Why Does Adrian Zenz Think He’s Right?

Many people believe that Adrian Zenz is an expert on Xinjiang. However, as we know from his own words, he has only visited China, as a tourist in 2007, it’s not clear if he actually set foot into Xinjiang during this trip. He’s been very vague about that.

So, this expert, this person has attended Congress and given evidence that Xinjiang is a land of oppression which has, according to his first count, 800,000 people in prison and recent reports of at least one million, up to three million and even 8 or 10 million people in “concentration camps”.

Adrian Zenz is wrong. People who know Xinjiang, and even the hundreds of journalists who have travelled there, myself included, know there have been problems, the problems are being efficiently and safely handled by the Chinese authorities and the region is being pulled out of poverty. People are being educated, finding work, earning income and rotating back into a society that is rapidly changing, for the better. So, why then, is this man so wrong and why do so many people outside of China believe him.

The answer is simple, it’s because he sincerely believes he is correct. People believe him because he is a religious man, he would swear on a bible and he can go on to give evidence to support his claims.

How can this be true, Zenz is wrong but tells the truth and has evidence to support his truth? It’s all a matter of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Firstly, we need to understand the man. He is a Christian fundamentalist; he believes very strongly in his God. He believes China is evil, because the government do not believe in his God but prefer more earthly ideals such as Marxism, Leninism and the philosophy of Confucius. He thinks others who do not share his beliefs are destined to burn in hell for eternity. He has even written a book about these beliefs, available in most bookshops and on Amazon (“Worthy to Escape” on the UK version of Amazon it’s £49:65, about 500rmb). With ideas like this, it’s hardly surprising that he would like to change China and make the citizens of China more like himself — then, he will earn his place beside his God in his afterlife because he set out to, and is doing a very good job at, changing the view of the world towards Communist China.

But even with these crazy ideas, people in the USA prefer to believe him. Why?

Zenz is a very intelligent man with a PhD, he’s spent half of his life studying and is qualified in the IT industry. He spent much of the last few years making a lot of money researching China online, including government websites and government contractor’s websites. In doing so, he has found many thousands of documents relating to Xinjiang including purchase orders, contracts for buildings, agreements between suppliers and the government, even some sensitive information such as what security equipment has been purchased. He found records of transportation and shipping contracts and he knows that millions of dollars of security fences, wire, security cameras and other equipment used to keep people safe has been sent to Xinjiang. On top of this he knows that many beds were sent there too.

Zenz doesn’t speak, read or write Chinese, but from this information he’s made an interpretation, influenced by his religious belief that anyone who doesn’t believe in God is evil so, the “evil” Communist Party of China must be locking people in compounds and making them work for no pay!

What he hasn’t considered is a viable alternative: Xinjiang is huge, many people live in small farming communities and can’t travel to and from school every day. He doesn’t understand the Chinese culture of living in a school because in his home country, Germany, all students go home after their classes and live with their families. He doesn’t understand the majority of workers in China are migrant workers who travel from rural areas into the cities and work in large factories so he has never seen a factory with 10,000 workers living in dormitories. These are completely unknown to him so, if a factory has many small rooms and beds, it must be a prison, because this is the only experience he has.

He can’t comprehend that factories built with gatehouses and fences, or schools with high walls, barbed wire and policemen outside are designed to keep the students safe, not to keep “prisoners” inside. He’s never been, so he’s never asked the people if they want to be there, he assumes they don’t. He’s never asked people if they can go home, he assumes they can’t and he’s never asked people there if they are allowed religious freedom, he believes they aren’t.

The USA has the highest prison population in the world, in fact, 25% of all the people in prison globally are in prison in the USA. So, when an American, or a German living there, sees a building secure enough to keep terrorists or extremists out, they assume it’s a prison to keep people in. This is a logical thought from the USA: high security buildings must be prisons.

In America almost anyone can legally carry a gun, American people might say: “I don’t want security checks, I have my guns and I can look after myself”. Chinese people are different, they don’t want or need guns to protect themselves because their government does through appropriate security measures. Americans can’t understand this, nor it seems, can Germans who live in America.

Zenz isn’t lying, he sincerely believes he is right but a misguided belief in his God and a total lack of cultural awareness about China, how Chinese people live, work and are educated means he doesn’t have a clue. His lack of cultural knowledge, stemming from a religious German background, followed by a religious American education and a lifelong belief that God gave him a mission to destroy China, have blinded him to the reality of the security needs and the poverty alleviation schemes of the region. Plans which serve to benefit the people of Xinjiang through education, training and opportunities to work through long term changes as well as huge investments in education, infrastructure and industry throughout the region,

He did, indeed, see many things which could be interpreted as evil or sinister, but, just as equally, they can be interpreted as being beneficial locally, the only way for him to find out the truth is to go there and see for himself. But if he did that, his entire reason for living, his income from the US government and his work to destroy China would be wasted. He prefers his own version of the truth!

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store