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America’s Chaotic Spiral Into Domestic Unrest Opens Door To Familiar Allegations Of Hypocrisy

Protests and racial injustice may weaken the Trump administration's hand with China at a crucial juncture.

If Beijing was looking for an angle when it comes to hitting back against the myriad accusations behind a hodgepodge of pending, punitive legislation in Washington, the unfortunate (to put it mildly) events unfolding across multiple US states are fortuitous.

Violent protests in America (and the event that prompted them) afford Beijing an opportunity to claim hypocrisy. How, Party mouthpieces might ask, can US officials feign concern for the plight of the Uighurs and other minority Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, when white police officers continue to kill unarmed African Americans in broad daylight?

In addition, Beijing can point to differences among protesters in the US (i.e., juxtapose non-violent demonstrators with those destroying property and resorting to theft) and draw a parallel with the situation in Hong Kong.

Read more: ‘Cursed’ Hong Kong Is ‘Half-Way Dead’ Locals Say

After all, the Party can now say, new national security laws set to be implemented in the city are aimed at putting an end to the same kind of violent demonstrations now sweeping America.

Multiple videos from Saturday’s dramatics in some of America’s largest cities depict what appear to be questionable tactics employed by authorities. In one instance, an NYPD SUV rams a group of protesters who hemmed the vehicle in, and a viral video shows police firing marking-paint canisters at non-protesters standing on their front porch in a residential neighborhood.

Last year, a multitude of US officials condemned the use of anti-riot tactics by Hong Kong police.

In a somewhat foul Twitter exchange, Mike Pompeo attempted to get out ahead of what are sure to be charges of hypocrisy by autocratic regimes globally. America’s top diplomat fired back (figuratively speaking) at Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who, after tweeting about the necessity of eradicating racism globally, posted an altered version of an old press release from Pompeo.

The following is indicative of what the State department can expect to hear from authoritarian regimes the US has condemned for crackdowns on violent protests and human rights abuses.

Pompeo’s response was characteristically ham-handed. So much so, in fact, that I won’t quote it directly because it’s inflammatory and not at all befitting of an American diplomat, even to the extent it’s true. Suffice to say Pompeo accused Iran of heinous violence against women, homosexuals and religious minorities.

As I hope is clear, I feature Zarif’s tweet not to celebrate his legendary penchant for clever trolling (something he shares with Tehran’s allies in Moscow), but rather to give you a sense of how domestic unrest in the US is likely to play into worsening tensions between the US and China.

Beijing usually eschews the kind of canny “Whataboutism” employed by Zarif (and perfected by Russia’s Maria Zakharova), for blunt, almost cartoonish accusations of duplicity.

In October, for example, Hua Chunying (a spokeswoman in Beijing with a flair for the dramatic) responded to Mike Pence’s long-delayed foreign policy speech aimed at the Chinese. “The US has already abandoned and cast aside its morality and credibility”, Hua chided, lambasting America for ignoring racism and perpetuating gross inequality. “We hope these Americans can look at themselves in the mirror to fix their own problems and get their own house in order”.

Six months on, and America’s “house” is in the same kind of “order” as everyone else’s – namely, it’s quite messy, and you can expect Beijing to say as much.

Over the weekend, the People’s Daily said Trump’s speech at the White House on Friday constituted “gross interference” in China’s internal affairs and warned that the administration’s actions are “doomed to fail”. A front-page commentary on Sunday charged US politicians with  “double standards” and attempting to institute “shameless hegemony”.

Obviously, China’s decision to implement mainland national security laws in Hong Kong is about more than quelling this particular bout of unrest in the city. It’s about doing away with “one country, two systems” altogether. The very concept is antithetical for a leader like Xi, and the duration and scope of the 2019/2020 protests in the city makes it wholly untenable.

As for Iran, the idea that Zarif presumes to lecture anyone on human rights is, of course, laughable, but as I’m always careful to point out, there are many respects in which Iran is a far freer society than Saudi Arabia. And when it comes to state-sponsored terrorism, it is Sunni extremism that plagues the whole of humanity, not Shia militias, which are more regional scourge than existential threat.

In any event, look for China to capitalize off social unrest and domestic discord in America as the war of words between the world’s two superpowers continues to escalate in the new week.


 

31 comments on “America’s Chaotic Spiral Into Domestic Unrest Opens Door To Familiar Allegations Of Hypocrisy

  1. Please ensure any comments are constructive and/or intelligent.

    • MAGA does not appear to be working. And yet the odds of Democratic success in the coming elections are not more than a slight positive?
      As usual the important challenges to America are here in America.
      The unrest we are experiencing is an argument about the past, the present reality, and the future that may be.
      Instead of a tax cut, think of the path that could have been taken. Think of opportunity that was lost.
      MAG… leave out the A. Just do that.

  2. The show of unrestrained force — indiscriminate use of batons, chemical sprays, tear gas — by police and guard forces against mostly peaceful protesters is a disgrace. These are exactly the same tactics used by Chinese security forces in Hong Kong, and it will take the mass mobilization of millions and millions of Americans in peaceful protest to expose them for what they are.

    • I think the images every night for the past week are showing Americans what their police forces are. I’m always loathe to say this time is different because it is so short-sighted, but racial protests in Salt Lake City and Fairbanks, AK aren’t typical by these standards.

      What has struck me is how much municipal authorities seem to be beholden by their own police forces. They seem very hesitant to be even slightly criticize.

      • I was just speaking with my son about this. Local “police chiefs” are usually picked by non-elected committees and are only terminated or disciplined by those same committees. I plan on writing a letter to our State paper supporting local “Sheriff Departments” the difference is that Sheriffs
        are elected not appointed.

        • As someone living in rural eastern Oregon let me say that elected sheriffs are no panacea.

  3. That we have stooped to the unsustainable level of the ones we criticize should be a catalyst for improvement.

  4. My husband’s downtown Chicago retail development destroyed and looted last night.

  5. Old school Republican law and order campaign would be the normal coarse of action. However, we have been lecturing the world from our lofty glass house for so long it may actually backfire. The line between policing and having a personal fear for ones’ own life during riots can appear undisciplined and callous from an armchair.
    Molotov cocktails are nothing short of incendiary and set a very bad tone for how officialdom and those on front line are trained to respond. Domestic military response to riots removes all likelihood of a local negotiated cooling down.
    I am so glad I am out of those situations and fear how crazy this can get. Both sides can be adrenaline infused wild animals.

    • I was in LA during the Rodney King riots, and this can get very bad.
      Unfortunately, a moral personal code of responsibility is becoming less and less a part of our society.
      What is unfortunate is that the vast majority of the people seem to behave honorably and respectfully in society but a few can ruin it for everyone.
      The misbehaving can come from any “group”( police, victims, criminals, politicians, wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated, etc).

  6. Riots typically result from the final straw breaking our social back. We’re seeing the masses reacting to the culmination of processes and decisions which brought us here. It’s too easy to say “all Cops are racist.” It’s also likely untrue.

    Going back to 9/11, our local police forces have slowly militarized. It’s not even their “fault” as they are given new gear by the states and feds. They train to stamp out unrest, not de-escalate. They carry rifles, not batons.

    We have a bail bond and justice system that, arguably unequally, gives fines and jail time Disproportionate to the crime when compared to white collar crime.

    We have a social safety net that is being whittled away at the same time tens of millions of predominantly lower income folks are unemployed, being asked to sacrifice income for the greater good.

    Essential workers who are provided minimum-wage, and limited healthcare, from warehouse workers to nursing home workers, maintain their income but feel sacrificed to COVID none the less.

    This is not meant to suggest our country is “out to get them.” But By design or not, the system certainly appears to be stacking the deck. 2020’s confluence of events is simply showing us all the cards.

  7. It’s worth exploring why our local police forces have become so militarized. No simple answers.

    • One reason has to do with the gobs of money thrown at Dept. of Homeland Security after 9/11. A lot of that money was used to purchase riot gear, in great quantity (welcome stimulus for defense contractors), which then ended up being farmed out to local police forces.

  8. Someone (Norman Mailer? Hunter Thompson?) once wrote that 1968 was a year when America produced more history than we could safely consume. It’s starting to feel that way in 2020.

      • Actually, the original quote was made in reference to Crete by HH Munro, the great short story writer who wrote under the pen-name, Saki. When speaking to the British House of Commons in 1911 he was reported to have said: “The people of Crete unfortunately make more history than they can consume locally.” The quote is frequently modified and often mistakenly attributed to Churchill.

  9. Everything that is happening with these issues can have constructive outcomes if it leads to less unilateralism in the Geopolitcal arena..A little upgrade in the quality of Rhetoric would also be helpful from our chosen leaders…

  10. It is complicated. Very complicated. On the one hand is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about and that is that for the percentage they make up in the population the blacks make a larger percentage of the crime and jail population. The reasons are hard to change. Poorer schools and fewer educationally motivated parents. Lower nutritional food for the children. A higher percentage of parents working in poorly paying jobs. Living in poorer housing, etc.. But, that’s no excuse for police killing unarmed and nonviolent blacks both male and female. Living with the very real knowledge that you can be a target because of your skin color is not part of the American dream. People demonstrating against the seemingly nonstop racial injustice peacefully have a legitimate reason to protest and are not the ones who are throwing the Molotov Cocktails. There is a difference between the day time, sign carrying, chanting protestors and the militants at night hiding behind their masks, smashing windows, looting stores and burning businesses and vehicles. some of these militants are not mad Americans tired of the inequality but criminals out to take advantage of the situation and should be rounded up and put in jail. All the good done by the peaceful protestors is being lost watching the criminals at night. When all the rioting is over and the nights are quiet again will we be any further ahead?? That is the question.

  11. Anonymous

    Elections so meaningless half of the half of Americans who bother to register to vote will not vote – no offense to whichever racist 80 year old demented war criminal rapist you support.

    Political parties so corrupted by corporate donations and ossified by the duopoly created by the “first past the post” system that they are incapable of any kind of reform. The Establishment, the Washington Bubble, Inside the Beltway, whatever you want to call them, the two wings of the same Party that rules America agree with each other over the vast majority of Americans in foreign policy, healthcare, education, the environment, gun laws, wages…

    Corporate media so utterly useless it is beyond parody. An education system financed by the lottery of property taxes, taught by people only certified in how to teach, producing people incapable of skepticism or sourcing and vetting of information.

    Police outfitted for war while nurses use garbage bags to protect themselves during a pandemic. A politician so venal, so corrupt, that he would use insider information on a coming plague to warn corporate donors – when he is retiring and not even running for office! He would then trade on this information for personal benefit, without warning public health officials, school officials, or his constituents. And this generational scandal does not even merit front page news coverage.

    Companies paying themselves executive bonuses before laying off workers and declaring bankruptcy. Companies that do not pay U.S. taxes or even registered in the United States receiving printed money. Companies receiving bailouts and still laying off workers. Middle-class assets being stripped-mined and confiscated by billionaires subsidized by the Federal Reserve. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a $400 emergency expense. Half do not earn $30,000 a year and pay for healthcare and daycare out of pocket and receive no maternity or paternity leave.

    Civic, non-governmental organizations and independent institutions becoming toothless and corrupted by politicization and unrelenting corporatization. People holding signs and being told when and where to chant in their designated spaces after attaining their permits utterly, utterly ignored, if not mocked. The law has lost all objective merit, becoming merely another venue of political opinion as courts with more than one judge become mini-Parliaments deciding cases only by ideology, or to continue the theme, corporate interest.

    So, yeah. Beyond the fascism, the endless wars, the pandemic, the Depression, the corruption, the calcified political and civic institutions, I don’t blame people if they want to break some $#!t.

    • Wow, right on! And think how ironic it is that the current chaos was precipitated by an attempt to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill when at the same time trillions of legally counterfeit dollars are created to support all this corruption with nothing whatsoever directed to fix the monumental inequities resulting from the criminal manipulation of the financial system by the rich and their sycophants in government.

    • There might be some hyperbole in your screed, regardless I am with fxw, preach on, brother!

      The American polity is again starting to buckle under the strain of institutionalized inequality. The country faces systemic problems not unlike those that developed during the Gilded Age. Labor unions, rapid social advances, a depression and finally two world wars led to the New Deal that saved the United States from potentially terminal inequality and through it permanent political instability.

      Is there the will and the means for an updated New Deal?

  12. Quite striking to witness the magnitude and intensity of these riots as well as how quickly they have spread across the country. I can’t avoid thinking about Dalio’s recent musings (shared by H in this platform) on the end of macroeconomic debt cycles and how these are usually accompanied by a rise in populism and social unrest. I am sadly not surprised at how militarized our police forces have become and how willing most seem to give their toys a test ride on protesters and journalists, I have in the past done studies on the NRA, gun manufacturers and the gun lobby and have known for some time that police departments across the USA are as important a target/client for the gun lobby as are our 2nd amendment wackos, troublesome to say the least.

    • Certainly, Dalio’s recent musings (shared by H in this platform), ring true. Are we doomed to repeat history? Really?
      The Constitution of The United States was written to speak to the past. It was written as an aspiration for the future. By men, some of whom, engaged in an original sin. It was co-opted to serve Capitalism. Which was unshackled from morality by the demise of organised religion?
      Is America a lie?
      I watched Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream ” speech as a kid. I thought the speech was about being human. Pretty funny. I’m white. I believed him. I still do.
      What is in your heart? Maybe that is what it comes down to.

      • I was with you until you brought up organized religion. People always have and likely always will justify and do terrible things in the name of religion.

        One need look no further than how white Evangelicals have become a major pillar of Trump’s ‘base’. Religion is the final and ultimate justification for institutionalized inequality. For my part, I want nothing to do with it. And, if it is to exist in an open society that is stable, the separation of church and state must be absolute.

  13. I have always noted a decent into authoritarianism as the decades pass by….The quality of life goes down as the population goes up….This appears ironically true even in spite of the technological advances which argue the opposite….It I think is the loss of self reliance and freedom that counts in this dilemma….

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