The Way China Is Treating Us, We’re Going to Need a Safe Word
China's influence in sports, entertainment, and politics is subtle but deadly.
The Winter Olympics starts next week in China and that’s not good for sports, the U.S., or democracy in general. Ideally, the Olympics should be about athletics and nothing more. But it isn’t and never has been. Just as Nazi Germany used the Olympics to legitimize its regime in 1936, so is China hosting these Olympics to promote the county as just another well-meaning superpower, as if our countries are all just a bunch of cute dogs playing poker.
But there’s nothing cute about the way China has been treating us—or our submissive reaction.
I’m uncomfortable criticizing China because it can serve as justification for knuckle-dragging racist blame-bots to harass Asian Americans. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t let childish Flat-Earth mentality stop the adults from having necessary discussions about important world affairs.
We can’t ignore China’s attacks—both overt and subtle—on the United States, nor can we ignore its oppressive policies. China is like Jason Bateman’s character in Ozark: smooth and charming on the outside, but everyone he touches either becomes corrupt or dies.
China’s Concentration Camps Repress Millions
Despite the beauty of China’s culture and history of artistic and intellectual achievements, the current regime is no friend to freedom. Its repression in Hong Kong of the free press, protestors, and elected officials who disagree with mainland policies is the opposite of everything we stand for. Since 2014, it has imprisoned up to two million Muslims, mostly Uyghurs, in forced labor concentration camps (which it refers to as “reeducation camps”), restricting their religious practices and forcing sterilization. Detainees have been subjected to torture and rape and their children have been sent to orphanages.
The U.S. government has not been silent. It has sanctioned Chinese officials and blacklisted agencies and products profiting from the forced labor. In 2021, the U.S. declared China’s behavior to be genocide and crimes against humanity. But the behavior continues unabated and China’s impact on American society rolls merrily along.
China Is Rewriting Hollywood
In 2020, China surpassed North America as the world’s biggest movie market. With nearly twice as many movie screens in China than in the U.S., Hollywood has made concessions in order not to alienate China’s massive movie-going audience. Most famous was the cringeworthy apology from John Cena on May 25, 2021 in which he appears to be groveling in Mandarin as penance for referring to Taiwan as a country. The reason for his self-debasement is that his movie, Fast and Furious 9, was co-produced with the state-owned China Film Group Corporation.
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This is not about Cena, who is a great athlete and an entertaining actor (Peacemaker on HBO is terrific). This is about a famous public figure humiliating himself, and to some extent America, for the sake of a movie and his career. I’m not even against his apology as much as the embarrassing overkill in the pursuit of money.