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Published: Algonquin Books - February 2nd, 2021
Debut author Amelia Pang, an award-winning investigative journalist, has produced Made in China, a work that is moving, illuminating, and purposeful. The story begins when an American woman named Julie Keith discovers an SOS note in some old Halloween decorations. In broken English, the note asks the finder to notify the “World Human Right Organization” of the plight of forced laborers in a laogai, or ReeducationThrough Labor camp, where the sender is detained. Ms. Keith is quite upset, and eventually contacts Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). She is interviewed by ICE, which subsequently makes a formal request to visit the Masanjia RTL camp, where the note originated. They are refused.
This book is largely an exposé of China’s horrid forced labor camps, and other extralegal detention facilities, in which people may be “detained” indefinitely, without benefit of defense or meaningful trial, and how their sad conditions, along with environmental degradation, are the true cost of China’s low cost merchandise, and our unbridled consumerism. Torture and threats to family members are involved.
The book’s emphasis is on the story of Sun Yi, author of the SOS note: his background, family, and involvement in Falun Gong, a system of healing meditations and moral codes. He was imprisoned for this involvement.
The millions of Chinese killed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Great Leap Forward and in the Cultural Revolution left a China transformed into something very different from the China of its past. The author observes that, “This is why modern mainland Chinese tend to place higher value on social stability than human rights. The last thing they want is another revolution.” Instability, it seems, is the mother of tyranny.
There are also stunning revelations about China’s pervasive artificial intelligence-enhanced facial recognition cameras. In Xinjiang, the northwestern province of the Turkic Uyghurs, the CCP collects not only their images, but alarmingly, their biometric data, ostensibly to monitor their health. Such data would be crucially important, should the CCP ever decide to massacre Uyghurs for their bodily organs. Such a possibility exists since the Uyghurs, who widely oppose the CCP, live in a location that China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” program of expansion aims to traverse.
There is excellent advice on ways to resist China’s aggressive foreign trade practices, particularly through the use of social media to force corporate compliance with sourcing laws. This is perhaps the best way to counter the nightmarish oppression of dissidents and minorities in the laogai.
For me, the most important conclusion from reading this work was the understanding that tyranny depends absolutely on uniformity of thought. Any ideas or notions that do not serve its precepts constitute an existential threat to it, chief among which would be the notion of liberty itself.
32nd Avenue Books: I was compelled to ask this significant and talented writer if she could envision a future China in which the CCP is no longer in control, and whether she felt that any countries in the West might find themselves on a path to communism. I am quite pleased to present her observations:
Amelia Pang: We would all like to see China transition to a democracy. But I don't think that can happen unless the masses in China revolt to topple the CCP. Unfortunately, the average person in China does not see the CCP as an authoritarian regime. For many Chinese people, criticizing the CCP means criticizing China. It would feel unpatriotic. This is the result of decades of propaganda, as well as cultural and historical factors like the "Century of Humiliation." A lot of people in China are reluctant to accept that Western democracy is a good fit for China. That's why it is so rare to come across a dissident in China. And it is tragic that, instead of organizing and mobilizing the masses, these individuals are stuck in labor camps making our cheap products.
And I don't see any countries on the path to China's version of communism. The Chinese Communist Party is a misnomer in some sense. "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" is really just capitalism, albeit authoritarian capitalism.
November 1, 2020
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