A French museum halted an exhibition about Mongol leader Genghis Khan because after coming under extreme pressure from the Chinese Communist Party to remove any reference to the famed medieval Mongol warrior; part of Beijing’s active campaign to control the country’s cultural narrative and a key component in ’s campaign to rewrite China’s history and match it closely to the Communist Party’s increasingly Maoist worldview.

The incident occurred at a history museum in the western French city of Nantes on October 12, when Chinese authorities demanded that certain words, including “Genghis Khan,” “Empire” and “Mongol”, be removed from the exhibition. They later demanded that Chinese officials take over artistic control of the exhibition and review the texts, maps, and brochures that would be made available to the public, France 24 reported.

The hardening, this summer, of the Chinese government’s position towards the Mongol minority prompted the halt of the exhibition, the museum was quoted as saying. China’s censorship attempt is linked to Beijing’s coercive activities that remain ongoing in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

Justin Urquhart Stewart, the co-founder of Regionally, Britain’s leading regional investment platform, told New Europe by phone on October 15 that China is trying to rewrite any period of its history that does not fit the strict narrative of the Communist Party.

“They rewrite history, so they have their version of it. They will not say they are rewriting it. They will sort of say their history needs to be corrected because we, the West, are the people that wrote it. So, in their view, Tibet was always Chinese. It was actually 10 years ago that the Mongols were faced with the question, ‘If you are not Chinese you must be Russian.’ And, obviously, the Mongols were put in a rather difficult position because they did not want to be either. You are, I’m afraid, going to see more of this,” Urquhart Stewart said.

China has built what it calls “re-education” camps where the country’s ethnic minorities, those which are not Han Chinese, are taken to rob them of their linguistic, cultural and religious identity in order conform with the Communist Party’s policy of a single China with a single identity.

Urquhart Stewart said China is now flexing its muscles on its borders with northeast India, the East China Sea with Japan, and the South China Sea and the nations in the region.

“It is a theme that’s going to carry on and it’s going to be significantly difficult to manage. That’s why the Chinese are desperately hoping for a (US Presidential candidate Joe) Biden victory in the election because they think Biden would be more open to change and adjustments and, therefore, as far as they are concerned, will actually turn the wick up at the moment to then allow them to negotiate back afterwards,” Urquhart Stewart argued. “But be wary of the Chinese as far as they are concerned. They are a huge trading and financial power and they will be using their clout. This time it won’t just be for trade, it will be influencing cultural issues as well,” he warned.

Rewriting history
A view of the 30-meter-high statue of the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, completed in 2008, located 54 km east of capital Ulan Bator, Mongolia. EPA-EFE//MICHAEL KOHN

As COVID-19 has shown, Chinese propaganda is a well organised and orchestrated effort. Over the past decade, the Communist Party has invested billions of dollars into overseas disinformation operations and the spread of pro-Chinese news.

Urquhart Stewart said the Communist Party is trying to control both the battlefield and the cultural domain, because “the same cultural myths will be told in other areas of the world about Western neo-colonialism caused by the British and other European powers. You can already see this occurring on small Caribbean islands where the Chinese are going there and saying, ‘This is an investment, not colonialism. The problem is that it is colonialism by another name and it is effectively rewriting the history there.”

“I find it very insidious that what you are seeing is economic involvement with low-cost loans to buy into infrastructure that often cannot be paid back. This means that the property assets then go into indirect Chinese government hands, just as we have seen in Shri Lanka and parts of Africa,” he said, adding, “You then see influence being impacted in terms of trade, as you see with Australia in terms of the attitude when it comes to politics. You even now have some Australian journalists who are under house arrest in Beijing. The extension from that into cultural strength and angling, which is something that they see as an extension of their power”.

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