IN-DEPTH / IN-DEPTH
Western anti-China propaganda and infiltration campaign expands to children and teenagers: observers
Anti-China brainwash targets young generation
Published: Jul 20, 2021 11:50 PM
Caption: Mon Quotidien, a French youth journal, widely causes  anger for publishing a racist article that attacks the Chinese on June 30. Photo: Guancha News

 Mon Quotidien, a French youth journal, widely causes anger for publishing a racist article that attacks the Chinese on June 30. Photo: Guancha News

Mon Quotidien, a French youth journal mainly targeting teenagers aged between 10 and 13 years old, caused wide anger among the Chinese community in France for an article it recently published, which attacks China and Chinese people with clumsy lies and insulting rhetoric.

The June 30 article, with a racist title "The Chinese steal our freedom," was full of misinformation about Uygurs. It says that people are "being sent to forced labor camps," drawing heavily on the lies told by a member of the notorious separatist organization, World Uyghur Congress (WUC). 

The journal even arranged an extremely prejudiced dialogue in a political cartoon: "I don't want to be Chinese, nor do I want to do what they do: torture people, imprison them and make them work by force..."

The enraged Chinese community in France is taking action to safeguard its rights by law. "We are communicating with various local Chinese communities, preparing to sue the journal," Lin Yasong, a lawyer at the Paris Court of Appeal and former head of the French Chinese Lawyers Association, told the Global Times.

Even though Mon Quotidien's motto is "100 percent facts, zero opinion", it looks like it has not realized it is wrong. Its Deputy Editor, Andre Gasselin, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that they had received a letter from the Chinese embassy in France asking them to apologize, but they would "neither apologize nor withdraw the article," RFA reported in Chinese on July 12.

Observers believed the incident was not a Mon Quotidien's honest mistake but the popular publication is deliberate defaming and creating a negative image of China among its teen readers. "French media's 'anti-China brainwash' has expanded to the younger generation," criticized Kong Fan, a Chinese netizen based in France. 

The smear campaign against China by the West, raised since the US-triggered trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic, is expanding its target audience to children and teenagers, said Chinese experts in communication and national security reached by the Global Times. By shaping the image of an "evil China" among the young generation, anti-China forces attempt to cultivate haters or even enemies of China from a very early age, they warned.

That may lead to discriminations against Chinese communities abroad and a potential security risk in some particular regions in China including Hong Kong, Cao Wei, an expert on security studies at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times.

'Chinese steal our freedom'

Lin recalled the moment he encountered the controversial Mon Quotidien article days ago.

"I was so angry and sad," he told the Global Times, saying the article viciously attacked all the Chinese people. "Look at its title: 'Chinese steal our freedom.' A very serious attack against a race, no different from the attacks on the Jews before World War II."

Concerning the wide influence of the journal among French youth, some local Chinese residents, especially parents, told the Global Times that they worry their children may be discriminated or bullied by their peers, who are misled by the article and think that Chinese are "bad."

The Chinese community in France signed a petition on the website change.org to call for a withdrawl of the controversial article. "We understand that freedom of expression is fundamental in France but a newspaper like Mon Quotidien must exercise this freedom with responsibility, vigilance and good judgment, especially when its readers are children and adolescents between 10 and 13 years old," according to one petitioner. 

Mon Quotidien's article could stir up hate against Chinese children in French schools, subject them to discriminatory remarks and violence, and isolate them from their peers, the petitioner added. 

The petition got more than 6,800 signatures as of Thursday. "I also signed," Lin said. "But frankly speaking, a petition alone doesn't make much difference. We have to sue the journal."

Some Chinese scholars said they support the Chinese community in France to safeguard their legal rights. "Whether intended or unintended, the journal's smears [run counter to] the Western world's mainstream values such as multiculturalism and respect of ethnic minorities," Shi Anbin, Associate Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

It was not the first time that Mon Quotidien provides its teenage readers with articles defaming China. In a January article titled "Do we really know the number of deaths from COVID-19 in China (Asia)", Mon Quotidien questioned the data on infections and deaths in China without any basis. 

It even played the "presumption of guilt" trick in the article, saying that "[the Chinese government] lied for political reasons," and "making the Chinese people believe that everything is under control is one way of ensuring their obedience."

Irritated by the ridiculous remarks, netizens commented on change.org that Mon Quotidien's reports are neither journalism nor a practice of freedom of expression. "It is filthy propaganda, deeply racist and despicable innuendos intended to rot the brains of our children," according to a post.

Biased and racist coverage like articles from the Mon Quotidien may have unfortunately affected French youth, which have turned hostile toward Chinese especially amid the pandemic. Months ago, four French students aged between 19 and 24 were reportedly convicted by a local court for their racist tweets blaming Chinese people for the pandemic.

"Put me in a cage with a Chinese, I want to have fun with him, break him, I want to see all hope in his eyes fade before me," tweeted one of the students, AFP reported in May.

Lin said he felt there are some forces or interest groups behind media outlets in Western countries like France which manipulate or push them to attack China. "Here I want to remind Chinese residents in the West to be prepared for the attacks. They are [deliberately] targeting China and the Chinese people," he told the Global Times.

Common in the West

Including Mon Quotidien articles, the teenage-targeted Western smear campaign against China, which has been on the rise in the last one or two years, has spread throughout media, education, and other fields where the voice is most powerful and the influence is most easily exerted on the young ones, observers noted.

In the US, a question in a test in a middle school in Texas caused a debate in April for containing anti-Chinese stereotypes. It allegedly asked, "which one of these Chinese norms is true" with answers options that included cutting off people's lips for burping at a restaurant, caning children for stealing sweets and eating dogs and cats, according to a Newsweek report.

"The Quiz that has set such clearly derogatory options reveals that these so-called question writers have no understanding of China or how the world has changed; not only do they lack basic common sense, but they also lack a minimum of professionalism as teachers," Alice Zhao, a Chinese-American math teacher who taught at a public high school for 12 years at Orange County, Los Angeles, told the Global Times. "I am ashamed of having such peers," she said.

Like teachers' casual verbal abuse of students, deliberately ambiguous posters and questionnaires circulated on campus, Zhao said. She pointed out that discrimination against Asians, especially Chinese, has always been a common phenomenon in American campuses.

"Now, with the push for so-called 'political correctness' in the US, these discriminatory acts have become more subtle, such as some teachers would selectively spread negative news about China in the classroom, or deliberately turn a blind eye to bullying among children," Zhao said. "But whatever the tactic is, it further spreads discrimination against Chinese people rampantly," she added.

It is gratifying that the overseas Chinese are now gradually daring to fight back against such discrimination and stigmatization, Zhao told the Global Times, noting that Chinese associations across the US, for instance, have actively joined together to launch "stop Asian-Hate in the classroom protests" in their local communities and online.

In Australia, the Chinese community demanded apology from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in November 2020 over a racist children's television program called Horrible Histories, which implied that eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair is an everyday part of Chinese cuisine. Some Chinese-Australians launched an online protest warning it could cause Chinese children to be ridiculed and bullied at school, news.com.au reported.

At the beginning of the global spread of the COVID-19 in March 2020, a Danish education studio created a song to introduce the virus to children, which said: "I am a new virus, I come from China." The studio said on its Facebook page that the song had been downloaded several thousand times in a few weeks and it was being used by schools and hospitals.

After the insulting lyrics caused outrage among the local Chinese community and people in China, the studio made an apology online.

The political and educational elites in the West today have become very anxious in the face of the growing power of China, they have begun to try to highlight the so-called ideological and value differences between China and the West by demonizing the image of China and the Chinese, Cao said.

"Misrepresenting a distorted China to immature young people is detrimental to their objective understanding of China and the world, and that may result in deeply rooted wrong values in their mind," Cao told the Global Times.

An evil path

Worse still, apart from smears against China, observers found that overseas anti-China forces even directly induce and incite teenagers to engage in illegal separatist activities.

In April, Chinese national security departments reported several cases of foreign hostile forces instigating Chinese students to participate in anti-China activities. Those included a case of incitement to subvert state power, which involved a college student surname Tian in North China's Hebei Province.

Foreign forces had been contacting Tian since January 2016. They encouraged Tian to build a website in 2018 to spread anti-China information and political rumors against China, and extended an invitation to visit a Western country in April 2019. 

During the trip, Tian met more than 20 overseas anti-China organizations and was instructed by over 10 officials of the Western country to secretly collect and provide so-called "evidence" to smear and defame China, the Global Times learned.

It is distressful to see these young people, brainwashed and utilized by anti-China forces, take an evil path of endangering social stability, Cao said,

"In the previous riots in Hong Kong, we found that most of those who protested violently in the streets were teenagers," he told the Global Times. "Many of them did not act on impulse. Instead, they believed that they were 'fighting for justice' pushed by the long-term infiltration and influence of the Western forces on them," he sighed.

In Hong Kong, the infiltration of some Western forces has even reached secondary and primary school students, especially since the Occupy Central movement in 2014. The notorious Hong Kong-America Center, a US-backed pro-secessionist organization allegedly supported by US anti-China foundations, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), had been reaching and inciting local teenagers to engage in separatist activities before it was closed in the summer of 2020, according to Hong Kong media.

To rope in teenagers, the center held free programs to "cultivate youth leaders" in early of 2018 and provided teens with free self-made online games with contents like China-US trade, Hong Kong-based Takunpao reported in April 2020.

During the months of social turmoil in Hong Kong in 2019, a mob-training game named HKOline, which taught players how to defy the police and how to beat, smash and burn the city, was available on LIHKG, a social media network frequently used by protesters to spread information to organize protests and riots. The Hong Kong-America Center was likely to be a sponsor of the terrorist-like game behind the curtain, observers said.

To end the mess in Hong Kong and maintain the city's stability and prosperity, "it is very necessary, at least for the Chinese central authorities, to bring order out of chaos on our own territory by enacting the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong," said Cao. The implementation of the NSL enables the city to limit illegal behaviors of secessionist organizations and individuals and offer objective and correct guidance to the young residents, he added.

In the long run, to fight against the anti-China propaganda campaign, the government should step up efforts to improve its external communication capacity and enhance its national image and influence in the international community, experts noted.

For the overseas Chinese communities, the fight against prejudice and discrimination can be more flexible, suggested Shi. "It's better to safeguard their interests with nonpolitical means, such as laws and culture," he told the Global Times.
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