'Dangerous trend'

Chinese Antisemitism in the Dark Alliance Against Democracy

It is not merely China's political and military manoeuvres that warrant concern; it is its ideological warfare, notably its virulent antisemitism.

Heath Sloane
Heath Sloane

In the Pandora’s Box of contemporary threats to the liberal democratic order, China stands unchallenged at the zenith. This burgeoning superpower, with its authoritarian grip and geopolitical ambitions, poses a more insidious threat than any other global actor. Yet, it is not merely China’s political and military manoeuvres that warrant concern; it is its ideological warfare, notably its virulent antisemitism, that should alarm every defender of liberal democracy. The recent article from Ta Kung Pao, a Chinese state-owned newspaper based in Hong Kong, is a stark reminder of this dangerous trend.

Ta Kung Pao’s article, published on May 4, 2024 and exposed on X by China-MENA researcher Tuvia Gering, is a master-class in antisemitic drivel. It asserts that the Jewish population in the United States, though only about 6 million strong, “wields enormous power” and manipulates U.S. government policies. The article goes on to claim that Jewish interest groups form a “massive interest group that influences, even controls, and manipulates US government policies.”

This is not just an attack on Jewish people; it is a thinly veiled assault on the liberal democratic order itself. By suggesting that a small minority group can control the most powerful country on earth, China is attempting to undermine the legitimacy of democratic governance. This rhetoric is disturbingly reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, which also portrayed Jews as puppet masters controlling global affairs. It is a narrative designed to sow division and distrust, both within the United States and internationally.

China’s antisemitic propaganda is not confined to its borders. It is spreading beyond Mainland China into Hong Kong and the Chinese diaspora, insidiously weaving itself into the fabric of global discourse. The Ta Kung Pao article exemplifies this spread, suggesting that American President Joe Biden’s unwavering support for Israel is a result of donations from “pro-Israeli lobby groups,” devoid of any mention of the USA and Israel’s shared values as countries with proud liberal democratic traditions. This claim not only maligns the integrity of American democracy but also perpetuates the age-old trope of Jewish financial control in order to advance supposedly malign interests.

The article further alleges that the mainstream media in the U.S. is “controlled by Jewish groups,” which “amplifies pro-Israel propaganda while suppressing voices critical of Israel.” Such statements are designed to erode trust in the media, a cornerstone of democratic societies, by painting the media as a tool of Jewish interests. In doing so, China seeks to delegitimize independent journalism – another crucial pillar of liberal democracies that is sorely lacking in China – in order to promote its own authoritarian narrative. Simply put: China thinks we shouldn’t trust any media but theirs, and any balance or support of Israel is by default wrong.

These comments carry traces of a dark irony, in that while Ta Kung Pao fumes at the thought of civil society organisations, including the so-called “Jewish groups” who express concerns at media bias against Israel, it is important to remember that China lacks any semblance of independent civil society organisations or media. Owing solely to the Chinese government’s paranoia, the CCP is openly hostility to anyone and anything that presents an alternative to its party-sanctioned dogma. The fact that the existence of independent civil society organisations would infuriate Ta Kung Pao is a critique worth celebrating.

The antisemitism propagated by China in the pages of Ta Kung Pao is part of a broader strategy employed by the axis of authoritarian regimes, which includes Iran, Russia, North Korea, and an increasing number of bad actors. This coalition seeks to undermine the liberal democratic order led by the United States by attacking its foundational principles. The Ta Kung Pao article’s claims that Jewish individuals “hold more than 40% of key positions in all levels of the federal government” are not only false but also dangerously inflammatory by implying that Jews are disproportionally influential in US politics.

The article lists prominent members of the Biden administration, who indeed are Jewish in some way or another, such as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, to suggest a Jewish takeover of American politics. Here, too, the concept of being anything but a soulless party apparatchik in full obedience to Xi Jinping Thought exposes yet another rift in the competing world orders. The notion that people of diverse voices, ethnicities, religions, or creeds can hold positions of importance within a government is fundamentally at odds with the monolithic, autocratic ethos of the CCP.

This rhetoric shares an eeriy similarity to that used by Nazi Germany, and would likely have even made Goebbels blush. While these tropes are not new, especially the ones where Jews are accused of controlling governments and economies to further their own nefarious ends, their overt and widespread proliferation in Chinese language media is a more recent phenomenon.

The West must be acutely aware of the dangers posed by Chinese antisemitism, particularly as it spreads through global channels. The Ta Kung Pao article is a clarion call to action. The United States and its allies must recognize that the battle for liberal democracy against tyrannical authoritarianism is not just fought with tanks and missiles, but with ideas and narratives. We must counteract the poisonous rhetoric emanating from Beijing with a robust defense of liberal democratic values.

To do this, we must first acknowledge the problem. Antisemitism is not a relic of the past; it is a present-day menace that must be confronted head-on. We must expose the lies and distortions propagated by Chinese state media and ensure that they do not go unchallenged. This requires a concerted effort from governments, media organizations, and civil society.

Furthermore, we must strengthen our alliances. The United States, Europe, and other democratic nations must unite in their opposition to the authoritarian axis. Take Taiwan, for instance—a vibrant democracy and a stark contrast to the bleak autocracy of Beijing. Taiwan stands as a beacon of freedom in Asia, where sympathy for Israel and a welcoming attitude towards Jews are woven into the fabric of its society. Antisemitic tropes seldom surface there, and certainly not with state backing and approval that we witness from China.

Complacency is not an option. The Ta Kung Pao article is not an isolated incident; it is part of a sustained campaign to undermine the liberal democratic order. If liberal democratic societies do not take a stand against this antisemitic rhetoric, wherever it appears, we risk allowing the forces of authoritarianism to gain the upper hand.

As we confront this threat, we must remember the lessons of history. The antisemitic propaganda of the 20th century paved the way to one of the darkest chapters in human history. We cannot afford to let history repeat itself. We must be vigilant, we must be resolute, and we must be unwavering in our defense of the values that underpin our societies.

Heath Sloane is and Krauthammer Fellow and graduate of Peking University’s Yenching Academy.

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