By Nury Turkel, Opinion Contributor
March 21, 2023
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
A security guard watches from a tower around a detention facility in Yarkent County in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on March 21, 2021.
I have not seen my mother since my law school graduation nearly 19 years ago. The Chinese government has prevented her from leaving China. She has been used as a tool of transnational repression against me, a U.S. citizen, for my work in service of the United States and on behalf of the Uyghur people, who have been victims of genocide for the past six years.
My story is not unique. It is the story of thousands who have fled China to take refuge in the United States and other free countries who respect human rights. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will not let us go, and is determined to harass, threaten and blackmail us here in the United States, often using the safety of our family back in China as a bargaining chip.
These are issues the congressional Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party was recently formed to address, among others. It has already stood against the illegal CCP police stations hunting dissidents, and spoken out about the ways in which the CCP uses the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), under the cover of “student groups” to surveil, control and threaten Chinese students studying in the U.S.
I was surprised to see that CNN and Washington Post journalist Fareed Zakaria sees bipartisan concern over these issues — the basic well-being, safety and human rights of individuals in America, citizens and guests, as an indication of a dangerous “groupthink” mentality.
In his recent opinion piece, Zakaria uses the language that the new Select Committee on the CCP has been careful to avoid. Adopting the mindset of the CCP itself — which espouses that there can be no differentiation between Chinese people and the communist regime itself — he refers to “China” rather than the CCP.
In fact, in 2020, in his essay in Foreign Affairs, Zakaria took a similar tone, pushing for “engagement” and insisting that the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Millions of Uyghurs in modern-day concentration camps and forced labor facilities, persecuted Tibetan communities and Hong Kong democracy activists would disagree.
The fact that Zakaria fails to even mention the ongoing Uyghur genocide is inconceivable. Two successive U.S. administrations and 10 parliaments, including Taiwan’s, have formally recognized these atrocities. The Uyghur genocide is the largest incarceration of an ethno-religious group since World War II. Downplaying its gravity is akin to denialism of historical atrocity crimes and past collective punishment of ethno-religious groups, to include the Holocaust.
If the bipartisan alarm over the CCP harkens back to the 1950s, as Zakaria references, it may be entirely appropriate. Not, as he implies, from a sense of “McCarthyism” — as has already been guarded against by the Select Committee’s commitment to the language of distinction and defense of Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) after a fellow member of Congress questioned her loyalty to the United States.
Instead, the sense of Cold War deja vu may be attributed to the reality that, once again, the United States (and the free world) faces a major threat to its sovereignty and its values from a Communist Party — this time Chinese, instead of Russian.
The simple fact is that to shield our eyes from this genocide is to ignore the most substantial piece of evidence regarding the true character and intentions of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping is a reflection of Party leadership. The CCP has masked its true face behind a cloak of economic prosperity and an elaborate commitment to global propaganda.
Members of Congress would agree with Zakaria’s assessment that China is a serious strategic competitor. The nature of this competition is over the entire value system, and the next potential world order. Acknowledging reality with a resolute firmness to defend U.S. sovereignty is not “hysteria,” and Americans with family members who have disappeared into China’s concentration camps would be deeply, and justifiably, offended by Zakaria’s viewpoint that alarm is “paranoia.”
To make the determination that everything about the devolution of the U.S.-China relationship is about a confrontational approach to evil is to deny China’s agency. It is a viewpoint that we would not see applied in another conflict.
Last year’s visit to Taiwan by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not “give” the People’s Liberation Army a “golden opportunity.” Chinese military exercises and attempts to cause social anxiety and division have been a fact of life for Taiwanese people for decades. The same would be true if Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) visits.
At this point, the brutality and aggression of the CCP can be met only with power. Our previous strategies to engage and hope for a magical transformation of a corrupt and brutal system have failed. Has anything about the nature of the Chinese Communist Party changed since the 1989 massacres at Tiananmen Square? In spite of our consistent engagement with and appeasement of the CCP, the regime’s belligerent behavior has only expanded.
Xi is more aggressive because he can be. He has not suffered tangible costs for driving repression at home and aggression abroad. Has the bipartisan consensus that the CCP is a threat created a more secure world for Americans and others? Not yet. But it must begin with recognizing reality.
The United States is not the antagonist in this struggle. Chinese officials’ abuse of international systems, economic coercion, ongoing genocide, attempts to undermine the international rules-based order, and threatening Taiwan as our democratic ally all require a response if we are to ensure a prosperous and stable future — not just for Americans but for the entire globe.
Nury Turkel is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and the author of “No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs.” Follow him on Twitter @nuryturkel.