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International Terrorism and Radical “Political Correctness”: Concept Criticism and Concept Reconstruction
March 02,2021   By:CSHRS
International Terrorism and Radical “Political Correctness”: Concept Criticism and Concept Reconstruction
 
QIAN Jinyu*
 
Abstract: As the result of the Western political polarization, traditional Cold War mentality and dominant powers’ anxiety in the context of reconstruction of global politics and economy, extreme political correctness is not only the enemy of the freedom of speech, but also the breeding ground of international terrorism. The final destination of international anti-terrorism and global human rights governance is the pursuit of a happy life for all human beings and construction of a community with a shared future for human beings, rather than the extreme political correctness. Only we persist in the idea of pursuing a happy life for all human beings and a community with a shared future for human beings, by means of cooperation in the global governance and “civilization dialogue, can the path to the future be possible.”
 
Keywords: human rights    political correctness    counter terrorism    global governance
 
On June 17, 2020, in disregard of China’s solemn representations, the US administration signed the so-called Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020. The signing and entry into force of the “Act” is not only a grave violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, but also a gross interference in China's internal affairs. As the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress pointed out in a statement on June 18, the government policies in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are to counter violence and terrorism and aimed at deradicalization. As a victim of terrorism too, the United States should support China's anti-terrorism measures. However, in the name of so-called human rights, the United States has maliciously attacked China’s anti-terrorism and deradicalization efforts in an attempt to undermine the good situation of stability and development in Xinjiang. This is a typical double standard in the fight against terrorism.
 
In fact, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries constantly uphold a double standard on human rights issues (especially on the issue of counter-terrorism) because of their “political correctness” centered on the superiority of Western civilization. Once  national strategic competition and their regional interest games are taken into account, the traditional Western concept of political correctness can be seen as heretical and polarized, forming a kind of extreme concept of political correctness.
 
As a result of this extreme concept of political correctness in global governance, it is impossible to deal with and solve international terrorism, which is the “political plague of the 21st century.” nor can people effectively promote global human rights governance. Therefore, what kind of concept should people embrace to build a better homeland for all mankind while dealing with the impacts and risks of crises such as international terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic? This remains a topic that needs to be taken seriously by all of humanity as we enter the third decade of the 21st century.
 
I. The Political Polarization and Ideological Shaping of Countries such as the United States and United Kingdom
 
Polarization in Western politics has a long history. In a sense, political polarization is the inevitable outcome of Western two-party politics and multi-party politics. In the context of Western political theory, political polarization includes both partisan polarization and ideological polarization. As far as its characteristics are concerned, “the polarization phenomenon includes two main aspects: one is the difference between each other, the other is their internal sameness.”  In the United States, for example, there was a brief period when the liberal and conservative camps found common ground centered on cooperation for reasons of national interest during World War II. However, in general, over the past 100 years since the 1920s, the divergence between the liberalism and conservatism camps has been increasing, and the tendency of heterogeneity between the two camps has become more and more obvious. Especially in the 21st century, the global political structure and order have been constantly deconstructed and reconstructed. As an attendant phenomenon, the Western world has also been showing a new round of  “political polarization.” Under the combined effects of the extreme deterioration of race relations, the continuing economic downturn, the rising unemployment rate, the stagnation of medical reform, and the failure of its pandemic prevention and control efforts, the political polarization in the United States is extremely fierce, which can even be expressed as “super polarization.” “In the face of political polarization and the deep-seated problems behind it, US President Donald Trump has made getting tough with China a priority in order to consolidate his authority. And politicians of both parties have done the same in order to solve domestic economic problems. To consolidate people’s hearts and strengthen national identity, some academic elites in the US have called for a new Cold War with China.”  It is this new Cold War mentality that has become an important reason why the United States keeps concocting provocations on issues relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The signing of the “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020” is a strategic tool to ease the fierce competition between the Republicans and Democrats, by seeking a partial compromise and cooperation between the conservative and liberal camps, and dissolving the super political polarization in the United States.
 
The “new Cold War” thinking of the United States needs an ideological lead. And the ideology generated by such political polarization is the political ideology centered on “extreme political correctness.”
 
According to the Western theoretical circle, as an ideology, the original intention of “political correctness” is to eliminate discrimination and pursue equality. Thus, the concept of “political correctness” requires the prohibition of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disorder, religion or different political views, otherwise it may be “politically incorrect.” But in fact, since the 21st century, when the Cold War mentality has not been completely eliminated and the theory of the superiority of Western civilization has been constantly questioned, the traditional geopolitical structure has gradually disintegrated. There has also been worries of the traditionally dominant powers about the reconfiguration of the global political and economic landscape. As a result, the United Kingdom, the United States and some other countries, based on the consideration of interests, constantly shape an extreme concept of political correctness centered on conservative ideology. In practice, this system of political ideas often results in heretical expression and extreme demands, or demonstrates “extreme” characteristics. The extreme political correctness takes social system and even a specific country as the standard. The typical expression is the phenomena that “every time we meet with Russia, we will react against it” and “every time we meet with China, we will disagree with it.” Such ideas are not new to China. The Chinese are even quite used to it. For example, the rhetoric of “the yellow peril”, “China threat” and “collapse of China” are the products of Western “political correctness.” If anyone dares to say a few good words about China regardless of the anger of the United States and the United Kingdom, he will end up being encircled and criticized relentlessly. In 2016, just because he affirmed the progress of human rights in China and emphasized that human rights in China should be “viewed from the perspective of people’s livelihood” and should be “viewed from the perspective of openness, goodwill and development,” Mr. Michael Chan, a Chinese Canadian and Director of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade of Ontario, Canada, was questioned and “politically besieged” by the mainstream media and politicians in Canada, and was finally forced to reaffirm his loyalty to Canada. In 2019, for example, the Foreign Office of the UK administration held a Global Conference for Media Freedom in London. But two of Russia's most prominent media outlets, RT and Sputnik, were barred from the conference. The Russian embassy in London lodged a protest with the Foreign Office, calling it “outright political discrimination.” RT said in a statement that it took a lot of hypocrisy for the London conference to promote media freedom while simultaneously silencing and stigmatizing the voices and media that are causing them trouble.  In addition, former Assistant Speaker of the Upper House of the Australian Parliament of New South Wales, Shaoquett Moselmane, was forced to resign after writing an article endorsing China’s COVID-19 prevention efforts and praising the leadership of the Chinese government. His home was searched in June 2020 by the Australian Government’s intelligence agency for “investigation of infiltration by foreign government agents.” These are just a few examples. They are typical of the dominant role of “political correctness” in the Western mass media and political processes in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
 
II. Extreme Political Correctness Hinders Global Counter-Terrorism
 
From the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, international terrorism has become the “political plague” of the 21st century, when the United States and the United Kingdom and other countries used the rhetoric of human rights and humanitarianism to implement military intervention and opened the Pandora's box to release international terrorism. These countries themselves are suffering too. However, in the process of global anti-terrorism, the United States and the United Kingdom and some other countries, under the control of extreme political correctness, implement the double standard in anti-terrorism and human rights protection, and selectively implement their political expression and action.
 
In 2016, the terrorist attack on June 28 in Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, which killed nearly 50 people and injured 147, shocked the world. According to a report by CNN on June 30, the three suicide bombers came from the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The mastermind of this terrorist attack is believed to be Chechen veteran terrorist “one-armed Ahmed Chataev.” As a matter of fact, although the Russian government has put Chataev on its wanted list since 2003 on charges of financing terrorism, joining terrorist organizations and training terrorists, Austria has granted him political asylum in the name of political persecution by Russia. While Sweden, Ukraine, Bulgaria and other governments have arrested Chataev several times for concealing guns, explosives and drawings of explosive devices, and Russia has demanded his extradition on terrorism charges, some human-rights organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom, among others, are pressing hard to block his extradition. Amnesty International has said that if extradited, Chataev would face an unfair trial and torture in Russia. That is why the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Ukraine to reject Russia's extradition request. It wasn’t until February 2015, when he joined the Islamic State and became a senior commander, that the US Justice Department placed him on its terrorist list.
 
How could this huge terrorist attack, which could have been avoided through extradition and Russian legal sanctions, have been carried out smoothly and caused such loss of life and suffering? In the age of global counter-terrorism, this is indeed a puzzling question. In fact, in a sense, the terrorist attack on Ataturk International Airport in Turkey is the direct consequence of the extreme “political correctness” and the double standard of human rights created by the United States, United Kingdom and other countries.
 
The author believes that the political and media circles in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are certainly not short of people who know what's going on. But certainly, no one dares to unveil the “emperor's new coat” of political correctness in these countries, or even to express the slightest doubt or deviation from it, because the political costs of doing so are so high, as in the cases of Mr. Chan and Mr. Moselmane. That's why human rights organizations such as the European Court of Human Rights and Amnesty International are doing everything in their power to prevent Russia from extraditing terrorism suspect Ahmed Chataev, regardless of whether he would plan and instigate other terrorist attacks. The result, however, has been a sharp rise in political polarization and new populism in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. As some Chinese scholars point out, one of the root causes of political polarization and “new populism” in the Western world is the gap between political correctness and the traditional political system.” Political correctness has been unreservedly elevated by the political elites to the point that it is impossible to solve within the system. This has led some elites to choose to push issues that they dare not speak out on and do not want to take responsibility for onto the voters, which is a practical rallying call for populism.” 
 
Anyone with a little common sense can see that the highly ideological extreme “political correctness” of the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries is not only a direct enemy of freedom of speech, but also a potential ally of international terrorism. In the “triangular interactive communication” between terrorism, the media and the government, terrorism tries to achieve these objectives through the media: “media coverage gives them public and upper-class attention, provides them with a platform to promote the vision and grievances of terrorism, and earns them respect and even legitimacy in some circles.”  However, the United States, the United Kingdom and some other countries persistently pursue the extreme idea of “political correctness” in the field of news media and human rights, and objectively suppress any speech contrary to their “political correctness.” The result is to dominate and restrict the freedom of thought of the people in these countries, so that the people are immersed in the dream of Western centralism with “historical glory” and “current superiority” as the core. If, since the Enlightenment, the West has set a milestone in the development of historical civilization by breaking the shackles of religion and pursuing the freedom of thought and speech, then the “political correctness” in today’s highly ideologically heretical countries is corroding and will ultimately disintegrate this monument. What is more serious is that the alliance of terrorism and media accelerates the spread of international terrorism. The concept of human rights shaped by the highly ideological “political correctness” in the United States and the United Kingdom is blatant human rights bias. They turn a blind eye to the constant development and progress China and Russia have made in the cause of rule of law and human rights, to the fact that China and Russia are deeply affected by international terrorism, and to the enormous role that China and Russia are playing in the international fight against terrorism. The negative comments of the mainstream media in the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the “July 5” incident in Urumqi in 2009 and the violent terrorist attack in Kunming Railway Station in 2014 demonstrates such extreme political correctness. The prejudice in human rights created by such extreme political correctness will certainly become an obstacle to the global joint fight against terrorist crimes and finally provide a hotbed and a hard fortress for international terrorist crimes.
 
It can be said that in the United States, the United Kingdom and some other countries, “political correctness” is not only more important than the objectivity and fairness of news reports, but also more important than the potential harm caused by international terrorist crimes to their citizens. At this point, it is no longer important whether Chataev is the mastermind of the terrorist attack at Ataturk International Airport on June 28. Even if he did not take part in this terrorist attack in Turkey, as long as he is a terrorist and as long as countries like the United States and the United Kingdom continue to adhere to the human rights bias shaped by highly ideological “political correctness,” Chataev and his kind will still plan and carry out other terrorist attacks at a low cost. “We should not only work to strengthen the government’s power to prevent and deal with terrorism, but also restrict it to prevent the abuse of state power in the process of combating terrorism.”  But this dynamic balance between de-radicalization of counter-terrorism and human rights protection is by no means a task that extreme political correctness can achieve.
 
It can be predicted that with the continuous improvement of the international influence of emerging countries and the constant deconstruction and reconstruction of the old international political and economic pattern, the “political correctness” of countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom will continue to become a tool for them to carry out international competition. It will also be strengthened to a certain extent and become an ideological red line that dominates and restricts people's thought and speech, and guides and regulates people’s choice of action.
 
What needs to be noted is whether such “political correctness” supported by elitist politics will be questioned and discarded. In the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump, who dropped the emphasis on traditional US “political correctness” in favor of a high-pitched hegemony centered on “America first,” ultimately beat Hillary Clinton, who was a traditional supporter of “political correctness.” However, a review of a series of policies introduced by the United States since he took office shows that Trump has not really rejected the extreme political correctness of the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, but has further strengthened this concept. It should also be noted that the “we are the 99%” slogan that appeared in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Occupy Washington Movement, shows the degree to which many citizens in the United States and the United Kingdom are suspicious of their political and the extreme “political correctness” they have shaped. However, such doubts will not quickly change the double standard they have adopted on global human rights governance and international anti-terrorism issues. The reason is that, as mentioned above, to make trouble for other countries through human rights issues and anti-terrorism issues is not only to serve the national interests of the United States and the United Kingdom, but also a trick to ease the vicious partisan fights and eliminate political polarization; it is not only out of the inherent ideology of the United States and the United Kingdom, but also their strategy to occupy the moral high ground and enhance their soft power.
 
III. Reconstructing the Concept of Global Counter-Terrorism: Realizing a Happy Life for Mankind and Building a Community with a Shared Future for Human Beings
 
Global terrorism is the common enemy of all mankind and a major problem and difficulty in global governance in the 21st century. The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/60/L.62), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 8, 2006, emphasizes the urgent need to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to eliminate conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. The Strategy identifies the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including, but not limited to, long-unresolved conflicts, inhumane treatment of victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, the lack of the rule of law, violations of human rights, ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization and the lack of good governance. However, according to the practice of global anti-terrorism, although the international community recognizes that terrorism is a common threat to all, the double standards created by extreme political correctness in anti-terrorism and human rights protection in the United States, the United Kingdom and some other countries create the hotbeds for international terrorism. Extreme “political correctness” not only hinders the achievement of global strategic consensus on counter-terrorism and global exchanges and cooperation on counter-terrorism, but also hinders the effectiveness of the international community in curbing and combating international terrorism and promoting global human rights governance. Therefore, for global counter-terrorism, it is important to reconstruct the concept as an idea of universal significance recognized by the international community.
 
In the author’s opinion, the logical starting point for constructing this concept to support global counter-terrorism should be to reinterpret the purpose-oriented value of human rights.
 
There is no doubt that human rights is a great term, and the gradual realization and guarantee of human rights is a great political practice. Political civilization in the 21st century will ultimately be guided by respect for and protection of human rights. What is the purpose-oriented value of human rights as a system of ideas and institutions? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems to provide an answer from the perspective of freedom, peace and justice. In its own words, “whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”  The Declaration further proves its definition from the dimension of “the highest aspiration of the common people,” which is “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed.” However, the problem of the above argument is on the one hand, that as far as the world freedom, justice and peace are concerned, it is only an instrumental value, without the logic of people-centered purpose-oriented value. On the other hand, merely regarding a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want as “the highest aspiration of the common people,” without paying attention to the significance of realizing the all-round development of human beings as a purpose-oriented value, means it lacks an adequate dimension of overall meaning.
 
In fact, in the early days of the emergence of the concept of human rights, when thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau expounded on the social contract and the construction of natural rights from different perspectives, they took people’s own well-being as the logical starting point. “Security, freedom, equality and order are necessary conditions for mankind to achieve its fundamental goal of building a political community — the pursuit of a happy life presupposed by survival.”  In the 21st century, when we rethink the construction of human rights as a system of ideas and institutions, we should return to the basis of happy life or well-being. In other words, contemporary political philosophy and ethics should clarify the purpose-oriented value of human rights from the perspective of human happiness and basic human values, and justify domestic and international politics by proving the indispensability of human rights to human happiness and peace. 
 
In December 2018, Xi Jinping wrote to a symposium marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stressing that “the happiness of the people is the greatest human right.” The white paper “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China”, released in 2019, states that “living a happy life is the primary human right. Since the day of its foundation, the CPC has set its goal to work for the well-being of the people of China, for national rejuvenation and for human progress.” 
 
In this theoretical perspective, the logic of China’s domestic political practice is that the realization of a happy life for the people is the basic principle for the formulation of the Constitution, the establishment of political power and its various political systems. “Putting people first” and “seeking happiness for the people” are the core concepts of the modern Party and state governance in China. Respecting and protecting human rights is a basic principle of China’s Constitution. The well-being of the people is the highest value of democracy and the human rights system, and the realization and maintenance of these values is the fundamental purpose of democratic politics and human rights system. The happiness of the people is also the essence of democracy. At the same time, in terms of international political practice, the fundamental theme and ultimate goal of global counter-terrorism efforts and global human rights governance is to seek a happy life for all mankind. Only by advocating the concept of building a community with a shared future for human beings, rather than pursuing some abstract political correctness, let alone extreme political correctness, can we truly improve the performance of global human rights governance and effectively curb and combat international terrorism under the value orientation of a happy life for all mankind.
 
To achieve a happy life for all mankind, we must build a community with a shared future for human beings. As China’s intellectual contribution to global human rights governance in the 21st century, the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings has injected the value pursuit and ultimate concern of putting people first into global counter-terrorism. In the view of the vision of a community with a shared future for human beings, global counter-terrorism and global human rights governance require a multilateral governance structure featuring multiple co-governance. Based on the recognition of the diversity of political civilizations and development paths, global governance shaped by the concept of a community with a shared future for human beings emphasizes the consultation and dialogue between different ideologies, and opposes and resists the “moral” abduction international politics by extreme political correctness. From the global practice of comprehensively dealing with the risks of modernization and counter-terrorism, hegemonism and unilateralism are no longer able to shoulder the heavy responsibilities, nor is the extreme political correctness characterized by black and white and antagonism. We must return to the essence of global governance and stimulate the consensus of the vision of coexistence among governing bodies. We must uphold the vision of global governance featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and the vision of global cooperation featuring openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win results. Only by building a global network of international cooperation and collaborative governance and counter-terrorism and seeking the greatest common interests of cooperation and development can we share the dividends of governance and development. In short, only when we uphold the idea of pursuing a happy life for all human beings and a community with a shared future for human beings, and actively implement cooperation in global governance and promote dialogue among civilizations, can we blaze new trails for the development of humanity in the 21st century.
 
(Translated by CHEN Feng)

* QIAN Jinyu ( 钱锦宇 ), Professor, Executive President of Human Rights Institute, Northwest University of Political Science and Law. Doctor of Law.
 
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2. Zhang Wenzong, “The Polarization of American Politics and the Extremism of America’s China Policy”, Peace and Development 2 (2020): 40.
 
3. “Britain: We’re Talking about Freedom of Speech, And You Shut up!”, huanqiu.com. https://www.sohu.com/a/325835491_162522?scm=1002.46005d.16b016c016f.PC_ARTICLE_REC_OPT
 
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6. Victor V.Ramraj et al., Global Anti-Terrorism law and Policy, trans. Du Miao (Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press, 2016), 1.
 
7. Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
8. Qian Jinyu, “A Socialist Governance Model with Chinese Characteristics from the Rule of Law to Good Governance”, legal forum 1 (2020).
 
9. Qian Jinyu, “The Road to a Happy Life: The Value Orientation and Path of China’s National Governance”, human Rights 6 (2019):60.
 
10. The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, Seeking happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on human Rights in China (Beijing: People's Publishing House, 2019), 1.

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