By Stephen Gowans
February 23, 2021
Sadly, a country that has played a significant role in what David E. Stannard called the American Holocaust, the massive depopulation of aboriginal people from the Americas, has blithely debased genocide by ignoring it where it occurs and condemning where it hasn’t.
In a vote of 266 for, and 0 against, the Canadian House of Commons declared on Monday that Chinese authorities committed atrocities in Xinjiang that contravene the United Nations’ Genocide Convention.
Canada’s parliamentarians made this declaration on the basis of dubious evidence, sourced to an ideologically-inspired researcher who opposes communism and openly seeks the demise of the Chinese Communist Party.
The allegation is politically contrived, not legally defensible.
On the eve of the vote, the magazine Foreign Policy reported that “The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor” had concluded that “there was insufficient evidence to prove genocide.”
Even John Ibbitson, a right-wing columnist with the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper which has led the charge against China, conceded that the case that Beijing has breached the United Nations genocide convention had not been made. (That didn’t stop him, however, from insisting that China had committed genocide notwithstanding.)
The genocide allegation, the fantasy of German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, which was aped by Canada’s parliament, is “ridiculous to the point of being insulting to those who lost relatives in the Holocaust”, intoned Lyle Goldstein, a China specialist and Research Professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department of the Naval War College, quoted by The Grayzone.
The Grayzone’s Gareth Porter and Max Blumenthal showed that the genocide charge—first made by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the dying days of the Trump administration—rests on dubious analyses carried about by Zenz.
Zenz has argued that the evidence for a Beijing-orchestrated genocide lies in the decline in the birth rate of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population. While it is true that rate at which the Uyghur population is growing has slowed, slower growth does not mean no growth, or contraction. Indeed, the Uyghur population continues to grow. Growth has slowed because Beijing is enforcing measures to limit population growth in the form of a two child per couple limit (three in rural areas) which apply equally to Uyghurs, and the Han Chinese ethnic majority, alike. Previously, the policy was not rigidly enforced in Xinjiang. Today it is, with the consequence that the Uyghur population is growing, but not as rapidly as it once was. Zenz has seized on the change in birth rate as evidence of genocide. While the UN Convention would define the prevention of births with the intention of destroying the Uyghurs as genocide, Uyghurs aren’t prevented from having children. On the contrary, with a limit of two children per couple and three in rural areas–the same limit that applies to the Han majority–Uyghurs are hardly being subjected to a discriminatory policy of birth control or a demographic genocide.
The German researcher is a senior fellow with the US-government-founded Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which works toward the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party.
It is no secret that the United States, and its ductile and craven subordinate Canada, regard China as an economic and ideological rival. Ever since the People’s Republic of China began to challenge US economic and technological primacy, departing from its Wall Street-desired role as low-wage manufactury for US corporations and market for advanced Western goods and services, the United States has pursued a campaign of information warfare to discredit Beijing and blacken China’s reputation.
Joe Biden endorsed this approach nearly a year ago in an article he wrote for Foreign Affairs.
“The most effective way to meet” the “challenge” of China getting “a leg up on dominating the technologies and industries of the future,” the future president wrote, is “to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations.”
If Biden had said that Chinese human rights violations in their own right merited a campaign to confront Beijing, the sincerity of his entreaty might, for a brief moment, have appeared to possess a jot of credibility. But Washington has shown itself to have an endless tolerance for human rights abuses, as long as they serve US corporate and strategic interests. And he didn’t say that China ought to be confronted over actual human rights abuses; he said that confronting China over human rights (presumably real or imagined) is an effective way to deal with China as an economic rival.
China’s economic rivalry is matched by its systemic rivalry. Where the Chinese government has overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, set its economy once again on a growth trajectory, and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty (a project that continues unabated), governments in North America have proved themselves incapable of meeting the health, human welfare, and economic challenges of Covid-19. While Chinese citizens look to the future with optimism, their living standards ever improving, North Americans look to the future with pessimism, plagued by governments that fail to deliver, growing inequality, declining economic opportunity for all but the wealthiest, and incomes that, at best, stagnate.
As the former US diplomat Chas Freeman recently pointed out,
This year, China will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party. Chinese associate the Party with the astonishingly rapid transformation of their country from a poor and beleaguered nation to a relatively well off and strong one. Most Chinese … are optimistic that the enormous progress they have experienced in their lifetimes will continue. China’s decisive handling of the pandemic has bolstered its citizens faith in its system. Morale is high. China is focused on the future.
….the United States entered this year in an unprecedented state of domestic disarray and demoralization. A plurality of Americans disputes the legitimacy of the newly installed Biden administration. Despite a booming stock market supported by cheap money and chronic deficit spending, we are in an economic depression.
If a government fails to delivers for its citizens while its rival succeeds, what better way to divert attention from its failure and recover its credibility than to create a dark legend to vilify its successful rival and a golden legend to celebrate itself? Certain players in the United States and Canada—Biden, Pompeo, the Canadian parliament, and the mass news media—have chosen to follow this course, and are doing so by carelessly echoing accusations of genocide made by an anti-Communist fanatic with an ideological ax to grind. The practice debases the very concept of genocide. Sadly, it is hardly new.
From my window, I can see Canada’s National Holocaust Monument. A short distance away is the site of the as-yet-completed Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Canada commemorates the genocide of the Jews (carried out in another land by another people) but does not commemorate the Canadian Holocaust, carried out on its own territory by its own people. At the same time, it commemorates the Nazis, fascists, and their supporters, who perpetrated the Holocaust Canadians profess to abhor. The ‘victims’ the memorial honors, were, after all, the very same people the communists jailed and executed.
Canada has no monument to the Canadian Holocaust. While it is prepared to ensure “the lessons of the [Nazi] Holocaust … remain within the national consciousness for generations to come,” it makes no such commitment to ensuring the lessons of the Canadian holocaust remain in the national consciousness, much less enter it.
As for The Holocaust, with a capital H, the Canadian government defines that genocide as “the mass extermination of over six million Jews and countless other victims.”
Who are these countless other victims?
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which defines the Holocaust as ‘the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators,” has the answer. Helpfully, the Museum enumerates its victims. Unhelpfully, it lists the victims in a way that obfuscates who the primary victims were.
The Museum claims there were nearly 12.5 million non-Jewish Slavs (comprising Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, and Poles) who were victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, as against the usually cited six million Jews. The Museum breaks out the Slav groups separately, so that individually, neither group preponderates Jewish victims, and in listing the victims this way, the reality that the principal victim category was Slavs, not Jews, is obscured. Richard C. Lukas made a brave attempt to correct this oversight in his 1986 book Forgotten Holocaust.
The conclusion, then, is that while both Canada and the United States commemorate the genocide of the Jews, they have anonymized the more numerous Slav victims, and have largely made them invisible—consonant with the refusal of both countries to commemorate the much larger holocaust against American Indians perpetrated on their own territories.
The elevation of Jews to the status as principal–and in the pedestrian understanding, the sole—victims of the Nazi genocide, did not happen by accident. It is the outcome of a political agenda—one of legitimizing the Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine; sheltering it from criticism; and allowing Zionists to conceal the true motivations for their settler colonialism and aggression on behalf of US foreign policy behind a pretext of Holocaust-prevention. The entire project of Zionism in West Asia, sponsored and bankrolled by the US state, is to promote US corporate, and particularly energy, interests, contra indigenous movements for national independence and sovereignty, rationalizing every action taken on behalf of this project as necessary to prevent another Holocaust.
Likewise, the fabrication of a black legend about a Chinese holocaust in Xinjiang has a political purpose: to discredit an economic and systemic rival.
The holocaust against the Slavs; the Germans’ earlier holocaust against the Nama and Herero people of southwestern Africa; and countless other holocausts perpetrated by colonial powers against defenseless peoples, are marginalized and never memorialized for the simple reason that they were modelled, sometimes explicitly, on the American and Canadian Holocausts. Genocide, as Mahmood Mamdani has pointed out, is an act of nation building, and European settlers in North America provided the template.
Nazi Germany deliberately sought to exterminate the Slavs of Eastern Europe, a territory its leaders saw as equivalent to the North American West. Just as Europeans committed a genocide against the American Indians and stole their land, Germans, following the American model, would exterminate the Slavs and steal their land. It was on this very same territory that the majority of the world’s Jews lived, and were victimized—along with their non-Jewish Slav neighbors—by Germans inspired by the US and Canadian conquest of the North American West.
David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen recounted in their 2010 book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust, that “Hitler told his entourage that the peoples of the East were to suffer the same fate as the ‘Red Indians.’ They were to be exterminated and then simply forgotten. ‘We also eat Canadian wheat’, [Hitler] reminded his audience, ‘and don’t think about the Indians.’”
Beijing has had to contend with jihadist violence in Xinjiang, just as other governments have found it necessary to deal with violent jihadism on their own or other territories. The approach of the United States and Canada to violence inspired by political Islam has been war, military occupation, assassinations, torture, arbitrary detention, massive electronic surveillance of their own populations, and Islamophobia.
Beijing, by contrast, has followed an approach based on job training, economic development, and deradicalization. Part of the reason US and Canadian governments have called for boycotts against goods produced in Xinjiang is to stymy Beijing’s efforts to mitigate the problem of violent Jihadism through economic development.
That China is relying on uplift and deradicalization to conciliate its jihadists, rather than aping the US approach of assassination, torture, and secret prisons, explains why “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians” has “praised China for ‘providing care to its Muslim citizens.’” Similarly, in July, 2019, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates”, signed “a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang.”
If the US response has been decidedly violent, the response of governments with significant Muslim populations has been similar to that of China. Egypt and the Gulf states detain jihadists and Islamist radicals and enrol them in ‘deradicalization’ programs. It is the similarity in approach to China, according to The Wall Street Journal, that accounts for why Muslim-majority countries have not censured China for its response to Islamist violence. On the contrary, they have praised Beijing for its treatment of China’s Muslim population.
The careless hurling of genocide charges, in the context of a commercial rivalry between a US-led West and China, stamps the practitioners of this regrettable act as chauvinists, prepared to stoop to any depth to give “their” bourgeoisie a leg up in a competition with an international rival. That the so-called progressive wing of Canada’s parliament, the New Democratic Party and Green Party, voted en masse for the anti-Chinese motion, is a stain on their record, but only one of many, and hardly surprising. Progressives have made a habit, dating back to World War One, of backing “their” bourgeoisie, even to the point of siding with their own ruling class in the industrial slaughter of their class cohorts. The infamy continues.
Rather than taking up the jingo’s cry against an emerging China by endorsing a politically-inspired confection concocted by Adrian Zenz, an anti-Communist fanatic who believes a supreme being has inspired him with a mission to destroy the Chinese Communist Party, Canada’s parliamentarians ought to address a genocide that really did happen—the one perpetrated on their own territory, which they continue to ignore.