Quincy Institute Fellow Denies China's Genocide of Uighur Muslims

A Chinese 'reeducation' camp in Xinjiang (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
February 23, 2021

A fellow at the Quincy Institute said the charge that China is committing genocide is a "far-right" talking point, the latest pro-China comment from an isolationist think tank with a history of downplaying China's threat to the United States.

China's horrendous treatment of its Uighur Muslim population has led to bipartisan agreement that the Chinese government is committing genocide against the ethnic minority group.  Almost no one in the West buys China's denials—except for Joshua Landis, a nonresident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft who cited an article from a conspiratorial, far-left website to cast doubt on the genocide designation in a now-deleted Saturday tweet.

"Pompeo's and Blinken's accusation of China 'genocide' relied on data abuse by far-right ideologue," Landis wrote, referring to the secretaries of state for the Trump and Biden administrations. "Between 2010 & 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew by a 25%, faster than the growth of the Han Chinese."

Landis's position echoed that of the Chinese government, which also denies a genocide in Xinjiang. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi doubled down on the claim Monday, saying Xinjiang is a "shining example" of China's human rights progress despite multiple press accounts of mass detention, mass sterilization, and systemic rape of Uighur Muslims.

Landis is the only Quincy fellow so far to deny outright the existence of an ongoing genocide in China, but his comments are consistent with the think tank's history of pedaling pro-Beijing viewpoints that are grossly out of step with the bipartisan consensus.  Even as Democrats and Republicans have come to believe in a more muscular China policy, the isolationist think tank continues to pump out research that downplays China's threat and calls for American cooperation with the authoritarian country.

The Quincy Institute does not hesitate to appear in unconventional venues to advocate for "cooperation" with China and other American adversaries. The think tank's fellows are frequent guests on China's official mouthpieces, where they blast American foreign policy decisions.

"There are clearly many issues over which China and the United States must cooperate," Quincy Institute president Andrew Bacevich told a Chinese state media outlet.

Landis based his genocide denial claim on a Grayzone piece to which he linked in his tweet, which accused Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, of manipulating data to paint an unfavorable picture of China. Landis repeated the article's talking points, specifically the claim that the Uighur birth rate exceeded Han Chinese birth rates between 2010 and 2018.

In response to Landis's allegations, Zenz said that using figures between 2010 and 2018 is misleading because the Chinese government started cracking down on Uighur birth rates around 2017. The Chinese government acknowledges that Uighur birth rates have plummeted in recent years, but that decline is only observable in data after 2018.

"The data shows rapid birth rate declines in Uyghur regions starting in 2016, but especially 2017 and 2018. Uyghur birth rates were high in the early 2010s," Zenz tweeted. "Quoting Uyghur population growth rates for 2010-18 willfully distracts from recent dramatic declines."

In response to a Washington Free Beacon request for comment, Landis acknowledged that China is cracking down on Uighur Muslims but said that he does not know whether the genocide label is warranted.

"I really don't know," Landis said. "The problem with the genocide designation is that … it was made by Pompeo as part of a bracket of goodbye gifts to Biden just at the end of his tenure that were meant to make diplomacy very difficult."

Despite Landis's concerns that the Xinjiang issue has become needlessly politicized in the United States, the charge that China is committing genocide is quickly gaining traction on the international stage. The Canadian Parliament unanimously recognized the Uighur genocide on Monday, and several Western countries are considering boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics to protest China's brutal policies against the minority group.

Landis's genocide denial is only one example of Quincy Institute scholars' airing pro-Beijing views in public. The Quincy Institute's first policy brief, published in December 2019, said that the "United States is committing a mistake" by pursing a competitive approach to China. Subsequent Quincy Institute publications have continued to call for U.S. "military restraint" against China, earning the think tank lavish praise from Chinese propaganda outlets.

Quincy scholars also frequently appear on Chinese mouthpieces to offer pro-China commentary. In October, Quincy Institute president Andrew Bacevich appeared on Beijing's China Global Television Network to say the United States must rein in its confrontational China policy because "we must coexist." In the same month, Michael D. Swaine, director of the Quincy Institute's East Asia program, told the same outlet that "China and the United States must cooperate" on climate change and other issues of mutual interest.

"We must coexist because there are other common threats that we must deal with—and here I'm referring to things like climate change," Bacevich told the state media outlet.

The Quincy Institute employees' comments echo the Chinese government's go-to talking point against the United States. Yang Jiechi, a senior CCP official who leads the party's foreign policy operations, said the United States and China must pursue "peaceful coexistence" and "win-win cooperation" in a February speech just weeks after President Joe Biden's inauguration.

"For China and the United States, climate change, renewable energy and low-carbon, sustainable development could be areas of mutually beneficial cooperation," Yang said in his speech.

The Quincy Institute's landmark report on China, published in January, also reflects the think tank's China-friendly bent. The report—which said Chinese leader Xi Jinping "is no Stalin or Mao" because his regime has higher public approval compared with past communist regimes—made only a cursory mention of China's human rights abuses and called on the United States to cooperate with the authoritarian country.

"China does not constitute an existential threat to the global order or the United States," the report read. "America's vital national interests in East Asia include … cooperative action to combat the existential threat of climate change and pandemics."

The Quincy Institute did not respond to a request for comment.