The Morning Jolt


A Chinese Court Ruling Tests American Wokeness

A Chinese student who lodged a suit over school textbooks describing homosexuality as a mental disorder shows a textbook she refers to before going to the court in Beijing, China September 12, 2016. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

On the menu today: A Chinese court upholds a ruling permitting a textbook description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder,” which will probably demonstrate that American wokeness ends at the water’s edge; Neera Tanden’s nomination is kaput, quietly spotlighting that the Biden administration doesn’t know how to court a Republican senator — or just doesn’t want to; and Texas ends its pandemic restrictions.

We’re about to See a Clear Lesson of Chinese Power in American Culture

This particular news development is going to greatly illuminate who holds the real power in American culture:

A Chinese court has upheld a ruling that a textbook description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder” was not a factual error but merely an “academic view”.

The Chinese LGBT community, and the 24-year-old woman who filed the lawsuit, have expressed disappointment at the decision, handed down last week by the Suqian Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

. . . The 2013 edition of Mental Health Education for College Students, published by Jinan University Press, listed homosexuality under “common psychosexual disorders” — along with cross-dressing and fetishism. It stated that homosexuality “was believed to be a disruption of love and sex or perversion of the sex partner”.

The textbook is used by a number of Chinese universities and Xixi was concerned that it was perpetuating the belief that being gay was wrong.

Late last year, the Suyu District People’s Court in Suqian ruled in favour of the publishing house, saying that the opposing views of Xixi and the publisher were due to differences in opinion rather than a factual error.

In November, Xixi, now a social worker in Hong Kong, appealed against the ruling, but it wasn’t enough to sway the appeal court, which last week handed down its decision to uphold the previous judgment.

Your move, Disney. And you too, National Basketball Association. Nike. Apple. All kinds of big American and multinational corporations take pride in their equal treatment of gay and lesbian employees. They would never accept a subsidiary, partner, or perhaps even customers who contended that homosexuality was a “common psychosexual disorder” or who labeled gay and lesbian relationships as a “perversion of the sex partner.” They would never meekly acquiesce if the American legal system determined that homosexual relationships were a potential problem of mental health.

Surely, these companies and celebrities and political leaders will speak up about this ruling from the Chinese judiciary system, right? Surely, the equal treatment and acceptance of gays and lesbians is not a value that these companies and leaders are willing to negotiate or compromise upon, just to maintain access to a foreign export market, right? Surely, the Biden administration will be registering its displeasure with this ruling in a public manner, right?

We certainly wouldn’t see America’s political, legal, and cultural elites just avert their eyes from this news, because they don’t want to get into an uncomfortable disagreement with a prickly authoritarian regime that can influence their profits for decades to come.

We’ve seen Americans get righteously upset about the treatment of gays and lesbians in other countries. Even Republicans who aren’t always outspoken or consistent supporters of gay rights find state-sponsored abuse of gays and lesbians abhorrent; back in 2019, the Trump administration launched a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal to be gay. Even those who hold a Biblically based perspective that homosexuality is morally wrong can see the dangers of authoritarian police states turning relationships into criminal acts.

In China, homosexuality was legalized in 1997. But while the Chinese government no longer criminalizes homosexuality, it isn’t really willing to stand up for them against traditionalist-minded citizens, either. Back in 2013, only 21 percent of Chinese respondents to a Pew poll agreed that “society should accept homosexuality.” (In 2020, 72 percent of Americans felt the same.)

To the extent that we see any American leaders addressing this Chinese court decision, I suspect they will echo former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who has lamented that trying to change deeply held values in a society such as China’s is just too difficult, and a distraction from the proper role and purpose of the country:

In countries outside the United States where Starbucks does business, I do not believe the company is in a position to proactively effect social and political change to the degree we might in the United States, where being an American company gives us the theoretical license to try. We do not have such expansive license in other countries. We can, however, exercise our values by how we conduct business, and share those values with leaders in other lands to show you can be profitable and morally centered at the same time.

In the United States, Starbucks sees itself as a powerful positive force for change on a wide variety of issues, even at the risk of seeming controversial or divisive or alienating a portion of its customers. But over in China, it’s just a coffee company.

Wait, Wasn’t Working across the Aisle with Senators Supposed to Be Biden’s Strength?

Neera Tanden’s nomination to run the Office of Management and Budget is kaput.

Way back on November 30, I wrote that:

If Biden had wanted to make Tanden a White House staffer — in a job that doesn’t require Senate confirmation — he could easily have done that. But he didn’t. She’s a glaringly terrible pick from a team that [at that point] hasn’t had any other glaringly terrible picks. In fact, she’s so bad . . . you have to wonder if she really could be the designated “sacrifice to the nomination gods,” as Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff joked.

The Tanden nomination always seemed to be a ham-handed way of making sure that what is left of the Hillary Clinton wing of the party — which isn’t much anymore — would stay happy with a Biden presidency.

I also wrote yesterday, “when the complete history of the Biden administration is written, the nomination of Neera Tanden to be director of the Office of Management and Budget will be a minor detail. If her nomination fails, the White House will just find a like-minded nominee who doesn’t have Tanden’s personal HR issues.

But there is another dynamic at work here, which is that if you’re the Biden administration, and getting your agenda passed would be much easier with the support of Alaska Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, you can only antagonize her on policy for so long before you lose her as a potential ally. Since taking office, Biden has barred all drilling in the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and suspended oil and gas leasing across millions of acres of federal lands and waters in the state. Murkowski contends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service engaged in a “bad faith permitting process” with an Alaska Native Village Corporation that wanted to conduct a seismic survey on its own land. Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, claimed that he wanted to work with Biden on renewable-energy projects, but the administration wouldn’t listen. Experts on Alaska’s economy point out that the state can’t generate new-energy jobs fast enough to replace the old-energy jobs that the new federal regulations will destroy. And Murkowski was one of those ten Republican senators who offered a smaller, bipartisan COVID-relief package which the Biden administration rejected.

Biden can please environmentalists, or he can get support from Murkowski when he needs it. But he can’t have both.

Vaccinations Are Going Well, Texas — Now Don’t Get Cocky

Some folks I respect a great deal reacted with horror to the news that the state of Texas is fully reopening from its coronavirus-pandemic restrictions.

If I lived in Texas and were unvaccinated, I wouldn’t want to go back to full pre-pandemic life habits quite yet. If you can avoid getting this virus before you’re vaccinated, you’ll want to take that option. But we probably shouldn’t see a surge in ICU patients or deaths in the Lone Star State in the coming weeks, because vast swaths of the most vulnerable are, by and large, already vaccinated. In the 581 skilled-nursing facilities that partnered with CVS for vaccinations, 100 percent of both doses have been administered. In the 1,431 assisted-living and long-term-care facilities that partnered with CVS, 100 percent of the first dose and 76 percent of the second dose are already in arms. For Walgreens, it’s a similar story: Of the 484 skilled-nursing facilities that partnered with Walgreens, 100 percent of both doses have been administered. In the 1,431 assisted-living and long-term-care facilities that partnered with CVS, 100 percent of the first dose and 89 percent of the second dose are in arms.

And remember, one shot of Pfizer has more than half the effectiveness of the two-dose regime.

Overall in Texas, almost 6 million doses have been administered, 13 percent of the population has received at least one shot, and 6.8 percent has received both shots. We may see an increase in cases in the coming weeks, which is not good. But if those cases are among younger and healthier Texans, the consequences in terms of hospitalizations and deaths should be much less severe than in earlier waves.

ADDENDUM: On The Editors podcast yesterday, we discussed the allegations being leveled at Governor Cuomo, Trump’s CPAC speech, and the uproar over some of Dr. Seuss’s books.


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