Where Relativism Survives

Where Relativism Survives March 9, 2021


Postmodernists used to be moral relativists.  This amounted to ethical nihilism, but at least it was tolerant, since what might be wrong to you and your culture might be right for someone else, and both views are equally valid.  Recently, though, relativism has given way to a new absolutism, in which those who disagree with prevailing progressive moral standards are evil and need to be punished.

But there is one realm in which moral relativism is alive and well:  Anything that has to do with China.

That still-Communist country openly oppresses its people, tries to stamp out religion, is dismantling democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, threatens Taiwan, and is currently confining the members of its Uighur minority group in concentration camps–where they are being subjected to brain-washing, slave labor, rape, torture, forced abortion and sterilization, and other kinds of violence–in an effort to destroy their identity with its Muslim religion so as to make them assimilate into Chinese communism.  Human Rights groups are calling what China is doing to the Uighurs “genocide.”

When President Joe Biden was asked at a CNN Town Hall whether he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about human rights abuses, he said this:

“I point out to him no American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States, and so the idea I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China, and Taiwan, trying to end the One China policy by making it forceful … I said, and, by the, he said, he – he gets it. Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”

Similarly, when President Biden’s candidate for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, was asked about human rights abuses after his visit to China in 1997, he said, “We have two very different cultures, and we have two very different perspectives on the world. . . .That’s not to say one perspective is better than the other.”

But it isn’t just politicians.  The “woke” capitalists–companies that crusade against politically-incorrect convictions in the United States–change their tune when it comes to China.

Nike made the NFL flag protester Colin Kaepernick its spokesperson and bills itself as a champion of social justice.  So does Apple.  But evidence has emerged that both companies–as well as many other Western corporations–have in their supply chain Chinese companies that use Uighurs as slave labor!  Nike has even lobbied Congress not to pass the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act.  Disney too, as well as other entertainment companies, have been censoring themselves at the behest of China, even as they decry Americans’ objections to what they put onscreen.

Then there is the NBA, which punished a coach for tweeting in support of freedom for Hong Kong, and which, for all of its vocal  sensitivity to social justice issues in the United States, says nothing about the social injustice in China, which has become a profitable market for American basketball.

What little has been said about the issue from the NBA is along the line of cultural relativism.  Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr defended Chinese culture by saying that American culture is just as bad.  “Nor has our record of human rights abuses up either [sic],” he said, “You know, things that our country needs to look at and resolve, that hasn’t come up ether. So none of us are perfect. And we all have different issues that we have to get to.”  (For more examples of similar corporate hypocrisy, see this and this.)

China has recently ruled that homosexuality can be considered a mental disorder.  Will the corporations that have threatened to boycott entire states for being insufficiently supportive of LGBTQ issues shut down their operations in China?  Somehow, I don’t think so.


“Uighur placards,” by Malcolm Brown from Washington, DC, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


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