During the Cold War the cry "but America lynches blacks" was a favourite Stalinist riposte to any criticism of the USSR's human rights record.
This is known as a Tu Quoque — a form of debating trick based upon the perceived hypocrisy of the opponent rather than the merits of their argument.
Last weekend's Morning Star (19-20 Sep) carried a classic example of this with an article by Fiona Edwards entitled "The left must oppose the US cold war on China and not sit on the fence".
Ms Edwards examines "the reality of the contrasting approaches of the US and China on the major issues facing humanity — the pandemic, climate change, and human rights."
We are treated to a very partial account of China's supposedly superior record on all those issues. Xi Jinping's handling of the Covid-19 epidemic may compare favourably with Trump's — but that's hardly something to boast about. The authorities in China suppressed the news that there was human transmission of coronavirus in January — a decision that surely had lethal consequences, not just within China but throughout the world.
Now, of course, no socialist wants to see a new cold war, and in the loathsome Donald Trump, China's apologists have their strongest card.
We'll leave aside Ms Edwards' enthusiastic claims for China's record on climate change. That would be disputed by, amongst others, the New Internationalist, which in October 2019 pointed out that "cutting down coal consumption at home while building up coal capacities abroad is no contradiction under Xi's ecological nationalism". Let's move straight on to human rights.
Here we encounter the classic Stalinist Tu Quoque: "The claims of the US government is the 'land of the free' and an international beacon of human rights, while China is the land of human rights abuses are both hypocritical and completely absurd... This is while unarmed black people are gunned down daily by cops and Black Lives Matter protesters are brutalised by various militarised forces in the US".
All true, of course, but entirely irrelevant to the Xi regime's well documented record of authoritarianism and human rights abuses,
This could be dismissed as simple naivety until we get to Ms Edwards' treatment of what she calls "fabrications" about the Uyghur Muslims: dismissing claims of mass detention in concentration camps and of genocide as coming from the Trump administration. Actually, they come from a range of reputable sources including Amnesty International.
Edwards claims: "The facts are the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled in the past 40 years from 5.5 million to over 11 million, and there are 24,000 mosques in the province."
To take statistics over a period of 40 years is a sleight of hand. As Solidarity has previously pointed out, the current repressive regime in Xinjiang began in 2014. The regime's own statistics show a dramatic drop in birthrates in Uyghur-majority areas since 2015 and particularly 2016.
Birth rates in Uyghur regions plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates fell by nearly 24% last year alone.
Since 2014 measures including forced sterilisations have been implemented to suppress the Uyghur birth-rate, and the state has been actively promoting Han Chinese immigration into Xinjiang to alter the population balance. This meets the UN definition of genocide...and the Morning Star effectively supports it.
No debating tricks or dodgy use of statistics can hide that simple, shameful fact.