Author: Thomas Brown

China: Exploiting False Accusations of Racism

When confronted, China frequently accuses its critics of racism. Last month, for example, Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters in retribution for an opinion column titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.” China Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, declared the headline “astonishingly racist”—despite the fact the term “sick man” is routinely used idiomatically to describe countries facing economic challenges, and isn’t connected to the Coronavirus outbreak. In January, the Chinese embassy in Denmark demanded an apology after a Danish newspaper printed a cartoon related to the Coronavirus outbreak: a Chinese flag with virus icons where the stars should be. Embassy staff stated flatly that the cartoon “is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.” In 2018, similarly, China’s ambassador in Ottawa said Canada’s arrest of a politically connected Chinese tech executive was motivated by “white supremacy.” (Beijing then retaliated by arresting two Canadians in China.) To be clear, the Coronavirus outbreak truly has led to some racist attacks on Chinese people (and other Asians) around the world. …

Behind the Great Firewall

There is a thriving community of Westerners in China making and posting videos on YouTube about their lives and experiences there. That may sound odd since YouTube, along with literally hundreds of the world’s other most popular websites, is banned in China. Anyone in the country wanting to connect to YouTube (and/or Facebook, Instagram, Google, Wikipedia, etc.) needs to purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN); software for a phone or computer to disguise its IP address and which enables the user to circumvent the infamous Great Firewall of China. The legality of VPNs in China is another question altogether: selling a VPN is illegal, owning one is iffy, and using a VPN is ubiquitous–but also draws suspicion. Exact numbers are hard to come by but estimates suggest that more than 30 percent of internet users in China have a VPN installed on at least one of their devices. Like so many things in China, legality is often a question of circumstance and usually not even the most important question. YouTubers in China run the gamut …