UK’s Daily Mail (Australian Office) Demonstrates Inaccurate and Misleading Journalism ; then backs away

Let’s start by looking at a few photos of a conversation on Twitter messaging which all took place on 22nd of November…

A journalist makes first contact through Twitter DMs
My first response: a little skeptical since I don’t know much about the Daily Mail these days
The journalist send his questions
I ask for some further information

And, from that moment on, nothing more was heard from the journalist. However, in my expectations, I had hoped for a reply, a link to some of his articles and perhaps an opportunity to put right some of the wrongs that the Daily Mail often portrays as news, but can at times be more misrepresented sensationalism then news — perhaps a little like Tucker Carlson and his recent court finding where a judge declared his supposed news program on Fox News, can not be taken seriously and should be judged by viewers as entertainment, not as news. Once we start to realise this is what our so-called news media are doing we can start to understand beyond the headlines and into the real story — they are entertaining us, not informing us.

Since I had hoped for a reply and hoped that there would be an opportunity to put over my points of view, I decided to write my replies to the three questions. And here they are…

Q1: Why do you believe China is a direct democracy even though it’s widely accepted to be an authoritarian state that has been ruled by one leader for close to a decade?

There are three parts to this question: democracy, authoritarian and ruled by one leader all need to be addressed separately:

But first of all, let’s correct the inaccuracy, small but not insignificant, it’s easy to say “a decade” and have people believe it but at the time of writing this question, Xi had been in power for 9 years and 6 days. Many people will ask: why does this matter? It matters for two reasons: one is that journalism should be about facts which are researched and established to be facts and, “a decade” seems a lot longer than 9 years to an inarticulate reader. The question needs to be asked of the journalist: was this a deliberate attempt to influence readers?

Now, to answer the question in parts: Chinese recorded history is longer than most countries, writings have been found that are 5,000 years old. Civilisations are being dug out of the ground from between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago. Whilst there is equal evidence of civilisation in what was once Mesopotamia and Sumeria, the oldest Greek relics found so far date back to a period 600 years before Christ, about the same time Confucius was teaching his philosophies. Meaning that societies in China predate the invention of democracy by several thousand years.

In that time China has been through several dynasties, a republican dictatorship and a communist uprising which eventually brought them to the last 45 years of peaceful growth and stability — this is the key, it was an uprising of the people who helped the Communist Party come to power and it’s the people who have kept it there for the last 70 years. If China needs a change, it will be the children and grandchildren of those people who provide it — right now, they don’t want to, they don’t feel the need to — why is it then that other people, who don’t live in China feel there is a need to help them achieve it?

I’m not the only person who believes in China’s democracy. It’s a widely held perception and, amongst my foreign friends in China it’s much stronger than a perception, it’s a belief. My own family voted in local elections just one week ago. The way this works is that they vote for people they know who do a good job in the community. They are paid a small amount of money to go to the voting station because the community recognises that time off work and travelling expenses are important in a country which still has a developing economy. My wife’s parents and sister-in-law were paid 20 RMB each and, the sister-in-law carried a proxy for another sister, who is currently overseas, the proxy received the same 20 RMB (about $3.20 Australian per person). My wife, who was born and raised in the same city, Zhongshan in Guangdong, but is registered to live in neighbouring Zhuhai, didn’t bother to vote, the distance is too far and the inconvenience too great, it would have taken more than half a day. However, there isn’t a requirement so, unlike Australia where voting is mandatory, she won’t get into any trouble for that.

Authoritarian is a very interesting word and, having lived in China over 17 years I can see why people hold this view, it’s mentioned in every single news report about China. And, because it’s mentioned in almost every report we read, people believe it must be true; it isn’t

I came to China with all the same preconceived notions, I was a little wary, especially with my background as a police officer. The first few weeks, maybe even months I did look over my shoulder and wonder if I was being watched. To this day, I wonder if I’m being watched, but I have no evidence that it’s happening and, more importantly, I no longer care. I have no plans to break any laws and no plans to denigrate the country that has given me so many opportunities so if I’m being watched in any way, it’s both unobtrusive and harmless. One other important consideration is that we know for a fact our government can watch us in the west, Edward Snowden made that eminently clear; and lives in exile because of it. Julian Assange showed us what crimes our government were committing and lives in prison because of that. Witness K and his lawyer in Australia showed what our governments were doing wrong in Asia and now one lives with mental health issues and the other in fear of imprisonment caused by government prosecutions, David McBride gave us insights into more crimes in Afghanistan and is, at this moment, preparing to defend himself against a pending prosecution. Australia has just introduced plans for sweeping new laws allowing the Australian Signals Directorate warrantless monitoring with ministerial approval. Surely no one can deny, there are ministers who would, given the opportunity, use these powers in negative ways. these are the headliners, but there are many more whistleblowers we don’t read about. It begs the question: Which government is more authoritarian, the one that, with the consent of its people watches and keeps them safe, or the ones that hide their dirty deeds from their people and prosecute those who expose them?

China is indeed a watchful country, it has wide surveillance and it has a very large police presence, which western media calls “Public Security Organs”. Even these English words “Public Security” can denote a feeling of oppression but the translation is an anachronism from a previous era when China was closed, the correct translation of Gong An (公安) is much better translated, but less intimidatingly, as “Public Safety” and, having seen them operate for many years, it’s a more appropriate translation. Furthermore, those things we, in the west perceive as challenging our rights to freedom, are seen here, in a different cultural light by Chinese people, as caring for the community. One final point is that in the English language, we need to be able to differentiate between a heavy police presence, which would sound intimidating and large police presence which just means there are a lot of them, in fact, they aren’t intimidating at all, they’re extremely helpful, friendly and create a living environment which is completely and totally safe for citizens, expats and visitors alike.

There is no doubt that the system here is different and can indeed be unsettling for foreigners, but the cultural differences between Chinese and most western countries are what make it unsettling, not the facts. For example, there are cameras in every single street in my city, it seems we can be observed everywhere and anywhere we go. This is as true of London, New York, Sydney and pretty much every other city in every developed country in the world. The difference here is that, not only do people not mind this, they actually approve of it. I live in a city of 4 million people, I can’t remember the last time a rape, murder, even a robbery was reported. A little-known fact is that China’s murder rates for the entire country are less than most of the individual states of the USA (verifiable on Statista).

Whilst on the topic of authoritarianism, let’s look at Vaccines, many western countries are mandating vaccines; China isn’t. Many places have massive protests related to public health; China doesn’t. Most “democracies” have huge death rates related to Covid and how it was handled; China doesn’t. Much of the reason for this is this “perception of authoritarianism”. The reality is, when the government gives an instruction, passes legislation, makes local regulations to contain covid, the people, for the most part, act in a respectful and communal way, in other words, they trust their government, they like what the government is doing and how they’re handling it. Vaccine take-up rate is amongst the highest in the world and there’s never been a need for coercion, people just agree that it’s a good idea and trust the government. Government encouragement is not in any way harmful or sinister. People are well aware that there can be adverse reactions but are smart enough to know that the odds are stacked pretty heavily in their favour

The final point to this question about the single leader is this: which country in the world hasn’t been run by a single leader? In Australia, Robert Menzies and John Howard both went over 10 years, Margaret Thatcher in recent years did so but she was only the 7th longest serving British PM. Nowadays, it seems no British or Australian leader can keep the popularity required to even last a full term!

Term limits in China were removed but that doesn’t mean Xi can’t be removed, it only means he can stay longer if he’s popular enough — the situation is no different to Australia, UK, Germany (Angela Merkel for the last 16 years), Canada, Japan and about 50 other countries in the world with no term limits. Even The USA’s FDR started a fourth term in office but passed away a few months into it. So, let’s not pretend that China is any different.

It was Deng Xiaoping who introduced term limits after he came to the presidency in the late 70s. Term limits weren’t part of the Chinese Constitution they were a reaction to the Cultural revolution. The Chinese government has now removed them, but this doesn’t mean Xi will be “King of China” or “leader for life”. Xi is the most popular person to be current leader in China and what it means is that, while he remains popular and continues to manage the country in an efficient and progressive way, he will keep his job.

He’s currently been President for 9 years, when he was appointed, many people were very worried, he looked like he would be autocratic and would make too many changes. President Xi’s first moves were expected, he clamped down on waste in government, he changed the structure and economy of the military and, at first, this certainly looked to outside observers, especially uninformed observers, as though China was entering a new phase of authoritarianism. The reality was different.

Headlines such as: “Xi’s opponents have been wiped out”; “Xi suppresses all opposition” were all over the world, and to some extent, were true but not in the sense that western media believed. Many surveys, most conducted by Western institutions including a famous Harvard-Ash report have found that Xi’s popularity in China is high, as high as 95.5% — how then, can an autocratic, despotic, dictatorial or totalitarian leader (all of these names have been used by Western media to define Xi) become so popular with 1.4 billion people?

The answer is quite simple. He does what they want him to do. This “crackdown” on corruption removed almost every one of the corrupt politicians in power at the time. Xi’s supposed enemies are not political enemies, they are mostly the people who have been dismissed, arrested, charged and often convicted of corruption. Why wouldn’t they be enemies of the man who stopped their game. Since he came to power, government officers started doing the jobs they were paid to do without getting the backhanders and every individual in society was better off for it. The military in China was one of the largest property, rental, shopping mall, nightclub, cinema and KTV (karaoke) owners. Xi made the generals sell everything, invest in the military improvements they needed and now, 9 years later, China has a military that can really worry the USA. On a weekly basis senior US generals and admirals seem to be asking for more funds to combat the growing “threat” from China. All because Xi stamped out corruption and sent military budgets to the places where it should have been going.

Of course, in doing so, President Xi has made many enemies; Western media now wants to utilise these corrupt and criminal people to demonstrate that he, and by extension China, is cause for concern, while the Chinese population know differently.

Poverty Alleviation, Rural Revitalisation and Belt and Road Initiatives are all globally recognised as incredibly successful. Furthermore, Xi has transformed the IT and social media industry to protect the users against data abuse rather than the platforms which, in the west, are known to be data abusers. He’s transformed the education industry to prevent excess profit making and has relieved the financial burden on parents whilst removing many of the anxieties of students. He’s working on and will make substantial changes to the health industry too and, on top of all this, has led the country though the greatest pandemic in modern history whilst growing the economy building massive infrastructural improvements and maintaining popularity.

In short, President Xi is extremely popular amongst the vast majority of Chinese people, the only problem is that western media don’t tend to ask Chinese people, or when they do, they either ask the people who left China having been purged from the party or fleeing from prosecution for their criminal activities, or they believe the answer has been manipulated or coerced. It seems impossible for western media to question any negative answer on China and look for possible motivations, or take any positive answer on China at face value in China without the caveat of possible coercion.

The country can utilise social media platforms to force government changes whenever they feel the need — Li Wen Liang’s story is a very good and recent example of this. China had new “Whistleblower” laws introduced in December 2020, these came as a direct result of public pressure, through social media, on the government for their handling Dr Li’s case and that aspect of the covid crisis.

China is a democracy because the people have the power to make changes through social media or even direct action. Surprisingly, public protests are not only allowed, they happen often. When they happen, they don’t make headlines because they aren’t violent. When there is a protest, the government finds out what’s wrong and responds, often by meeting the needs of the people protesting and quite often by punishing, or in some way disciplining the officials responsible for allowing the behaviour which caused the action to have occurred in the first place.

A huge number of the population are supportive of the extremely positive changes that have occurred during the last 45 years and particularly in Xi’s time. They are anxious to see more of it. The Party is very well aware of this and knows, if they stop performing, or stop acting in the best interests of the people, it’s going to be very difficult to hold back 1.4 billion people seeking change.

Q2: Why do you believe China is a better example of democracy than western countries such as America?

If we’re just looking at the USA, it’s a fairly obvious comparison. The USA currently has an ex-president who still refuses to accept the results of the election, claiming election fraud with over 70 million people supporting his claim. That in itself is a damning indictment of their system. In order for democracy to work, there is no doubt that one of the strongest pillars it rests upon is the acceptance of the results of the election by all parties — this has been proven to be a weakness in the last 12 months.

The 6th January incident was a nightmare for any democratic country but it wasn’t the first event of its kind, cast your minds back to the night Donald Trump won election in 2016, thousands of people marched in hundreds of cities to protest that he couldn’t have legitimately won the election. Twitter went wild that night with politicians, celebrities, media and even other world leaders expressing anything from glorious acceptance of a new order through humourous surprise, to shocked outrage. So, two elections in a row have brought protesters out in the streets and the last one created what many experts called a “constitutional crisis, or an insurrection”.

The USA doesn’t have democracy, it has politics. Politics is about fundraising, marketing, promoting, serving self-interests and making promises; delivering on those promises isn’t always possible so then it becomes about deflecting blame to the opposition so that the voters get another chance in a few years to vote for their least disliked politician. Nowadays, election campaigns are less about what a politician will do and more about what the opposition won’t do, what they did wrong or what they might do wrong if elected.

Democracy is about serving the people, giving them what they want and improving their lives. Or, getting out of the way when they select someone else to do it. China doesn’t have career politicians, it has bureaucrats. Trained and skilled administrators who are elected from the bottom and pulled from the top, but only if they are good enough. If they aren’t good enough, they lose their job. Americans can vote for anyone they want and call it a good system. Let’s be honest, Kanye West is not a good candidate for the president of the world’s largest military and economic power, but it must be a very big cause for concern when he suggests he might run, even more of a concern when he finds he can’t but 60,000 people actually voted for him anyway!

Over the last two presidential elections there have been allegations of foreign interference, voter suppression, voter fraud and legal loopholes being invoked to change results. There’s no such thing as universal suffrage, or one person one vote, there are just too many different ways in which voting in the USA has become difficult. Voter suppression through legal methods. A felony conviction means you can’t vote, (according to sentencingproject.org 5.2 million people can’t vote because of a conviction). People in prison are ineligible to vote and these two factors make up about 10% of the adult population. Being homeless means you can’t vote and there are currently more than 580,000 registered homeless adults but many more who have no address who are unable to vote. In some states requiring an ID to vote stops people who have no drivers licence or firearms licence from voting, they may have ID but the ID isn’t acceptable. Systems such as these remove votes from poorer, less well-educated and marginalised voters. When a party gets into power, they can change electoral rules and boundaries to enhance their “votability” next time around. These are the legal methods, there are many unlawful ways to stack the votes too.

The idea that one person in a country can vote for one leader is, to the non-US style-democratic world quite farcical. Why, for example are US voters given a choice of two only people to lead them? In the last election both of whom will be over 80 years old when the term ends? Plutocracy, not popularity or efficiency, placed these two representatives into this position, large donations support their campaigns which cost in excess of $14 billion. Money from donors who need to see a return on their investment.

Having achieved the position of president, the incumbent is now in a position of being the most powerful individual in the world — but isn’t. The Senate and Congress will, if they have an opportunity, fight every step of the way to stop or hinder any changes the incumbent wants to initiate, especially if their own special interests and those of their donors (or even their defeated previous leader) are in conflict with the changes. Examples of this are the recent Infrastructure Bill which took months to get through and only then after many compromises and concessions to other interested parties. Many of those “interested parties” are the large corporate donors who paid into campaign funds to help the politician get into power — now the politicians need to return those investments.

What individual Americans seem to want is not being given to them by their elected representatives. A massive number want student loan relief, a massive number want Medicare for all, a massive number of them want to stop funding the world’s largest military and put more into social services, a massive number want police to be regulated in a better way, or even, in many cases defunded and society restructured around a more open-minded welfare state. None of these can happen because of the interests of big business and the donations these businesses made to get their people elected.

Take a look historically at election promises made and how many of them have been kept. Look in comparison at Chinese elections where people are elected not because of what they promise they will do, but because of their track record in showing what they have already done, because they’ve shown their worth in the community. In order to become a mayor, a party leader, a provincial governor or even a member of the politburo, the incumbent needs to be not only efficient to get promoted, but popular in order to be voted in. A rapper or a reality TV star could never aspire to be the leader of China, nor is it likely, due to a very long held culture of respect, that a leader of China would ever appear in a reality TV show.

In fact, a little known piece of information about China is that, in order to obtain membership to the Communist Party the applicant needs to show that they have been positive contributors to society. This is why organisatons such as is found in every city; “Volunteer Youth Associations” exist. What’s often painted as a dystopian and nightmarish scenario called the “Social Credit Score”, is in fact a repository where people’s good deeds are recorded and, in applications such as Party membership, can be viewed so the applicant may be deemed worthy.

Q3: How is China a better democracy despite being condemned by world leaders for interning Uighur Muslims in camps and celebrities and high-profile business people disappearing?

Again, a highly loaded and inaccurate question deliberately posed to show a sinister side to China; the Uyghur genocide narrative and disappearance of high-profile personalities. Let’s consider the first one first.

Once again, we have an inaccuracy in the question. As far as I know, no world leader has condemned China for interning Uyghur Muslims in camps. There have been some politically motivated Motions passed in some parliaments but these are not official not binding and certainly not world leader’s condemnations. The US State Department has claimed China commits human rights abuses, but the Department of Justice, where legal opinions are formed, has said there is not. The President of the United States has not said it and his predecessor, Donald Trump (who still holds the political hopes and aspirations of over 70 million voters) actually praised Xi Jinping for his actions in Xinjiang and on Covid (before he started deflecting blame). Nor, for the record has Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Ursual von der Leyen or David Maria Sassoli, of the EU, nor have Scott Morrison or Justin Trudeau. “World leaders” may have expressed concerns — perhaps after reading news reports which, under a legal ruling, can’t be taken seriously and should be viewed as entertainment — but have not condemned anything at all.

I’ve travelled extensively in Xinjiang, I’ve met and conversed with Uyghurs, and I’ve spent many weeks on the ground in different parts of the region. I’ve met hundreds of police officers and been through dozens of security checkpoints inside of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. I’ve also carried out academic based research and studied both western and Chinese media reporting. Having done so, I’ve come to my own conclusions of this narrative and written extensively about it. I’ve met many detractors online, I’ve had many debates, discussions, insults and faced ridicule for my opinions. Many people have made accusations about me, yet, to this date, not one person has proven me to be wrong.

There is not, and has never been a genocide, even mainstream media has wlked back from this narrative, the local population has grown and is now, like everywhere else in the developing world settling down and having less babies so we know there’s no genocide. There is, and has been for many years, an intensive security presence in the region. There was a very serious and undeniable terrorism, or some may call it extremism, problem in the region and this has been dealt with in a way which has caused the Chinese government to receive much criticism. My only criticism of the Chinese government in the region is not in the handling of the terrorism, separatism and/or extremism, it’s in the handling of the public relations around it.

What China is doing, perhaps on a larger scale given the geography, is no different to what’s happening in many Muslim countries in the world and in even in European countries such as France. It’s currently occurring in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia where radicalisation of disenfranchised young Muslims is leading to conflict. It’s certainly no more insidious than Australia’s handling of refugees, most of whom, thanks to the USA’s war on terror come from Muslim dominant countries. A war on Terror which is far more odious, far more murderous and far more damaging to human rights than anything China has done or even could do to its Muslim population.

China has done an excellent job of stamping out terrorism in the region, I don’t say this, the United Nations Counter Terrorism Chief Vladimir Voronkov does, and he should know. In the process of doing this, many people have been arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated. I suspect, as in every other major police action in every country in the world, there have been some mistakes made. I suspect, also as in every country in the world there were some individual officers who have been heavy handed and even criminal in their actions. I hope not but it would be naïve to assume there aren’t. If it transpires this is the case, I hope it will be rectified, people will be punished and victims compensated.

As a person who has witnessed the effects of terrorism, I, like the United Nations Anti-Terrorism expert who visited and the hundreds of journalists, dozens of diplomats as well as millions of tourists who have been to the region in recent years, support what China has done and continues to do there.

I’ve written many times about this and almost everything I’ve written is posted in my Medium.com page (Jerry-grey2002.medium.com), so readers can inform themselves of my experiences in and opinions on the region.

The disappearing celebrities and business people is a very interesting part to the question. One thing I will openly and freely admit is that China does restrict freedom of speech — but again, not in the way that western minds would expect. Let’s go on the record first of all and say that I’ve not met a Chinese person in the last 17 years who has told me they feel any restrictions at all, the restrictions are a western perception brought about due to cultural differences.

Imagine a child in a school who insolently tells his teacher exactly what the child thinks, using adult language and words learnt from parents. The teacher will punish that child, or have the child sent to the principal, letters would be sent home and the child would be counselled as to what’s right and wrong, what’s allowed and what isn’t. Depending on the severity of the “offence” whether it was repeated or not, the child may be told firmly, scolded, punished, restricted from going back to that teacher’s class, suspended or even expelled from school.

This is a Confucian system that works in China. It works into adulthood because Chinese people have an understanding of their position in the hierarchy that is different to most westerners. For thousands of years parental respect, respect for teachers, respect for leaders in the workplace and in the community have been ingrained, this is interpreted in some western media as brainwashing but it is, in fact, a societal and cultural norm to respect people in authority. Westerners don’t get this so they think it must be forced. It’s a culturally acceptable process that has been carried out since before there was a USA, 500 years before there were Christians and around the time the Greek Empire, which gave us the word Democracy, was at its height.

When someone breaks this norm and steps out of the comfort zone of 1.4 billion people it’s not an easy thing to cope with. China handles it in the same way a teacher in a Western school would handle it. First of all, a call to “drink tea” this is a very informal chat with the authorities, it might be the boss, the village leader or the police station, depending on what’s happened. Usually, that the end of the matter. Subsequently, if the person continues, they will be called in for a formal warning, in this one they may be asked to sign a declaration explaining their “offence”. They may even have been asked to write it out themselves, but they still aren’t in serious trouble. They are educated in the proper way to behave in order to maintain social harmony and then they sign the declaration and leave. Only after this stage may there be problems. The next step in a workplace might be dismissal, in the village could be punishments, in the police station could be 5 or 10 days of detention. After this, the person is free to go and behave normally or continue their poor behavious and accept the consequences — no different to criminals anywhere.

As for disappearing celebrities, as far as I know, Jack Ma publicised for many months that he wanted to step down and focus on teaching, something he apparently loves to do. When he did step down and wasn’t seen on TV he was assumed to be missing. Apparently, he’s since turned up on a yacht in the Mediterranean. Peng Shuai, a famous tennis player in China, went through a difficult time, was she forced, was she coerced or pressurised into a relationship? I don’t know, but nor does any journalist currently reporting on the matter. All this will come out in due course but for now we have a young lady who has been emotionally traumatised and has removed herself from social media — there are hundreds of young men and ladies who have done the same thing — the only difference here is her relationship was with a senior government official. Are there any senior government officials in the US who don’t have the “me too” stigma? Certainly not the last two presidents! This case is too recent to make firm comments about, what happened will be made public at an appropriate time and what needs to be kept private will be kept private. This is what a caring system always does — which country in the world publicises names or allows the media to pursue and harrass a rape or paedophile victim in order to obtain a story?

Missing doesn’t necessarily mean incarcerated, nor does it mean anything nasty has happened, but in some cases, it means the person “missing” is under investigation. China’s legal system is different from western countries. People are do get arrested, of course and, once arrested, investigated whilst kept incommunicado. I don’t think there’s a single case in modern history of a person who disappeared completely, they always return with an explanation or a court appearance. Once again, we understand something which is culturally different from our “norms” to be something sinister. It isn’t, it’s just different.

And there, we have the problem. What western eyes see and western minds perceive are different to how Chinese minds see and perceive things. Western media accuses China of wrongdoing and politicians see an opportunity to gain some degree of popularity by showing a tough streak against China because, at the moment it suits a certain narrative. In 100% of the cases an explanation and a review of the different cultural reasons will identify, clarify and explain what’s really happening.

It isn’t anything sinister, it isn’t something to fear, it’s just different to how we expect it to be and that causes us, especially when we are so uninformed or misinformed, a high degree of discomfort.

I’m British born Australian citizen. I live in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write about China experiences on and off my bike