China Against the West?: On the BBC on China


A friend of mine asked me for my opinion on a recent BBC article, which was reporting on a story covered by Xinhua regarding comments made by China’s education minister, Yuan Guiren. The comments had to do with seeing the Chinese education system not develop in such a way as to foster ‘Western values’ and to very intentionally weed these out—a sentiment that makes sense as one sees Chinese foray into a pragmatic use of neoliberal economic practices actively change its young.

Now, with that in mind, the chief point to be made is that I am very suspicious of the BBC, and generally assume it to be wrong on everything. It is pure ideology at the best of times, and is mostly interesting because it’s a direct relay of what Westminster wants to establish as a dominant narrative.

However, there are two things that are interesting to me: 1) the BBC doesn’t link to the Xinhua article, and 2) there’s no attempt to clarify what ‘Western values’ supposedly are.

The ambiguity on the latter—which appears to have migrated from Xinhua to the BBC—is worthy of comment because ‘Western values’ appear to be assumed to be a good thing by the BBC. I don’t share this view. I think following the summer in Ferguson and Palestine, the behaviour of the French government after Hebdo, and in reading a comprehensive ‘counter-history’ of liberalism by Domenico Losurdo, whatever ‘Western values’ are is basically toxic.

On the former point of interest, the BBC not linking to the original article is indicative of the broad refusal and inability to understand the specifics of the Chinese perspective re. the West, which is conditioned by its anti-imperial, anti-colonial, and socialist (and, in a very strict, sense, anti-capitalist) prerogative. The very real association would be that if China is open to the logic of West it would foster a breeding ground for the undoing of the equally real gains of the last 50-60 years. It’s not mere censorship, I suppose, but a form of protection against anti-socialist forces (insofar as ‘Western’ forces are a priori anti-socialist, in specific economic and political senses).

The only real qualification I have is that I don’t know what would be deemed a ‘Western value’ in a textbook or curriculum, so I can’t be very specific in this regard. Does it refer to notions like ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘equality’? Is it more to do with economics or politics? I can’t tell, and have no first hand understanding of what a discussion in this regard might look like.

In any case, my general attitude is that since Westminster and the BBC, and any other state and state media outlet, have no real intention of offering an informed look at China—especially in light of the recent uptake of anti-CPC articles on the site—taking the opining found here with anything other than as few grains of salt as possible is the wisest possible course of action. President Xi Jinping has, in recent months, come out of the blocks with numerous anti-corruption and education plans to counter, from a deeply socialist perspective, the material and axiological ‘liberalisation’ of Chinese society—it is precisely here that any analysis of Chinese society should begin.