Editor's note: Tom Fowdy graduated with an MSc in Chinese Studies from Oxford University, having previously majored in politics at Durham University. He writes on the international relations of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.
Having first come for Huawei, American politicians are now taking aim at the success of engineering firm, China Railway Rolling Stock Corp (CRRC). CRRC, which manufactures mass transit vehicles for city subways, has been popular for its competitive bids, which saw it win contracts for major city governments throughout the United States in recent years, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
Now, however, as certain voices seek to forcefully curtail China's economic achievements, ludicrous accusations are being made that the rolling stock company is somehow a front for surveillance, and yes, that Metro Transit cars are going to spy on you.
This is not just hearsay, but a view which is actually being endorsed by Pentagon officials and some prominent United States senators, including Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was recently the vice presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media are also endorsing this view, with no scrutiny of it whatsoever.
The fact that city subway vehicles could be linked to a sinister espionage plot is an astonishing new low for America's recent hysteria concerning China. While it serves to stoke up intentional paranoia, the intent is inherently rational.
American politicians are very much aware that through the use of dominant ideological discourses they have the political power to utilize such hysteria as a political weapon as large numbers will accept the claims uncritically.
Similar to the allegations concerning Huawei, none of these claims are based on any kind of evidence or factual basis, but merely a set of assumptions concerning authoritarianism that thrive on an appeal to fear. This might be described as "opportunistic paranoia" and it is what American politicians are most good at.
American politicians have a long history of fabricating fear for opportunistic foreign policy gains.
The hegemony of Western liberal ideology has allowed them to successfully disguise cynical political ends between concerns for the well-being, security, and liberty of the people. One just has to look at the emergence of the Cold War and of course, McCarthyism itself, to see how the carefully planned stunts from politicians can create mass fear and panic, shaping and constraining foreign policy discourses to their own devices.
Almost always, such claims have drastically distorted political reality and ignored crucial facts. Sometimes, they were outright lies, such as the claim that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, an infamous accusation used to justify an outright war.
Since 2018, Huawei has been the victim of this form of brutalist politics. It has been accused of spying without evidence, used to hide the more sinister intent of isolating the company from global tech markets.
Now, however, it appears there is a new target being added to the list, China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.
A memorandum signed by several American senators this week sought to raise concerns about Washington's accusation of rolling stock from the company, saying the corporation will use the infrastructure for espionage on behalf of the Chinese state; again without evidence or even cause. This was hastily followed by a report from The Washington Post, which instead of critiquing the claims, endorsed and replicated them with quotes from Pentagon officials.
It goes without saying that the claims sound ridiculous and have no logical basis, but unfortunately, in the American context, they have real currency and accordingly, some sections of society will be even happy to believe it.
The goal is to again isolate and contain the company from within American markets, even though the alternatives are much more expensive and will cost city governments a fortune. Once that is done, it would not be surprising if it then started pressing its allies to do the same, likely through the “Five Eyes” network.
Above all, the fact that this kind of paranoia and hysteria is perceived as normal in the mainstream reflects poorly on American politics.
While it is a country with a lot to be proud of and so much that people admire, it is also a country that has a well-established history of deception and fear-inducing politics which few people seem to be able to come to terms with.
The fact and everything and anything, from university students to telecommunications companies, to metro subway cars, is now acting in tangent as part of a malevolent espionage plot, is a salad of nonsense, yet one which successfully exploits a streak of gullibility within portions of that country's society.