#MeToo Is Different in China
Plus: The truth about National Conservatism.
1. Say Hello to the Bad Guy
Sometimes it is helpful to be reminded who the real villains are in the world.
Peng Shuai is a professional tennis player from China. She’s primarily a doubles specialist, though she was a top 20 singles player for a spell a decade ago.
On November 2, Peng put up a post on Weibo, which is China’s alternative to Twitter. Weibo is a publicly-traded company with a market cap of $10 billion.
Weibo is also—and it’s hard to know what word to use here, “controlled?” “overseen?” “directly answerable to?” the Chinese government. If something happens on Weibo that the ChiComs don’t like, then there are consequences.
In her November 2 post, Peng alleged that three years ago she had been sexually assaulted by a former high-ranking government official. (The guy up top—Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, in case you’re keeping score at home.)
So far, this story is intelligible to an American audience: A woman with a public profile accuses a powerful man of assault. We have seen this before. We know what comes next. In America, at least.
In China, what came next was different.
Thirty minutes after posting her charge, Peng’s allegation was taken down. Then any mention of her charge was scrubbed from Weibo. Then it became impossible to even search for her account on Weibo.
And then Peng disappeared.
No one has seen or heard from Peng Shuai since her Weibo post.
And just in case you thought there might be an innocent explanation for this—maybe she just wants to be left alone?—yesterday one of China’s state-owned TV networks released an email they claimed was from Peng, in which she supposedly said that she was fine, that her Weibo post was false, and that everyone should stop talking about her, immediately.
CGTN released this email only in English and only in the West. There has been no mention of it in Chinese domestic media.
This is the kind of fake-confession/proof of life that an authoritarian regime puts out when they’re not even trying to fool you.
Here is what you must understand about the Chinese government: They want you to know they’re manufacturing a lie, because the lie is a demonstration of their power.
On Thursday, a video showed a TV in China tuned into CNN International's programming which then transitions into bars, due to CNNi's signal being censored in China to prevent further reporting on Peng's accusations.
Back in February, Ellen Bork wrote a piece arguing that America ought to pull out of the Beijing Olympics.
Why not say what should be obvious: The United States could not possibly send athletes and officials to Beijing while Uighurs face rape and forced labor; while political prisoners like Xu Zhiyong in the mainland and Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy newspaper publisher in Hong Kong, remain in custody; while the CCP is engaged in a campaign to subvert Tibetan Buddhism; and while China’s military increases pressure on Taiwan. That is not only a tough policy but one that recognizes that CCP rule, and America’s response to it, have changed since 2008.
Add Peng Shuai to that list.
America should not participate in an exercise that whitewashes what this monstrous regime is doing.
And whatever America does, no member of the WTA or ATP should set foot in China again—for the Olympics or any other reason.
David Brooks has an extremely charitable piece in the Atlantic about his trip to the National Conservatism conference in Florida. Read it if you’d like the kindest possible interpretation of the events.
But he has one paragraph that’s worth an entire piece on its own:
Over the past few decades there have been various efforts to replace the Reagan Paradigm: the national-greatness conservatism of John McCain; the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush; the Reformicon conservatism of the D.C. think tanks in the 21st century. But the Trumpian onslaught succeeded where these movements have so far fizzled because Trump understood better than they did the coalescence of the new American cultural/corporate elite and the potency of populist anger against it. Thus the display of Ivy League populism I witnessed in Orlando might well represent the alarming future of the American right: the fusing of the culture war and the class war into one epic Marxist Götterdämmerung.
David and I were both present for all three of these attempts to replace the Reagan Paradigm, though in slightly different roles. For instance, he literally wrote the piece at The Weekly Standard that tried to make National Greatness Conservatism happen. (My role was somewhat more humble: I fact-checked that piece for him from my station as a junior staffer.)
Similarly, we had front-row seats for the compassionate conservatism experiment of the Bush years and were at many of the same AEI panels for the Reformicon pageant.
The lesson I took from that 20 year journey was that none of those aborted movements mattered. Not one bit.
It is very nice to think that you can change a political movement from the top down if you are smart enough and think deeply enough and come up with the perfect suite of policy options. That if you put Chris DeMuth and a bunch of well-credentialed members of Conservatism Inc. in a room together, that they can read Tocqueville, do a longitudinal study, get out a whiteboard, and then recalibrate conservative politics to a better place.
That turns out not to be how the world works.