A convenient inconvenience caused by plausible deniability
The head of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Michele Bachelet, is set to visit China in about a month — I predict she won’t come, some excuse or reason will be found to prevent her visit — Time will tell and I sincerely hope I’m wrong and the much-needed visit goes ahead according to plan, I strongly suspect it won’t. Here’s why…
Why haven’t the recently appointed US ambassador to China, the also recently appointed British ambassador to China, or the Australian ambassador to China, who has served in the Australian embassy in Beijing on three different occasions, ever been to visit, or sent representation to Xinjiang?
It’s a reasonable question given that people in their parent countries, including some in government, are alleging everything from genocide, mass incarcerations, human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, religious abuses and a whole raft of other nasty things against China.
It’s simple, it’s called plausible deniability. As long as they don’t actually “know” what’s going on, then they can continue to trade with the countries concerned and push away the realities on the basis of things that are unknown, or at the very least, unproven. So, with this “diplomatic ambiguity” understood by all parties, trade continues to grow, other aspects of life go on as normal and they can cleverly say: we believe there are things we don’t know about but we don’t know they’re true so we continue to deal in good faith.
Imagine if the US ambassador officially went to Xinjiang and discovered massive abuses of human rights and murders going on — how abhorrent would that be to the people of the US? They’d demand their government decouples from China and probably protest until the government invaded to free the oppressed people — And, if they did, the world would rightly applaud them for their international honour and integrity.
Except, if it were true and if the US did those things, the US knows it would experience its own civil war in a few short weeks. No clothes, no shoes, no medicines, no parts for vehicles or machines, no new computers, mobile phones, tablets or notebooks. Much of the food they eat and almost everything they see on their supermarket and other shopping shelves has some component parts made in China and would, of necessity, become unavailable.
In the diplomatic mindset, if a country murders a citizen inside its own border or diplomatic missions, there are always complications we don’t know about so, trade continues, a country bombs its neighbours into oblivion but, without going there to visit, diplomats are assured these bombs were dropped on nests of terrorist, so they continue to sell arms.
There are many inconveniences such as this: Nazis persecuting people, endemic corruption, human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, all these things go on all the time and are, at best protested about in strongly worded diplomatic missives and then ignored, or if not ignored, acknowledged as allegations which remain unproven so business and relations can continue as normal.
But here’s the strange thing about China — it isn’t happening, there are no concentration camps, there are no religious persecutions, there are no human rights abuses and that the fact that they aren’t happening will be an even more inconvenient thing to prove.
Ambassadors can’t visit, there are unlikely to be visits from Human Rights experts from the UN because when they arrive and find there aren’t any breaches of international law, it means there are no crimes against humanity, there’s no forced labour nor is there any mass incarceration, what they will find is 11 million ethnic Uyghurs living, for the most part, pretty normal lives.
Some of them will undoubtably have a gripe or two about certain conditions, policies or regulations but show us a country where 100% of the people are 100% happy 100% of the time — of course there are issues — there’s also a great deal of security to keep those issues down to manageable levels but these aren’t systematic, or systemic crimes against an ethnicity or a religion.
And what that means is, nothing about China’s Xinjiang region will turn out to be true.
All those sanctions against Xinjiang businesses making solar panels, growing tomatoes or picking cotton with John Deere machines and all the sanctions against the people involved in administration of the region, the employment of hundreds of thousands of people in manufacturing solar panels and surveillance equipment, or travelling to other parts of China as well-paid migrant workers, all those whose businesses and lives are sanctioned will be found to have been victims of a very big misunderstanding
And there we have something that we’ve never considered before — the inconvenient truth of Xinjiang is not that the Western powers want plausible deniability or diplomatic ambiguity. What they really don’t want is to find out that the inconvenient truth allowing them plausible deniability was nothing but a lie.
I’m going out on a limb here to predict the UN will find another reason not to visit — not because they don’t believe they will find the truth, because they know they will; and that’s far more inconvenient.