Virginia resident and mother Xi Van Fleet, who survived China’s Cultural Revolution before immigrating to the United States, was set to speak to a chapter of Turning Point USA at Whitworth University until the student government voted to ban her because of her “nasty rhetoric” comparing woke ideology to communism.
Van Fleet has become a leading voice in warning about the similarities she sees in radical left-wing political and cultural ideas, including Critical Race Theory and gun control, and the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong’s rule in China. She had been invited to Whitworth, a Christian university in Spokane, Washington, by the local chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) to speak about her experience. In order for her to be allowed to speak, the TPUSA chapter had to get permission from the Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU), the school’s student government.
ASWU voted 9-4 to reject Van Fleet, with their key issue, as shown in the transcript, being her comparison of Mao’s Cultural Revolution to “woke culture” on her Twitter channel. No specific tweets were given as evidence.
Student representative Nick Yochum stated that his constituents, “who are people of color, identify as LGBTQIA+,” were “very concerned” about bringing a speaker to campus who compares “the work that they’re doing,” such as shouting down a supposedly transphobic speaker, to Mao’s Red Guards or Hitler’s Brownshirts.
One criticism that a student representative cited was that Van Fleet has compared diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to Mao’s thought reform. Another was that since Turning Point USA’s original focus was on conservative economics, why would they want to hear from Van Fleet? While ASWU feigned support for diverse viewpoints and freedom of speech, its student-led government asked TPUSA chapter president Grace Stiger find a speaker who had the same experience but did not share this “nasty rhetoric.”
Another student said, “I’m here as a queer constituent. I think it is essential to have different viewpoints. I think Whitworth should definitely offer civil discourse. My only concern is that this sets a precedent for the future speakers. I think personally I feel like I could be affected by this speaker. Having a speaker that has lived experience, but not hateful views is important as well.”
Stiger was asked: “Is there any chance to bring in a speaker that doesn’t equivocate certain things to communism but has the lived experience? Let’s bring about a discourse…. I think the Q&A you are platforming is going to be about her views. I think it only makes sense to have someone who doesn’t share those views but can also talk about their experience in the Cultural Revolution.”
According to Stiger, speaker requests are put before ASWU all the time, but TPUSA and other conservative groups face far more questions and opposing votes than do other clubs. For example, the ASWU also voted down a proposal from the Young America’s Foundation to host conservative Ben Shapiro in 2019.
Van Fleet later appeared on a podcast hosted by Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA’s founder and president, to discuss the school’s rejection of her speaking engagement. She noted that these American students don’t understand that the Cultural Revolution and the “woke revolution” share the same totalitarian mindset, tactics, and end goals. She explained,
“The parallels are terrifying, and how they divide people — in China it’s by class, here it’s by race, and gender, whatever intersectionality — and how they attack family, how they groom the children. In China we were taught even though your parents are biological, the real parents were the party and the Chairman Mao, and [they] attack faith and cancel the culture and destroy the tradition. Everything that I witnessed in the Cultural Revolution is playing out right here in front of us. So that’s what I want to tell them: ‘Wake up!’ We are really seeing history repeat, but they don’t know because they were never taught history.”
Van Fleet said that when students ask when she knew she was indoctrinated, she responds that it wasn’t until she was exposed to other viewpoints. She discussed this personal awakening in a recent tweet:
“Growing up in China, I had no idea I was indoctrinated until I went to college in 1978 when China started to open up; when it was no longer a crime to listen to enemy stations like BBC/VOA; & when discussion & debates became possible. With access to various sources of info & opinions of different perspectives, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had been fed lies. That’s exactly why Xi Jinping has the digital firewall to block the info from the outside world, & why the Left has been working so hard on controlling the narratives & suppressing opposing viewpoints. Lies win when truth is silenced. Totalitarianism crumbles when speech is free.”
Xi Van Fleet told Kirk that she will speak at a Whitworth TPUSA event, but it will be held off campus. Her book, Mao’s America: A Survivor’s Warning, is expected to be published later this year.
Ironically, in denying Xi Van Fleet the chance to discuss her “lived experience” during the Cultural Revolution, the ASWU has proven her point. According to these students, Xi Van Fleet has the wrong views because she disagrees with woke ideology. They believe that anything that calls into question the merits or intent of this belief system is harmful and thus must be censored.
The student representatives claim they want to hear from a different speaker who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution — but either had a “positive” experience to share or draws no similarities to the woke movement. In other words, they don’t want to know what actually happened during that decade-long event or why, and they certainly don’t want to hear from a speaker like Van Fleet who will challenge their own narrow, safe, Utopian worldview.
It never occurred to any of these students that maybe there might be some truth to what Van Fleet says, that maybe they have been manipulated, or that maybe their tactics in silencing other voices actually are like those of totalitarians from other time periods and other countries. Because they are so indoctrinated, they refuse to believe that they could actually be wrong. By their actions, they give life to the truism: Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Proverbs 19:20 says,
“Listen to counsel and accept discipline,
That you may be wise the rest of your days.”
These students should learn from those with wisdom, not malign them and, in pride, assume they know better.
Xi Van Fleet is a wise woman, and she has much to teach these students. This includes the reality that communist revolutionary leaders have no affection for or loyalty to ideological sycophants. Like other “useful idiots,” as defined by the communist elite, the students who make up AWSU will one day find themselves betrayed, censored, cancelled, or worse by the very movement they believe will save them.
If AWSU members genuinely care about helping their fellow students, they should immediately reverse their decision on Xi Van Fleet’s speaking gig — and then invite the entire student body to come and listen attentively to every single word she has to say.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.