Biz Quick Take: Scrutiny on billionaire over Xinjiang shows perils of political correctness in US
Published: Jan 18, 2022 11:23 PM
Children have fun in Dove Lane in the old town Tuancheng of Hotan City, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 27, 2020.Photo: Xinhua

Children have fun in the old town Tuancheng of Hotan city, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 27, 2020. File Photo: Xinhua

Bill Maher, the famous US comedian and talk show host, has a beef with political correctness. "I define political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth. That is my beef with it. We are not getting to the truth, because we are too sensitive," Maher told the New York Times in 2019. He said he "tried to drive a stake through political correctness" as early as the 1990s, but "failed dismally." 

Driving a stake through political correctness is probably the very thing Chamath Palihapitiya wants to do now. The US billionaire and venture capitalist triggered a widespread backlash on US social media after he said during a podcast that "nobody cares about what is happening" to Uygurs in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 

The fury from US mainstream media is palpable. Criticism and denunciations came from many sides. Even the US National Basketball Association (NBA) was dragged into the controversy because Palihapitiya owns 10 percent of the Golden State Warriors, which has hardly recovered from the backlash from China prompted by irresponsible remarks about Hong Kong made by the Houston Rockets' former General Manager, Daryl Morey.

The criticism against Palihapitiya has focused on his lack of empathy, which he tried to clarify in a statement saying that "to be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere." Notably, he did not address his earlier statements about Xinjiang. 

On the surface, Palihapitiya's remarks certainly come across as lacking empathy. However, for anyone who has the slightest knowledge of Xinjiang, the lurid claims of human rights abuses or even "genocide" in the region are pure lies made up by the US government as pretext to crack down on China. The criticism against Palihapitiya has nothing to do with his lack of empathy but with his refusal to observe political correctness and repeat the lies of the US government about Xinjiang without questioning.

That also raises a series of questions. Why many in the US, who constantly question the government's statements and refuse to believe the US government on everything, simply buy into the lies about Xinjiang? What happened to the lessons learned from the Iraq war which was waged based on evidence of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be powdered laundry detergent?

The answer is the political correctness on issues related to China that has been formed through relentless attacks and slander with vicious lies like human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Such political correctness demands Americans, especially public figures like Palihapitiya, and businesses, to be critical of China on every issue without demanding the truth. Otherwise, they will be crucified.     

Maher is right. Political correctness in the US these days is "worse than ever," especially when it comes to China. It has become so sensitive for anyone to talk objectively about China that no one is actually demanding the truth. In all of the articles about Xinjiang, the US government's claims about Xinjiang were taken as facts, while ignoring voices of truth and reason from many in China and around the world.   

However, the bottom line is that at this point political correctness in the US only will hurt the country itself. Specifically, US businesses will have a tough time to operate in the Chinese market where they make hundreds of billions of dollars each year, as political correctness pushes them into an impossible position of having to choose between their consumers and their government. We have already seen the implications in many cases, and more will likely fall into the same trap set up by the US government. The question is, when will US businesses and others stand up and say enough is enough? How much losses are they willing to take before that?