Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 5, 2021

Did China use a sock puppet to bolster support for its forced assimilation of the Uighurs?

Filed under: Uyghur — louisproyect @ 7:16 pm

Until this week, I had never heard of the China Global Television Network (CGTN). Essentially, this is the Chinese version of RT.com that has a presence globally with each unit broadcasting in the local language. An old friend emailed me about a controversy that had developed in the French outlet of CGTN over its publication of a March 28 article by one Laurène Beaumond titled “’My’ Xinjiang: stop the tyranny of fake news” that defended the Chinese government against charges of the forced assimilation of the Uighur people in Xinjiang. The article was par for the course propaganda making the case that China had been the Uighur’s best friend, delivering all sorts of benefits in keeping with the government’s respect for national minorities. This snippet will give you a sense of the article’s shamelessness:

In Xinjiang, all signage and shop signs are in Mandarin and the Turkic language spoken by Uyghurs. Administrative documents are also in both languages. Having been the victim of a health problem that forced me to stay hospitalized for a week in Urumqi in 2016, I was treated by a team of Uyghur doctors at a facility right next to one of the city’s largest mosques. Every morning, I was awakened by the song of the muezzin who called the faithful to prayer and the hospital canteen was 100% halal [conforming to Muslim dietary laws].

An editor’s note preceding the article stated:

Freelance journalist based in France, with a double degree in art history and archeology at the University of Sorbonne-IV and holder of a master’s degree in journalism, Laurène Beaumond has worked in various editorial offices in Paris before settling down in Beijing, where she lived for almost 7 years.

Apparently, someone at Le Monde was suspicious enough about her journalism bona fides to do some digging into her past. The result was an article that charged China with creating a sock puppet to spread government propaganda. Wikipedia’s definition is as good as any: “A sock puppet or sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while pretending to be another person.”

Titled “Controversy over Chinese state TV propaganda article on Uighurs”, Nathalie Guibert’s March 31 article stated flatly: “The problem is that Laurène Beaumond does not exist as the state media wants to present it. Unknown, officially, to the French press battalion. Le Monde was able to verify that no person of this pseudonym appears in the file of the Commission of the identity card of French professional journalists.”

Stung by this report, CGTV tried to cover its tracks in an April Fool’s Day article titled “China and ‘fake news’: this Manichaeism which will lose some French intellectuals”. It stood by the authenticity of the article but refuted the sock puppet charge by referring to Laurène Beaumond as a pseudonym. In my view, this is just a crock of shit since editors customarily indicate when a pseudonym is being used:

The journalist from Le Monde used the term “invent” in her title. We are stunned by this total lack of professionalism. How could she not have thought of someone writing under a pseudonym? This shows that his judgment is biased from the start. Using a pen name is common. Today, French public opinion – and Western public in general – is particularly hostile to China, it is no secret to anyone. Laurène Beaumond wished to use a pseudonym and we respected her choice, because we know the risk that this represents for certain French journalists to express their opinion in favor of China.

We’ll never know whether Laurène Beaumond  was a sock puppet or not but it is worth taking a look at her article to see how cynical and duplicitous it is. As was the case with Ukraine, another colonized nation that expected a socialist revolution to provide rights that had been denied under dynastic rule, language rights are key. Beaumond obviously understands how this serves as a litmus test for a nominally socialist government: “In Xinjiang, all signage and shop signs are in Mandarin and the Turkic language spoken by Uyghurs. Administrative documents are also in both languages.” If you’ll recall, Euromaidan protests involved many exchanges over whether Russian speakers were going to be persecuted by a Kiev victory over the separatists. Freud would call this projection based on the Kremlin’s long-standing hostility toward Ukrainian self-determination. Taking Beaumond at her word, no such conflict existed in Xinjiang.

With its 12 million Uighur citizens, you’d think it would be important not only to have a newspaper written in their native language but one upheld its aspirations as a people. Once there was one. Titled the Xinjiang Daily, it was the voice of the Communist Party but apparently not so determined to squelch the voices of the colonized people. In September 2018, Ilham Weli, Xinjiang Daily’s deputy editor-in-chief, Memtimin Obul and Juret Haji, directors at the newspaper, and Mirkamil Ablimit, the head of the newspaper’s subsidiary Xinjiang Farmer’s Daily, were arrested. The charge? Being “two-faced”, a typically Orwellian term that is broad enough to cover any act or opinion that defied Xi Jinping’s priorities.

Ironically, there were no articles that appeared in the Xinjiang Daily that could be offered as evidence of being “two-faced”, even in a kangaroo court. The crime these editors committed was supporting secret nationalist goals, kept to themselves. Likely, their crime was simply discussing articles that could be written that challenged Beijing’s colonizing agenda.

While Ms. Beaumond might be assuaged by shop signs being in both Chinese and Uighur, one might expect 12 million Uighur-speaking people to be served by a newspaper that was uncompromisingly devoted to their national aspirations and in their own language. There was a time when Communists would have identified with and supported such an initiative as I pointed out in a CounterPunch article. Even under Stalin, a bureaucrat condemned by Lenin for his Great Russian Chauvinism, there was respect for Uighur national aspirations:

In October 1944, the Soviets helped the Uighurs mount a revolt across Xinjiang that led to a major step forward. Armed with Soviet weapons, they were able to secure a victory that led to the formation of the East Turkistan Republic (ETR).

Through the rest of the 1940s, the ETR adopted all of the features of a modern state with Soviet aid. It published literature in the Uighur language, had its own uniformed army, school system, national flag and even a national anthem. Stalin was even able to persuade the Kuomintang to adjust to new realities. It accommodated itself to Uighur power and even mandated that the Uighur language have the same official status as Mandarin in government departments.

2 Comments »

  1. Like pump & dump stock schemes where sock puppets first came into their own during the Dot.Com bubble of the late 90’s, it’s a tactic only used by desperate criminals.who are essentially cornered rats.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — April 5, 2021 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Chinese media is filled with these bottom-of-the-barrel analysts who toe China’s line. They especially like to use western anaysts.

    Comment by curryman — April 8, 2021 @ 11:09 pm


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