This week, Joe Biden made good on his campaign promise to work more with allies to pressure China, coordinating with American partners to impose sanctions for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Beijing’s response: strike back at the allies as hard as possible.
China wasted no time on Monday night immediately retaliating reciprocally sanctions against European Union officials by summoning the bloc’s ambassador to China. Among those affected were politicians from several countries, one of the EU’s main foreign policy bodies and the largest research institute in Europe focused on China.
“It was very unfortunate that they went so deep into their toolbox,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the Beijing-based European Chamber of Commerce in China and a board member of the Mercator Institute for China Studies, one of the sanctioned entities. . Noting that a landmark investment deal between the EU and China reached in December will likely take a backseat, Wuttke said China appeared to be treating allies more harshly than the United States.
“Size matters,” he said. “They are more cautious with the United States and are right after Canada, Australia and the European Union.”
China’s assertive response after a rare public clash with US officials in Alaska last week shows that President Xi Jinping’s government is fighting international criticism over what it sees as “internal problems,” from Xinjiang and Hong Kong to Taiwan. Beijing’s stance risks drawing clearer lines between geopolitical blocs than did under Donald Trump, whose “America First” policy led to a damaging trade war, but also allowed Beijing to advance with traditional allies of the United States. U.S He felt alienated.
‘Just the beginning’
“This could be just the beginning,” said Bates Gill, professor of Asia-Pacific Security Studies at Macquarie University in Australia.
“Both sides, China on the one hand and other advanced, typically liberal democracies on the other, will put the other to the test to see how much pain they can tolerate,” he added. “There may be much more decoupling and we should expect it, especially in the areas of high-tech trade, investment and access to capital markets.”
US, UK and EU sanction China for human rights abuse
China this week He reached out to two old friends, Russia and North Korea, both of whom have also come under US sanctions in recent years. On Tuesday, Chancellor Wang Yi He held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on how to counter the hegemony of the US dollar by promoting the yuan and the ruble.
“Some Western countries have put on a show to smear China, but they should know that the days when they could interfere in China’s internal affairs by fabricating lies are long past,” said Wang in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi.
The setback continued Tuesday afternoon at the daily Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing, where spokeswoman Hua Chunying declared Xinjiang a “human rights success story” while unleashing an unusually broad attack on the EU, Canada and The United States, all of which imposed new sanctions. over China this week. On Monday, diplomats from more than 20 countries also gathered in front of a Beijing court where former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was on trial on espionage charges.
China faces a demonstration of Western unity in Canadian Judgment
Hua’s criticism spanned centuries, ranging from his role in the slave trade, imperialism and Nazism to the assassination of George Floyd and the alleged hoarding of coronavirus vaccines. He rejected criticism from countries with “small populations” and mocked his coalition as “pseudo-multilateralism.”
“Today’s China is by no means the old China of 120 years ago,” Hua said in an apparent reference to the agreement that the imperial powers forced China to sign after the Boxer Rebellion. “The United States, the United Kingdom and other countries should not dream of making China give up by exerting pressure. I’m afraid they don’t have the ability to strangle or strangle China. “
Beijing’s top diplomats set the tone for the latest rhetoric during Alaska’s meetings with the United States, when Politburo member Yang Jiechi made extensive comments attacking the United States’ human rights record and questioning whether he represented the United States. international public opinion. Subsequently, Chinese propaganda promoted the sale of T-shirts and mobile phone cases adorned with phrases used in the conversations, such as “Stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” and “The United States is not qualified to speak to us in a condescending manner.” . “
China’s tightly controlled social media on Tuesday was rife with nationalist voices supporting the Chinese government’s retaliatory sanctions. Many echoed the official line that Western countries have no shortage of human rights abuses and argued in support of government policies in Xinjiang, where the United Nations estimates that more than 1 million, mostly ethnic Uighurs, are kept in internment camps.
However, some expressed concern about the impact on China’s ties with Europe, in particular the fate of the Comprehensive Investment Agreement with the EU. “Is a new Cold War coming?” read a Weibo post that received over 6,000 likes. “Being besieged does not favor China.”
China is likely to continue to issue reciprocal sanctions and strongly criticize coordinated statements even if it derails the EU investment deal, said Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat who has worked on human rights issues in China and is now director of the think tank of the Lowy Institute. Public opinion and foreign policy program.
“The logic in Xi Jinping’s China often prevents rethinking a counterproductive policy,” he said. “And Chinese officials appear to be prioritizing a show of force over world public opinion.”
– With the assistance of Iain Marlow, Philip Glamann, Colum Murphy and Jing Li