In recent years, anti-China forces in the West have hyped up the so-called forced labor narrative, an accusation to systematically vilify China, as an attempt to tarnishthe country’simage on the international stage, weaken its international reputation, and alienate the nation by jeopardizing its friendly and cooperative relations with other countries.
In order to understand the political and economic motives behind their “forced labor” fallacy and, as well as the exploration ofthe narrative’s manipulation strategies, transmission paths, and methods of the fallacy, I conducted a statistical analysis of over 30,000 Xinjiang-related stories from 22 media outlets in 15countries and regions.
From these, I selected 189 pieces published by13 media outlets that spread the “forced labor” slander for further analysis.
Tactics of public opinion manipulation
The “forced labor” fallacy did not emerge accidentally.Thanks to a long-term planned process and a clear manipulation strategy of public opinion by Western anti-China forces, who,prey on different countries’ perceptions of the human rights concept to create and hype up lies under the guise of “protecting human rights,” the fallacy gained momentum.
The concept of human rights is regarded as a value deeply influenced by the historical and cultural traditions of different countries. There are both commonalities and differences in the understanding of human rights among countries. Therefore, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the European Declaration of Human Rights, do not specifically give a universal definition of the standards of human rights.
The anti-China forces in the West, who ignore the differences in human rights concepts between China and the West and China’s achievements in the protection and promotion of human rights, politicize, weaponize, and instrumentalize the concept of human rights by employing the “forced labor” fabrications and hype.
Some biased western mediasources, by citing misleading quotes, wantonly attack the human rights situation in China, so as to promote the spread of the “forced labor” accusation by employing several tactics.
Tactic one: ‘Criminalize’ Chinese government
The “forced labor” accusation falsely alleges that the purpose of the transfer of the employment policy in Xinjiangregionis to “strip” Uygurs of their cultural identity and “assimilate” them. Western anti-China forces have further fabricated lies claiming that China committed so-called “crimesagainst humanity” and “crimes of genocide” in the region.
The reality is that, the Uygur population has increased from 3.61 million in 1953 to 11.62 million in 2020, an increase of over three-fold, while the Chinese national population growth rate over the same period only grew two-fold. The growth rate of the Uygur population has been higher than the national average.
Tactic two: Demonizing China’s poverty alleviation policies
For instance, on June 24,the Washington Post groundlessly claimed that a Chinese company “recruits and employs Uygurs and other minorities via state labor programs that aim to place them in factories.” On March 7, CNN quoted a British scholar as saying that the job programs in Xinjiang “are often non-consensual, and people who refuse can be punished with internment.”
Contrary to the lies and rumors they fabricated, the fact is that workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang region, including those who were transferred for employment and those who had completed their studies in learning institutions and training centers, have the agency to choose their preferred jobs and regions of placement. They sign labor contracts and receive remuneration in accordance with the law, and enjoy various social insurance benefits.
Tactic three: Stigmatizing assistance measures for transfer employment
The “forced labor” smear campaign claims that the Chinese government assigns staff to “monitor” Uygur employees, and even defames the existence of administrators of ethnic and religious affairs for Uygur employees at local companies, terming it as “monitoring.”
Such psychological rooms, far from solely being found in Xinjiang, are part and parcel of many Chinese and foreign enterprises to help relieve psychological pressure experienced by employees. This is a common international practice. In November 2019, Chinese authorities issued the Specification of Healthy Enterprise Construction (trial), which requires employers to attach importance to their employees’ physical and mental health, and encourages enterprises to set up mental health counseling rooms.
Tactic four: Distorting service work for labor transfer employment
On April 27, 2021, The Guardian claimed that Uygurs employees “have limited or no communications with their families; mothers have been separated from their babies and families have been torn apart,” citing the words of an anti-China separatist.
China fully protects the legitimate rights and interests of workers of all ethnic groups in law, policy, and practices, which advocate equal pay for equal work without discrimination against any ethnic group. Chinese laws expressly stipulate thatUygur people enjoy the same rights as other ethnic groups, and Chinese enterprises have no right to and nor should they restrict their freedom.
Tactic five: Attacking China by citing misleading, tendentious claims
Based on my analysis of 189 stories from 13 media outlets, I found that when hyping up the “forced labor” smear, a considerable number of their Xinjiang-related stories cited anti-China politicians and scholars to support their narratives, lack of field research, and absence of first-hand information. The stories did not provide any reliable information, let alone contain actual interviews conducted with Uygur employees.
Obviously, some Western media outlets achieve their goals of misleading their audiences and spreading fallacies by unilaterally quoting false statements made by some anonymous and anti-China sources, and using sensational and biased headlines. Their stories and quotes, without investigating the actual situationon the ground in Xinjiang region, lack verifiability. The information they convey in their stories is full of malicious speculation and lies.
The author is an expert from the School of Journalism and Communication at Xinjiang University.