HONG KONG — Around election season, American politicians are often charged with "China bashing" if they invoke the People’s Republic as a rival threatening US interests. China is America's partner, critics retort. We should build trust between the countries, not suspicion.
That's all well and good. But, of course, suspicion goes both ways, and every so often something comes out of China that you'd have to call, well, "America bashing."
Case in point: a propaganda video leaked this week from China's National Defense University, the country’s equivalent of West Point. In the 90-minute film, circulated widely on the internet, America is portrayed as an insidious force that is deliberately infiltrating the Communist Party, NGOs, and Chinese society. The goal: to subvert the government from all sides.
Titled “The Silent Contest,” it was produced by General Liu Yazhou, political commissar of the military institution.
The video opens with footage of Congress and the White House, backed by ominous music that could have been lifted straight from Red Dawn. It begins with a lament for the end of the Soviet Union, and proceeds through recent history to show the supposedly evil motives behind America’s relations with China and other communist countries.
“American elites confidently believe that the best way to disorganize China is to work closely with it,” says one general quoted in the film.
Nefarious intent is imputed to the Fulbright Fellowship, the Ford Foundation, and the Carter Center. Dissidents and thinkers such as Nobel laureate Liu Xiabao and Peking University law professor He Weifang are painted as America’s pawns. The US and British consulates in Hong Kong are charged with helping to foment the massive political protests that activists organize every year on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Perhaps most worrying of all, China-US military exchanges are described as ways to “disorganize China” and “brainwash politicians.”
For years, the Pentagon has called for more interaction with Chinese generals as a way to build trust and open lines of communication that could prevent escalation in the event of a crisis. Just a few months ago, 10 Chinese colonels visited Hawaii and Washington, DC. In October, Pentagon officials met their counterparts in Beijing.
Yet while the video is a sign of lingering Cold War-style thinking (something for which the Chinese media regularly criticize the US), it may also serve a simpler domestic purpose.
Some analysts think it’s partly an effort by hard-line factions to increase their influence ahead of the Third Party Plenum, a meeting scheduled to begin next Saturday, during which the Communist Party is expected to introduce reforms.
“The film intends to use Deng Xiaoping to warn party officials who want to make a breakthrough not to move casually, otherwise what happened to the Soviet Union is the outcome,” current affairs commentator Lin Zixu said to New Tang Dynasty Television.