In this brief interview for CGTN, North American anti-war activist Calla Walsh – one of the co-chairs of the National Network on Cuba, and a speaker at our Counter-Summit for Democracy – explains that a growing number of young people in the US do not see China as their enemy but rather as a friend; “as a global leader that is really paving the way to a more peaceful and multi-polar world where all countries have a right to sovereignty, instead of living under the yoke of the United States.” Although young people in the West are exposed to a relentless barrage of anti-China propaganda, increasingly people are able to see and understand certain powerful facts: that it’s the US and its allies that go round the world waging war and imposing domination, while China stands with the Global South; that it’s the US that’s failing to make meaningful progress addressing the climate crisis, while China has emerged as a global leader in green energy. In summary, “China is a progressive force, and the US is extremely regressive.”
Calla also addresses the attack on TikTok – an attack based on xenophobia, anticommunism, and a fear of China’s economic rise. However, this attack is having the opposite of its intended effect: “I think it’ll make the entire user base, which is hundreds of millions of people, even more skeptical of the US government’s narrative on TikTok and on China as a whole.”
The anti-China onslaught in the U.S. doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect on its younger population. A recent survey by The Economist and YouGov reveals that younger Americans are friendlier to China than their older counterparts. Nearly a quarter of Americans aged 18 to 44 view China as “friendly,” only 4 percent of Americans above the age of 45 view China this way.
The report comes amid the U.S. efforts to ban TikTok, a video app that has become a craze among American youth in recent years. At the Congressional hearing of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, U.S. lawmakers couldn’t hide their racism and xenophobia.
To understand how a large number of young Americans are contesting the anti-China narrative within the U.S., CGTN spoke with Calla Walsh, a youth anti-war activist who is on the board of Massachusetts Peace Action and one of the co-chairs of the National Network on Cuba.
CGTN: Let me ask you the question that The Economist-YouGov poll asked its respondents: Do you consider China to be a friendly nation or an enemy of the United States?
Walsh: China is not our enemy and I’m among the substantial group of young people in the U.S. that sees China as a friend. And I see China not only as a friend, but as a global leader that is really paving the way to a more peaceful and multi-polar world where all countries have a right to sovereignty, instead of living under the yoke of the United States. And it’s really hard to buy the U.S. demonization of China as this existential threat when in the past several decades the U.S. is the country that has committed hundreds of military interventions and invasions.
And I think young people can see through these warmongering lies that the U.S. is spreading about China. And we can also see China is actually delivering on the issues we care about, for example, climate. [U.S. President Joe] Biden is signing off on the willow project; he’s breaking his campaign promises to stop new drilling on federal land while China’s leading the world and reducing carbon emissions, building green infrastructure. So it’s very easy to tell China is a progressive force, and the U.S. is extremely regressive.
CGTN: Does the poll indicate that we are witnessing a slow but gradual generational change in perception about China?
Walsh: I think there is a slow generational shift in how we regard China and how we regard U.S. imperialism as a whole. We are not the generation of the first Cold War against the Soviet Union. I think our generation has been much more shaped by social movements that have really made us more skeptical of the U.S. government narrative on things. We’re the generation of these mass mobilizations against Climate Change, against gun violence, against racism and police brutality. And young people are becoming more civically engaged, having record-breaking voter turnout, and I think we’re much more skeptical of the U.S. government because of the failures on those issues I just mentioned.
CGTN: How do you see the ongoing targeting of TikTok? How will the Congressional hearing of the TikTok CEO affect the view of its user base?
Walsh: The ongoing targeting of TikTok is very much xenophobic, and red-scare tactic. And just when I’ve logged on to TikTok in the past few days, I’ve seen lots of popular accounts, ones that are even apolitical, that are calling this hearing a witch hunt. They’re mocking U.S. Congress members, for not even understanding how the internet works. So it’s really putting into light how ridiculous this anti-China propaganda is. And I think that’ll make the entire user base which is hundreds of millions of people even more skeptical of the U.S. government’s narrative on TikTok and on China as a whole.
And of course the U.S. government literally mass spies on its own citizens. So we know this isn’t about privacy at all. And other U.S. social media companies, like Meta, engage in very harmful data sharing practices. So what we should be talking about is why the U.S. really is doing this and that’s because of the economic competition that China poses.