When I originally came up with the idea for Dragon, the concept was simple: Sienna versus the government of China. Not the people – who, like people the world over, are subject to the whims of their government. Sienna respects the people of China like she would any human.
No, the villain here is the government of the People's Republic of China, which (insert editorial opinion) really doesn't act in the best interests of the people at all. No government is perfect, and many are actively terrible. That said, the government of the People's Republic is horrifyingly bad in ways that have often been quietly whispered about and seldom reported in the Western corporate press for fear of adverse consequences landing upon them in the form of having their news bureaus in China forcibly closed by the government. Western films are censored in order to make certain they're fit for release in the Chinese market, which is rapidly becoming the largest film market in the world. Now that I've made my feelings about the Chinese government clear (as though that didn’t bleed through in the story already), here's why I included a bibliography: because in all the chatter of modern life, and in the throes of the (mostly) fictive story I just presented you, it would be easy to assume that all the batshit crazy things I attributed to China in this book were entirely fictional for purposes of advancing the story.
They are not. To my knowledge, China is not kidnapping people outside their own country (mostly, though they absolutely have been accused of it in Hong Kong, extrajudicially), many of the other outrageous activities I mention in this book are alleged to actually happen, most especially the organ harvesting of prisoners.
So, to help separate truth from fiction, I offer this bibliography, with sources cited, as a “Worst of” list when it comes to the shit the People's Republic of China gets up to as they build their hegemony (in state propaganda, they regularly deny being hegemonic, which to me feels like a perfect reason to accuse them of it). Unless otherwise mentioned, the web links below were accessible as of the last week of September 2019. Apologies if any are offline when you go to check them now. If not, I'm sure you can search the web for additional horror stories of the PRC's behavior. There is certainly no shortage.
Haaretz: What goes on inside Chinese gulags. An absolutely horrific account from an escapee of the hellscape of rape, torture, human experimentation, and possibly genocide. This is literal concentration camp stuff, the darkest corners of the human experience, and it’s happening right now. (Note: I received this story on the morning the book went to print, otherwise it would have been more prominently featured in the text. Thanks to J.L. Bryan for bringing it to my attention.) The Washington Post expands on this somewhat with additional accounts: Abortions, IUDs and sexual humiliation: Muslim women who fled China for Kazakhstan recount ordeals.
The Guardian: China pressured London police to arrest Tiananmen protester, says watchdog. Not a great look, UK gov.
The Guardian: Organ Transplant studies find that while China gov claims 10,000 organ transplants occur each year, hospital data suggests 60,000 to 100,000.
NY Post: Chinese dissidents are being executed for their organs, former hospital worker says.
The Atlantic, talking in glowing terms about Chinese propaganda being included as a special supplement in the Washington Post. It's Almost Like Being Back in Guomao.
Human Events, also talking about how thoroughly the Washington Post has disguised these “paid supplement” addendums of Chinese state propaganda to their paper: Democracy Dies with Chinese Propaganda.
Vanity Fair: The Disappearance of Fan Bingbing. Fan Bingbing is a Chinese actress who the Chinese government “disappeared” for months after a 2018 tax scandal. Her return was like something out of one of those hostage videos. That whole story is a chilling look into Chinese society, including how Chinese censors can work to completely erase a story in motion and how they will drag dissidents away while on air, disappearing them for months or years.
BBC: Inside China's “Thought Transformation” camps. I mean, seriously, after watching that...what the f#*%?
The Federalist: China tries to take Totalitarian Social Control Tactics Global. I didn't really hit on the Hong Kong protests in this book, because they were ongoing as I was writing this volume, but there's plenty of fodder there. Helen Raleigh at The Federalist has written extensively about China and the protests. Her body of work on the subject can be found here.
The Federalist: China Rolling Out the Most Massive Population Surveillance System in the World. Also not fully explored in this book, but apropos given Chapman’s attempts at a Chinese deal - Google has been playing very nice with the Chinese government, creating tools for them to quash dissent. That’s in the Guardian, here: Google ‘working on censored search engine’ for China. Wouldn’t want to let ideas of free thought or free expression get in the way of making a buck, after all! I’ll point out, too, that on many occasions when western corporations have gone into China on these sort of joint ventures, they’re often subject to their intellectual property being flat-out stolen by their partners, or are simply forced out. I can’t find a good, authoritative source to link to on this matter, so you’ll have to do some searching on your own if you’re interested in knowing more. It’s alluded to in this report from ZDNet on how China’s new Comac C919 airplane is built heavily on stolen technology.
Hand in glove with this cyber stuff, I think I might have mentioned the coming “social credit score” systems briefly in Blood Ties earlier this year, but this is a thing that's both horrifying and already coming to the west via Silicon Valley. Yay for technocracy (sarcasm, people. It's my stock-in-trade). Read all about it in Business Insider here: China has started ranking citizens with creepy ‘social credit’ system.
Another article about the PRC harassing critics, even outside of China.
New York Times: How China uses high-tech surveillance to subdue minorities.
Completely unrelated to China, Chapman makes an offhand reference to the City of Baltimore's entire network being held captive by a ransomware attack by hackers – that was a thing that actually happened (via NPR): Ransomware Cyberattacks Knock Baltimore’s City Services Offline. Don't click on unfamiliar links in your emails, people. Even from grandma, because she probably knows zip about InfoSec.
If you're into environmentalism at all, China is the world's most prolific, horrific polluter, emitting banned CFCs in defiance of an international ban that they signed on to: USA Today - China is shredding the ozone layer with banned emissions, study says
Air pollution in China is so bad that a friend's son, trying to leave Beijing, was stuck on a plane, on the tarmac at the airport for nine hours because they couldn't even see the air traffic control tower due to the air pollution. This is not uncommon, pollution is at incredible levels in China: You Won’t Believe How Bad Pollution in China Has Become.
Some good news in that regard – as a country's standard of living rises, so too does interest in environmentalism. It's kinda tough to care about your air quality when you're foraging to survive or spending 365 days a year growing your food. But there are indications that the government is keen to change this, via Bloomberg: China’s War on Pollution Will Change the World
If I could take a moment to snarkily editorialize (okay, sure, I've been doing that throughout, but another moment, if you please): I think that while a key reason they are interested in the environment now isn't just because they have air and water quality issues in their country. Skimming their propaganda outlets, as I've been doing for a bit now (it makes me a little nauseous, but it's important for research purposes to see what narratives they're keen to spin), it's very clear to me that in cultivating their English-world content, they understand well the western concerns of climate change and they are very focused on trying to appeal to that market by trumpeting any tiny step or statement, however minute, made by China that would reflect positively on them in this regard in the west. To borrow from Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Whatever concerns there are in China about the environment are clearly secondary to their economic ascent, and whatever platitudes they're mouthing in the west about being in sync with western interests they're mostly doing to gin up sympathies while being the largest carbon emitter on the planet. No source to cite here; just my opinion. It's all smoke and mirrors for the most part. They'll talk a great game about being a partner and wanting to change, but they'll keep polluting if it suits their interests. Which it does.
Also, China has funded educational programs called Confucius Institutes across the world, ostensibly to bring the light of Chinese culture, history, and language to the rest of the world. And, frankly, if it was from some country like, say, Micronesia, who doesn't have a record of brutal authoritarian control over its people, I'd welcome the chance to learn culture and language from them. Since it's China, who have a distinctly propagandistic bent to everything they do, the fact that they've opened their Ministry of Truth franchises on a lot of college campuses (500+ of them) across the world...color me worried. Via Politico: How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms.
Another editorial moment: Usually when I write a book, I try to keep some of themes in the background to serve the story. The story is the thing, because I don't write message fiction. I find message fiction dull and annoying. The purpose of this book is not to say, “OMG! Look how evil China's government is!” (Note again that throughout this book and bibliography, I take great care to put the onus for these terrible acts on the government, not the people of China, who, in my estimation, are one of the longest suffering in the world.) The purpose of the book is to tell a Sienna story with a compelling villain. I have used real-life examples of the People's Republic's acts of actual villainy to make the case, because I'm not going to just gloss over them when they're freely available. But shitting on China's government isn't the point of the book.
The fact that western news sources and corporations spend alarming amounts of time actively passing on stories of real, terrible human rights abuses in China is a damned tragedy. Ignoring the plight of the Chinese people because they have corporate interests or sympathies to China's repressive government is disgusting. The American press, in particular, can (and should!) criticize the government of the United States all day long, but can't be bothered to bring up a question at a debate regarding the shocking human rights abuses in China or the incredible, widespread protests for freedom in Hong Kong? They have a population of seven million and two million people turned out at one point to protest. (source: The BBC, Hong Kong Protest: ‘Nearly two million’ join demonstration.) Is that not worthy of a question? Or does someone have a China bureau they're afraid will get closed?
Activision/Blizzard bans a Taiwanese player for six months for saying on a company livestream, “Hong Kong! Revolution of our time!” (They'd originally given him a one year ban, then reversed it.) Via IGN: Hearthstone Player blitzchung Responds to Blizzard Reducing His Ban.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey gets scolded and retracts after posting a tweet in support of Hong Kong (and gets blowback from China), via the BBC: Daryl Morey backtracks after Hong Kong tweet causes Chinese backlash. The retraction was like he'd come out of a cultural revolution struggle session. (Source on that extremely dark chapter of Chinese history, via All that’s interesting: 44 Disturbing Pictures of China’s Cultural Revolution
The NBA kicks fans out of game for holding Hong Kong protest signs, via a local reporter on Twitter. The NBA wouldn’t want to be accused of supporting free people over its own pocketbook, after all.
These are just from the last few weeks, and you could be forgiven for thinking that corporate America was somehow a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing. Hollywood has been on the Chinese teat for years, as exemplified by...well, a ton of things, including:
The scrubbing of Tom Cruise's character's jacket in the new China-funded sequel to Top Gun, via American Military News: Controversy: Did Chinese company censor ‘Top Gun 2’ flags from Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket?
Here's a litany more – scenes cut from Mission: Impossible 3, Skyfall, insertions to Iron Man 3, Looper, and the grandaddy of them all, the remake of Red Dawn having the villains switched from China to North Korea(!) in post-production so as not to offend China, via NPR: How China’s Censors Influence Hollywood.
A few years ago, watching the (quite funny) film Game Night, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, there's a moment when McAdams, during a compatibility game with Bateman (going from memory here, forgive me if the quote's a little off), squeals excitedly, “China is the future!” Bateman's character hastily agrees.
I nearly vomited in my mouth.
For nearly seventy years, the Chinese government has crushed their own people. Now they're exporting their bullshit autocracy abroad. If China is the future, count me out. But if we don't start seeing through their, “China is awesome and flawless and you should love it with every fiber of your being!” propaganda that’s being fed to us, oh, EVERYWHERE, then their real goals and objectives – which are hegemonic dominance of the planet using whatever means they have at their disposal to control public opinion (spoiler alert: there are a lot, as documented here and elsewhere), they will be the future.
China's government is trying desperately hard to let you see only the good things about them. Such a pretty country! Such a powerful people! Very true. But there's been a darker side to China all along, one they don't want to show. If there's any great advancement we've seen in civilization these last few hundred years along the climb to where we are now, it's the willingness to introspect on our failures.
There is no country without flaws. None. We all have shockingly brutal horrors in our past, as nations. The beautiful thing about free speech and inquiry is that we can give voice to these – at the top of our lungs, and examine how they've affected us going forward.
China is not subject to this thinking. Their horrors are fresh and ongoing, and no one is allowed to speak of them within their borders and now – now they would like very much for none of you to speak of them, either.
Well, pardon my French (again and again, seriously, sorry, the subject matter just makes me angry), but fuck that. Now you know. Tell everyone. Watch their lips curl in disgust and surprise, because they've probably never heard these things. China's done a fine job keeping it quiet, both on their own and using complicit partners in the west.
Because while the situation is dire in Hong Kong (and China), it really should be the revolution of our time. A billion and a half people without even a basic say in how their lives are run, subject to being thrown in a camp or prison at any moment, and subject to terrible abuse even when they're not in said camps. I wish I had a practical plan I could lay out, some story that would lead to a happy ending for these people. But I don't; I'm not a policy maker. And I'm drawing to the end of my editorial, so I'll just say this:
Free Tibet. Free Hong Kong.
And someday, maybe, free China.
Robert J. Crane
October 18, 2019
Because it's highly unlikely China's government is going to stop being shitty just because the book's now out, I'll keep adding stuff here as I come across it.
New York Times: 'Absolutely No Mercy': Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detention of Muslims - Obviously, radical Islamic terrorism is a major issue wherever it rears its ugly head. However, I think most civilized people can agree that mass incarceration of people convicted of no crime into what (see above, first link to Haaretz article and the Washington Post article in the same paragraph) can easily be called Concentration Camps or even Rape Camps is NOT a civilized solution. I'm no expert on the Geneva Convention, but I'm pretty sure it bans collective punishment. (added November 16, 2019)
China is forcing birth control on Uighurs. Experts call it genocide - Again with the attempts to wipe out the Uighurs. Meanwhile, we're more or less silent over here in the west.
Hollywood's China Problem Goes Much Deeper than CCP Censorship - The Daily Wire does a great job really detailing how deep the Chinese government's influence and strong-arming of Hollywood goes. They've been excluding Marvel releases for some time, and their own movies are quite filled with anti-American agitprop.