Letter to the NYT

Even before I considered writing to the NYT, I knew it was a pointless exercise. In the unlikely event anyone [with actual power] ever reads it, there’s nothing I can say to change the hardcore neoliberal bias of The Times editorial board. This is a paper that ran Tom Cotton’s calls to give BLM protestors “no quarter.”

Nonetheless, writing it felt good, and maybe someone will mark it as something other than an Angry Internet Millenial Socialist letter.

Who knows? If enough people write to the NYT with a shared viewpoint or critique, does the NYT do anything?

To The Editors,

Lian Yizheng’s article «Trump is Wrong About TikTok: Beijing’s Plan Is Far More Sinister» is not exactly the journalism of cooler heads, although it does fit nicely into a Kissingerian framework of “domestic sentiment management.”

I realize that there is a strong desire to “represent both sides” in all things, which while noble in theory has all of the pitfalls of the “view from nowhere.”

As a white American who has spent a considerable time studying China, including several years going to school there and two degrees in Chinese Linguistics and East Asian Studies, I am disappointed by the Times’ continued publication of Yellow-Peril journalism. Fanning the flames of anti-China sentiment is a hugely dangerous route for a country as racially charged as the US. Xenophobic sentiment (on the part of far-right white nationals) is dangerous for Chinese-Americans, Chinese nationals in the country, and anyone who wishes actual human dialogue to prevail over thinly-veiled bigotry. The intent of the article may not be to inspire ethnonationalist sentiment in the US, but the effect is likely to do just that.

If all that people of the world’s two “Great Powers” know is that the other one’s government murders and wrongly imprisons its citizens, is corrupt and evil and a great threat to world peace…then we have failed as citizens, as scholars, and as human beings. A country is not merely it’s government–much less an image of it’s government spun by domestic interests. We lose out when we simplify another people–when we restrict individuals to nothing more than their membership in some arbitrarily defined temporal or geographic mass. The missing element in who wins, of course, is power. Someone wins if the US turns inward and rejects the world. But a great many more people will lose–materially–if that should happen.

To actually address the author’s central argument, is soft power competition really something to worry about? Would the author rather “hard power” become the standard metric, as it was between the US and the USSR for nearly five decades? A nuclear arms race seems far more sinister than some debate about the slightly-more-efficient model of state capitalism that the US and China both employ. We should be grateful that Beijing is not as interventionist in support of its “governance model” as the US has been (to include not only assassinations and full-scale invasions but opposition to the Bandung Conference Referendum, the NAM, and democratically elected governments).

Alas, deep understanding is hard to come by. It is too much to ask that the average reader pursue Truth (in whatever form their epistemology allows) in good faith, and engage in regular self-reflection. Barring that, it is entirely reasonable to expect that the world’s premier newspaper refrain from fanning the flames of xenophobia, especially in such combustible times as these.


With hard work, success is possible.