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Sunday, October 13, 2019

China Bullying: "Discourse Power"

E. John Gregory at The National Interest:
Being able to control what comes out of foreigners’ mouths is fundamental to the Party’s current multibillion-dollar push for what it has coined its international “discourse power (huayu quan),” an effort the Chinese State Council has identified as a multifaceted strategic imperative. Translating this Foucauldian-sounding neologism huayu quan as “discourse power” reflects the Party’s internationalization of its domestic discourse-practice.
The threats to international liberal-democratic norms from the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) push for “discourse power” are vastly underestimated because foreigners generally fail to understand the fundamental place of deliberate, persistent discourse construction within the grand Chinese political project. This starts with dismissing the mind-numbingly jingoistic official Chinese domestic political and social discourse as “propaganda” without the least appreciation of its comprehensive and centrally-coordinated workings as well as its long-term effectiveness. Those committed to liberal-democracy must understand the functioning of discourse construction within the Chinese political project (Part I); the tragedy of the Party’s largely-successful zombification of Chinese civil society to host its discourse (Part II); and how China has now turned to enlisting major purveyors of U.S. soft power—the American IT industry, media powerhouses and educational institutions—as its new host organism for its international discourse power efforts (Part III). Americans have been rightfully proud that U.S. soft power has contributed to the universalization of liberal-democratic values. Now, the Party is attempting to turn this same soft power into its host organism and enabler to de-universalize the norm of free expression itself as well as to weaken other liberal-democratic norms.
Isaac Stone Fish at WP:
In January 2018, Marriott sent guests an online survey that listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macao as countries, and a U.S.-based employee of the hotel chain liked a Twitter post about the nationhood of Tibet, a Chinese region where some citizens want independence. Beijing decided to make an example of Marriott — a company thriving in China, with more than 300 hotels there: It required Marriott to shut down all of its Chinese websites and apps for seven days. Sounding like a Chinese propaganda organ, the company announced that it didn’t support “separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.” Then, to amplify the positive, Marriott announced an “eight-point rectification plan” to “regain confidence and trust.” Part of the plan, according to the Hong Kong Free Press, included “expanding employee education globally” — i.e., educating its staff on Chinese propaganda. A Versace statement this year was even more groveling. In August, after an outcry over a T-shirt that implied Hong Kong was independent, the luxury clothing brand affirmed that “we love China and resolutely respect the sovereignty of its territory.”

Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping calls this “discourse power” — the ability to shape the narrative and “tell China’s story well.” And foreign companies and their employees are excellent proxies for evangelizing China’s position. In other words, while the United States excels in soft power, China wins in what we could call proxy power. When retired Chinese basketball star Yao Ming praises China, Americans expect it. When Houston Rockets star James Harden apologizes for his team and professes that “we love China” and “everything there about them,” that feels more heartfelt. Though Harden’s sentiments may be sincere, his contrition advances Beijing’s propaganda goals.