Narrative on Xinjiang a too-familiar playbook

In recent months, some in the West have launched a new round of smear campaign against Xinjiang-"concentration camp", "forced labor", "compulsory sterilization" and "genocide". And certain countries believe they have the "moral obligation" to do something about it.

It all sounds too familiar. Think about Iraq and Syria. In 2003, a senior US official wielded the infamous "test tube with washing powder" as evidence of weapons of mass destruction being developed in Iraq. They never found any before or after the war but invaded Iraq anyway.

Fast-forward to 2018. Syrian government forces were alleged to have used chemical weapons against its people. The ensuing air strikes killed many innocent lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. But again, the evidence of "chemical weapons" turned out nothing more than a staged video directed by the White Helmets, a group funded by US and British intelligence agencies.

Behind all these is a clear strategy of "defame, destabilize and destroy" employed to advance the geopolitical interests of some Western countries. For instance, it is no secret that the US government has long been sponsoring institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy to smear any country or entity perceived as a threat, and pave the way for ensuing sanctions and further actions, and eventually-regime change.

Their attack on Xinjiang also fits this pattern. China is now the second-largest economy in the world. It is working with its Belt and Road partners around the world for shared benefits. Add the fact that the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is a gateway to the Belt and Road Initiative, how can certain Western countries not take a special interest in Xinjiang?

The Western narrative on Xinjiang has been waged by spin doctors such as Adrian Zenz and specialized institutions like the NED. Narrative manipulation of this scale made disinformation on Xinjiang spread and achieve visibility rapidly. Fact-spinning tools-data abuse, cherry-picking of source materials, propagandistic misrepresentations-are on in full steam. And if that's still not enough, here comes the rumor mill.

Take a closer look at the Western narrative on Xinjiang. The disinformation under the sensational headlines defies basic logic. Adrian Zenz, a far-right ideologue and so-called "China scholar", has never been to Xinjiang himself. But he has peddled stories such as Uygur women being forced to go through four to eight intrauterine device placement surgeries on a daily basis. It doesn't even need a careful review to tell how absurd the assertions are. Yet the very theories of Zenz have been widely quoted by Western politicians and media alike.

On Xinjiang, just ask this: When the Uygur population actually grows faster than the Han population, and when the average life expectancy of the Uygurs has increased from 30 to 72 years in the past six decades, how can anyone with the right mind call this genocide?

Xinjiang has come a long way in its development. Most importantly, for a region that once saw frequent terrorist attacks, there has not been one single attack in the past four years. Thanks to a host of pro-job and poverty alleviation programs, the number of employed people in Xinjiang has grown by nearly 2 million, or 17.2 percent, from 2014 to 2019. With all the remaining 3 million poor people graduating from poverty, Xinjiang is ready to embrace an even better future.

Certain forces in the West will never stop manipulating the narrative on Xinjiang. So what can be done to counter this false narrative? Exactly what China is doing is: building a community with a shared future for mankind, championing peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, and advancing cooperation and shared interests for all. Unlike the "universal values" touted by some Western countries, these are the values shared by all humanity and represent the interests of all peoples.

The Western narrative pales before reality and will not distract the Chinese people from the important task of development. Standing on the right side of history, China can and will avoid the "narrative trap".

The author is a Beijing-based observer of international affairs. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.