Biden said: ‘If you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been . . . the time when China has been victimised by the outer world . . . is when they haven’t been unified at home . . . So the central . . . the central principle of Xi Jinping [the Chinese leader] is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.’
He added: ‘Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.’
To accuse Biden of political naivety would be wrong, for he has been in the Senate since 1972, when he was 29. He has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sat on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security.
When he was Obama’s vice president, Biden told a Chinese audience that he ‘fully understands and does not second guess their one-child doctrine’. The White House excused him then by saying that he ‘didn’t really mean it’. Now President Biden is showing us that he did really mean it.
For centuries, the Chinese have sought to control the arid, landlocked but resource-rich region known as East Turkestan, with a population of Muslim Uighurs and Kazakhs. They renamed it Xinjiang, meaning ‘New Frontier’ in Mandarin.
After the People’s Liberation Army swept through in 1949, China’s new Communist rulers ordered thousands of soldiers to settle in Xinjiang, increasing the Han Chinese population from 6.7 per cent to over 40 per cent by 1980. More than 11million Uighurs still live there, according to census figures.
Over the last few years, and in plain sight of a supine world, the CCP has waged a campaign of terror on the Uighurs. This has included the demolition of mosques, the outlawing of beards, and Muslim women banned from veiling. The Chinese government describes its actions as efforts to preserve peace and inhibit domestic terrorism.
Its main drive has been to inhibit Uighur population growth and so it subjects women to monthly pregnancy tests, forced intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilisation and abortion.
Birth control is monitored by local apparatchiks and enforced by mass detention. Hundreds of thousands have been sent to more than 85 specially built ‘re-education’ camps for having ‘too many children’, unless they can pay huge fines.
Live birth rates in the Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar fell by more than 60 per cent from 2015 to 2018, and across the entirety of the ‘autonomous region of Xinjiang’ birth rates continue to drop, by almost 24 per cent in the last year compared with 4.2 per cent nationwide.
The oppression has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to one of its slowest, according to research published by Adrian Zenz, an expert on China’s minority regions. He said: ‘This kind of drop is unprecedented . . . there’s a ruthlessness to it . . . it is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.’
China’s Foreign Minister has rejected claims of Uighur abuse as ‘fabricated’ and ‘fake news’, saying the government treats all ethnicities equally, and protects the legal rights of minorities.
Chinese officials have also argued that their population control measures are intended to restore fairness, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities to have the same number of children.
There is some truth in that. Until 2016, when it formally ended, China’s ‘one-child policy’ was strictly imposed on Han Chinese, who comprise more than 91 per cent of the population. They were coerced into contraception, abortion and sterilisation. Infanticide was common and child abandonment rife: the psychological and physical damage is unimaginable.
Under the policy, China operated one of the most extensive systems of minority entitlements in the world, with Uighurs and other minorities permitted to have more than one child, allocated more points on college and university entrance exams, and given job quotas for government posts.
President Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader in decades, and ethnically Han, visited Xinjiang in 2014. Immediately thereafter the region’s top official reported plans to ‘reduce and stabilise birth rates’ for all.
Enforced birth control is but one part of the state’s assault on the Uighur, intended to purge them of their religion and culture and forcibly assimilate them. China is also luring more Han migrants to Xinjiang with promises of land, jobs, and subsidies. It is aggressively promoting intermarriage between Han and Uighurs to ‘wash out Uighur genes’.
Dr Jo Smith Finley, an academic at Newcastle University, who is one of nine UK citizens sanctioned for spreading what China calls lies and disinformation, said: ‘It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but slow, painful, creeping genocide.’
The BBC investigated claims of systemic rape and torture in the camps in a shocking exposé. The piece resulted in the broadcaster being banned from all Chinese territories.
China faces increased scrutiny as its international profile grows. Concerns are being raised about its domestic human rights record, its activities in Africa and its approach to democracy in Hong Kong.
Biden’s promises to take action to counter the CCP’s activities are weak, coming not from a position of moral strength but from craven mutual self-interest. His biggest fear is economic, as China now owns more than a quarter of US national debt. Biden dare not upset the dragon.
Asked about repercussions for China, Biden dissembled: ‘Well, well, there will be repercussions and Xi knows that. What I’m doing is making clear that we, in fact, we [the USA] are going to continue to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the UN and other agencies that have an impact on their attitude.’
He went on: ‘China is trying very hard to become the world leader. And to get that moniker and be able to do that, they have to gain the confidence of other countries. And as long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it’s going to be hard for them to do that. But it’s much more complicated than that . . .’
You bet it is. Xi and the CCP must be shaking in their Gucci loafers.