I’m the kind of guy who likes to partake in heated debates from time to time, and China is a hot topic at this point in time. What astounds me about chinese people (in the debates I’ve been part of least, let’s not judge all chinese from my few observations) is the lengths they’ll go to in order to defend their prescious government (yes, CCP-supporters, I’m looking at you). It’s not so much that they believe strongly in what they’re doing is right, but rather the willingness to disregard arguments against them and write them off as silly. Now, I could open up a whole debate on China and human-rights, but that has been done before, let’s not beat that dead horse anymore. Instead I’d like to fokus on the strange retorts I have received over time in various debates; some are utterly meaningless red herrings, others are more cleverly designed. So let’s have a go at it shall we?
“You don’t know anything about China/chinese!” – By far the most common retort. Disregarding that I do, in fact, know something about China/chinese (my wife is chinese), what on earth has this argument got to do with anything? If somebody I don’t know shoots somebody else in front of my eyes, then do I loose my right to have an opinion on the incident since I didn’t know either person? Of course not. Am I not in my right to say what happened was right/wrong based on a logical/ethical basis? Of course I am. If this argument was valid then everyone could be individually right about everything, as they could simply say “You don’t know anything about boys, Greenland, vacuum-cleaning etc. ergo I am right”.
“China has a long history!” – (Argumentum ad antiquitum) This argument is so blatantly irrelevant that it really doesn’t deserve any further explanation. Whatever it is we’re debating, then I’m pretty sure your 10x great-grandparents are applying their palms to their foreheads, in their caskets, at you utilizing such completely off-topic reasons for why you are right about what you are doing now. Arguments are not decided by how long you can trace back your lineage, how old your country is, or whatever illustrious event from times of old you decide to pull out. If there ever was a blueprint for a Red herring-fallacy, this would be it.
“You don’t know physics!” – I’ve given some snappy replies on youtube before, and a staple accusation that one can expect to get in return at some point, is someone telling you how little you know about X schoolsubject (in this case physics regarding the video of the Nangpa La shootings). Yes I know, it probably belongs in the first category as well, however this is one of those “set-and-forget”-accusations which is widely used on youtube which, given youtubes limited character-count allowed in the replies, is hard to reply properly to. “You don’t know anything about physics”, well gee, let me convince you that I know physics in 500 characters. Again, completely irrelevant argument, the point is not whether or not I know physics, the point is whether the physics I apply to the subject is correct or not. It’s a simple “poisoning the well”-tactic, don’t let it fly.
“America invaded Iraq!” – When discussing topics where the CCP has been caught red-handed killing/torturing minorities in their own country, one can be sure this argument is presented sooner or later when dealing with CCP-supporters. There is apparently no limit to the atrocities one can get away with as long as you keep yourself on or below par with countries you hate. It is basically justifying your own actions by pointing to someone else and say “hey, he does it too, so I’m allowed to do the same”, “hey, Peter killed his grandmother, so I can do the same!”, clearly one can see why this reasoning is flawed. In classical logic, this is known as the “Tu quoque”-fallacy, or in the more colloquial tongue “Two wrongs make a right”. Unfortunately arguments like these have a tendency to inflame the receiver, given he (in this instance) is american. The proper course of action is of course to unveil the trap, lest you will be caught in a lengthy discussion about justifying events which has no connection to the topic.
This fallacy has a peculiar little-brother-variation where the CCP-supporter not only commits said fallacy, but starts to hold his opponent accountable for the whole history of his country (or in some cases the whole world minus China). Not only is this wrong because of above-mentioned fallacy, it is also wrong in the sense that one can’t hold other people accountable for actions happening in other places, and certainly not for things that happened in different time-periods where the ethical zeitgeist was radically different from now.
“Free the aboriginals!” – No, this is not the Chewbacca-defense. This is an argument usually applied to the whole “Free Tibet”-issue. Basically the CCP-supporter will demand that aboriginals, indians, zulus, hopis and aztecs should be given back their homeland if China is going to give Tibet back to its native people. Again the timeframe of things is important here, there is, so to speak, a timelimit on how long one can cease ownership of ones country before demanding it back. I’m not the one to discuss this timelimit or the length of it, but it does seem more agreeable that the tibetans get their country back compared to aboriginals getting Australia back, doesn’t it? It’s a kind of over-generalization spiced up with the formerly mentioned tu-quoque. Yes invading America, Australia etc. was probably wrong seen with todays ethical glasses; back then, though, it was accepted. That does not mean one can do the same today however. If people could agree on an “expiration date” then that could be an interesting debate all by itself, as not only Tibet would be in question, but also the whole deathmatch-arena which is the West Bank today.
“My chinese newspaper doesn’t say anything about it, ergo it didn’t happen!” – This is the real danger in arguing with CCP-supporter. Sooner or later they are going to demand evidence of your “preposterous” accusations, but apparently not just any evidence will do. No, they will demand chinese sources that supports your argument, which is kind of like asking a bear to wipe your ass after a trip to the little boys room. The reason for this has to do with the reigning political party in China, the CCP. They have a snazzy little law in place that endows them with the power to suppress any information they might deem “sensitive” and at risk of unsettling “social stability”. This “sensitive” information is just a whitewashing of censoring stuff that might turn chinese against their own government; in other words: issues like Tibet, persecution of religious groups, human-rights-violations etc. gets silenced because such grotesqueries could make even the most proud chinese citizen squirm with disgust. The result is of course that all outside information critisizing China will be dismissed as anti-China, political activism, propaganda, etc. even by normal chinese citizens. The Tiananmen Square Massacre, for instance, didn’t happen in the minds of most chinese because of this suppression of information. The success of this argument can be contributed to the rigorous conditioning mechanics set up inside China mentioned above. The nr. 1 news-source in China is the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency receiving beforementioned censorship-treatment, the internet is DNS-filtered, certain keywords are filtered, and surfing is monitored to keep people from getting “too curious”. My personal favorite, which really shows the absurd machinery at work, was the designated protest-areas during the Olympics. They were promoted as so-called “Free speech areas” where people could voice their protest, however in order to protest there you had to get the governments permission, which kind of makes the whole idea silly.
It’s a rather strange feeling for a westerner to be confronted with an argument as this. It just seems unreal and outlandish to be accused of being a government-sockpuppet well-knowing that governments in the western world are at the mercy of its people; it takes less than one wrong word on television, one affair with an intern or one unfortunate childhood-association to force politicians to throw in the towel in the western world, simply because the publics opinion matters here. To even think that just two newspapers would conspire to publish false news seems strange indeed, given that they would be doomed if/when it is discovered and loose all credibility towards their readers, and thus their income.
The way to dismantle this argument is to appeal to the persons common-sense (remember, it isn’t just CCP-supporter who think this, normal chinese do too): which is more likely? That hundreds (or even thousands) of news-sources all-around the world is partaking in some kind of global conspiracy to make China look bad (for no apparent reason, of course), at the risk of getting blown out of the water by a competing newspaper and incur the publics wrath? Or that their own government-controlled news-source is lying to the population in order to boost national pride while demonizing the outside world, which in turn translates into more support for the government who instigated the censorship it in the first place? If one trusts ones government so much, why disallow foreign journalists entry to places of newsworthy interest in the first place? Or in other words: if you say the paint is dry, then why am I not allowed to sit there?
It is by far the most annoying argument, because it is hard to point fingers at something when the one you are arguing with denies its existence zealously, and dismisses any evidence a non-chinese might have a chance at finding (and even prohibits people from taking a look themselves). One has to ask oneself whether or not these people actually wants to play internationally or not, since it’s kind of hard for kids in a sandbox to play with each other if they do not recognize each others existence.
What I’d really like to know is “Why?”. Why do chinese believe we’re all out to get them somehow, make them look bad, instill civil war, rape their women and steal their candy? How could a guy like me possibly benefit from this? I really don’t know. I know though, that a lot of my stuff is made in China, and having China go belly-up would not really help me get cheap stuff. I also love computers, and if China stopped making components then that department would suffer too, I don’t want that. So why?
My own reason for debating is pretty noble (none of the people who I debate with thinks so, though): I don’t like suffering, not in myself or in other people, nobody do, those who do are either monsters or have exotic sexual preferences. I want people to have as much personal freedom as possible without it infringing on other peoples same freedom, anybody do, except people who want to be led by the nose and, again, people of exotic sexual preferences. It is not politically motivated but rather ethically (in the philosophical sense) motivated instead.
And so we are at the end of my little rundown of fallacies most often committed by CCP-supporters. For your viewing pleasure I’ve found a little youtube-video that gives a quick overview of logical fallacies (in the video applied to religious beliefs). Learn them, use them, logic is never wrong. I warn you though, exposing yourself to logical reason in excess might come with the following side-effects: increased intelligence, shattering of ones worldview, making people annoyed at you always being right, being less likely to fail even when you want to. Until next time, fellow humans 😉