Peter Hitchens' Ridiculous British Article Over Africa

September 28, 2008

Here is a ridiculous, hypocritical, and pompous article by a British writer accusing China of evil and exploitation over natural resources (pot, meet kettle).  A few words before posting the link. Yes, I agree China has significant issues to fix right now, many of which are not too dissimilar from the social problems America faced when it was undergoing industrialization itself.  The article sounds reminiscent of anti-American derision by certain arrogant Brits, 100 years ago, when Britain was declining as a superpower.

What is irritating is an added component of borderline xenophobia that permeates this article and other recent Western media, whether it be over Chinese toys, Olympics, Tibet, or Darfur, etc, which was recently hinted about in a Jeff Yang column published in the Washington Post.  I believe articles like Hitchens' are as propagandist as any recently biased Western media that have tried to demonize Jews, Arabs, or Persians to the rest of the Anglo world.  It has become very easy to write Western articles about Asians or China as a less human 'other', with the attitude that certain evils or guilts are true before investigation.

Biased media can be damaging when uninformed, easily-influenced Americans mentally associate anti-China propaganda with negative attitudes toward Asians and/or Asian Americans.  Current comments below American news sites reveal the blanket stereotypes, racism, and/or bigotry that can manifest itself within everyday Americans who read biased news. If you remain skeptical about the damage, look up the 'Committee of 100's disturbing study on American people's negative views toward Asian Americans, or for a related example read explanations from scholars about why certain criticisms about Israel within America can be anti-semitic and/or alarming for Jewish Americans.

I did not want to link the article until after the above introduction. The piece, published today, and written by Peter Hitchens in a UK paper, is titled 'How China Has Created a New Slave Empire in Africa'. I have included excerpts and my thoughts in an extended post entry below.

In Hitchens' article, note the use of the word 'sinister', as well as his colonial and 'White Knight' tone toward the Africans:

The diggers feared - and their evil, sinister [Chinese] bosses had worked hard on that fear - that if people like me publicised their filthy way of life, then the mine might be closed and the $3 a day might be taken away. I can give you no better explanation in miniature of the wicked thing that I believe is now happening in Africa.

The pictures embedded are calculated to incite hate and possibly reference historically offensive memes about 'orientals'.  Below is another excerpt that paints China as exploitative, however Hitchens fails to note that the Chinese loans are interest-free, as opposed to the exploitative high-interest loans Western institutions have used to enslave Africans for decades:

It is my view - and not just because I was so nearly killed - that China's cynical new version of imperialism in Africa is a wicked enterprise. China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple, squalid advantages of shameless exploitation. For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, promises of new roads, railways, hospitals and schools - in return for giving Peking a free and tax-free run at Africa's rich resources of oil, minerals and metals.

I find the following laughable in that he is trying to portray Britain as some sort of moral beacon and that British oppression was actually a *good* thing compared to others:

Britain's own adventures in Africa were not specially benevolent, although many decent men did what they could to enforce fairness and justice amid the bigotry and exploitation. It is noticeable that in much former British territory we have left behind plenty of good things and habits that are absent in the lands once ruled by rival empires. 

Hitchens' article is representative of Anglo (and American) whining over the fact that African and Middle Eastern nations are increasingly choosing to trade their natural resources with China rather than with the Anglo West.  There are several reasons why this article peeves me.  Those who follow economic history know that the Western IMF and World Bank have kept nations around the world, especially those on the African and South American continents, in perpetual economic servitude by providing high-interest loans deliberately designed to be impossible for these poor countries to ever pay back.  Peter Hitchens needs to be reminded that 500 years of colonialism, slavery, apartheid, and discrimination by Western civilization, including the British, have not uplifted the continent of Africa. Over the past 15 years China has given African nations interest-free loans, built up their roads and civilian infrastructure, and created a system of trade with the Africans, rather than the Western model of exploitation.  It must kill Hitchens and those like him that African nations are finally lifting themselves out of poverty and economic servitude, without the help of 'White Knight' institutions who have failed to do so for centuries.  It is interesting that in Hitchens' biased article he fails to mention any instances of the rampant violence upon destitute Chinese migrant workers in Africa. I suppose it would negate his intent to demonize the Chinese.  Additionally, Hitchens fails to note that China's need for natural resources is a result of the huge appetite and demand by Western nations for Chinese products.

In whole, Peter Hitchens wrote an article that is full of the kind of historical arrogance, supremacist views, and hypocrisy that most sane British have come to be embarrassed about concerning British history. Over the past few years I have come to suspect that anti-China media is rooted in part by xenophobia, racism, geopolitical propaganda, or extreme insecurity.  To help explain further, here are four examples below illustrating the type of anti-China spin the Western media has used in other recent stories.  I strongly urge readers to investigate these stories independently for themselves:

  - The furor over the girl lip singer during the Beijing Olympics made front page news in every Western paper.  However, the entire Australian orchestra recently admitted to faking their entire performance, years earlier at the Sydney Olympics ceremony.  They fake played while a tape recording was used, and yet most people have never even heard about this story.

  - In Darfur, over 90% of the weapons used by that government are from Russia, not China, though Western media brainwashes people to believe otherwise.  While the US media speaks for peace in Darfur, the US government continues to fund the rebels, intentionally perpetuating further bloodshed.  Geo-political anti-China propaganda over Darfur is less about freedom or human rights than it is over its ginormous oil fields.  If Western civilizations truly cared about democracy or human rights, much more attention would be given to the plight of people in Myanmar and the monks there, but we barely hear anything about that since there isn't any gain in it for us.  Public slogans to spread freedom sound even more shallow when one realizes the US has toppled democratically elected leaders in South America and in Iran.

  - The backlash over Chinese toys was interesting, in that toys were blamed on China, yet the design flaws came from America.  Mattel's President spoke to American media and blamed everything on China, and yet right after flew to China to apologize to angry Chinese officials for American design flaws and also for lying to the American press.  This story was barely covered at all in a fair way.

  - The claims of Tibetan oppression have been completely spun without regard to the facts.  How many here even know that the recent Tibetan riot began through massive murders and attacks on Han Chinese?  CNN and others were recently caught photo shopping their photos to spin the story and make it sound like Tibetans were attacked.  From reading non-Western sources, I was surprised to learn that 50 years ago the Tibetan people were literally kept as sub-human illiterate slaves by the monks, and these people would be arbitrarily stoned or tortured or have their bodies mutilated at the whim of these Tibetan monks. An analogy is think of the immense power the Catholic Church had over the masses hundreds of years ago.  It is also especially interesting to read American articles about Tibet, when you consider how the United States got California and Texas from the Mexicans, or earlier how the entire country was taken by annihilating the Native Americans over 100 years.  It's all about whose perspective you use, I guess.

These are just some examples of the hypocrisy and double standards that pervade what is supposed to be objective and unbiased Western media. In terms of potential damage from anti-China propagandist spin, think of the way Indian and Arab Americans were profiled or targeted in America/Europe in recent years. Think of how alarmed you would be as a Jewish American if you were constantly bombarded by anti-Israeli news in mainstream American media.  The propaganda is almost scarily like the book '1984' in which the elite keep demonizing a new enemy to manipulate the masses.  Consider how powerful media conditioning has been on American 'sheeple' who still think WMD's exist in Iraq, still call French Fries 'Freedom Fries', and think all Muslims are brutal backwards savages who want to kill all non-Muslims and take over the world.  The same people who believe the spin over the Middle East, are just as easily manipulated when it comes to anti-Asian beliefs.  Peter Hitchens' recent article is one of many that have been published which incite hate.  The comments posted on mainstream news sites or on Youtube, about generalizations related to Asians, Chinese, and Asian Americans, reveal the damage biased media is already having on people's views toward Asians and Asian Americans.


[Edit: I just did some research on Peter Hitchens after posting, and apparently he is politically on the far extreme right in Britain, and has been accused by others as well of being a racist and xenophobe.  He rants about immigrants and lack of assimilation in Britain, and also wrote an article and made a movie criticizing Nelson Mandela.  It sounds like the guy is royally pissed that the Britain empire no longer controls Africa, like the glory days in his mind.]


Alvin Lin


Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.



Alvin, while you make some good points, your pot/kettle argument is getting tired really quickly. What you seem to imply is that because of the past and present injustices and oppressions committed by Western powers, no Westerner has the moral authority to question China.I don't have the knowledge to refute or verify Hitchens' article, but just because the West may have done worse, that does not mean that China's activities are necessarily right or just. Just because the US and UK have committed great wrongdoings, they should stand aside and let China do the same?Likewise, your dismissal of the suffering and oppression of the Tibetans seems callous. The USA has committed many wrongs in its annhilation of the Native Americans, but it is right not to turn a blind eye to current cultural genocide committed by China. US and British oppression of native Americans and Africans respectively is largely a past issue - China's repression of Tibet and of Han dissidents is very much ongoing.I'm an Asian-Australian and love Asia and its people - but cannot minimise the evils committed by so many corrupt Asian governments.
In a way, the arguments listed here sound a lot like the defenses by others when it comes to AIPAC or Israel.Just sayin'
The article compares raw young capitalist China type mining in Africa to Western type mining in Africa. What to chose is up to the voted in politicians in African nations, as far as there are any respectable elections. So it depends on the level of informed democracy in African nations. First crude mining companies in Zambia got striked out of business either to provide better (contracted) working standards or leave the country. DRC is not so advanced, despite 70% of DRC budget come as EU aid instead from national mining taxes.
Can we wait a moment and allow Peter's epiphany to mature?
America has been exploiting Africa for years, so they get mad when someone does it? Look at the chaos in the Niger Delta. shell, Exxonmobile in cohorts with the crooked Nigerian government
Alvin, I'm not going to take issue with your main arguments but there is one piece of B.S. which needs refuting:"[Edit: I just did some research on Peter Hitchens after posting, and apparently he is politically on the far extreme right in Britain, and has been accused by others as well of being a racist and xenophobe. He rants about immigrants and lack of assimilation in Britain, and also wrote an article and made a movie criticizing Nelson Mandela."Well evidently you didn't do any research on Peter Hitchens because all you have come up with is accusations from other apparently nameless people. Udoubtedly others have accused him of 'racism' and 'xenophobia' but why don't you try and produce a quote from his which explicitly expresses hatred of other people because of their skin colour. I assure you, you will not find such a quote. for the simple fact that he is not a racist: you use the word 'rant'. What exactly does this mean? - or is it just a point of view with which you don't agree? And do you actually deny that there is a lack of immigrant assimilation in Britain? this is certainly an odd claim; perhaps you would like to elaborate a little because I'm beginning to suspect you have no understanding of life in Britain. And yes Alvin, he made a documentary criticising Saint Nelson Mandela. If you had actually watched the programme you would realise that it is critical of Madela's unsuccessful tenure in office and not of his struggle against apartheid which Hitchens has praised: future you should take the time to read what somebody writes instead of going by what other people say he writes.
Hitchens' ridiculous article speaks for itself. It is loaded with words intended to demonize and de-humanize a group of people, as has been done throughout history whenever people want to create a new enemy/other with which to justify violence against. His piece is another example of the hate speech he has incited in other articles, if you have bothered to read his works.You said: [In future you should take the time to read what somebody writes instead of going by what other people say he writes. ]I have read some of Hitchens' other articles, and many of them sound very similar in tone to extreme right thinkers in the United States in the paranoia, propaganda, or condescension when it comes to Muslims, Chinese, immigrants, or any other group that threatens the power of White males. Have you read any of his articles? It is easy for readers to quickly find for themselves the many accusations from others that this guy is a closet racist or xenophobe. Hitchens is the British equivalent to the extremists we have here in the United States who are alarmed their country will no longer be majority White in a few decades, and who manipulate the masses to believe non-Western nations are hell bent on destroying them.It is interesting you make such a fuss over my characterization of Hitchens, when his own article is much more ridiculous and deliberately propagandist.
I noticed that you didn't post my comment. Why?Please let me know at: mike.elgan [at]
"So telling some little girl she's too ugly in order to have a perfect Olympics is bad enough, butkilling children is horrible."Like Mr. Hitchens, your "moral concern" is a classic example of Anglo hypocrisy. You should be more concerned about the people of Iraq who have had 100,000s of their children deliberately murdered by America, Britain, and other self-styled democracies during the 1990s as a result of the Anglo-pushed economic sanctions and of course since the 2003 Anglo-American war of aggression itself.As Madeline Albright openly admitted on TV years ago, the de facto murder of these Iraqi children byAmerica was a price that was "worth it.""I'm always confused about how people who claim to be pro-Chinese always defend the government's actions when they harm Chinese people.Can you explain that?"It's because American and Western "concern" for the Chinese people is correctly seen as cynical, self-righteous crocodile tears--much like America's oh so benevolent concern for those Arabs and Muslims whom the USA has genocided ... sorry liberated in its bogus War on Terrorism.There is a difference between criticism in *good faith* and cynical criticism in *bad faith* designed to further geopolitical agendas unrelated to the PRETEXT of the moment (whether that be lipsynching or faulty goods).These Anglo-American nations specialize in the latter, seizing up propaganda pretexts to vilify other nations like China who represent a challenge to their precious Anglo-American World Order. It's about maintaining Anglo-American global domination--not their pretext concerns of the moment like WMD proliferation, terrorism, faulty products, Africa, or promoting human rights.All the while, these pious Americans ignore the very large 2X4 stuck in their own eye.But that is the delusional nature of Anglo-American moral supremacy in general.These Anglo-Americans self-righteously pose as the moral guardians of the world--even as they have the blood of millions of people dripping from their lips.American Genocide In The Middle East: Three Million and Counting Documents Show U.S. Intentionally Used Sanctions to Destroy Iraq's Water Supply Attacking Sudan! Many Sudan Links.
Mike Elgan your comment misses the point. It is a little like the hypocritical, double-standard attitude Hitchens has in order to allow him to maintain a superiority complex mentality when it comes to China.As acknowledged, China has many significant social problems, some of which are not too dissimilar from what the United States experienced itself as it underwent industrialization in three times more time and with seven times less people. However, you seem to be overlooking America's own turbulent industrialization, which included:- Assassination of a few American Presidents- Discrimination, racism, and prejudice against Blacks (who were American citizens)- Suppression and second-class status of women- Horrible working conditions for women and children in factories- Environmental and air pollution problems- Lawlessness of The Wild West- Continued annihilation of Native Americans- Taking California and Texas from Mexico through violence- Extremely biased media and corrupt politicians who could be bought/bribed- Exploitation and laws against Chinese workers, who made up over 80% of the workforce that built the transcontinental railroad. Back then a man could be hanged for killing another man's horse, but killing a 'Chinaman' was at most a small fine.Your comment misses the point. I acknowledge China's many problems, but the point is about the selective and deliberate demonization of China in the Western press, when there are many past and current hypocrisies associated with Western accusations. Current accusations over things like environment, human rights, and democracy, while perhaps true, sound hollow when you look at Western pollution levels, overlooking human rights abuses of dictators who are the 'great friends' of Western civilization, and the toppling of democratically elected leaders who opposed Western policies. The problems in China may be true, but when one looks at the biased anti-China attitude that permeates Western media, one must also ask if there is an added component of xenophobia, racism, or supremecism behind these articles.
As an African, I do not dance and wave in happiness because the Chinese are there. I don´t know much about Hitchens, I don´t want to know, and I`m not interested in him and do agree that there´s an anti-China hysteria but neither do I say there isn´t an element of truth. (I´m not talking about Hitchens) The Chinese are doing it for themselves and not for the Africans. Africans were sucked dry by Westerners, and hopefully the Chinese won´t do the same but I´m not holding my breath. And the Darfur situation, ugh.
What is even more ironic is that the native Americans did in fact come from places like Tibet and us the British and Americans, Spanish and French wiped a lot of them out.