Xinjiang and Shaun Rein

[This blog is officially closed, but from time to time I will add new content, mainly for myself since no one comes here anymore.]

I think by now most of us have seen the New Yorker’s shocking expose of life in the Xinjiang “re-education” camps. The CCP has done nothing less than license cultural genocide, torture, forced labor, brutal prison sentences and worse.

But someone I occasionally follow on Twitter named Shaun Rein has a very different viewpoint. For him, the compounds, surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers, are serving the noble function of teaching the Uighurs and Kazakhs Mandarin, a selfless endeavor he praises. He has said the US is holding Uighurs in the Guantanamo Bay prison so we have no right to criticize China for doing the same, as if there’s an equivalence between holding a handful of Uighurs in Gitmo and the enslavement, brutalization and indoctrination of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in Xinjiang. Most gallingly, he has said, to paraphrase, “I haven’t been to Xinjiang so I can’t comment on what’s going on there.” Well, I’ve never been to Cambodia but I know the Khmer Rouge butchered millions of its own people there. I’ve never been to Auschwitz but I know what went on there. I’ve never been to Xinjiang but I know, from sources I know and trust, what is happening there. Shaun is not stupid; he knows the truth, but to acknowledge it would threaten his cozy relationship with the CCP (his father-in-law is a high-ranking party official). He knows where his bread is buttered.

Just yesterday this self-described marketing guru tweeted, “Journalists who cover China either love my research or hate me. Journos who quote me know I’m unbiased, truthful & have data to back up views. Journalists who hate me know I know I’ll call out their BS, have better data & forgot more about CN than they ever knew: Birtles, Fallows”

Bad news: I know many, many journalists in China, past and present, and they *all* hate you, and with good reason. You are an insect next to James Fallows and Gady Epstein (whom you also frequently attack).

Sorry to go off on this guy again, but he enrages me with his egotism, self-aggrandizement and hatred of those who don’t worship the CCP. (If you’re new to this blog you can find my earlier posts about this scammer here: Shaun Rein.)

If you haven’t read the New Yorker article please do. Then tell me what you think of someone who says these camps are simply helping Muslims learn Mandarin for their own benefit. You see, it’s selfless. It’s good. Read the article and tell me if you think these camps are noble and selfless.

The Discussion: 24 Comments

What do I think of someone like Shaun Rein “who says these camps are simply helping Muslims learn Mandarin for their own benefit?” I think he’s a lying asshole who puts his micro bullshit “marketing” business above the lives of innocent Muslim men, women and children. What else can one think about someone who acts the way he does?

February 28, 2021 @ 11:01 am | Comment

Shaun sounded like a visionary 10 years ago, now he sounds like someone who is drowning. And he sounds like a feckless panda hugger and a wuss. Perhaps it isn’t just his smell of desperation, but his whining reflects growing desperation by Bad China for attention, especially as the EU Parliament will most likely kill the EU – Bad China trade deal that the EU’s sellout, ChiNazi loving leaders were so enthusiastic about.

So, 20 years ago I was saying this would happen, talking about how the China expat community was a bunch of Steinlager soaked and dumpling stuffed traitors who sold out with the first bag of 100 RMB notes. I caught a lot of hell but had fun doing it. And I had fun being a straw man of an expat that the Chinese could hate for verifying what they already suspected. Now, thanks to the US and EU chambers of commerce, China is a high tech version of 1930s
Nazi Germany, and led by someone who isn’t good at anything but being a hard case (Xitler).

I was right. All has come to pass.

February 28, 2021 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

Bravo Richard. Shaun Rein’s genocide denialism should be called out for the cynical BS it is. Rein likely figures saying this stuff is good for business and helps shield him from anti-foreigner attitudes in government, but he should know that others see what he is doing.

A relative of mine tended to the people liberated at Bergen-Belsen. My toleration for Kapos is zero.

February 28, 2021 @ 3:45 pm | Comment

You say “tell me what you think of someone who says these camps are simply helping Muslims learn Mandarin for their own benefit.” Well here goes.

1. Not sure if you know this, but Shaun Rein’s father had “sexual misconduct” issues at the very school Shaun attended. See page 32 of this report on Richard Rein This leads me to believe Mr. Rein is a very troubled and angry individual.

2. I concur with you and I also think Mr. Rein knows that what he says is not true, but he says it to curry favor with the CCP and his wife’s family, both of which have likely become father substitutes for him.

3. I find Mr. Rein despicable, but I also find his life very sad and so I pity him more than anything else and I truly hope that one day he will see the errors of his ways and change.

March 1, 2021 @ 1:09 am | Comment

What nanheyangrouchuan says is true and he did turn out to be right.

March 1, 2021 @ 2:24 am | Comment

Back during the 2008 Olympics I had a bit of a change of heart and felt the CCP deserved credit for improving the lives of millions of Chinese. But I was wrong; the Chinese lifted themselves out of poverty once the CCP got out of their way, and the badness of the Party outweighs the good.

Minutes after I put up a tweet on Twitter directing readers to this post Shaun struck back:

Richard Burger, the blogger behind the Peking Duck, calls me an insect

Dehumanizing people like this is not OK, even those w different views

Burger is not a moral or nice person & has harassed me on his blog for 10+ yrs

Shame on him

Shame on ME? Note that he doesn’t say a word in defense of his odious views on Xinjiang, he just attacks me personally. He represents everything I despise about China apologists. Shaun, have you ever asked yourself WHY so many real China experts hate you? Let me help: it’s because you are a smug, arrogant, ass-kissing liar and a deceiver of your followers and, one suspects, of yourself. Shame on ME?? I suggest you look in the mirror. And for the record, I’m not harassing Mr. Rein, just throwing his shit back at him. He can’t defend his words so anyone who criticizes him is a “hater” (one of his favorite epitaphs). The self-proclaimed marketing genius has such a thin skin, he lashes out at his critics like a child. And he constantly complains that Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal refuse to quote him, and again he never asks WHY they spurn him. Has he no inkling that he’s the epitome of China apologism, that the true China experts like Orville Schell (who Shaun has attacked by name) see him as nothing more than an obsequious windbag and brown-noser? And it is deeply, deeply ironic that he goes after me for “dehumanizing” him, when he has been dehumanizing and lashing out at his critics for years. A low-life fraud and grifter.

March 1, 2021 @ 2:48 am | Comment

Nanhe, where have you been all these years? Nice to see you back. And yes, you were mostly right. Life is wonderful for many Chinese, but for those the Party perceives as enemies, like the Uighurs and pro-democracy advocates and their lawyers, China is a totalitarian police state.

March 1, 2021 @ 3:01 am | Comment

Rein is a craven opportunist. His wallet and sense of self-importance are more important to him than genocide. It’s pretty gross.

March 1, 2021 @ 7:24 am | Comment

BTW – can we also point out that this particular gambit where Rein professes detailed knowledge of one aspect of Chinese politics whilst claiming complete ignorance of another (to paraphrase: ‘Uighurs have to learn mandarin and that’s what the camps are for but I’ve never been to Xinjiang so I know nothing about genocide’) is exactly the same gambit he tried with Chen Guangcheng? Remember how he claimed to know just enough to condemn Christian Bale for trying to visit Chen Guangcheng and then claimed to know literally nothing about Chen Guangcheng’s actual case or why he was imprisoned?

You know, it’s almost like Rein is simply pretending not to know anything that disproves his case whilst claiming detailed knowledge of every single other facet of Chinese culture and politics.

March 1, 2021 @ 9:34 pm | Comment

I lived and taught in that region for many years. I still have dozens of close contacts there.
He doesn’t have a clue in hell about what’s going on up there. Or perhaps he does, and it’s just playing out his role as a shill for the CCP.
I know several students at the minorities university that simply disappeared, and have not been heard from, after writing treatises on the need for fair treatment of ethnic Muslims and Tibetans.
I’ve come to learn that anybody who is compelled to tell you they went to Harvard within the first 10 minutes of any conversation with them should not be taken seriously about anything. It’s hard to decide whether or not it’s his narcissism or cluelessness the causes him to write such dangerous drivel. And has anyone written the New Yorker to make sure he never gets mentioned again? Somebody needs to talk to Evan

March 2, 2021 @ 3:23 am | Comment

Glad to see that you are still posting occasionally, Richard.
However, I think to talk about “genocide” is problematic. Adrian Zenz, himself a researcher with great merits for exposing China’s systematic persecution said in an interview with “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, published on March 19, that “exiled Uighurs strongly stick to this word. In their view, it is the only word that expresses correctly what they are going through as a people” (Die Uiguren im Exil halten stark an diesem Wort fest. Für ihr Empfinden ist es das einzige Wort, das richtig ausdrückt, was sie als Volk durchmachen.)

Zenz himself advocates that the “genocide” convention of 1949 needed to be updated – but he also says that there is scanty evidence that China wants to annihilate a significant share of the Uighur population (“Da ist die Beweislage jedoch sehr dünn”).

The interview is behind a paywall, and it reflects Zenz’ view of the matter, if new facts haven’t changed it. If you are interested, I’ll send you a copy of the interview.

April 8, 2021 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

I agree. That’s why I referred to “cultural genocide,” not genocide as in actual extermination. Thanks for commenting.

April 9, 2021 @ 1:01 am | Comment

Are there some correctional facilities for deradicalizations? Yes, but no worse than ice detention centers and miles better than Guantanamo. Worklife balance is not the best in those camps but they get to go home on the weekends. As for forced labor on the cotton fields, how much labor can there be if cottons in xinjiang are machine picked! Many were found sleeping on those big cotton picking rigs.

Any way a jew in 1940 would envy those camps.

May 8, 2021 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

A side note, I don’t think it’s true that nobody comes here anymore. Some people like “old-style” blogs. As far as I’m concerned, they were so much better than the chaos of social media. But many bloggers have just given up on the format, which I think is a shame. It would have been great if China-focused bloggers had got together and formed some kind of group or association to help each other amplify their content. I was a regular blog reader in the “golden era” of China pre-Xi Jinping and I loved all the great content. Social media is a huge mess.

May 14, 2021 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

Any way a jew in 1940 would envy those camps.
How reassuring.
Worklife balance is not the best in those camps but they get to go home on the weekends.
I’m sure you’ve given dozens of them a lift on those happy Saturdays, and they told you.

May 15, 2021 @ 3:03 pm | Comment

But many bloggers have just given up on the format, which I think is a shame.
Glad to see that you haven’t. The internet has been thoroughly oligopolized, and people seem to love it. Blogs provided faster chances to comment than classical websites (as a rule), and “social media” are still faster. That’s all what seems to count.
But to stay informed about what goes through peoples’ heads, following Twitter accounts isn’t a bad approach. It’s just that if there was no Twitter, meaningful information would be much easier to find.

May 15, 2021 @ 3:08 pm | Comment

I try to keep it up as much as possible. I miss old blogs. They were microcommunities and so much more personal and in-depth than Twitter or FB. I truly don’t understand why many bloggers have given up and instead create content for corporations for free, thus giving them more power. Blog posts are also so much more versatile than tweets and Facebook posts. Instead, people could write on their blog and link to their blog via social media, which is how it used to work. Look, this comment section has no algorithm! 🙂 I saw your reply. Isn’t that great? On Twitter I barely see you. The algorithm doesn’t show me anything I want.

May 25, 2021 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

That’s true. Besides, you never know what you may get locked out for on FB or Twitter. I wouldn’t spend much time on creating a “following” there – it can turn out to be for nothing within minutes.

May 25, 2021 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

Thanks for the comments and the interesting discussion here.

A few comments on your words: ” … “cultural genocide,” not genocide as in actual extermination.”

This perpetuates a misunderstanding about the crime of genocide in international law, which is defined in the Genocide convention as the intentional undoing of a people “as such.” It lists five criteria of actions, either of which is enough for the crime of genocide to be under way. Targeted killings is only one of them. In fact, all five criteria already apply in Xinjiang; the most clear and widely accepted evidence of genocide is the massive sterilizations and abortions in Uyghur women, as well as the massive confiscations of Uyghur children for Chinese upbringing. Those two are listed among the five UN criteria. Case closed. See, f ex, the Newlines Institute report, the determination of the Canadian Parliament, or watch the tribunal on the genocide starting up in London next week, or many other observers. (I’ve compiled links to most of these reports here:

“Cultural genocide” however, is not an international legal term. The ‘father’ of the Convention, Raphael Lemkin, was keen on including cultural destruction of the kind China’s govt is doing in Xinjiang now as additional criteria of genocide, since obviously that’s what he’d seen Hitler doing: burn books, raze synagogues, with the similar intent of ultimately undoing the Jews as such. It’s part of a package, Lemkin felt, and he was right.

But he was unsuccessful because the former colonial powers blocked that — they had guilty feelings about having done the same thing in Africa, etc. (see the marvelous book on Lemkin and the struggle for the Genocide Convention, by John Cooper).

The result is that ‘cultural genocide’ (as in the bulldozing and forced assimilation China is doing since 2017) is not formally part of the legally defined crime of genocide.

However, there are international documents on heritage as a human right, that China has signed in Geneva, but which its current regime is now also violating. And these violations, in fact, are so brazenly targeted on destroying the heritage and material foundations of the Uyghur people, that they in themselves constitute further clear evidence of the intent to destroy the Uyghur people “as such,” so it won’t exist any more = genocidal intent.

So, in sum, the current Chinese leaders should be condemned and prosecuted both for genocide *and* cultural destruction, and the two are mutually linked.

But it makes no sense to stop short of the genocide designation, or to call what is happening “cultural genocide,” as if that was something a step short of genocide. It isn’t, and certainly in the case of the current Chinese genocide, it’s unnecessary.


May 27, 2021 @ 9:23 am | Comment

“So, 20 years ago I was saying this would happen”

Nanhe, you have rarely been right about anything. You denied new Chinese GDP PPP figures under revisions brought forth by PWT 9.0. You claimed China would collapse due to NPLs overburdening their financial system.

I’m sure you also thought that Trump’s trade war was going to starve millions of Chinese. Hell I bet you thought Trump wouldn’t even be elected, and that when he was, he was going to bring China down.

“Now, thanks to the US and EU chambers of commerce, China is a high tech version of 1930s
Nazi Germany”

You seem to imply that the Western world is so thoroughly moneydrunk and corrupt that every single one of its institutions, at the very highest level, can be bought off for a few “sacks” of RMB. In favor of what you claim should be their archnemesis. How on earth is that an endorsement of the system?

If the US was working as intended, it would not have the worst wealth inequality in the world, it would not have gone into Iraq, AR-15s would at least be restricted, there would be stricter environmental policies, and Roe v Wade would not have been overturned.

But the desires of the 70% are never enough to overcome the will of a highly motivated, and frankly insane, fringe that could potentially become a permanent, unelected ruling minority. This was almost inevitable given the way things are set up in the US.

I thought back then I’d come back to gloat, but I’m actually genuinely afraid for your lives now. God doesn’t exist, but I “pray” that Obergefell, Lawrence and Griswold are not overturned.

I tried to warn you all back then about the dire systemic faults built into liberal democracies everywhere, even arguing with lisa that a highly motivated foreign actor could swing the results of high-stake elections for pennies – and that is why a democratic China would just be a battleground for all sorts of malign interests. Apathy, gerrymandering, vote manipulation, foreign influence … I hope you all aren’t still thinking these are trivial issues.

I’m just sad that I’m right. I hope Americans will still nominally be able to choose their own leaders after 2024.

July 1, 2022 @ 9:24 am | Comment

The body of “literature” is so poisoned by propagandist Adrian Zenz’s sham work that it’s actually backfiring and harming Uyghurs. Backlash against the West’s narrative has actually pushed third countries to be MORE pro-China (Pew), speaking of Muslim majority countries and even places like Singapore.

Last I checked Zenz’s “sterilization” figures were simply mathematically impossible (requiring multiple of the same operation for every single woman, every single day). Xinjiang has the highest TFR other than some parts of Tibet.

Much of what you’ve termed “bulldozing” has been of dwellings that had no access to running water or electricity – something that, had the CCP persisted in not correcting, you’d deem to be a form of oppression or ethnic cleansing requiring international condemnation and action.

I do think the Chinese government is casting too wide a net and doing harm to a lot of innocent people, but that’s something which is and has been uniform across China for centuries, and something that is unfortunately extremely common elsewhere in the world.

My suggestion is that the West should make arbitrary detentions in China a serious issue to focus demands on, and be very specific and careful with the charges. No, you can’t just take someone’s testimony for granted as true just because she cries in front of an audience. Especially when Mike Pompeo personally brought her in and was hovering by her during said testimony.

And Mr. Fiskesjö, you being affiliated with a NED-funded, Washington based org puts your motives very much in question.

July 1, 2022 @ 9:36 am | Comment

You must be terribly lonely, “friend”.

July 13, 2022 @ 6:17 pm | Comment

Can that sack of sellout crap, despite not being worthy of the air he breathes, be sanctioned by the US Gov for being a (not particularly) useful idiot, propagandist for human rights abusers and a Lord Haw-Haw wanna-be?

October 11, 2022 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

Respect civil rights, ExChinaman. Don’t sanction Shaun Rein. Sanction AmCham, or sanction noone.

November 29, 2022 @ 4:01 pm | Comment

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