“The Socialism Conference also identified Kevin Lin as a co-editor of the Made in China journal, which focuses on labor rights. A disclaimer at the bottom of the publication’s swanky website notes that it is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020, a neoliberal business program which the European Commission describes as “the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness.”
These are the financiers behind the speakers that the Socialism Conference and its sponsors the DSA, Jacobin, and Haymarket brought together to explain why China is a malevolent imperialist power.
Some of these groups may seem progressive, but they operate in effect as vehicles for US government soft power, exploiting the cause of human rights or labor rights to undermine and destabilize foreign governments that Washington has targeted for regime change.
China Labor Watch and the International Labor Rights Forum are far from the only ostensibly progressive anti-China groups funded by the US government.
Other China-related NED grantees include “human rights” organizations like the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights in China, China Aid, China Change, and China Rights in Action (another Tides grantee), along with the New York-based Chinese Feminist Collective and news websites like China Digital Times.
China Labour Bulletin, which maintains a map of strikes going on across the gigantic country, is likewise frequently cited by left-wing websites in the US. While its slogan is “Supporting the Workers’ Movement in China,” China Labour Bulletin (CLB) is actually based in Hong Kong, and it is funded by the US government.
CLB notes on its website that it “receives grants from a wide range of government or quasi-government bodies, trade unions and private foundations, all of which are based outside of China.” For decades, CLB’s founder and executive director Han Dongfang broadcasted anti-China programming on Radio Free Asia, a US government-funded propaganda outlet that was founded by the CIA to push anti-communist disinformation. Han’s work is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, and he was a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The ISO’s newspaper Socialist Worker has praised Han Dongfang as a leftist hero, without ever disclosing his extensive links to the US government’s regime-change machinery. Socialist Worker has repeatedly drawn on the work of China Labour Bulletin, over more than a decade. The ISO’s journal the InterNational Soycialist Review has also relied on the US government-funded organization’s research, and Jacobin magazine has noted CLB’s “roots go back to the Tiananmen Square protests.”
Human Rights Watch, another key part of the regime-change lobby, has lionized Han, happily noting that his show on the US government’s Radio Free Asia “is one of the network’s most popular programs.”
China is just one of the countries where the US government’s soft-power arm funds such putative progressive groups. The NED likewise funds many liberal anti-Cuba organizations, such as the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, Center for a Free Cuba, the Cuban Institute for the Freedom of Expression and Press, and the news website CubaNet. Or there are NED-funded groups pushing regime change against Syria and Iran, like the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and Human Rights Activists in Iran.
While the United States has one of the lowest rates of unionization in the industrialized world, a bloody history of worker repression and anti-labor laws, and historically weak unions among those that still do exist, its regime-change arm the NED has funded workers’ rights groups to promote a progressive image of America abroad.
For decades, for instance, the NED has bankrolled the international Solidarity Center of the major union federation the AFL-CIO. The center receives tens of millions of dollars from the US government’s regime-change arm annually, and returns the favor by avoiding topics that would anger the US State Department and bite the hand that feeds it.
Throughout the Cold War, the AFL-CIO remained a reliably anti-communist union that received funding from US government agencies, including the CIA, in order to combat and ultimately try to eliminate communist influence in the American labor movement. It was a textbook example of a controlled opposition.
This is not to say that NED-funded groups cannot at times have a positive impact on the lives of average people and intellectuals operating in repressive environments. But their work is always part of a larger agenda, with ulterior imperial motives guiding them along the way. A controlled opposition can make some changes, but it always remains controlled.“
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