China’s debut at the World Conference on Racism heavily criticized the West for causing racism via colonialism, slavery and apartheid throughout the world. However, a statement by the head of China’s delegation, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya, made no mention of any problems within China today.

“Ancient Chinese always advocated the virtue of ‘tolerance’ and ‘harmony,'” China’s statement contended, but “in Asia, innocent people were trampled underfoot by colonialists and foreign invaders.”

This characterization mirrors the idyllic picture that Wang Guangya painted in the Tehran preparatory meeting by claiming “the Chinese people of all ethnic groups are living in harmony.”

In general, China appears to be taking a back seat at the conference and has not sent a high level delegation. Like many other countries, China is aggressively pointing the finger everywhere but at itself. Its analysis of racism continually speaks of racism in its international manifestations, but it never mentions the phenomenon of intra-state racism.

China does not appear to be taking a position on reparations at the conference. Palestine was the only country mentioned by name in China’s statement: “The Palestinian people are still deprived of their legitimate rights and interests.”

The Chinese Society of Human Rights Studies, a GONGO (government-organized NGO) accredited to the Durban conference, describes conditions in China in almost utopian terms, saying “amity, mutual support and joint development prevail” among minorities and that “their diverse culture and religious belief are fully respected. For these, they express contentment.”

“Countries must address manifestations of racism in both international and domestic forms, if this conference is to succeed,” said Jampal Chosang, the representative of the Dalai Lama in South Africa, who is attending the conference.

“China is asking the west to squarely face their role in causing racism while completely whitewashing its own role,” he added.

“We believe both China and the West have huge responsibilities when it comes to combating racism.”

China is taking the initiative in one area: the Internet. China’s statement at Durban described how the Chinese government sponsored a seminar on the Internet and the Spread of Racism and is calling on the UN to “effectively stem the spread of racist rhetoric via Internet.”

“It should come as no surprise that China is taking a lead on restricting uses of the internet,” said Tsering Jampa, Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Europe.

“They certainly have experience in that arena.”