “university administrators still see it as a pragmatic way of getting more funding.” [7]

These are just a few instances in which reality was supposed to be what the PLA members said it was or what the Party pronounced it to be.

Living in the Matrix

The CCP is notorious for the extensive, unrelenting control it exercises over the Chinese people. The Party strives to control the courts [8] and the media. [9] In the recent Southern Weekend incident it stated, “In socialist China, the newspaper is a propaganda tool of the Party. The Party controls the media. This is an iron principle. One can confidently tell the world about that. A newspaper’s role is to convey the Party’s principles and policies and unify the mass’s understanding. … A newspaper is the Party’s eyes, ears, and mouth.  The media will never become a ‘politically-exempt zone.’” [10] It strives to control the Internet, how many children people can have, and their very beliefs. Anything that gets in the way, such as complaints, protests, free speech, and a truthful observation on the Internet, may have violent consequences. Punishment is meted out not just to the individual, but to his family, including innocent children. The CCP will even commit serious human rights violations against children to stifle freedom of speech.

Reggie Littlejohn, of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, calls this “state-sponsored child abuse.” [11]

As for the money spent to ensure the Chinese people’s obedience, the Party will spare no cost. When USA Today interviewed Cheng Guangcheng, he said that it cost Beijing almost $11 million to keep only him locked up in the Chinese countryside. [12]

Sun Liping, when discussing the effect of the 2008 Olympics, mentioned that the national system fostered and encouraged the arbitrary and capricious use of power. It is therefore no wonder that China’s internal security budget, now 769.1 billion yuan ($124.12 billion) has outpaced defense spending since 2010. [13]

Controlling the Matrix

The October 2006 issue of Dongxiang Magazine (Hong Kong) reported that China’s top executives in the areas of finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale construction projects, and stock markets were mostly children and relatives of high-ranking government officials. They accounted for more than 90 percent of the billionaires in China.  It was reported that the combined assets of 2,900 of these individuals was as high as 2,000 billion yuan (US$253 billion). The sources of their income included kickbacks from foreign investments, huge mark-ups on imported foreign goods, generally 60 to 300 percent; controlling the export quota for domestic merchandise; land development, real estate trade, and bank loans; smuggling and tax evasion; bad bank loans without asset guarantees and banking theft; a monopoly on large-scale construction projects; 85 percent of the highway construction projects were contracted through the private companies owned by children and relatives of government officials; embezzlement through financial institutions and state owned banks; manipulating the stock market; and fabricating false information to mislead media reports. [14]

A more recent study revealed, “Three children alone –including Deng’s son-in-law He Ping and Chen Yuan, the son of Mao Zedong’s economic czar Chen Yun — led or still run state-owned companies that had combined assets of about $1.6 trillion in 2011, or the equivalent of more than a fifth of China’s annual economic output.” [15]

An internationally accepted indicator for gauging people’s living standards, per capita income, refers to the earnings of each person if the national income were to be equitably divided between the country’s 1.3 billion people. With an estimated Gini coefficient for China of 6.1, this method distorts the actual income the Chinese people themselves receive.

In 2011, for example, the average annual income for farmers in some of the poorer areas of China ranged from $170.31 to $398.69 [16]:

“Based on data provided by the World Bank in 2008, roughly 30 percent of China’s population, or 390 million people, lived below $2 a day. By this measure, China has a comparable percentage of people living in poverty as Honduras, a country that never experienced China’s rapid GDP growth.” [17]

What is more, according to economist Michael Pettis, a professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, where he specializes in Chinese financial markets, China’s growth rate may be declining. Even so, money is “being wasted on factories, bridges, real estate, airports, and other projects that have little or no economic value.” This has resulted in a “record growth in debt,” and in consumption having “a low share of GDP in China.”  The economy needs rebalancing, but “rebalancing has very difficult political implications.” [18]

In addition to the money the vested interests receive, here are some figures indicting how much money the regime has given to other countries:

In July 2012, Hu Jintao spoke about helping Africa. He said China would lend $20 billion to African governments for infrastructure and agriculture and would train 30,000 Africans, offer 18,000 scholarships and send 1,500 medical personnel to Africa. He said China would mount programs to improve drinking water and protect forests, new endeavors for China. [19]

Since 2005 China has provided loan commitments upwards of $75 billion to Latin American countries. China’s loan commitment of $37 billion in 2010 was more than the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Export-Import Bank combined for that year. [20]

According to the United Nations, in 2001, China’s investment in Latin America was less than one US$1 billion, while the figure grew to 44 billion in 2010.  [21]

China lent at least $110bn (£68bn) to governments and firms in other developing countries in 2009 and 2010, surpassing the $100.3bn lent by the World Bank. [22]

“The Chinese government made a decision to accord Belarus a preferential loan of one billion dollars for the realisation of joint projects, as well as a grant of 70 million yuan.” [23]

The 30 percent of the Chinese people who earn $2 a day might be happy that they contribute to China’s Dream by doing so, but then they may never become aware of their sacrifice,

The US Relationship with China

Given the status of the Chinese people, the problems so deeply ingrained in the Communist system, and America’s founding principles as discussed in Part I of this series, how has the United States dealt with the clash of values between the Communist and the Western systems? Part V of this series will explore this issue in greater depth.


[1] The Matrix, a 1999 American–Australian science fiction action film written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers.
[2] Business Insider, ”Why The Beijing Olympics Were A Huge Mistake For China” March 27, 2013.
[3] New York Times, “On China’s State-Sponsored Amnesia, April 1, 2012.
[4] New Paradigms Forum, “Sinocentrism for the Information Age: Comments on the 4th Xiangshan Forum,” November 2012
[5] Chinascope, “Clash of Values III.”
See also: Chinascope, “Communism’s Cultural Expansion: Communist Control ‘Goes Abroad,’  May 8, 2012,
[6] The Epoch Times, “Chinese History According to the Confucius Institute,” June 21, 2012.
See also: We Are Politics, Watch a Confucius Institute Video That Was Pulled From Their Website, October 7, 2012.
[7] Times Higher Education, “West’s universities reconsider China-funded Confucius Institutes,” April 4, 2013.
[8] Chinascope, “China’s Supreme Court: Judiciary must follow the Party Line,” September 3, 2009
translated from Guangming Daily, August 31, 2009.
[9] Chinascope, Defends the Party’s Role in Media Control, January 14, 2013.
[10] Chinascope, “Huanqiu Editorial Tries to Nail the Southern Weekend Incident,” January 7, 2013.
[11] Asia News, “To punish dissidents, party arrests children, even ten-year-olds.” April 16, 2013,-party-arrests-children,-even-ten-year-olds-27670.html
[12] USA Today, “Activist inspires hope even as Chinese repression grows,” March 26, 2013
[13] According to the Jamestown Foundation, (Ming Pao [Hong Kong], March 11; Xinhua, March 5).[tt_news]=40721&tx_ttnews[backPid]=25&cHash=96edabe79a7eb7cbb0e834aea2232583
[14] Dongxiang Magazine (Hong Kong), October 2006 issue, as translated by Chinascope, “Wealth Through Power,” December 28, 2007
[15] Bloomberg, “China’s Princelings Build the Wrong Kind of Capitalism,” December 27, 2012.
[16] Seeing Red in China, How Poor Are Chinese Farmers? April 27, 2011.
[17] Foreign Policy, “The Key to Bringing Democracy to China,” November 19, 2012
[18] Carnegie Endowment, The Challenges for China’s New Leadership, April 11, 2013.
[19] New York Times, With $20 Billion Loan Pledge, China Strengthens Its Ties to African Nations, July 19.
[20] GDAE, The New Banks in Town: Chinese Finance in Latin America, February 2012.
[21] Chinascope, “A Panamanian Lawyer’s View on ‘China’s Silent Army.’”
[22] Guardian, “China ahead of World Bank in loans to developing nations” January 18, 2011.
[23] Business Insider, China Just Gave A $1 Billion Loan To A Troubled European Country, September 17, 2011

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