Bad news: it's not just the Left in the West who are waging a “war on language” with revolutionary zeal, and nitpicking words to further their political and ideological agendas: the Chinese authorities do it, too.
When these worlds collide, however, it makes the phenomenon all the more interesting, and the mechanism behind it all the more stark and fascinating. In this instance, a museum in the French town of Nantes was forced to shut down an exhibition dedicated to the 13th century Mongol emperor Genghis Khan – because Beijing wanted “certain words” removed from it.
But according to reports, referring to these words as “certain” is in a fact a serious understatement: because the words China wanted gone were nothing less than, “Genghis Khan” itself; as well as “empire,” and, “Mongol.”
Clearly left with little to work with, the museum decided to scrap the whole thing, in this way perhaps giving the Chinese Bureau of Cultural Heritage, the authority behind the protestation, what it wanted all along. The Bureau's job is to protect Chinese cultural relics – while the French museum hoped to team up with the Inner Mongolia Museum, based in China's town of Hohhot.
And the issue of ethnic Mongolians in China is apparently one of several similar problems brewing in the vast country, which goes some way toward explaining Beijing's watchful eye over cultural events taking place in Europe, and the hard, and ultimately successful line it takes in order to protect its declared interests.
The Cateau des ducs de Bretagne museum went as far as to call this latest move “censorship (…) against the Mongolian minority,” and the Chinese Communist Party's bid to suppress language and culture.
And suppressing language and culture, as we know, is a surefire, tried and tested way to subjugate a population.
As to what problem China has with the ethnic minority in its Inner Mongolia region, reports paint a picture of a clash precisely over (cultural) identity, while Beijing's way of dealing with it is said to be to deploy high-tech in order to implement mass surveillance of the area and its population:
“The police source in Inner Mongolia said he was “on the edge of breakdown.” He knew a musician who had been detained and a friend working at a TV station who had been forced to write a self-criticism under threat of losing her job. A classmate of his and that classmate's father were under 24-hour surveillance.”