British pro-engagement devotees face harassment, attacks for speaking truth about China

By Hu Yuwei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/6 3:13:52

Editor's Note:

Attacks seem to increasingly loom over British pro-engagement voices as China and the UK have clashed around a series of issues in recent months after some UK politicians joined together to draw a tougher line on China upon US President Donald Trump's pressure campaign against China.

Smear campaigns and targeted attacks from media and online trolls are growing in Britain, as some UK Conservative politicians have become increasingly hawkish to China under the pressure of US White House targeting China's national security law for Hong Kong and tech giant Huawei.

The Global Times reporter Hu Yuwei talked to Carlos Martinez, a British author and independent political commentator. Martinez envisages Sino-British relations will be shaped to a large extent by Sino-US relations. But they vow to never give up attempts to save ties from further deterioration.

National flags of China and Britain are seen in front of the UK pavilion in the World Expo Park in Shanghai, east China, April 23, 2010. (Xinhua/Wang Song)

For sharing why China deserves respect and shouldn't be perceived as a threat by the West, Carlos Martinez came under enormous online attacks and was publicly mocked on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of US President Donald Trump.

"China will soon be the world's largest economy. It'll be the first nation to reach that status whose rise isn't built on colonialism, slavery and genocide, but rather on hard work, good economics and effective governance. This should earn China love, but it earns it hate in the West," read the tweet by Martinez which went viral the day after it was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. who has 5.3 million followers. Trump Jr. shared with it a mocking comment reading "Who's gonna tell him? This is literally the most laughable thing on twitter today. The communists spreading their propaganda hard today." 

Donald Trump Jr. has a long history of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories online, which led Twitter to temporarily suspend his account on July 27 after he spread a viral video containing COVID-19 misinformation, US media Insider reported.

But it did not spare Martinez from becoming a target of thousands of Trump's website trolls and blind supporters. He received thousands of replies, mostly from Trump's website trolls and supporters, tagging him as a lobbyist getting paid by China and accusing him of "trying to cover up "genocide" in Xinjiang or "colonialism" in Hong Kong, together with many groundless, racist and malicious messages that Martinez described as online "mob violence."

"I explained that I have, in fact, been to China and that in many ways it compares quite favorably even with Britain and the US… I've also been to Xinjiang region, and I had walked freely around the streets, seen dozens of mosques. I could see that the media portrayal of the situation there is completely wrong," Martinez told the Global Times in a recent interview.

Photo: Twitter post by Donald Trump Jr who mocks Carlos Martinez for his words on China

Martinez represents one of the sober and reasonable commentators on China-related issues from the West that has been disrespected or even stifled. He said the sober but important voices "are quite [a] small minority."

"I think there's something like a consensus position in US politics. Now Trump is very divisive generally. As a leader, he divides the American people. He divides American politics on pretty much every single issue, except being anti-China," said Martinez, explaining why more rational and pragmatic voices in US foreign policy seem to have been much silenced as a result.

"With the US economy is in decline, Chinese companies are increasingly moving ahead into the lead in technology," said Martinez, adding the US has failed to upgrade its economy and "respond to some of the challenges of globalization." 

"And now there's a need for a scapegoat for the pandemic as well. I think it's created a kind of perfect storm in terms of attacking China," Martinez analyzed.

As the UK bluffs over Hong Kong affairs, some are concerned the bilateral relationship between China and the UK is turning from a "golden era" into a deep freeze. Talking about Britain's role in the "China-bashing" campaign, Martinez said Britain has been economically and politically very reliant on the US, especially recently with Brexit, making US foreign policy more influential in the UK. Similar trends have occurred in Canada and Australia.

On July 25, an international online conference titled "No to the New Cold War" brought together scholars and political observers from 48 countries, including the US, China, Britain, Canada, India, Venezuela, Brazil and Russia. Martinez is one of initiators who brought the campaign to warn the world to be rational and resist the "New Cold War" as the Trump administration is trying to use a full-court press to weaken China. 

What Trump's administration is combining in his foreign policy - propaganda, slander, economic sanctions, diplomatic attacks such as the closing of the consulate in Houston, direct physical aggression such as provocative patrols in the South China sea, and encircling China with military bases and alliances - is similar to tactics used by Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s to weaken the Soviet Union, Martinez suggested.

The thread of "48 countries scholars warned US" has become a hashtag on China's Sina Weibo which drew nearly 2 million netizens to read the post.

"The feedback on the event has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have commented that it's a very important, very timely initiative. And so we're feeling encouraged to continue building this campaign and to continue creating hopefully a very broad global opposition to cold war," Martinez told the Global Times.

"Britain's becoming even more reliant on the US specifically in terms of trying to get a free trade deal to replace all the trade that currently Britain does through the EU," said Martinez, adding that Britain's hostile stance towards China closely reflects what happens in the US. "An economic dependency, or a political and diplomatic dependency, on the US has meant Britain has almost lost its independence in foreign policy terms."

All of a sudden, to be friendly toward China or even to encourage positive business and economic relationships is to be considered a sort of dangerous radical, he commented.

Martinez argues the 48 Group Club has done "very important work helping to develop business links between Britain and China," but now "there's a sort of witch hunt against people who've been doing that work."
Newspaper headline: Persistence for peace

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