Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
The war of letters began when 22 countries penned a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning China's treatment of Uighurs and "other Muslim and minorities communities."
The letter in defense of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang was signed by France, Germany, Canada, Sweden and 18 other, mostly Western and European, countries. The case of the missing Muslim signatories was solved when the People’s Republic of China fired back with its own letter signed by 37 countries.
This letter in defense of China’s crackdown on Islam was signed by 16 Muslim countries.
While some of the Muslim signatories were drawn from African countries, the letter was also signed by ambassadors for the leading Arab governments including Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Kuwait. Pakistan, the world’s second largest Muslim country, also signed on.
While Western governments wailed about Muslim human rights in China, the leading Sunni nations of the world signed off on a letter praising “China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights.” Mandatory abortions, organ harvesting and the mass murder of millions are remarkable achievements.
No doubt about it.
The world’s top Muslim governments didn’t just settle for abstract praise of China’s human rights. Instead they explicitly defended China’s crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang.
“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers," the letter reads. "The past three consecutive years has seen not a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang and people there enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security.”
The war of letters humiliated Western governments which had failed to convince a single Muslim country to sign on to a letter criticizing China’s crackdown on Muslims. And they humiliated the Muslim signatories who demonstrated that China could intimidate them into endorsing a crackdown on Islam.
The People’s Republic of China’s idea of de-radicalization measures had allegedly included forcing Muslims to drink alcohol and eat pork, a ban on beards, hijabs and the name Mohammed.
Even Qatar, whose Al Jazeera propaganda outlet has broadcast claims of Islamist oppression in Xinjiang, was finally forced to sign on to a letter that effectively disavowed what its own media has been saying.
The Uyghur Muslims are a Turkic minority, its Islamists had sought to set up a separatist Turkic Islamic state, and the Islamist regime in Turkey had been vocal about their cause. Erdogan, the Islamist thug running Turkey, had in the past accused China of genocide. This year, the spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry had described China’s crackdown on Islamists as a “great cause of shame for humanity”. The spokesman had accused China of engaging in torture and brainwashing in concentration camps.
But then Erdogan, the most aggressive national exponent of Islamist causes in the region, visited China, and declared, “It is a fact that the peoples of China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity.” Then he told critics to keep quiet to avoid spoiling Turkey’s relationship with the PRC.
The People’s Republic of China had attained the complicity of the world’s most vocal Turkish nationalist in its crackdown on Turkic nationalism and won the support of the tyrant who had transformed Turkey from a secular democracy into an Islamist banana republic for its enforced secularization of Muslims.
It’s hard to imagine a greater diplomatic triumph.
Finally, the letters humiliated the United States, which had not signed on to either one, but, despite providing protection and billions of dollars in foreign aid to Muslim countries, has been repeatedly attacked for its limited counterterrorism efforts which fall far short of anything that the PRC has done.
Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long been thorns in America’s side, backing Islamic terrorists abroad, funding subversion within the United States, and criticizing our counterterrorism.
What does China have that we don’t?
Few of the 16 Muslim countries on the list are worried about the PRC’s military force. Instead, the Communist dictatorship has effectively leveraged its economic power in its national interest.
It has also made it clear that it will not tolerate criticism of its domestic policies.
China was able to get not only Muslim countries, but the worldwide sponsors of Islamism, to sign on to its letter because they understood that crossing the PRC would carry a serious economic price.
The United States hands out foreign aid and trade agreements to countries no matter what they do.
After getting caught harboring Osama bin Laden, we’re still dispensing at least $370 million in foreign aid to Pakistan. That’s down from $2.7 billion at the height of the Obama era. But still no small sum.
The PRC would never dole out $370 million to a country involved in undermining its national security.
But in the United States, cutting off foreign aid to a country, no matter how awful, is nearly impossible. The worse a country treats us, the harder we work to win that country over with extensive outreach.
The US Combined Air Operations Center continues to sit at Al Udeid Air Base despite the Qataris spending decades demonstrating to us that they will back the very Jihadist operators we are fighting. We began using the base even after a member of the Qatari royal family got caught harboring Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the Al Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
The People’s Republic of China doesn’t view insults and threats as an incentive for outreach. Instead it uses its economic clout to reward or punish countries based on how those countries treat it.
Of all the many derivative shiny products coming out of China, that’s one we might want to copy.
American diplomacy has a fantastic track record of failure. The only thing it ever really seems to succeed at is giving away money and abandoning our national interests to pursue meaningless global goals.
That includes our own feeble efforts to agitate on behalf of the Islamists in Xinjiang.
The PRC does not dedicate its diplomacy to saving the planet, ending all wars, or any of the delusional nonsense that occupies American diplomats in between expensive lunches and pointless conferences. Its diplomacy is a blunt instrument meant to achieve simple ends. And, that makes it far more effective.
The war of letters demonstrated that China could recruit 16 Muslim countries to endorse forcing Muslims to eat pork, while Western countries couldn’t get even one to sign on in opposition.
That diplomatic humiliation should be educational. Sadly, it won’t teach the Europeans anything.
But there are important lessons in the war of letters for America.
America spends a great deal of time worrying about being loved. Our diplomacy is meant to convince the world to love us. China does not need to be loved. It never apologizes for its strength.
We should stop apologizing for our strength. And start putting our national interests first.